The Dean of Graduate Programmes reflects on new teaching formats, new programmes and new perspectives post-pandemic.
Sitting in the Claus Offe Library on a June morning, Christine Reh has a smile and a greeting for everyone who happens by – students, faculty, maintenance staff working on the adjacent rooftop terrace. Her interest in those who create the Hertie School community is palpable.
The three years since Reh came to the Hertie School to take up the roles Dean of Graduate Programmes and Professor of European Politics have yielded many challenges – not least COVID-19. “My first year and a half were busy, but I still could carve out time for research,” she says. “But the last 18 months or so have been very intense.”
The School has come together in many ways unimaginable before the pandemic, she says. “In graduate programmes, I think we've really learned to trust each other and to work together in all sorts of different formats.” She is most proud of the way the School has grown and developed: “I think it's the dynamism of the place, which is targeted towards positive change. If you have an idea, if you can convince people of what to do and where to go, you can do it,” she says. “That's an amazing feature of an institution that is still fairly young. It has found its place, but it is also still looking to position itself and remains very creative.”
During the early days of the pandemic, Reh worked closely with the School’s new Digital Learning Team to rapidly move classes online, to meet students’ needs as they quarantined at home and to address faculty’s challenges as they taught online, often for the first time. Recently, she’s been taking a step back to reflect on that experience.
“Even after completely returning to onsite teaching, using digital technology, we can incorporate flexibility into everyday life at the School, across all levels and activities,” she says. “With our Director of Digital Learning, Annika Zorn, and across the different School constituencies, we’re going to start a systematic thought process towards a digital learning strategy.” Among the many gains she sees is the ease of engaging with guest speakers. This could greatly expand the diversity of perspectives in classes, but also benefit wider audiences attending School events. It will also help disseminate knowledge and research more effectively, she says.