A WUT professor, community activist and cycling enthusiast. He was born in Kamień in the Lubelskie Province and graduated from the Technical Secondary School of Geodesy in Żelechów. He has been part of the Warsaw University of Technology since 1986, the year he started his diploma course. In 2016, he was appointed WUT Vice-Rector for Student Affairs. And since 2017, he has headed the Association of Polish Surveyors (SGP). No wonder, Janusz Walo has his plate full. Despite his busy schedule, in late April he found the time to meet and talk to us.
You have an active lifestyle. Do you go to work by bike?
The distance between my home and work is about 12 kilometers. I did happen to ride my bike to the university once or twice, but ultimately decided against it and gave up. This is not to say I do not cycle at all. I am an active public bike share user on shorter distances. Sometimes, you can see me on bikeways, for instance, on my way to the meetings at the Ministry or the Association of Polish Surveyors.
But cycling is not where it ends. You have entered the Rector’s Cup Race marking the University Anniversary Celebrations. Are you a regular in marathons or shorter distance races?
I occasionally do enter races (editors’ note: Rector Walo ran the Ekiden Relay Marathon on May 12, 2018), but my running is more like jogging (laughs).
What is your standard day like?
My days are quite busy. From the very morning, my schedule brims with meetings and sign-offs on the various papers that keep coming in to my office every day. There are lots of decisions, like 15 to 20 daily, to be made on the financial or strategic aspects of certain events. On top of that, there are meetings with varying agendas. And the lion’s share of my time is consumed by occasional external meetings that I need to attend.
If you were to name 3 most exciting things about your work, what would that be?
First, students; second, students; and third, students (laughs). Working with young people is a value in its own right and the feeling that you are still one of them. Scientific work also matters as you can always do something new. What I appreciate about my work is also the “freedom” that allows me to be the master of my own time. After all, it is pretty up to me what I will make of my day. Certainly, my role as Vice-Rector and the related duties take up much of my time, but for the most part, I am free to decide what my day would look like.
And after hours? Do you still find the time for some hobbies?
I go running twice to three times a week. I am also very much involved in community initiatives, in particular at the Association of Polish Surveyors. I am the head of this organization. The activity swallows up some good number of hours so there is definitely less time left for me to engage with my family and for myself. But on holidays, I go fishing for a week nowhere else than to Ublik. It is not that I know the in-and-outs of the sport, but I enjoy it a lot.
Do you manage to hook anything?
(Laughs) It is a rare thing. But being able to go and spend a couple of hours on the lake is so much different from my daily routine. This is when I relax.
The Warsaw University of Technology is more to you than just a place of work. WUT is your alma mater. Were you a good student?
Yes, I was quite a decent one. I had no trouble learning and, regrettably, graduated as scheduled. (Laughs.) I would help out my parents on the farm in September. Thus, I always made sure to be free during the repeat and make-up exam period. Looking back, I sort of envy my mates who still recall their memories of the September sessions.
Talking about memories, how do you remember your time as a student?
I was eager to contribute to the community already back then. I lived in a student dormitory at Grenadierów; WUT held that facility on lease from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW). It was a small and nice place. The atmosphere was very nice or even homey, perhaps, because it was the living quarters of virtually no one else but my Faculty of Geodesy and Cartography folks. We set up our own student club in the building. We arranged one neglected messy room into our “Ground Floor Club” (“Klub Parter”). We renovated and decorated it ourselves. It was quite a regular weekend party venue. I also remember that during my time as a student first independent student councils started to reemerge. I was even part of one such council at my Faculty and chaired the Resident Council at my dormitory for two years. University exams used to be much more peculiar during my time than they are now. It was nothing shocking if we got thrown out of our professor’s room in the following order: our student record book first, then we ourselves.
Let me conclude our chat with two questions from our Facebook followers. One: what comes first for our University: growing new generations of engineers or research and development?
Both are equally vital. You can’t have one without the other. Research and development guarantee teaching excellence. Without them, we are unlikely to achieve good teaching quality. Staff engagement in research is a guarantee that students have access to state-of-the-art and quality knowledge. Our students are often involved in research projects running at the University and this helps them grow and learn things hands-on. As for teaching, this is the very reason we exist, the core of our mission as a university. Student empowerment is a given. Students are the reason we are here; there would be no Warsaw University of Technology or its staff without them.
Is a fully-fledged professional self-government representing and supporting surveyors ever going to be set up?
There is no simple answer to that question. Self-government is hardly a miraculous cure-all. Views on their operation and usefulness are no less numerous than the organizations themselves. Some of them do a really good job. But there are others that operate merely as an “administrative facade” and their help to practitioners is scarcely meaningful. That is why the issue has been on the agenda for many years and we are likely to continue discussions into the future. If a professional self-government of surveyors were ever to be formed, I would wish that it was a result of a consensus of the entire surveyor community and their shared belief in the need for it.