Three Questions for the New Executive Vice President

What plans do you have for your next six years as Executive Vice President? 

The university is so big that there’s always a lot to do, but there are a few things that I think are especially important: The last few years since the first Covid lockdown in 2020 placed very high demands on the universities and their members. We can see evidence of that everywhere we look. As the Executive Vice President, I’m responsible for the university administration, and there I see that staff members helped keep the university on target, but they were under a great deal of stress as they tried to mitigate the challenges students faced in their studies and research under these extraordinary circumstances. Because other things took priority, many projects and tasks were put aside during the Covid years, and now we need to catch up. To this end we’re working on digitizing administrative processes in the hope that this will help make everyone’s lives easier. That’s why this will be one area in which we will focus our efforts over the next few years. We will be examining administrative processes and looking for “superfluous” or “cumbersome” elements that we can eliminate or simplify in the future. The overarching goal is to digitize all key administrative processes, as this will not only lighten our workload but also lead to a higher service quality in daily administrative work and improve our image as a modern, flexible, and attractive employer. At the same time, we need to assist with the cultural change that goes hand in hand with the digitization process. 

The administration needs to have sufficient personnel and financial resources to successfully fulfill its task of supporting research and teaching. This means we will be faced with questions about funding, for example. We will also look at the working environment and decide how we can adapt it to the new requirements. This might include the equipment or furnishings in the rooms, for example.  

What knowledge and experience from your previous tasks have prepared you well for your current job?  

I would say that the university is my natural habitat, as I have experienced nearly all perspectives: In Mainz I studied law and worked as a student assistant. After my legal traineeship, I was a research associate and doctoral candidate at the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer. I submitted my dissertation in 2011 and then took over the management as part of the dean’s office in the Department of Law at the University of Mannheim. I got to know the university very well in that position, as I had contact with the managers of the other schools and worked together with the central administration. From 2018 to 2020 I was seconded to the university unit in the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts. That’s a unit that assists the institutions and is typically the first point of contact for the state’s universities and their fundamental questions. In November 2020 I returned to Mannheim and, after an introductory period at the start of 2021, I became the manager of the Executive Office of the President. Seeing the University of Mannheim from the perspective of the President's Office rounded off my experience.  

In your inaugural address you said that you’re a fan of the University of Mannheim – why? 

The interview with the dean’s office in the Department of Law and signing the employment contract with Human Resources were pleasant experiences. Especially at the beginning, all the faculty and staff helped me with questions or training and gave me tips. I find the atmosphere here very cooperative and constructive. In my various positions, my interactions with others have always been respectful and down-to-earth with everyone focused on what was best for the university. From my first day of work at the University of Mannheim (in 2011!), I can count on two hands the number of days when I wasn’t excited to come in to work. And that hasn’t changed since I started as the Executive Vice President. 

Text: Luisa Gebhardt/May 2023