Collegium Helveticum
In conversation

On the Value of Organizing an Event at the Collegium

Viktoriia Yasenok and Milo Puhan co-organized a workshop titled “Mental Health Surveillance in Ukraine,” with the aim to develop a digital questionnaire to survey the mental health of people living in Ukraine and its diaspora. Such an event can be a starting point for long-term collaborations and thus add value to the fellowship project and the fellows’ academic development. In this conversation, Viktoriia and Milo respectively, share their experiences and insights about organizing an event at the Collegium.

You organized a workshop at the Collegium. What value or benefit do you see in it for your fellowship?

Viktoriia: The workshop played an essential role during the fellowship. It was one of the most meaningful international and interdisciplinary events I have ever organized, and it contributed substantively to my project. As the organizer I could bring together experts from so many different fields and by doing so the workshop became a valuable tool for fostering collaborative problem-solving and knowledge sharing among the participants and stakeholders.

Did the workshop support the further development of your fellowship project?

Milo: I am deeply convinced that if we work together across disciplines, we can achieve a lot more than anything we might attempt within our own “original” discipline. The workshop I co-organized with Viktoriia is the best example for that. It brought together specialists in public and mental health, political science, health policy, and social media but also Ukrainian citizens, governmental representatives from Ukraine and Switzerland, and non-governmental organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNESCO. Their lived experiences and field expertise were instrumental to finalize a Ukrainian-specific digital mental health surveillance protocol, which we are now ready to implement.

What can you take away from your experience as a workshop organizer for your further academic career?

Viktoriia: During the workshop at the Collegium, we were surrounded by people who I consider thought leaders and experts in the different fields. So, our event helped me build strong relationships and develop new ideas for my further academic development.

Milo: The workshop was a starting point to engage with stakeholders, which is hugely important. We still cooperate with all of them to this day, which will continuously inspire new ideas and projects. As our project is interdisciplinary and international, it is very important to keep the participants linked together. The workshop was an essential component of establishing an initial bond.

What advice would you give to future fellows on what to do with the offer to organize their own event?

Viktoriia: Organizing a workshop is a valuable and rewarding experience that allows you to build skills, expand your network, and make a positive impact in your field or community. The organizational work, however, can be challenging. In this regard the support I received from the Collegium’s staff was essential. The Collegium Helveticum is a thoroughly intellectual institution and everyone there has both a genuine appreciation for research and an amazing depth of insight and expertise. It is a supportive, interdisciplinary community. My advice to future fellows is therefore to benefit from organizing an event at the Collegium to enrich and broaden their networks into new fields.

Milo: Try to keep the network you build with the event alive and active. The ability to build long-term and trusting relationships with stakeholders is a crucial element that also defines the success of future projects. We decided to use a mailing list where participants can stay in touch, share best practices, news, and publications, ask questions, or just reach out to their colleagues.