If fate opens a door, you have to see what’s behind it

When studying at AU, journalist and cycling expert Brian Nygaard believed his degree in philosophy could only lead to a career in research or teaching. But, after graduating, he became head of press for a cycling team. Read ‘five questions’ with the philosophy alumnus and cycling enthusiast, who is also involved in wine production – and still vividly remembers his old teachers.

[Translate to English:] Brian Nygaards gamle studiekort.
Brian Nygaard is a journalist at Weekendavisen, a cycling expert for DR, chair of the board at Stuhlmuller Vineyards, and a winemaker at Diurnal Shift and Cypres Vin A/S. He graduated from AU with a Master’s degree in philosophy in 2001.

What is your favourite memory from your university days?

I think it is my first few months at university, when I was getting to know the campus and the Department of Philosophy. It felt really magical and overwhelming in a good way. I had just moved to Aarhus, and it was amazing to think that I would now spend several years studying the subject I loved most of all. I had chosen the perfect degree programme for me, and it felt like a huge privilege. Unfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve been back, but the yellow buildings and the atmosphere on campus still occupy a huge place in my heart. 

Who was your favourite teacher?

I learned to take an independent approach to my studies quite early on. The teaching was important, but my main focus was on knowing the material regardless of anything else. If I had to name two, I would say that Associate Professor Jørgen Husted and Senior Associate Professor Hans Fink were hugely inspirational for me – each in their own way. Jørgen Husted was incredibly good at making philosophy relevant, and his skills as a teacher were unsurpassed. I learned a lot from his approach, and I was impressed by his ability to make complicated topics understandable. I also loved the fact that he was cool and on the verge of being a bit arrogant. I mean that as a huge compliment! Hans Fink was a real philosopher. His way of teaching carried so much weight. A massive authority. He was thorough and fabulous at inspiring us to read things properly. When he gave a lecture, he filled the room. I must also mention Associate Professor Anders Moe Rasmussen. I always loved knocking on his office door. We talked about all sorts of things, and he always took the time to chat. On an academic and a personal level. 

What piece of advice do you wish that you had been given when you started your first job?

I was lucky that my first “proper” job was far from my subject in many ways. I became head of press for a cycling team, and in a way that was my good fortune. In the final years of my degree programme, I thought I could only become a researcher or a teacher, so my advice today would probably be: Don’t panic – love what you do and what you study, and, if fate opens a door, you have to see what’s behind it. 

Are you still in contact with anyone from your time at AU?

Yes, I see a few people, but not as often as I would like, as I’ve lived abroad for many years now. But I am still in contact with Professor Jesper Kallestrup from Edinburgh University (former dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Copenhagen, ed.), who is probably the most academically talented person I’ve ever met, and Jens Eskelund, who works for Maersk in China. They are two of the brightest people I met during my time at university, and they are really good friends who inspire me a great deal. Thankfully I am also in contact with Jacob Busch, associate professor in philosophy at AU, whose career has really impressed me.

What are your current interests?

My summers are very busy with bike races as part of my job as a journalist for Weekendavisen and DR, and I am still affiliated with a large vineyard in California, where I am chair of the board. I also make my own wine. So my interests are fairly wide ranging at the moment, but I’m fine with that. Most of all, I am interested in my two daughters and their lives here in Italy. They are almost bilingual, even though they are not even three yet. When I see how they learn Italian, I often think of the many hours I spent on semantics in the philosophy of language as a student.