Chancellor: Leaving with a smile and a heavy heart

April 20, 2023

At the end of April, Jan Gerken will leave the University of Stuttgart to start his new position as Chancellor of the TU Dresden. In his farewell interview, he looks back on difficult challenges and happy memories from his five years as Chancellor at our university.

Looking back on your tenure as Chancellor at the University of Stuttgart: What was your toughest moment, your biggest challenge?

The Corona crisis was by far the biggest challenge I have faced during my career so far. For three years, we had to contend with constantly changing requirements and framework conditions, as well as drastic changes in the way we work at the University of Stuttgart. For three years, I presided over the Corona conference call – initially once a day, and later once a week to check in with various departments. There was a flood of questions, big and small, to be answered. The crisis created uncertainty – but at the same time it sparked digitalization and flexibility.

What do you remember as the happiest moment?

I have many fond memories of working on the University of Stuttgart’s excellence bid within the framework of the Excellence Strategy. It was a great experience that I really enjoyed.

When we interviewed you at the beginning of your tenure, you said your aim was to establish a sustainable, modern form of academic management at the University and to promote the digitalization of administration. Do you think you succeeded? What is the current status?

I think that the University of Stuttgart has improved considerably in this regard when compared to five years ago. Through the program "Step by Step to Digital Processes”, we were able to greatly accelerate the digitalization of our administration.

Last year marked the completion of overall administrative restructuring. We now have eight divisions with a modern distribution of tasks, and in cooperation with the Agility Lab, we have been able to establish process management and increase agility in the administration.

To the inaugural interview

What do you see as your greatest success as Chancellor of the University of Stuttgart?

Bringing research and administration together. Creating a common goal.

What will you miss about Stuttgart and the University of Stuttgart?

The people. I met a lot of wonderful people and even made some new friends. And of course I will miss the “Stuttgart Way” and all it embodies.

Do you have any tips for your deputy Philipp von Ritter, who will temporarily take over the Chancellor's duties, and for your successor, who will be elected on 11 July?

Always keep calm and never lose your sense of humor. Lots of things will just fall into place.

What are you looking forward to in your new role at TU Dresden?

I am looking forward to exciting challenges, to meeting people, to getting to know the culture at the TU Dresden. Hermann Hesse phrased it beautifully: “And a magic dwells in each beginning.”

How do you feel about leaving the University of Stuttgart?

I am leaving with a smile, but also with a heavy heart – saying goodbye always hurts, even if the task ahead is something to very much look forward to. I had a wonderful time at the University of Stuttgart, and I am proud of what I have achieved here.

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