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Five Questions for Michaela Voltrová

Michaela Voltrová completed her doctorate at the Faculty of Humanities at Chemnitz University of Technology in 2014. Today, she is Vice Dean for PR, Internationalization, and Lifelong Learning at the Faculty of Education of the University of West Bohemia Pilsen. Here’s an interview about her everyday work.

For Michaela Voltrová every day means a lot of communication. A lot of negotiations and consultations have become quite a lot of video conferences in the last few months. Due to corona, teaching is also done online. Voltrová wrote her dissertation, "On methodological and terminological problems of comparative imagology," at Chemnitz University of Technology in 2014. Today, she is Vice Dean for PR, Internationalization and Lifelong Learning at the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of West Bohemia Pilsen (CZ). 

Mrs. Voltrová, the Czech Republic is severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. How does your working day look at the moment?

The coronavirus has brought these challenges in the field of online communication to all of us. However, I am pleased that my work doesn’t stop with operational activities, but that it continues to be about strategic projects, which I particularly enjoy. We are currently preparing and implementing many new projects - for example, the Pilsen concept for the faculty school or the preparation of a digital screening tool for identifying students who are disadvantaged by the lower effectiveness of distance learning. And there is also the research work that I enjoy and some German-linguistic subjects that I supervise in teaching. So even though I have quite a lot of work in the dean's office, I can also be active in research and teaching and be in contact with our students. That is the best thing for me.

What challenges do the students at your university face at the moment?
All students, and ours are no exception in my opinion, are facing the great challenge of becoming "special heroes," as the German government has called it. Staying at home, enjoying student life only online, and taking many long-distance seminars is a very demanding situation for many students. Unfortunately, the Corona situation in the Czech Republic is not good at all and the whole thing has been going on for a long time. For students in our faculty it is complicated because they were looking forward to the school practical part of their studies. This cannot be implemented because the schools are closed. Concrete practical elements are realized online, which of course does not meet the expectations of the faculty and especially the expectations of the students. We therefore hope that the situation will soon improve.

You have studied in Pilsen and Chemnitz. Does the border make a difference or is the region very similar?

Both are true. You can already observe concrete differences during your studies, even if many things are the same. In my opinion, the differences are mainly related to the fact that the Czech and German educational systems are quite different. It is not only about the structure, but also about the way of teaching in secondary and elementary school. The individual specifics are obviously reflected in the way the German and Czech universities work. In the Czech Republic, for example, there are usually many more subjects, so students have more seminars and lectures in their timetables. In this direction I miss what I experienced in Chemnitz: greater freedom and independence in my studies and the "Chemnitz Model" in which you could combine a lot.

What do you remember most about your time in Chemnitz?

Many experiences, moments, and above all people who are connected with Chemnitz have remained in my memory. There are many exciting seminars and lectures, very good, nice, and helpful professors, my beloved Orangerie, the Chemnitz campus, the city and its surroundings, and much more. Very deep in my heart are long evenings full of nice long conversations with my German roommate. Thanks to these conversations I learned a lot - and I don't only mean German vocabulary. I still have deep conversations with my doctoral mother, Prof. Elke Mehnert, which I appreciate very much. It is clear to me that such friendly supervision of a doctoral student is not a matter of course. All in all, a friendly, maybe even familiar atmosphere is typical for Chemnitz University of Technology, which makes life much easier for a foreign student. I am particularly pleased that I am still in contact with certain people from Chemnitz University of Technology, some of whom I met, for example, during the 46th Annual Conference on German as a Foreign and Second Language, which took place in March 2019 in Chemnitz and was organized by Prof. Dr. Winfried Thielmann.

What are your plans for the future? What do you hope for from the year 2021?

The answer must certainly include several levels: In general, I hope that the year 2021 will bring about a positive change. Of course I hope that my neighbors, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. will remain healthy and emerge from the crisis we are all experiencing stronger and physically or otherwise healthy. Hopefully we find people with a lot of solidarity to each other, so that very few or preferably no one is left without help. And here I am not only thinking of the brave staff in hospitals, but also of an altruistic behavior in society in general. It would be wonderful if such an attitude to life were also adopted by our political elites. After all, one of the effects of the Corona crisis that I hope for is that the selfish and undemocratic tendencies in politics will lose their importance. Unfortunately, however, I fear a stark contrast to this strongly idealized hope. It would be great if my family could live healthily and contentedly and if I could continue to deal with inspiring, creative, and interesting matters that have a meaning in the future.

(Author: Eva-Maria Moore / Translation: Chelsea Burris)

Matthias Fejes

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