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Prof. Aleš Kuhar, PhD, Biotechnical faculty, University of Ljubljana, was awarded the title of Congress Ambassador of Slovenia 2019 for organizing the '14th Congress of the European Association of Agricultural Economists 2014: Agri-Food and Rural Innovations for Healthier Societies'. He is part of the Ljubljana Ambassador Club.

Ambasadorji Ales EN

How would you describe the process of organizing professional / scientific meetings in Ljubljana?

As researchers we are usually not focused on hosting events, our professional focus lies elsewhere. That is why it is so important that the congress infrastructure in the city, as I call it, is stimulative, that it encourages us to pursue a project of this kind. My personal experience has been remarkable. Although we were active in European associations within the faculty we did not think about such candidacies for a long time. Both the Slovenian and the Ljubljana convention bureau were indispensable in offering their support, skills and knowledge. With their help, everything came together easily, from the support of the Ljubljana Mayor to the President of Slovenia; we prepared the scientific part and all of a sudden we were presenting our project in front of the Commission and finally won the bid. Since organizing events has never been part of my professional CV, I initially perceived it almost as a sort of a burden. The fact that I had such a professional team at my disposal convinced me to get involved. I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience.

What were the biggest joys and challenges for you, and what is the most important lesson you have learnt & would pass on to your younger colleagues?

Cooperation with everyone from the local congress industry sector (convention bureaus, the Municipality, congress venues, catering agencies, etc.) was very positive. The biggest lesson for me was that I learned to listen to them carefully, and finally understood that certain things are better to be left in the hands of the professionals. This industry is a really complex one and requires a whole bunch of experience and special skills. I also learnt that if the event is successful, it can be a very useful experience for researchers in terms of their career. Through a successful congress, one can get access to the greatest researchers in the world, the ones with whom you can have hardly any contact with otherwise.

What do you see as the biggest advantages of Ljubljana as a congress destination, and which are its greatest potential yet to be developed?

Compactness, central location, spaciousness, our event took place in summer, so a lot of activities were purposefully held outside. In Ljubljana, all this is possible and is something that the participants greatly appreciate. On the other hand, at that time we were not able to carry out some of the excursions we had imagined - for example, we wanted to visit the Ljubljana marshes – Barje by bike, and wanted to organize an excursion that would include a train trip. Today this would not be a problem at all but back then we got stuck a little with the logistics. Also, some of the city infrastructure has greatly developed in the last 5 years, which I’m very happy about. The lesson learnt was also that communication is key – as organizers we need to find balance between many things, especially the scientific content and the element of entertainment, which is important as well.

What does being a Slovenian congress ambassador mean to you personally and professionally?

It is a great personal honor. The award also brought back all the positive feelings from that period, which I had already forgotten a bit.

Is there any event / meeting that you would especially like to bring to Ljubljana in the future?

We plan to organize something smaller within two years, an event in the range of 100-200 people. Hosting major international congresses, however, is a long-distance race. If the opportunity and financial resources are provided, I would be happy to do it again with such a professional team and the support of the city we had at the time.

What is your definition of a perfect day?

A perfect day for me should always be accompanied by good food and a glass of top quality wine, along with great time spent with my family. That’s just how I am. To be honest such days are quite rare, that's why I look forward to them a lot.

A special experience during the Corona-virus time you could share?

Before the coronavirus I didn’t like online lectures very much, I was more of an 'old school' teacher. Then suddenly I had to accept it and gradually I got really excited about it. There is a significant amount of discussion and interaction going on with the students, which I never imagined. I feel a great connection with them, it seems we share a common commitment to what we do and to our academic field generally, which I am very proud of.