• Leuphana
  • College
  • Calendar
  • "So that they become smarter than we are" - A portrait of College Managing Director Dr Michaela...

"So that they become smarter than we are" - A portrait of College Managing Director Dr Michaela Wieandt

2024-01-22 Dr Michaela Wieandt has been Managing Director of Leuphana College since autumn 2023. In a portrait, she explains what makes the bachelor's degree programme so special.

College Managing Director Dr Michaela Wieandt ©Leuphana / Ciara Charlotte Burgess
College Managing Director Dr Michaela Wieandt

Studying is about knowledge - about initiating thought processes and communicating with commitment rather than exchanging assignments for credit points. Michaela Wieandt's own studies gave her first-hand insight into how to achieve this: "What I found great as a student were seminars in which the lecturers were close to the students, in which they gave feedback and you could really discuss texts in depth. As a student, you were able to tell if they were enthusiastic and wanted to teach the students something." It is important to support students in acting independently: "At school, you are often told what to do, but at university you can and must organise your own learning process, select and complete seminars, organise your own time, manage and learn a lot, especially stuff you didn't know that you didn't know before."

Born in Bremerhaven, she studied political science, history and sociology in Göttingen. She graduated from TU Berlin with a doctorate on power in international IT consulting projects and completed a certificate programme in adult education at Humboldt University. After working in various research institutions and universities she joined ESCP, a French business school with campuses in Berlin, London, Paris, Madrid, Turin, and Warsaw. In this international context, she established the "Career Development and Company Relations" department, while the organisation in Berlin grew rapidly and became increasingly international. She came to Leuphana in autumn 2023. Lüneburg was her clear destination: "I wanted to work at an institution that is really serious about sustainability and has defined a social mission for itself to improve the world by educating people in the context of climate change and an understanding of democracy."

Self-knowledge as part and effect of the degree programme

Long before she took on her new role, Michaela Wieandt got to know and appreciate Leuphana alumni as colleagues. She realised that Leuphana students are special. This impression has since been confirmed: "I see that many students who come here actually find aspects of improvement in very different places in the world very important, and that they have even applied for the programme explicitly for this reason. The College students are smart."

Improving the world does not work without self-knowledge. "Self-knowledge as part and effect of studying is an essential condition for learning new things. You can't improve the world if you haven't mastered yourself and your own learning process. If you want to make the world a better place, you first have to get to know it." Strong, relevant degree programmes are important for this learning.
The desire for security and clear orientation and unambiguous professions that require little personal initiative can be observed among high school graduates. The college director argues that universities should respond to this development: "Precisely because the current generation is experiencing so much uncertainty - with the pandemic, new and old wars, inflation, the rise of the right - universities have an obligation to provide them with the skills they need to cope with this experience of uncertainty. If there is one thing we can definitely say, it is that we will not return to this supposedly safe world. It is better to accept that we are confronted with all these challenges and that it is therefore important to learn how to deal with them - personally and as a society. Our students shall learn how to face uncertainty in a positive, constructive and responsible way, and how to find their own paths."

An ever-changing world

Michaela Wieandt believes that college education shows that comprehensive university education and preparation for the job market are not a contradiction, but belong together in the long term. "You often don't get as far with a specialised degree as you used to. If you look at the development of careers and professions, you realise how much the landscape is changing. On the one hand, careers are becoming more fragmented: you used to work for the same company for many years. You joined at some point, worked your way up and stayed there until the end of your career. Today, you change jobs after three to five years, and this is increasingly expected, too. On the other hand, the development of new technologies is changing us dramatically: Professions can change dramatically in a short span of time, work is becoming more networked, digital, and flexible, new professions are emerging and old professions are disappearing. You can suddenly be faced with the challenge that, at best, the job or the entire professional field is simply no longer as it was at the beginning of your career and you need completely new knowledge, skills, and competences. For example: Who knows where the development of AI will take us? You have to train people in an interdisciplinary way so that they have the chance to develop and adapt to a world that is constantly changing. Hence, it's not just about improving the world, but about the students themselves, on an individual level, which is very important." To develop this even further, the college director is planning to introduce new minors together with the Schools.

Michaela Wieandt is not convinced by the sometimes-heard objection that it would be more effective to simply teach concrete instructions (how do you plant a meadow sustainably? How do you set up a company? How do you become a teacher, and how do you understand art?) and nothing else, and she counters: "A concrete practice always needs a strategy behind it. You can't develop a strategy if you haven't learnt theories and theory development. Theory also needs to evolve. If you only present learners with facts, they memorise them but don't think for themselves. But this is precisely what we need to teach them so that we can progress as a society. That is why the complementary programme with its interdisciplinary studies is so important. This is where students learn to think outside the box with other disciplines, to reflect on their science, and to think further with the help of other subjects. So that they become smarter than we are."