When she was appointed as professor at the University of Zurich in 2001, Gabriele Siegert wasn’t immediately aware of the multiple roles that came with her new position. The media economics professor readily admits that she was slightly taken aback by the broad range of duties she was expected to fulfill.
Many of the newly appointed professors at this year’s onboarding event will likely be able to relate. Making the leap from junior academic position to professorship inevitably comes with a new set of tasks, duties and objectives, and the same applies for professors joining UZH from another university. Speaking to her newly appointed colleagues, Siegert said, “As part of UZH culture, we actively provide you with all relevant information about our university, including research, teaching and the organization of our academic units, to make your start at UZH as smooth as possible.” Siegert, who sits on the Executive Board of the University as Deputy President, Vice President Education and Student Affairs and now also designated as new Interim President, led all newly appointed professors through the Onboarding Day, which was held at the end of September.
The event, held for the third time and organized by the Office for Continuing Education, aims to set the scene for newly appointed UZH professors, providing them with information about UZH’s strategies, goals, values and guidelines. Besides Gabriele Siegert, another four members of the Executive Board of the University attended the event – Beatrice Beck Schimmer, Vice President Medicine, Michael Schaepman, Vice President Research, Christian Schwarzenegger, Vice President Faculty Affairs and Scientific Information, and Stefan Schnyder, Vice President Finances and Human Resources – so the new UZH professors got their information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The Onboarding Day also offers ample opportunity to discuss the various roles and responsibilities the professors are expected to assume in different contexts and groups. “UZH culture also means that we clearly communicate what the Executive Board of the University expects from our new professors,” emphasized Siegert.
Gabriele Siegert stressed that the role of a professor extends well beyond research and teaching activities.
As members of UZH, professors are part of a community of shared values that has binding principles and guidelines, for example when it comes to equal opportunities, diversity and sustainability.
• Their roles include decision-making powers and rights of co-determination, which they are expected to actively use as part of their academic self-organization.
• They are members of departments, institutes and faculties, and therefore play a part in a variety of administrative processes, university bodies and committee work.
• They manage and lead their professorship, write financial reports and acquire third-party funds.
• Together with their colleagues they form part of a social community.
• They offer support and advice to students and junior researchers when it comes to their academic career, serve as role models, mentors, human resources officers and supervisors.
• They have leadership and management duties, for example as team leader, head of a laboratory or department, or dean.
• They represent UZH within the academic community.
• They provide expert opinions and advice for the public, the media and policy-makers, and through their expertise contribute to the prestige of the entire university.
At the onboarding event, Gabriele Siegert encouraged her newly appointed peers to get in touch with the relevant UZH bodies, particularly in the Central Services units, if they have any questions. “Living up to these many different roles will be a great challenge,” said the Deputy President. For example, the University of Zurich’s Communications Office provides support when it comes to media requests, and the Office for Continuing Education offers training courses focusing on time and project management. The feedback from some of the new appointees showed that there is a need for this kind of support. For SNSF assistant professor Roberto Zaugg for example, whose position was transformed into a full professorship for general and Swiss history of the early modern period, the event was very useful not least when it comes to practical aspects: “We received condensed insights into the inner workings of UZH, and are now one step closer to being effectively integrated as part of the university’s operations.” Moreover, the professor of history believes the Onboarding Day is a welcome opportunity to meet some of his peers and speak with high-ranking members of the Executive Board of the University.
The participating new professors generally viewed UZH’s onboarding event as a token of appreciation. The Onboarding Day – as well as the drinks reception at which the UZH President welcomes the newly appointed professors – was indeed conceived as an event by the Executive Board of the University to express their esteem for newly joined professors. “After all, they help to make the University of Zurich’s research and teaching even better,” says Siegert.