“There are many different ways to tackle the same problem, and a completely different approach might yield better results. That was a very important lesson for me,” says Nadja Wisniewski. She spent a week at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheimas part of the staff mobility program.
Nadja Wisniewski, who today is managing director of the Math+ Cluster of Excellence, was head of administration in Faculty II (Mathematics and Natural Sciences) at the time she decided to take part in the staff mobility program at Technische Universität Berlin. She was fascinated by the fact that the NTNU, one of TU Berlin´s strategic partner universities, organized its administrative processes along completely different lines and decided to contact them to try and find out more.
“For most people, just making contact is quite a challenge,” explains Domenica Gerike who works in the Department of International Affairs and is responsible for the organization of the program. “But in reality this is generally not a problem. And I am always glad to help.”
The program, which aims to enable technical and administrative staff to gain international and intercultural experience, was initiated in 2015 by Professor Angela Ittel, vice president for strategic development, junior scholars and teacher education at TU Berlin. Travel and living expenses are covered by the initiative.
Initially, the staff mobility program was limited to our five strategic partner universities in Poland, Norway, Italy, Austria and Russia. The program has now been extended to include Erasmus partners and other universities.
“We realized that there is no sense in restricting the destinations for staff mobility,” adds Domenica Gerike. “If the applicant makes a strong case, then we are open to all destinations and will provide assistance with planning and organizing the stay.”
Every year, some 30 members of staff try out pastures new for about one week to learn about the working practices of their counterparts at universities in other countries.
For Nadja Wisniewski, getting in contact was not particularly difficult. “TU Berlin has enjoyed close contact with NTNU for a number of years. This enabled me to make my first contacts with the office of the president there,” she explains.
“I was particularly interested in finding out how the very small central administrative unit within the office of the president at NTNU (unlike TU Berlin) affects operations. All other processes are conducted directly in the faculties. She was given a very warm welcome there.
“We communicate in English. My Danish colleagues put together a program which allowed me to meet with staff in the faculties and institutes at both operative and strategic level, to ask questions and take part in intensive discussions.”
My discussions with researchers in particular showed me that we have much in common despite a very different cultural background and that career paths function in a similar way.”
“Language barriers might put some staff off taking the plunge and going abroad,” says Domenica Gerike. This explains why German-speaking universities, such as TU Wien, are such popular destinations. However, a new program has been introduced to help overcome such barriers. Since 2019, staff can take advantage of the mobility program as part of a team. One of the first teams to travel this year is a group of library staff.
Two of them work in the University Library and two in the Economics and Management Faculty Library. The two libraries work closely with one another on a daily basis. They want to find out about the UX methods used at various universities in Denmark, namely Copenhagen and Aarhus. These are methods for tailoring offers to the needs of users and are also used in IT for the design of websites.
“Danish universities really lead the way in this area and have already established a network,” explains Dr. Anke Quast, head of user experience at the University Library. The four librarians want to find out from their Danish colleagues what is useful for users and what is not acceptable for them. The goal is to get ideas and create their own offers for users.
Anyone who fancies joining the jet set can apply every year. The deadlines are 31 May and 31 October. “It is well worth overcoming your shyness,” Nadja Wisniewski stresses.
“I really developed my interest in Norway, both culturally and academically.” The program has provided many members of staff the chance to gain a new perspective and ideas for organizing and even improving their working processes.