Change of dean at the Faculty of Educational Sciences
On 1 January there was a change of dean at the Faculty of Educational Sciences. Karin Mårdsjö Blume left after six years and Jörgen Nissen took over. And he does not plan to redraw the map until he knows what the map looks like.
Dr Nissen was deputy head of department – and then head of department – in the Department of Social and Welfare Studies for six years. This means he was head of the only department that operates in three faculties, with a broad mix of activities. He has a PhD in technology and social change, is a reader in pedagogical work and has researched young people, computers and education. He has been a faithful part of LiU since he began his studies here in 1980, with the exception of a period in Uppsala, where he was a project manager and programme director for a Master’s programme.
“It felt like an honour for a social scientist like me,” Dr Nissen says.
Why did you want to have the job as Dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences?
“I had decided to finish as head of department and had booked a long journey. But when the question of being dean came up, I was attracted by the idea of working with issues of quality and content. I wanted to get away from managerial responsibility for staff issues – it’s stressful. As a dean you don't have that worry.”
What should a good dean be like?
“Like Karin Mårdsjö Blume.”
Do you have some kind of professional role model?
“Ingrid Carlgren, professor of pedagogics. She was part of constructing the first compulsory schoolteacher training in Norrköping. She succeeded in a unique way – a combination of being a talented researcher whilst being incredibly committed to teacher training.”
What is the first thing you intend getting to grips with as dean?
“I have been advised not to redraw the map until I know what the map looks like. And there’s quite a lot in the pipeline. The vice-chancellor has decided to collaborate more with schools in the region. It’s important and a lot is being done already. But it is splintered and needs to be coordinated. LiU has also been selected to have special training schools.”
The way deans are selected, through election, what are your thoughts on that?
“I’ve been thinking about that. As a head of department you are appointed by the vice-chancellor. It will be exciting to see whether being elected instead makes a difference in leadership.”
Tell us one thing you have done in your work that made you proud.
“As a social scientist, being director of a master’s programme in Uppsala – that was great! The Sociotechnical Systems Engineering programme is still going strong; it’s popular and the students get good jobs. It's a cross-disciplinary programme that has received a lot of attention. I believe I can make use of that experience now, because teacher training is really cross-disciplinary – even if we don’t often think about it in that way.”
What will you take from your current job to your new one?
“Not to be in such a rush, to talk to people. Combined with not waiting too long. As a leader I want to try and manage my own time; if I don’t, others will. I think I’m seen as a very accessible head of department, involved in everything (too much so, if you ask some people in the Department of Social and Welfare Studies). I can easily get drawn into things. It’s tempting when you are the boss. So I won’t be going to loads of meetings.”
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
“I used to have a boat but I got bored after ten years in the Östgöta archipelago (which is fantastic, of course). Now I go trekking a lot. Not in the Swedish mountains, but more like in the Dolomites where you walk in between three-course meals. I have also walked parts of the Santiago de Compostela trail. And also our hiking trail, the Östgötaleden. I also do some yoga, calm yoga. I usually tell people I’m relaxing myself into shape.”
Favourite travel destination?
“India. I went there for a month at Christmas with my family.”
A place you wouldn’t like to visit again?
“I was in Morocco once. It was cold and we weren’t properly prepared. It wasn’t much fun then but I would like to go again.”
What TV programme do you hate to miss?
“Homeland. I used to watch West Wing when it was on. I’d like to see that again. And The Wire.”
How long do you plan to be dean?
“We’ll take it three years at a time. The learning period is long, so I think you are of more use if you stay in the job for more than three years. We’ll see.”
And what will you do when your time as dean comes to an end?
“As head of department and dean you get one month/year to come back. But I don’t have a plan; I’m living in the present. And I don’t have a mortgage or anything so I don’t need a high income.”
Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself?
“I think I’m the first dean from Campus Norrköping. It feels nice and challenging in a good way.”
Karin Mårdsjö Blume is the one handing over the dean’s baton. For six years she has been dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences, but her LiU career began back in 1981 when, having graduated as a linguist, she got a job as a teacher and then assistant lecturer in the Department of Language and Literature.
The road to the dean’s office ran via a PhD position in the Department of Thematic Studies, head of CMTS, faculty programme director at the Institute of Technology, head of department at what was then ISK, now the Department of Culture and Communication. She left LiU on two separate occasions. The first time was to go to Malmö University where she ran a master’s programme in technological communication, and the second time to join Nokia to run a department that produced technical manuals. Education linked to language has been the common theme throughout her career.
“I’ve also always been interested in leadership,” Ms Mårdsjö Blume says. “But now I’m closing the circle after 25 years as a leader in different contexts and on different scales. I’ve never completely left research and I will go back to the Department of Culture and Communication, my primary employers. I’m going to teach and research and share the responsibility of running of the Division of European Language and Culture.”
What have your years as dean been like?
“There has been a huge development. We had an inquiry into sustainable teacher training in 2008. Every university and college had to reapply for their entitlement to award qualifications in teacher training. LiU was the only institution that got everything they applied for. The first two years we worked on our applications, and then we worked on implementing the changes.”
“Overall it has been a period of intense reform. This has included working more closely and in a more organised way with the school world, for example in the form of seminars for the new “lead teachers” (förstalärarna). The internationalisation of teacher training has also been interesting; we have developed relations with China, Singapore and Kenya. It is becoming increasingly common for students to do their teaching practice (VFU) abroad.”
Why are you giving up your job as dean?
I was head of the Department of Culture and Communication during a construction period, and dean for six years. It’s been very intensive work for ten years with an absolutely jam-packed diary. Now I want to round things off – I'm dying to meet students and live the normal ‘university life.’ ”
Was it a difficult decision?
“No it just happened naturally.”
Is there anything you did as dean that you are really proud of?
“I am quite good at working together with eight departments on two campuses, holding things together.”
Is there anything that has made you angry during these years?
“The endless political initiatives in schooling that move the goalposts. No other faculty has anything like this to deal with. The thinking around schooling is so politicised; that can make me angry.”
What will you take with you from your old job to your new one?
“That's difficult to say precisely. But general experience of leadership is something I will take with me. And I’m curious to work practically with teaching students. Life in the faculty is so compact, I love it. In the departments things are more spread out, people are out teaching.”
What will you miss about your job as dean?
“The collective work of the faculty. And the big picture of what's happening at the university. I’ve been on the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Council and been part of everything.”
What won’t you miss?
“Having a diary that’s overflowing.”
Is there anything you wish you’d done but never got around to?
“No, nothing. We were a tight-knit group and we did the best we could.”
What’s your best advice to your successor, Jörgen Nissen?
“To take the time to talk to everyone. You get a lot of good input that way.”
Jörgen Nissen thinks a good dean should be someone like you. What are his good points?
“He is a thoughtful person who listens and he has good leadership experience. Building a team is something he’s good at. And I don't think he is afraid of tackling difficulties.”
The way deans are selected, through election, what are your thoughts on that?
“Elections are good, you are given trust and you have to live up to it. Being dean is not like being an administrator; it’s more a political role, purely strategic.”
It sounds like you will have a bit more free time now. What will you do with it?
“I enjoy travelling. I don’t have any particular plans at the moment. But in the autumn I was in Istanbul and in Tirana. Eastern Europe is exciting. Apart from that I will just do what I feel like doing, without checking the time as often as before.”
Do you have any other long-term plans in your professional life?
“No It feels natural to get to work in the Department of Culture and Communication, as a member of staff; I haven't thought much further ahead than that. But you never know... It will be fun to contribute to the collective things like the 40th anniversary where I'm on the organising committee. That’s an example of one of the fineries life offers us.”
Is there anything else you would like to say?
“That it’s fun to be dean. The deans work together closely and have a good relationship with each other. I am pleased with these years.”
Text and photo: Elisabet Wahrby
Photo of when Ms Mårdsjö Blume is handing over the dean ornament: Anna Johnsson Harrie
13 Jan 2015
Last updated: 2015-02-09