Facilitating and Shaping

Lars Oeverdieck is leaving the Executive Office for the Office of the Vice President of Administration at TU Berlin / In an interview, he speaks about his aims and objectives

Mr. Oeverdieck, you will be taking on the duties of the vice president for administration from 19 August 2020 until a new postholder has been found for the position. You previously worked in faculty administration and have served as the head of the Executive Office since 2014. You also have experience in political work and know TU Berlin and the landscape of higher education inside and out.

How would you describe the current situation at TU Berlin? What are the greatest challenges?

The shortage of qualified professionals, digitalization, and SAP – these are big challenges we have to tackle. Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic represents a turning point for nearly all areas of our society, including us as an educational institution. I am very much aware that we have a great deal of work ahead of us. We must keep our nerve, treat each other with mutual respect and offer an open ear. We face the challenge of managing and overcoming this crisis. Furthermore, the crisis has magnified problems in our organization we must now face. These issues most certainly were present before but we have never taken a really close look at them. Now we can no longer avoid them and have to find solutions. In times of crisis, we depend on working more closely together. Here, too, we must continue to develop and open up. These are all major challenges.

What are your most important responsibilities? Where do you see your areas of focus?

In the Corona Crisis Committee, which I am head of, there is no shortage of things to do, big or small. We have an unusually broad range of work: from acquiring additional rooms for written exams, to assessing hygiene concepts and purchasing disinfectant dispensers, through to contracting additional cleaning services. We cannot let up. This a challenge, but one that I enjoy and that motivates me.

There is significant pressure to modernize the University’s operating procedures. The coronavirus crisis and our dependency on a digital world have only added to this. This requires a great deal of work and change, which I intend to pursue.

Above all, I would like to work towards an open and efficient exchange between the Central University Administration and the faculties. I would like to help facilitate and shape this process.

You are familiar with both sides: the faculties and the Central University Administration. How does cooperation between these two areas need to improve? What are the issues and solutions? Where do you see a need for action?

We need to speak with and not about one another. This is particularly important during times of crisis where quick action is called for. We must call the problems by name and find viable solutions. In this process, I would like to be someone who initiates, invites, facilitates, as well as solves the problems.

My door is always open to anyone in the Central University Administration or the faculties. Having worked in a number of positions here, I am intimately familiar with the University and its operation and would now like to contribute my experience and expertise to this new role. I am fully committed. I look forward to this opportunity and am confident that we will achieve this together.

Let us imagine that it is April 2021 and we are reflecting back on the pandemic: What should TU Berlin have learned during this period and what should it have achieved or implemented?

We will have improved communication and exchange between the central administration and faculties and changed processes. But we will also have postponed non-essential projects and created more space and flexibility to pursue other issues. And, of course, we will have been able to make further SAP tools available.

I would be very pleased if we have made progress on flexible working. This is important for our working environment, offering us more freedom and making us more attractive as an employer.

I very much hope that our students’ learning success will not have significantly worsened and that we as a university will have created many opportunities to help with studying and teaching and to overcome adversities. I would very much like to contribute to this. This is important.

We are working to ensure that we do not have to adopt essential-only operations as in March and April 2020 and that we all move through the fall and winter months successfully and in good health. I sincerely hope that there will be a vaccine at the beginning of 2021 which is quickly available to all.

What is your personal motto, what motivates you personally?

Tackling, enabling, and finding balance with a steady hand. That is important to me, just as is communicating openly and finding joy in the positive development of our university.

Interview: Stefanie Terp