Asked to introduce herself, Liliane Michalik says, "I’m a biologist," and then goes on to describe her career at UNIL since 1994, from junior lecturer to lecturer, senior lecturer, professor (in 2018) and now vice-rector. Her research focuses on a question associated with preventing cancer, namely: “How our skin cells respond to attacks, such as UV damage, for example." The course she has retained in the Faculty of Biology and Medicine covers embryonic development in animals. If you ask her which ones, she replies, “All of them... and embryology in birds is a lot like embryology in humans."
"I thought hard before I accepted Frédéric Herman’s wonderful offer, because I was really enjoying my role as the head of the School of Biology. I accepted because I share his vision of UNIL as a place where everyone can flourish, the emphasis placed on career development and the commitment to quality as a shared enterprise across the board." Liliane Michalik is keen to use her department’s precious resources to support career development. That includes careers guidance for young people and anyone with an interest in studying before they join UNIL, and then supporting students during their studies and as they transition into employment.
"Inspiration is also key for our future graduates" and achieved by creating events, offering to put them in contact with alumni in Switzerland and abroad, and building relationships with local companies and entrepreneurs in the region. “Because members of our community can be drivers for change in our society, encouraging entrepreneurship and social and/or technological innovation is a priority not only for researchers but also students, and administrative and technical staff," explains the vice-rector. It is all about stimulating ideas and the desire to lead or support projects, or join forces with existing groups, without everyone wanting to become entrepreneurs themselves. “We are motivated by creating a dynamic that will be useful to our graduates, regardless of their future activities."
This work is being done with the Research department (for the next generation of academics) and Human Resources. "We are currently developing an initiative for our 2020-2021 graduates who have been hit by the current crisis, which is about looking beyond internships and creating opportunities for people to have their first professional experience," she comments.
The cross-cutting theme of women’s careers is also essential. "We currently have 27% female professors and are aiming for parity," comments the vice-rector, who is using international and swissuniversities guidelines to work on the crucial issue of recruitment with the deans’ offices. Among other cross-cutting issues, she cites the project underway with the Human Resources department to improve efforts to combat assaults. "We are rethinking the whole system from the ground up to ensure it is more effective. We’ll be working on communications, prevention, developing training and better case management with a single number to call, to support all members of the UNIL community, alongside a multidisciplinary unit covering psychosocial, legal and practical aspects." The idea is to respond to all requests and identify them properly to help people, regardless of the situation – conflict at work, sexism or other difficulties, which are too often met with a wall of silence.
Finally, the quality procedure, which was assessed in 2020, allowed UNIL to be accredited unconditionally by the federal body. Liliane Michalik wants to move in the recommended direction of a less complex process, but above all, hopes that the quality procedure will be even more clearly identified as an asset, a valuable opportunity for reflection and a means of improving as a community in all areas.