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Three new deans at LiU

As 2021 starts, three new deans take up their positions in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and in Educational Sciences. Who are they, and how do they see their new roles? And the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences – what advice does she have for her new colleagues?

Johan Ölvander, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Bild: Johan Ölvander, dekan Tekniska fakulteten“It’s going to be fun and exciting – getting to grips with such an important and challenging role as dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (abbreviated as ‘LiTH’).” The words are those of Johan Ölvander as he takes up his new position.

What is the first thing you’ll do as dean?

I’m delighted and stand humble as I face the task, and the first thing will be to become familiar with everything that’s going on. I think I have a reasonably good idea, but there are many activities in the faculty and at LiU in general that will be new for me, and I’m curious to learn more about them.

What challenges do you see for the faculty in the coming three-year period?

One challenge is to bring all the different parts of LiU and LiTH closer together, for example the central administration and operations right out at the edges of the field. I believe there’s a huge potential here that we can use, provided we can increase understanding of the requirements and expertise that the organisation as a whole has.

What will you bring to the work as dean from your current position?

I have a broad understanding of operations at LiTH, not only as teacher and researcher and from different managerial positions, but also more recently from running several of our large master’s programmes in, for example, engineering.

Do you support greater collaboration across faculty boundaries, and if so, how can this be achieved?

Of course! Collaboration between the faculties at LiU in both education and research opens great possibilities for us. There are things we can do relatively easily at LiU that would require collaboration between three different universities in Stockholm, for example.

Do you have a professional role model?

I haven’t thought so much about it, to be honest, not in terms of role models. When the idea comes up I often think about my parents, who have meant a great deal to me.
But I do like to collect quotations. This one, for example, from Dwight Eisenhower: “Plans are useless, planning is everything”. To me, this means that planning is vital from a strategic point of view, but it’s more important in the short term to adopt a pragmatic approach.

Lena Jonasson, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Bild: Lena Jonasson, dekan Medicinska fakulteten“We must invest time in more scientific discussions – particularly in clinical contexts.” This is the opinion of Lena Jonasson, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

What is the first thing you’ll do as dean?

First of all I want to get to know the whole faculty and all parts of it. Some of them I already know well: others not so well. I’m looking forward to personal meetings with subject representatives, the directors of our units, student representatives, etc. Not just remote and on-line, but true study visits, as soon as the pandemic conditions allow.

What challenges do you see for the faculty in the coming three-year period?

I want our position as research faculty to be strengthened, and our powerful research environments to have an even greater impact. And I want to promote and combine excellent research and excellent education, because we have both at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. It’s important that the students feel part of this. You may think it’s obvious that education should be linked to research, but this will require special care when, for example, annual student intakes increase. Researchers must make it clear that they consider teaching to be important, and vice versa. I believe that this leads to prouder students and in this way increases the attractive power of the university.

What will you bring to the work as dean from your current position?

I have one foot in experimental research and one in clinical research. At the same time, the gap between experimental and clinical research is becoming larger, despite a lot of talk about translational research in recent years. I hope that we can use the strength of our areas of excellence to bridge this gap, by taking questions not only from “bench to bedside”, but also from “bedside to bench”.

Do you support greater collaboration across faculty boundaries, and if so, how can this be achieved?

Indeed I do! This is linked to the answer to your previous question. We should be able to commit ourselves to cross-disciplinary work that spans faculty boundaries, “from molecule to behaviour”. We are already investing in research in the borderland between medicine and technology. And we have new exciting initiatives in the life sciences that involve several faculties.

Do you have a professional role model?

Rather than mentioning any one person, I would like to say that all colleagues with a passionate interest in their field are my role models. Colleagues who are well-read, can think independently and are not afraid to take a different direction from the herd. Everyone who is a “critical friend”.

Håkan Löfgren, Educational Sciences

Bild: Håkan Löfgren, dekan Utbildningsvetenskap“I want to thank everyone who has entrusted me with the role of dean”, says Håkan Löfgren, Dean for Educational Sciences. “I will do my best as I take on the task, and hope for productive collaboration between all the departments we work with.”

What is the first thing you’ll do as dean?

I have started to take part in various meetings and contexts, and I have been impressed by how well operations in the field of education sciences function at LiU. I am, however, passionate about some questions, and it was this that prompted me to accept the role. I believe that the students receive too little teacher-led time when taking teacher education, and this is something I will try to change. More hours on courses! I am also interested in further reinforcing the link between research and teacher education, since I see that both tasks of the university have much to gain from this. Clear investments in environments, I believe, will increase our attractive power, and bring in more researchers and teachers who have taken doctoral degrees, and in this way make it easier to recruit people to LiU. Finally, I would like to see educational sciences achieve full status as a faculty at Linköping University, and no longer be regarded as an “area”, which simply creates uncertainty. This is mainly of symbolic significance, but we are one of the most significant actors in Sweden within educational sciences research, and it would be nice if we were acknowledged as such. It would empower all active researchers and teachers here.

What challenges do you see for the faculty in the coming three-year period?

It will be important to attract students to all our programmes and ensure that they complete their education successfully. It will also be important to recruit more personnel. The corona pandemic has brought with it many challenges, with consequences in both the short and long terms. One of these is how we manage both teaching and exams in a sustainable manner that ensures legal certainty. A more positive consequence concerns how we can benefit from all the experience of distance education we have gained. Another challenge is how we are to implement the new quality assurance system in a manner that is beneficial and meaningful for teachers and students, while at the same time satisfying the requirements placed on us by the Higher Education Authority.

What will you bring to the work as dean from your current position?

How important it is to listen to and meet the people around. As head of the Department of Thematic Studies – Child Studies, I have been surrounded by an amazing administrative support team and committed teachers who have discussed opportunities and challenges with me in an open manner. I bring with me experience of positive consultations about important matters, and the significance of an open discourse climate.

Do you support greater collaboration across faculty boundaries, and if so, how can this be achieved?

I believe in openness and collaboration, and after several meetings with the previous dean and the other deans at LiU I’m sure that there is a healthy dialogue. We have every reason to continue our conversations about issues relating to both research and education. One concrete collaboration that is being developed is LiU’s work in schools, where the various faculties are involved in different ways. I plan to encourage this initiative.

Do you have a professional role model?

Indeed – I have several! My boss Per Gyberg has taught me a great deal about the significance of trusting one’s colleagues and their ability to carry out their tasks. I have also learnt from Per how important it is to create a positive atmosphere among the people you work with in a management team, and to build creative environments. My teacher in junior school, Brita Sköldin, had a unique ability to take an interest in the subjects she taught, stimulated by a burning curiosity. She was at that same time deeply committed to each individual pupil. If we can educate such teachers at LiU, we will have succeeded!

Karin Axelsson, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Bild: Karin Axelsson. dekan Filosofiska fakulteten“I’m happy to welcome Lena, Johan and Håkan to their exciting roles, and I’m looking forward to a productive collaboration.” So says Karin Axelsson, who has been dean in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for the past three years.

How have your first three years as dean been?

A real mixture, very educational, and great fun. New matters arise all the time that I have to understand and reach a decision about. Even though I’ve been at LiU for more than thirty years, I’ve learnt a great deal during the past three years – about the faculty, LiU, and the higher education world as a whole.

Have you managed to achieve what you had planned?

The first year was dominated to a large extent by the Humanities Review. This brought major changes for parts of the faculty and led to a certain degree of anxiety. Now that the new department, IKOS, has been formed and several development projects and new initiatives have been started, I can see that the process has brought positive results. For example, it’s good that we have formed two new research environments (Philosophy and Ethics, and History Studies): these will strengthen research in the humanities.

Have you had to face any unexpected challenges?

The obvious answer, of course, is the amazingly rapid realignment to distance education that we carried out during the corona spring, and the current ramifications of this. This challenge overshadows everything else, for everyone, independently of our tasks and role.

What is it like – leading a faculty under corona restrictions?

It’s the teachers who have made the greatest contribution, and ensured that teaching has continued to function in the face of huge uncertainty, rapid changes and decisions with dramatic results. For me as dean, the corona restrictions have meant that I have had to take many decisions about changes in the courses given by the faculty, at a level of detail that I otherwise do not usually go into. The pandemic has also meant many meetings about crisis management, and the four deans have had frequent coordination meetings during the period. Leading a faculty using Teams and Zoom is perfectly possible, but we all miss meeting people in person, of course.

What advice can you give to your three new colleagues?

Start by getting to know the faculty and listening to the co-workers. Then identify what you consider to be functioning well, and what you would like to move towards changing. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by an overfull calendar, and allocate time at least once a week for a deeper strategic analysis. The personnel in the faculty office are a great resource – they have loads of invaluable knowledge and experience.


Translated by George Farrants

Elisabet Wahrby 2021-01-11

Page manager: elisabet.wahrby@liu.se
Last updated: 2021-01-07