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New deputy vice-chancellor - the last to throw in the towel

Together we improve our results. That is Folke Sjöberg’s basic philosophy. He has been one of LiU’s two deputy vice-chancellors for a couple of months now, with research as his area of responsibility.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Folke SjöbergDr Sjöberg’s office has the aroma of newness about it; the new furniture has literally just arrived. Apart from the desk at just the right height, there are four armchairs around a table. A drawer unit that was on back order is delivered during our conversation. But there aren’t many book shelves.

“I try to digitalise as much as possible. I don't want to have all that paper in binders.”

Following a decision by the University Board, LiU is to have two part-time deputy vice-chancellors. Folke Sjöberg has been one of these since 1 July. Karin Fälth-Magnusson is the other. Ms Fälth-Magnusson’s remit is education, while Dr Sjöberg will cover research.

How does it feel?
“Dizzying! But I am very aware that this is a very professional organisation, with high levels of competence and far-reaching ambitions. That gives me a positive feeling.”

Besides, shock and trauma are what Dr Sjöberg has dedicated his professional life to. That has been the main thread in his research work, particularly in the burns centre he has been in charge of since the mid-1990s. We have Dr Sjöberg to thank for the fact that Linköping is one of the two burn centres in the country, alongside Uppsala. He was the one who pushed for that.

As a doctor, Sjöberg has anesthesia and intensive care as his areas of expertise. His link to LiU is primarily through supervision of doctoral students and research. But it is his experience as deputy head of department in charge of research at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and in clinical leadership that preceded his service as deputy vice-chancellor.

“Having two deputy vice-chancellors has many practical benefits. At both the dean and head of department level things work like that at most other universities. The challenge for me now is to dig deep and learn about what happens in the other departments.”

How do you see LiU now and in the future?
“The strength of LiU is that it is a complete university. It is young and flexible, pushing ahead, and there is an innovative mind-set here. That's something of a trademark for LiU. But the university's way of working has changed and will change even more as society changes more and more rapidly. Collaboration is becoming more important, which is something that needs to be highlighted. We already have a good reputation, but this is important for the future.”

“Something we also have to think about is how we set up an education programme for people who want to go back into education as society’s need for continuing education increases,” Dr Sjöberg continues. “Similarly, how we will supply not only academia with research but society as a whole.”

The road to the deputy vice-chancellor’s office in the Origo Building began in Brazil, where Dr Sjöberg grew up with expatriate Swedish parents, and passed through Motala where he arrived while in sixth grade. He became a resident of Linköping in his third year of medical training, having spent the first two years in Uppsala. He also spent two post-doc periods abroad, in Paris and Pisa.

Why exactly did you become a doctor?
“It was something I thought about early on. I was doing well in school and had to choose between engineering physics and medicine. Then I took a summer job working in the intensive care ward of Motala Hospital. That led me to choose intensive care. I hung out with the anaesthetists in Motala; they were a great bunch.”

But intensive care for gravely ill people, is that fun?
“It’s fun seeing people getting back to a good quality of life. Mortality in intensive care is nowadays only 7-8%. And it is often not the intensive care itself which is the deciding factor – it’s other illnesses, chronic sicknesses that are detrimental to people’s continued quality of life after intensive care.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Folke SjöbergWhen Dr Sjöberg talks about his work and his research he gets very passionate; he leans forward, wanting to explain and relate. When leisure time comes up he is quieter.

“I work a lot and I don't have much free time. Doctoral students who get an email at one fifteen in the morning and find me waiting for a reply the next day moan about that a bit! But I have become a little mellower in my old age.”

But he does enjoy sport, especially swimming.
“I was on the board of LASS, the Linköping swimming club, in its heyday. And when I was younger I swam with the greats – Olympic medalists like Pär Arvidsson, Pelle Holmertz and Bengt Baron. I was like the young maverick. Though I did get an All-American award in 1974, albeit with very talented team mates.”

What else do you have up your sleeve?
“I am a good partner to collaborate with. My philosophy is together we improve our results. I’ve done a lot of practical team work – the Burn Centre is the best example of different professions working together in a successful team.”

He believes in sensitivity and dialogue: if you go to your boss with a problem you should leave with a feeling of enthusiasm and with your own solutions.

“That’s what the doctoral students usually write in their evaluations – that I am the last person to throw in the towel.”


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Last updated: 2014-10-20