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President Godehard Ruppert (middle) with the two newly elected vice-presidents, Guido Wirtz (left) and Frithjof Grell (right).

Frithjof Grell will become the new Vice-president for Teaching and Learning.

Guido Wirtz will remain in office as Vice-president for Technology and Innovation.

The Future is Now

Vice-presidential elections ensure continuity in the face of change

2017 is an election year: Following Godehard Ruppert’s confirmation in the office of University of Bamberg president, elections for the university’s vice-presidents were held on 2 June. Frithjof Grell will take over in the area of teaching and learning, and Guido Wirtz will remain responsible for technology and innovation. Elections for the third vice-presidental position will take place in 2018.

There is a lot of work on the horizon for the University of Bamberg’s board of management in the coming years. Major focal points include national and international competition, honing the university’s research and teaching profile, challenges posed by digitalisation, accreditation of systems, strategies pertaining to academic excellence, third-party funding, knowledge transfer and the recruitment of academia’s brightest scholars. Despite constant change, the university’s core mission remains the same: embracing the inquisitive exploration of interconnections and the commitment to passing this knowledge on to its students.

Frithjof Grell is the new Vice-president for Teaching and Learning

Not losing sight of this core mission is particularly important to the new Vice-president for Teaching and Learning, Prof. Frithjof Grell, whose term in office begins on 1 October 2017. He will succeed Prof. Sebatian Kempgen who is planning to retire at the end of the 2017/18 winter semester. Kempgen will however continue to oversee the process of system accreditation which is scheduled for completion in March 2018. Frithjof Grell is a scholar of early childhood education and is an educator through and through. The teaching profession has been a family tradition since the early 19th century, and he has had a special relationship to the University of Bamberg since attending the inaugural lecture given by one of his own professors, the philosopher Wolfgang Welsch. “To live here, to research and teach must be wonderful,” he thought as a young scholar, and his academic path did indeed lead him to the University of Bamberg where he has been working since 2008 and where he has been the acting chair of the department of Early Childhood Education since 2014. A theme that runs through Grell’s work at the university is his willingness to assume positions of responsibility. In addition to his teaching and research, he has taken on various other university tasks: he’s the representative of the bachelor’s and master’s programmes in “Vocational Education/Social Pedagogy and Social Services”; a member of the Bamberg Centre for Teacher Training’s academic administration; and  the speaker for the vocational education branch of the WegE project.

Grell also wants to encourage his students to embrace personal responsibility so that their studies in Bamberg are not merely a time to prepare for a future career, but rather a phase in which “young people learn to be self-dependent and independent-minded”. A greater emphasis on general education requirements, an expansion of multi-subject bachelor’s programmes, even the eschewal of marks in the first semesters of study that are so crucial to personal orientation are all things that Grell would welcome as ways to bolster student’s personal connections to their studies and to themselves.

Further top points on Grell’s agenda include major development processes at the university. How can the quality of teaching be protected and further developed? The structural expansion of already existing offerings and quality development and assurance measures in teaching is a central component in his field of responsibility. To ensure that the University of Bamberg attracts not only the best scholars, but also the best teachers, he’d like to champion an appointment procedure that increasingly rewards pedagogical aptitude. He would also like to increase university-wide awareness of teacher training as a central pillar of Bamberg’s course offering. To aid in doing this, he points to the advantage of having short distances between university facilities, saying, “Intensive, frequent and personal communication and exchange is important to me on every level: with students, with the administration and with colleagues”. In Frithjof Grell, the university has gained a vice-president who sees the various aspects of his position not only as professional responsibilities, but also as something dear to his heart.

Guido Wirtz confirmed for a third term

Meanwhile, Prof. Guido Wirtz, chair of Distributed Systems, is preparing for his third term as Vice-president for Technology and Innovation. “Turning over/Transferring the position at this phase would have been very difficult,” says Wirtz. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is currently overseeing over 40 ongoing initiatives – several of them only in their earliest phases. As the official objective agreements in the information technology field are set to expire at the end of 2018, the continuation of the agreements’ projects like the establishment of the document management system and the introduction of a research information system are high on the agenda. Other important upcoming projects include the modernisation of campus management and the creation of better infrastructure for digitally supported teaching. Overall, Wirtz is concerned with keeping the university competitive by continuously modernising IT-dependent working conditions. Furthermore, in the age of cyber-attacks, digital security is playing an ever larger role.

One particularly important project is the utilisation of the state government’s digital campus program for the expansion of resources for further subject groups in the digital humanities, because even subjects that were originally quite far removed from IT resources are integrating ever more digital methods into their research and teaching. Within the scope of the Technology Alliance of Upper Franconia (TAO), a current focus is on a joint project involving the four Upper Franconian universities, plans for new, dual and individual degree offerings by a competence network for heritage studies/preservation of cultural assets. In this project, the universities of Bamberg and Coburg are cooperating with the Bavarian Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and the Chamber of Trade to develop new, one-of-a-kind collaboration concepts. Additionally, there are plans for the establishment of an Upper Franconian scientific campus where the TAO universities will prepare a unique course offering on various topics.

“Good self-organisation is crucial,” says Wirtz in reference to the broad scope of the undertaking. He particularly appreciates the contact with other subjects and methods of operation and the outside perspective on his own subject that the vice-presidential office affords. “I’m able to gain new impulses for my own work through these contacts”.

In total, President Godehard Ruppert is supported by a team three vice-presidents. Due to staggered terms of office, elections for the office of Vice-president for Research – currently held by Prof. Maike Andresen – will not be held until 2018. Following the 2017 election year, one thing is certain: the University of Bamberg is committed to continuity in the face of change – and is well prepared for future challenges.

This press release was translated by Benjamin Wilson.