ZHAW Staff Mobility Program 2023

Staff of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have the option to visit the San Francisco Bay Area for a sabbatical to connect with the local ecosystem and to work on their research project. This year we hosted three cohorts, who used this time to significantly advance their projects.

Coming to the Bay Area has allowed me to connect with practitioners, visionaries, artists, engineers, scholars, activists and self-advocacy groups in my field. I challenged the lab, which I am the manager of, and sharpened its mission. I will return to enriched by the ideas, realities and visions of the wonderful people I met.
– Dario D'Agostino

This year we welcomed 4 researchers an 2 staff members from Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) to Swissnex in San Francisco. Their stays ranged from a few days to several weeks and was guided and supported by Swissnex in San Francisco. During their first days, we introduced them to the infamous Silicon Valley mindset, helped clarify their goal for their stay, and supported them in making connections with local stakeholders.

By being exposed to a completely different networks and different ways of looking at the world, many participants gained insights integral to the further development of their projects. This years cohorts consisted of:

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 was 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 looked 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 used 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 connected 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 used 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 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.

If you have questions about the program, please reach out to our Academin Engagement Program Manager Sarah Burckhardt.

My time at Swissnex in San Francisco was unforgettable and opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities, both personally and professionally. Not only did I get to meet fascinating and inspiring individuals, but I also learned a new way of seeing myself, my project, and the world. I feel privileged to call the incredible Swissnex SF team my friends and thank them for their limitless energy.
– Stephan Scholz