Meet Dr. Jon-Hans Coetzer, Glion’s new Chief Academic Officer. Dr Cotzer is also a former UN diplomat and has served as spokesperson for the Red Cross. A man of the world who’s reputation precedes him, Dr. Coetzer recently sat down with Glion to shed some light on his career before joining the world of academia.
Just last month, Dr. Coetzer was invited to speak at the World Communication Forum in Davos. So naturally, we began by asking Dr. Coetzer why he was at the WCF, a forum dedicated to improving communications for the global development of the world. The well-spoken doctor put our curiosity to rest when he revealed that he also holds a doctorate of international relations. Things began to make even more sense when Dr. Coetzer began revealing more and more surprising elements of his past.
“I was a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for years, and I also worked for the UN as a diplomat during active conflicts,” he says humbly. Founder and Content Director of the World Communication Forum, Yanina Dubeykovskaya, sent Dr. Coetzer an invitation for this meeting in Davos. Accompanied by Fabienne Rollandin, Director of Industry & Alumni Relations at Glion, he went to Davos to address specific challenges for entrepreneurship and crisis management.
Dr. Coetzer turns the clock back and reminisces about the beginnings of his career. He delves into deep detail about his life’s turning point when he discovered the power of communication, Jon-Hans says, “It all started in South Africa, in 1982, when I met Princess Diana to work on a campaign to ban land mines.”
Explaining how his growing years were tough and had all the makings of a troubled adulthood, Glion’s soon-to-be COA revealed, “Growing up in South Africa, with all the injustices, one can develop a chip on their shoulder. My mom said to me one day, “Young man, you need to get over yourself. Nobody cares, nobody is bothered.” However, in this time of despair, Princess Diana would prove to be an immensely influential figure in his life. “Diana was someone who really represented the privileged. She was beautiful, wealthy, and she didn’t need to get into highly controversial issues such as banning land mines, yet she took them head on by getting the word out. That’s how I got inspired to use communication to eliminate suffering.”
Once he found his true calling, there was virtually no stopping young Jon-Hans. He travelled extensively for the ICRC and the UN. In Liberia, he learned a valuable lesson about communication on his first day itself. He adds, “I started with my UN speech, and the eyes of these Liberian people, ladies my mother’s age, were just staring back at me. That’s when I realized that it was going to be a nightmare. Their country was in ruins, they had all lost family members. So instead of speaking, I simply asked them: Why don’t you tell me your story? What justice or lack of justice did you face? And we ended up spending the time simply listening to one another’s stories. This experience taught me that sometimes listening is the strongest communication tool we have.”
The humanitarian diplomacy chapter of his career came to a close in 2002, when Jon-Hans decided that it was time to reinvent himself. He studied in Europe, earning higher degrees in hospitality and tourism management, and then went on to Geneva for his Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Specialises (D.E.S.S).
“My doctoral research in Geneva revealed the value of communication training with the specific emphasis on diplomatic training for leaders,” he said.
Among his many discoveries, Jon-Hans realized that good communication starts by communicating with people, not at people, a value that he is making clear in his transitional role as the undergraduate dean and soon-to-be Chief Academic Officer (CAO) at Glion Institute of Higher Education.
“Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of common respect built amongst people through communication. As they’ve invited Glion to have a place on the Advisory Board of the WCF in 2017, we aim to promote the importance of communication in education. This is built on establishing a clear set of communication skills to develop through education,” he said. In summarizing his vision, he added, “Every successful business person is a highly skilled individual and one of the most important skill sets is communication.”
In Dr. Coetzer’s new role as CAO, he will essentially be looking after all aspects that relate to the academic quality, assurances, policies, processes, procedures and guidelines. In fact, he was very eager to share one dimension that he will focus on this year.
“I’m developing a plan for inclusive talent development. Glion’s long term success lies in the hands of our people and in the longevity of their positions and careers. Developing academic talent is closely connected to our people strategy because Glion is only as strong as its faculty. One aspect of my role is to ensure that all of the policies and processes link with our people (faculty and staff), and that everyone is clear about their responsibilities, and the values they embody in the 21st century,” he said. And in conclusion, our future CAO left us with this very positive perspective.
He said, “The Glion Spirit is about sharing across cultures and uniting for common strength, and we’re writing a new chapter for Glion. I’m very confident knowing we have the right people in place to keep Glion moving forward.”
We thank Dr. Joe-Hans Coetzer for his inspiration and for taking the time to sit down with us. We also have nothing but high hopes and lots of enthusiasm for Dr. Coetzer’s tenure as Chief Academic Officer. Here’s to the future of Glion.