Andrea Schmallegger (AS) in Conversation with Petra Eckhard (GAM)

© Robert Anagnostopoulos, TU Graz

GAM: On October 01, 2022 you officially took over the position of Head of the Dean's Office. Now you are in charge of managing the strategic processes of the Faculty as the operational interface between the Dean, the Dean of Studies, the institutes and the students. Which topics will keep you busy in the near future?

Andrea Schmallegger (AS): The teaching administration is a central topic, along with staff and budget management. For example, the new master's curriculum, which went into effect this semester, will certainly be a focus. We are curious to see how this will work out, where we might have to readjust something or in which areas we can provide more assistance to students. A new curriculum always means uncertainty for students. However, we have good tools and services to help first-year students as well as students in more advanced semesters to find their way around. During consultation with students, all questions can usually be answered.

GAM: You are not new to the faculty, and already familiar with many of the faculty’s administrative processes from your time in the offices of the Institute of Structural Design (ITE), the Institute of Architecture Technology (IAT) and the Chair of Architecture and Timber Construction. How would you describe your career path at TU Graz?

AS: I came to the Institute of Structural Design in 2015. Stefan Peters, who was Dean at the time, was looking for administrative support at the institute, especially for his additional agendas as Dean. I was able to familiarise myself with faculty and university issues, including those of the Dean's Office. After Roger Riewe's secretarial position at the IAT had become available, I moved to one of the largest institutes in the faculty. That was great, because I got the chance to be increasingly involved in the administration of teaching, events and research, as well as committee meetings, among other things, so there was a lot of contact with other institutes and faculty members. As a result, I have grown very close to the faculty as a whole.

GAM: This leap from the institute to the faculty level also means an increasing degree of complexity in operational management. How do you handle this complexity?

AS: At the institutes I was able to test out these different tasks, so to speak. However, due to the 15 organizational units, personnel management, for example, is now multiplying, and also due to the target agreements that have to be adhered to. Furthermore, the budgetary targets of the rector and the federal government also make everything much more complex. However, I think that this complexity and versatility suit me well, and considering everything I did before––public relations, human resources, finance, office organization––, I'm an old hand at that, so to speak. Perhaps my new position has a different dimension, is certainly more complex and involves much greater responsibility, but I am very much looking forward to this challenge.

GAM: Is there anything on your long-term agenda that is especially important to you?

AS: A great wish of mine is to encourage communication within the faculty––among the institutes but also between research teams or lecturers and students. Such an exchange could work well, for example, in the form of a faculty café that operates permanently or temporarily. As far as the presentation of the faculty to the outside world is concerned, there are perhaps other media, channels and partnerships that could be tried. Open and professional communication in all directions, i.e., an open door policy, that we share our knowledge on all levels and at best, have a lot of fun doing it. That would be a prime concern for me and I would like to push that even further in the future through the interface of the dean's office.
Certainly, the current student figures show that the dynamics are already good. We started the Beginners Workshop at the Institute of Construction and Design Principles (KOEN) with 210 students and have over 240 students registered for the 1st semester in the Bachelor's program, which is fantastic. And it is such a joy to see so many students at our Welcome Day and in the lecture halls.

GAM: What do you enjoy most in your new position and what do you see as the biggest challenge?

AS: The biggest challenge is certainly to get everyone on board. Not only in my own team, but also in the faculty as a whole, so that everyone––from the head of an institute to student assistants to students––is committed to the work of the faculty and to push things forward. What I enjoy most is being responsible for a larger and a good team and being able to move things in a new way.

GAM: What else is important to you besides your work at the Faculty?

AS: I have two children aged 15 and 9, they are important to me and keep me busy. Beyond that, I read and travel a lot. I am a passionate cook and I always say that if I were no longer working in the office, I would definitely have a small, fine restaurant where people come together for good food and conversations.

GAM: Thank you very much for the interview.

Translation: Max B. Spamer