Photograph: Myleen Hollero

University Sabbatical Program Summer 2023

Staff of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have the option to visit the San Francisco Bay Area for a sabbatical (2-4 weeks) to connect with the local ecosystem and to work on their research project.

Mobility Program

This year, Swissnex is hosting a total of three cohorts of ZHAW staff members visiting the San Francisco Bay Area for a two-week sabbatical. The goal of the program is to connect with the Bay Area ecosystem to advance their research project.

ZHAW staff members are given the opportunity to travel to a Swissnex location of their choice for a duration of two weeks. The idea is that ZHAW staff in all organizational units use the opportunity to expand their international and intercultural knowledge in connection with research projects, teaching assignments, advanced training, administration, information technology, finances, legal practice, communication, etc. for long-term impact.

Swissnex provides the ZHAW staff members with the necessary mindset, skillset, and network they need to connect with the local ecosystem successfully. The aim is to strengthen the international network and intercultural competencies of staff across ZHAW.

The disciplines and fields of expertise of the different ZHAW staff members joining this program are very diverse. Reach out to Swissnex in SF if you are interested in connecting with any of the ZHAW staff members listed below.

***Application Closed***



Cohort 1

  • Marcela Ruiz is the dep. Head of Research/Focus Area, Software Engineering and a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the ZHAW School of Engineering. Her aim is to lower the entry barrier for non-programmers to develop software and help the next generation to navigate the new wave of automated software production. In her time in San Francisco she is looking to connect with companies and universities to explore how to implement software development tools to empower engineers.
  • Sandro Graf is the Head of the Center for Customer Experience and Service Design at the ZHAW School of Management and Law. He is particularly interested in DesignThinking, Innovative Business Strategies, Entrepreneurship, Customer Experience, and Management. To make the most of his stay, he is looking for design thinking experts in the Bay Area with a view on further developing the approach to areas such as strategic decision-making.
  • Markus Hackenfort, Ph.D is a professor and the Head of the subject group Human Factors Psychology. He is particularly interested in AI, Mobility, Safety, Psychology as well as Traffic Safety and Human Machine Interaction in Automated Driving. He uses his time in San Francisco to connect with organizations, researchers, and practitioners who share his interests to advance his research.

Cohort 2

  • Dario D’Agostino is the manager of the LAIC Lab (Language Accessibility and Inclusive Communication)  at the ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics. His aim is to achieve participation and self-empowerment of people with disabilities through accessible communication. During his time in San Francisco, he is looking to connect with practitioners of the (tech-) industry, scholars, self-advocacy groups, policymakers, and NGOs to explore possibilities, share approaches and ideas, and to build collaborations.
  • Stephan Scholz is a project manager at the ZHAW School of Social Work and working on growing the department’s Social Entrepreneurship Lab. He is particularly interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation, the future of tertiary education, and sustainability. He uses his time in San Francisco to connect with universities, NPOs, social impact startups, and SDG-driven businesses to explore how to reshape tertiary education to enhance its real-world impact.

Cohort 3

  • Jennifer Steffen is a member of the International Development and Projects Team at the ZHAW School of Management and Law. In her role as Coordinator for Outgoing Student Mobility, her focus and interest lie in all aspects concerning studying abroad, such as facilitating and enhancing international exchange experiences for students. During her time in the Bay Area, it is Jennifer’s aim to glean insights from fellow universities and institutions on effective strategies for encouraging students to partake in an international exchange experience. She also seeks to find out more about optimal methods to equip and assist students prior to, during, and after their stay abroad. Finally, Jennifer is looking to establish connections with student associations and other networks associated with student mobility in the Bay Area.


  • ZHAW