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Other news - Monday, 19 July, 2021

“Shared thinking has a community-forming power, and so do shared actions and shared success” – academic year summary interview with dr. Miklós Nyitrai, dean

This academic year was unprecedented; the persistence of students and educators is exemplary; the doctors and researchers did a heroic job. The community, and the cooperative wider area of the medical school showed exemplary cooperation, and this showed in multiple areas: the graduation ceremonies could happen in person, the new theoretical and educational building is ready and can be used, the faculty gained new education and learning methods, new international cooperations were established, the scientific performance of our employees increased. The promotion of innovative initiatives and insurance of social and economic use of these is also on a good path. Our dean, Dr. Miklós Nyitrai has an optimistic outlook on the future.

 

written by Rita Schweier

 

- The graduation ceremonies were especially touching, since after the written oath-taking last year, being able to have the ceremony in person was a huge joy for the young doctors.

- This was no small joy for us as well, since we could see the fruit of our hard work in these energetic, ambitious youths, full of plans. The number of graduates was similar to last year’s, maybe we had a few more international graduates, thanks to the adaptive, innovative skills and attitude of our students, educators and staff. The success of this past semester is their merit.

- What does the extension of the academic year until August mean for the Medical School?

- It means that we will have a week in August when students affected by an aspect of the pandemic can have their exams. We would normally have exams in this period for those, who are taking exam courses from the following semester. Life returns to the faculty after August 20 anyway: this is when we organise the Orientation Days, and everything will continue according to the normal schedule. We have a long and difficult period behind us, and I suggest that everyone take some time from July to August to rest and recharge.

- The start of the academic year will be exciting, since there are whispers that the central, national semester start ceremony would be held in the new theoretic and education building.

- This is only a plan right now, we do not know if it will happen. We still have a lot of organisation to handle with this topic, but we truly want the grand opening of our new palace to happen on September 1, on the day of Hungarian Higher Education. The new building is already functional, by the way – our departments are already in the process of moving there at their own pace. It’s completion took eight years of work in total.

I remember the time when dr. Attila Miseta dean, dr. József Bódis rector and Zoltán Jenei chancellor lead the initial planning, trying to find funding, and to make these ideas a reality. This is a very long process, just construction took three years from the first spade mark to the official completion and authorization of the building. We are talking about a structure over 11 thousand square metres, sporting countless functions; therefore, we had to buy huge amounts of equipment and other tools for it as well.

- The Infrastructure Concept is a part of the faculty’s strategic plan, PotePillars. How are the planned developments coming along?

- Staying with the education palace, it is a wonderful feeling to enter a well-designed, 21st century building. It has an immediate effect; it feels go to enter, sit down to study, and have lunch in the new cafeteria, or to simply chat in the social areas. The indirect effect is that it will support the planning of further infrastructure developments on campus. It will be a drawing power that will help us rethink our new spaces and buildings.

The Infrastructure Concept strategic pillar does not want to tell us where a building needs to go, or how big of a structure needs to be built and why. It is about showing what viewpoints we need to keep in mind when we are building something new, or renovating something old. It is already clear that aside from practicality, we need to pay a lot of attention to everything being homely. If we can provide this, we will truly become a faculty that its visitors can think of as a second home, and where we can go with joy and pride.

Our Campus Cooperationis, a collection of articles shows examples on 389 pages about why pretty things are good, from the viewpoint of plans made by a professional. It also shows that building something that looks nice is not necessarily more expensive. The same budget can cover colourful paints instead of white and beige. Lightning also has psychological, functional and structural effects, and this applies to areas of movement as well. There is a difference in walking along an empty corridor, and a corridor that has colours, that has something to look at. This is important because we still have a lot of plans, and therefore the way our buildings are renovated matters. Campus Cooperationis is a richly illustrated volume, also looking back at the history of education, on what a university that is considered to look good looks like from Canada to South Africa. In the last third, it makes suggestions about our own campus; there are bold and more restrained ideas as well. Its value lies in the fact that is a timeless piece – it will guide us for many years to come. Our community can get to know the mysteries of architecture, get advice on it, and when they want to connect their own thoughts with the future, they can also include knowledge from this volume.

There will be a shorter version of Campus Cooperationis that will be easier to parse. We are moulding viewpoints with it, which is one of the most difficult tasks, since we all have our own fixed ideas. The goal is that if our library is expanded to double in size, there should not only be some chairs and desks to sit at to study. This viewpoint gives a sort of grace to the building, since if we feel good in them, they can become a second home to all of us. These small building blocks are what make up PotePillars: it sketches up the future of the Medical School, and allows debates to take place.

- This could be summarised as “we are open and we communicate”.

- Indeed, since our job has a part that affects every faculty citizen. This can be taken to the community, their opinion can be the dominant. This community phrasing cannot be coherent, however, it is more about providing solutions to smaller issues. Therefore, we have decided to write down one version of the future in PotaPillars. By publishing this, we want to provoke people into thinking, to share their thoughts about the park, or about using digital equipment. We have therefore created a debate material that is not perfect – I did not expect it to be, and I do not believe it ever will be. What’s important is that it marks the development directions for the next few years in a way that still allows for change.

One of our outstanding tasks is building community. Finding common goals has a large role, and we want to start implementing these together. Ideally, everyone would find what’s most important to them in the PotePillars system, something to identify with, and they would all do something to achieve that. That would help the mosaic to build the full, beautiful picture. Shared thinking has a power to form shape communities, and shared action has even more of this power. We have to start on this road, since this is the future. I believe in this train of thought: we can say that we know everything that other people do, but we want even more, and we have everything to achieve more. If only a few people share this goal, it will get nothing; if hundreds of people share this goal, it will surely be realised. This is why this publication was important.

- It’s been several months, since the strategy was published, what do you think, where are we on this road right now?

- I can see the thought entering the fabric of the faculty, more and more people are reading and understanding it. However, this is a slow and difficult process, we have to proceed carefully, patiently and with good ideas. We are still at ground zero, the plans are on the table, everyone had the chance to get to know them, but we still need time for actual construction.

We have a lot of tasks in the future now, since we have changed models and entered the public sphere. Therefore, we have a lot of work to do to ensure the stable operation of the faculty; our management has to be in top shape. Making our staff and students be aware of what PotePillars is will be a process that takes years. Smaller and larger successes will reverberate, giving sense to what we have planned and shaped together. If something changes to be better, nicer or just most comfortable right in front of us, then that will provide motivation for the future.

- We can already see small successes for every pillar: the Infrastructure Concept includes the completion of the new theoretical and educational block, the Learning Culture Concept has brought the implementation of new teaching methods to our educators. The faculty is on the right track with the Science and Innovation Concept as well, since there have been as many publications in half a year as there are usually in an entire year. There are more and more innovative initiatives that are also realised, and we can already see the social and economic benefits of these. We can also enjoy the shade under the colourful solar sails, the new park and parking places – the elements of the WellBeing concept are also taking shape.

- The latter concept is the closest to my heart right now, since we work on this one the most lately. We are not standing still, waiting for the proverbial fowl to land on our plate. We are moving along, and this is the basis of the aforementioned positive reverberations. There are more colleagues working on this, and more students, too. We have only closed the first year on this, so the viewpoint is spreading. Of course, I kind of wished that this all would be realised over the course of a single weekend, but we have to be patient and pay attention to the processes, since we cannot be sure that everything we wrote down is perfect. We have to keep rethinking this, and make adjustments as needed. This is how dynasties and families work.

For me, the background processes are the most important – when the community starts to think in shared goals, and the process gets to a point where it can increase trust in the community. This means, that if someone tells me to come with a yellow truck, I will not be suspicious about it. If I don’t understand it, I will ask three people. This is a stepping stone for me, having the trust at a level that would help frustration in a crisis keep at a manageable level. The source of frustration is lack of trust and uncertainty. Unfortunately, there are situations in which uncertainty is unavoidable, and this is not something we can influence. However, we can handle lack of trust. Gaining trust is a process of years, as is gaining respect. I believe that those people who are committed, who are aware of this, who want to get somewhere both as people and as a faculty, will find a way to invest more into the trust bank.

- Your mandate as dean will expire exactly a year from now. How far do you want to get by next July, what do you wish would become reality from all these ideas?

- This is a difficult question to answer, since the elements of a 5-10 year cycle cannot be dissected simply into years. To summarise: I want us to continue down this road, as far as possible.

Students are a part, the centre of education, they are here because they want to learn, striving to become a doctor – they have the commitment needed. I will be happy if there will be some sort of change in our courses in this regard: educators have to start thinking about students as partners, and students have to give more to the process of learning. It is important that our education becomes interactive, to allow the knowledge of students to become deeper. This will also make education more entertaining and enjoyable. The goal is to educate and train students in the way they want to study. The content will of course remain the same, only the conductor of knowledge will change; the technology and methodology is already available. Having students be passive participants instead of active matters.

I will be happy if the spaces we create will be filled with content, and if our services are developed. Those who study here also live here, and this life has many aspects: food, sports, mental counselling, and we a lot to do here. We can take huge steps even in a single year. We are planning on opening the restaurant in August as a part of this, and there are many more such steps to come.

The publications of our faculty are coming along amazingly, the number of our articles have grown doubled over the course of five years, but this is not what science is all about. It means that innovation is born in workshops, that we can cooperate with economic parties, which will become a lot easier after the model change. The faculty has huge scientific potential in the  medical-healthcare area, with the clinics, other faculties and medical schools. This is not something we have fully explored yet. I would be glad to see development in this direction as well, which is also something that could be exponential in one year.

Seeing more people adopt the strategy party or fully as their own would also fill me with great satisfaction. How we start with certain developments after that is secondary for me. The main task of PotePillars is in our heads. We can create nice plans, but making 3500 students and educators think of them as their own is much harder. We cannot tell how long it will take, a year might be enough. This is the spine, the foundation of it all, everything else will build on top. We can do it or not – either works.

- How can we see and feel that many have adopted PotePillars as their own?

- We can survey, or randomly ask people, but mainly we will feel from the answers, body language, communication, and from direct, small actions. Surely there is space to move, and only time will tell how far we will get. There are no components in PotePillars that are impossible to realise. There is only one pitfall: if we cannot stand for it as a community. If there are three thousand people saying that some walls should be green or purple, I will answer: if you want to live in it, you can!

- The uncertainty around the model change makes shared thinking a lot more difficult. One of the main reasons was the speed of the change, and in a situation where the pandemic made people nervous in the first place. How do you think this all affected the development of the faculty?

- This is true, and there are still open questions about the topic. The University of Pécs is a large university, of which we only one strong faculty. We have our own traditions, values, content, excellent people and a good share on the student market. Two thirds of our income comes from international students, and we also have plans we can stand behind, and we can cooperate in difficult situations. We have nothing to fear. We have to keep doing what we are doing now. Many of the new regulations are sure to make our lives easier, they will give us more wiggle room in questions that were holding us back so far. If we follow the same ground ideas, values and thoughts as we had so far, I believe our development will get faster, and the coming period will be a beautiful one.

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