Interview with former Head of Department: Dr Svenja Hanson
FEED reporter Nayantara Soni was given the opportunity to interview Dr Svenja Hanson, the previous Head of Department of Chemical Engineering from 2011 to 2016. Dr Hanson has since officially stepped down as the Head of Department.
Dr Hanson shares her experiences being Head of Department, her plans for the future, as well as some general advice to students. Photographs by Mohammad Asad Tariq.
Challenges as Head of Department
When asked about the challenges faced while acting as Head of Department, Dr Hanson mentioned the time-consuming nature of the job. Often times she was bogged down with meetings, answering phone calls and emails, reading and signing documents, as well as being caught up in unfamiliar regulations. She emphasized that a great deal of her time was spent talking to people all day. Unfortunately, she rarely got to spend time with students and instead had to devote most of her time to meetings. Nevertheless, with the help of the Dean and a good management team, her overall duties were made relatively easier.
Perks of being Head of Department
Despite its challenges, being Head of Department does have its perks, the first one being invitations by student societies as well as colleagues to a variety of events such as debates and opening ceremonies of conferences. Besides that, holding a position of responsibility has allowed her to get a peek at a role in management. Dr Hanson has had the opportunity to participate in discussions regarding new policies and university strategies at the earlier stages where she had a better chance of being heard. Lastly, one thing that will greatly missed by Dr Hanson would be the benefit of travelling to the other campuses for work.
One point that being emphasized by Dr Hanson throughout the interview was the power held by the students and their responsibility to utilise it.
“Students have a lot more power than they know they have.”
From her experiences in management not only as Head of Department but also as Head of the Campus Environment Committee, Dr Hanson has concluded that students really do have the opportunity to make changes. She stressed the importance of student representatives in management meetings as the issues discussed would be of the most impact to the students themselves. The presence of student representatives would allow the voices of students to hold weightage in the meetings.
Dr Hanson moved on to praise the student representatives participating in the Learning Committee Forum (LCF) in the past two years. She strongly believes that they have been effectively bringing about prominent changes. Amongst the developments credited to the student representatives are extra classes, changes on assessment methods and a new peer evaluation system more favoured by students.
Without skipping a beat, Dr Hanson was quick to mention her favourite accomplishments from the job. She informed us that induction day and meeting with alumni were some of things she really enjoyed. However, the highlight of the year for her has always been graduation day.
“You get to see somebody going out there to embark on a career, become a leader, and hopefully carry on learning and improving their entire life. You hope they take what they have learnt here and do something with it. And then you think. This is where it starts. This is where it really starts.”
Being relieved of her duties as Head of Department, Dr Hanson confessed that she wished to spend more of her time with students and focusing more time on her lecturing and research. She disclosed some research ideas which include environmental issues regarding pesticides and also the degradation of plastics.
Advice to students
“Find out what you are interested in. If you leave here and you have no idea what you are interested in, then what criteria are you going to use to find a job and what will you build your career on?”
“Learn something for the sake of learning. Don’t sacrifice your curiosity and enjoyment of learning for the sake of marks. In the long term your marks don’t really matter. What matters is that you have a personality. Spend time nurturing yourself in what you are interested in and learning extra things that you think are important. Don’t miss this opportunity! You will never have as much time and freedom as you do now.”
by Audrey Wee on Friday, 14 October 2016
Filed under Featured Articles tagged with Chemical Engineering