30. July 2021

Two-time “Rector of the Year” commencing second term of office Two-time “Rector of the Year”: An interview with Professor Hoch about goals and objectives

An interview with Professor Hoch about goals and objectives

Professor Hoch was again named Rector of the Year by the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (DHV) just as he is assuming his second term of office. The University of Bonn members gave him top marks in the association’s online survey, scoring even higher than in the previous year as 69% of those surveyed said he is “the ideal person” to hold the key leadership position. In an interview, we talked to him about his plans for the four years ahead. . An article from forsch 2021/01.

Rector Michael Hoch
Rector Michael Hoch - Two-time “Rector of the Year”, Rector Michael Hoch, commencing second term of office © Jürgen Hofmann
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You were Rector of the Year in 2020, and now you are again. How did you celebrate the triumph?

Oh we celebrated a bit within my family, mainly. The award ceremony took place as part of the virtual German Academics Gala. It is such a meaningful distinction, and really spurs me on to move things forward for this University of Excellence. And my work requires things like listening, negotiating compromises and developing new ideas.


Your first term in office was rather eventful. If you had known back in 2015 what you know today, what things might you have done differently?

I don’t really look back much, I like looking at ideas and concepts of interest relating to the future. And of course like everyone I learn things every day, from people I meet, in conversations ... and fairly often from challenges arising totally unexpectedly. Like when the 3rd floor of the main building was closed ahead of Christmas 2018. I learned however how much power we can summon by coming together when facing a really huge problem situation.

The ‘Palace Pals’ campaign we launched brought us closer than ever before to the desired renovation of the palace building.


The Rectorate has recognized Equal Opportunity and Diversity as a new area under the responsibility of a Vice Rector. What was behind that decision, to have a Vice Rector specifically oversee such matters?

Equal opportunity and diversity are official commitments of the University of Bonn which we intend to pursue with increasing vigor. They are in fact integral to our identity. As a University of Excellence with global relationships, we see diversity as a source of strength for our organization. We have formulated specific targets for female representation in the professorate, which we are all obligated to cooperate on to achieve. In my previous term of office the Rectorate took several important steps in this regard in coordination with the faculties, which included the formation of a new dedicated unit. Irmgard Förster will be overseeing the further expansion in this key area, who is a highly experienced and competent individual. It was important as well for me personally to lead by example, realizing gender equality on the board of the Rectorate for the first time in our organizational history.


There is now a Vice Rector for Sustainability.

Yes, because sustainability is a key concern of our time and will remain so, touching virtually all areas of life. We announced back in my last term of office our intention to become a university exemplary of sustainability, especially as Bonn is the seat of the United Nations in Germany. We thus developed the Sustainability Strategy 2030 for the University with the involvement of representatives of staff, students and faculty, which the Vice Rectors will be executing in coordination with the new dedicated unit, led by Dr. Annette Scheersoi. We are already very robustly positioned in sustainability research, with the PhenoRob Cluster of Excellence, for example, and Innovation Campus Bonn. In the area of teaching, we are looking at developing multi-faculty course modules, and we will be making great strides as we reach milestones like obtaining Fairtrade certification and switching over to green power.


What are your goals and objectives for the four-year period ahead? What will the measures of your success be?

Strategically our goal for the years ahead is to advance the University of Bonn’s leadership position with regard to study of the major global transformation processes underway through excellence in research and teaching, achieved by leveraging diversity. This requires adequate infrastructure—digital infrastructure in particular—and strength in the area of knowledge transfer, anchored in the new enaCom Transfer Center. In this next term of office we at the Rectorate will be working together with University staff, students and other partners to further enhance our already considerable advantages in global competition. And these include principally our global network of relationships, which Birgit Münch as new Vice Rector will be working to further cultivate and strategically expand.


On the board of the Rectorate you are known very much as a team player. What does it take to be a team player?

What you need foremost is a really good team to be on. And I am very grateful for the excellent work done by the Rectorate members during my last term of office, just as I now greatly look forward to working with my new colleagues. I have to say I’m extremely proud of what we on the Rectorate have achieved over the last few years in partnership with our research and teaching personnel, students and other staff. We always had quite a good reputation, but I believe we have gained considerable prestige on top of that, internationally in particular. As Rector my perennial duty is to further our creative potential and channel the tremendous commitment of everyone at the University, getting everyone on board and working cohesively so that we can achieve our shared goals. Thinking about the future, I can only be highly optimistic in view of how well we have been able to pull together and concert our efforts.


What others say around the University:


Thomas Kortsalis, Deputy Chair, General Students Committee:
Thomas Kortsalis, Deputy Chair, General Students Committee: - Thomas Kortsalis, Deputy Chair, General Students Committee: “As representatives of the University student body, we are very pleased at the re-appointment of Michael Hoch to the post of Rector, because we know he listens to the concerns of students and respects our interests. We look forward to continuing good communication with the Rectorate and cooperation on a partnership basis, as in the past, as we share ideas on how to move forward on arising issues. Equal gender representation among the board members of the Rectorate is a welcome development and a step forward in our efforts to promote inclusion, which further extend to individuals with an immigration background, individuals with disabilities and people of color.” © Ronny Bittner
University Council chairperson Professor Dieter Engels:
University Council chairperson Professor Dieter Engels: - “The Rectorate members serving under Michael Hoch in his new term of office are highly motivated to achieve the ambitious objectives set out, including increased representation of women on all hierarchy levels. The University’s leading board will be one of the few in Germany with equal gender representation, which sends quite the right signal.” © Universität Bonn
Senate chairperson Professor Rainer Hüttemann:
Senate chairperson Professor Rainer Hüttemann: - “Professor Hoch’s leadership of the Rectorate put the University of Bonn on a trajectory that resulted in the institution emerging as winner in the national Excellence Initiative. Now what matters is making sure we stay on this successful trajectory going forward. Professor Hoch and his new team of competent Vice Rectors are well-capable of achieving that.” © Gregor Hübl
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