Gothenburg (Göteborg) is Sweden’s second largest city. Many people consider it the most important — especially locals and people from west Sweden — because although on the left coast, it’s located on Sweden’s "right side," welcoming seafarers since 1621 when the city was founded by King Gustaf II Adolf.

Located in Göteborg are companies such as Volvo and SKF — and Chalmers University of Technology. The school was founded in 1829 through a donation by William Chalmers, the Swedish born son of a Scotsman who created a great fortune in his work with the Swedish East India Company in the late 18th century. A great number of graduates from Chalmers (in Swedish “chalmerister”) have reached top positions not only in Swedish companies, but all over the world. In fact, today there are engineers and architects from Chalmers in no less than 116 countries.

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Life Made Sweder

CING alumni
Chalmersska Ingenjörsföreningen (CING), started in 1907, is the name of Chalmers’ alumni organization, including more than 50,000 civil engineers and architects.

The 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2007 with pomp and circumstance. About 1,100 chalmerister attended the opening ceremony at Götaplatsen, in which William Chalmers himself, by chance emerged again, delivered a welcome speech, hoisted up in a crane. There were participants of all ages, the oldest was 92 years old, and from all over the world including Australia and the United States. In the crowd were a few of Sweden’s top executives, such as Volvo’s CEO Leif Johansson and others, all of them chalmerister.

CING’s annual meeting was held in presence of the 1,100, all in their traditional white tufted caps. It was not going to be an ordinary meeting. In true chalmeristic spirit it was decided it should be the shortest meeting ever. The minutes were distributed and approved in advance; the meeting was finished in 20 seconds flat, a true record.

From Götaplatsen to the convention center, the location for the big banquet is about 700 yards. To prevent the 1,100 participants from getting lost along the way, everyone was told to walk single file along the entire half-mile, holding a guide rope, and lead by a bagpipe orchestra. Many heavily trafficked streets were delayed, and chastened Gothenburg citizens in cars, buses and trams found themselves in the worst traffic jam of the year. This is an example of what can happen when you deal with chalmerister!

CING North America
CING USA-Canada is Chalmersska Ingenjörsföreningens local alumni association on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, 900 members strong. Once a year we meet for an annual meeting, study tours and socialize. This year we met in Greensboro, NC, home of Volvo Trucks Corporate Headquarters, for four days of intensive programs, tours, CING’s annual meeting and of course the big event, the "Gasque," a traditional chalmeristic dinner party with a lot of singing and fun, maybe a schnapps or two.

Not long ago Chalmers still had their traditional “sections” of electrotechnology, building technology, chemistry, architecture and more. I graduated in 1961 from the architecture section. In 2006, Chalmers got a new president, Karin Markides, who also became Chalmers’ first female in this position. She found it hard to connect different fields of activities across the section boundaries, which informally still existed though her predecessor Jan-Eric Sundgren had already done away with the traditional sections. After a few years Markides initiated a completely innovative, new organization, Chalmers’ eight Areas of Advance: Built Environment, Energy, Information and Communication Technology, Life Science, Material Science, Nano Science and Nanotechnology, Production, and Transport.

Meeting Karin Markides
I had the opportunity to meet President Markides at a couple events in the United States. She is now, after nine years as Chalmers’ president, retiring. I We recently exchanged the following questions and answers:

Göran Rygert (GR): What are you most proud of having accomplished during your nine years as Chalmers’ president?
Karin Markides (KM): In cooperation with teachers, researchers, students, colleagues and leaders, I have succeeded in the development of a trust and a mindset which makes us understand each other's roles. Our joint strength in competence, knowledge and usefulness are factors in the attaining of complex goals and increased attraction. In our mindset it is obvious that economical, ecological and social durability are natural elements in the growth we create. Systematic leadership and agile driving forces now are disseminated within Chalmers and I am very proud of having taken part of it.

GR: We alumni from Chalmers believe — of course! — that Chalmers is the best. But KTH (Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm) is better ranked, in "The World University rankings.” Do you think Chalmers will overtake KTH? Why should Chalmers deserve a better ranking?
KM: Chalmers’ reputation, partly reflected in ranking lists, is of importance when it comes to international visibility and ability to attract students and international researchers. It is true that KTH still, in the larger comprehensive ranking institutes, has a higher ranking than Chalmers.
The question whether Chalmers can climb more is always on the agenda and we hope the upward trend of the last years will continue. At the same time we are paying attention to the fact that Chalmers is ranked highest in Sweden if you study specific areas in which we have high ambitions, such as international students, our innovation system, the Swedish people’s trust, and last but not least, the students’ ability to reach the national education aims.

GR: Will your successor, Stefan Bengtsson, continue your tradition to visit CING USA-Canada?
KM: The cooperation with universities and other organizations in the United States will continue to grow and its development possibilities are good. Stefan Bengtsson will continue to give precedence to North America in the collaboration with Chalmers. Two travels next spring are in the planning for him, to California and to the annual meeting in May with US-Friends and CING.

GR: Did you have time to visit also the other (six) local branches of CING outside Sweden?
KM: When traveling I always gave priority to the opportunity of meeting with Chalmers alumni, such as in the United States, China and England.

GR: Are engineers and architects from Chalmers more disseminated over the world than graduates from other technical universities in Sweden?
KM: Chalmers is proud of how our alumni tend to move to countries all over the world. They greatly contribute in social development and as ambassadors for Chalmers.

GR: What is your opinion about Chalmersspexet [the organization at Chalmers that produces the “spex”]. They set up two big productions every year. Does it give any PR to Chalmers?
KM: Chalmers’ student engagement in spex and other activities — including international exchange programs — strengthens Chalmers’ good name and adds to its visibility among prospective students in Sweden and abroad. Such engagement also provides to the students a network and experience of leadership, project management and working in committees. Together with a world class education, this makes them even more attractive on the labor market. In the future the demand for additional improvement beside the studies will possibly increase, as the role of the engineer more and more will be connected with coordinated economical, ecological and social sustainability in products, functions and leadership.

GR: Are the average results from a chalmersspexare’s [a student at Chalmers who is active in “spex” productions as an actor, author, stage designer, musician, etc] studies better or worse than the average student at Chalmers?
KM: Without a scientific analysis it is obvious that Chalmers students I meet in leading positions in society very often have been active in Chalmersspexet.

GR: Which is the best of all the Chalmersspexes you have seen?
KM: So far it has always been the most recent one, and it will most likely remain so!

GR: You were Chalmers’ first female President. Do you have any comments?
KM: I have often received acknowledgements from our female students that it was of a great importance to them that I happened to be a woman. I also feel good that I have been able to help eliminate this issue as a risk factor. I think it is good to the environment of male engineers to stop focusing on the sexes and instead focus on the engineer’s important role in the world.

GR: Finally, in what area(s) would you say Chalmers is a world leader?
KM: Chalmers has many great researchers within all the Areas of Advance. Some have the capacity of being awarded scientific prizes. Others contribute in the Swedish industry, to the providing of continuous prosperity in our country. Many are active in international research. This ability to combine scientific profundity and breakthrough with our Areas of Advance and in that way get influence on the global progress is possibly Chalmers’ characteristics and makes us a world leader.

By Göran Rygert