Two weeks ago, it was announced that Professor Harald Merckelbach will succeed Professor Anita Jansen as dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience as from 1 May. Professor Annemie Schols will take over from Professor Albert Scherpbier as dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences as from 1 June.
This means all three dean vacancies have been filled by internal candidates. It’s an interesting development in the light of a recent discussion in the university council. The rector wanted to leave much room to recruit externally, but the university council managed to turn this around and give preference to professors from within the faculties instead.
The gender ratio in UM top management will remain unchanged: three women (the rector and two deans) and six men (chair and vice-chair of the executive board and four deans).
Christine Neuhold (48) is an experienced academic who earned her stripes as director of the Politics and Culture in Europe research programme, director of UM Campus Brussels, member of the faculty board, and head of the Department of Political Science. Even so, she did give the matter some thought. “It wasn’t an easy decision to say yes to becoming a dean, a position with a lot of responsibility”, she says. The decisive factor was Rector Rianne Letschert’s presentation about the new HR policy at Dutch universities, Room for everyone’s talent. “I thought: I want to be a part of this. This plan will allow us to truly diversify HR policy. I was the chair of the Department of Political Science for four years, and HR was the biggest issue. Employees had few opportunities to move to higher-level positions and there was hardly any room for different career paths.”
She’s opting for a four-year term, just like her predecessor Sophie Vanhoonacker did. “It’s a tough job and I think it’s good not to get too comfortable. I believe in a timely changing of the guard.”
Her motto for the next four years? “Keep on moving forward. That’s also what I said during my presentation to the appointment committee, the faculty council and the executive board. I want to continue down the path set by the current management. I want to strengthen and fine-tune what we already have. A lot has happened lately. Our changing HR policy requires action. We have a great curriculum and a new bachelor’s programme, Digital Society. The UM-wide bachelor’s programme Global Studies is set to start in September. I’d also like to give the outside world an even better idea of what it is we do at FASoS. Our education and research essentially focus on global transformation and its societal impact. What global challenges are we facing and what kind of impact do things like migration and digital developments have on society?”
What kind of dean is she going to be? She laughs. “Sophie and I have a lot in common. I’ve been working with her for twenty years and I want to continue her work. I don’t want to change too much. She’s an open and honest person with integrity. I want to be that, too. But I’m more straightforward. I’m Austrian. I like to get things done quickly. I’m impatient – I know that about myself. It can be both a problem and a strength. Just like Sophie, I want to build consensus. That’s very important to me.”