A rare opportunity to talk face to face with the President of our university, to exchange opinions and ideas, to ask questions… that's what the TUM Presidential Student Lunch offers. Recently, it took place digitally because of the pandemic. Luis Wiedmann was one of the participants.
Luis, how did you like the Student Lunch with President Hofmann?
Luis Wiedmann: In my opinion, the Lunch is a very good initiative – a unique opportunity to talk to the President directly. At the same time, I see it as a great appreciation for us students. The President was really interested in our questions. He convinced us that our concerns are being taken seriously.
Looking back, what stuck with you?
I realized that things are being looked at on a different level. Of course, we only have the perspective of the students. The President also has to consider many other factors that we students are less aware of, and I noticed that many of our concerns are already known – and there are already many ideas on how to tackle these issues. Now, they just have to be implemented in a meaningful manner.
For example, the subject of teaching and how to address its evaluation. My impression is that some aspects of the new concept of the Schools are being redesigned. I think that's a good thing, but I hope the actual implementation will live up to what it promises. My personal impression is that bad reviews have so far had no consequences – meaning that I can submit an individual evaluation of a professor, but the professor will do the overall evaluation by himself.
Did you make any specific experiences in this direction yourself?
When I was in the first semester and we evaluated a lecturer, he said: "Yes, we can conduct an evaluation – but in the end, I want to hold my lecture exactly as it is. Nothing will be changed!" Thus, I think that the magnifying glass alone doesn't do anything. There is no official authority that looks at each individual. If there were, we could gain a better understanding of certain values, a larger discourse.
One of the topics discussed during the Lunch was the supervisor ratio – which is not exactly ideal at TUM, as at all state universities in Germany.
A Master's student of Computer Science who was there said that he doesn't meet any professors during his studies – and I know that the situation is very similar in Mechanical Engineering. In the basic courses, there are 600 of us sitting in a lecture hall. I don't meet up for coffee with my professors, so to say, but my experience is that you can establish contact if you want to. For example, I needed a letter of recommendation for my application to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. I wrote to one of my professors and got one without any problems. In the Bachelor's program, it's more about organizational issues at first. In the Master's program, it will hopefully be more about professional discourse. More personal contact would be nice as well.
Because of COVID-19, there are no full lecture halls at the moment. But it is not only the university students who have to study at home, also the many school pupils.
Students who study at home only manage two thirds of what they would be taught in lectures, and the actual study time is reduced by half. That's a bad thing! We also addressed this at the Lunch, and we discussed whether a university like TUM could actually do something about this. TUM has all the know-how, for example in Computer Science or at the TUM School of Education. Couldn't we get something going, even if it's just in the form of a concept?
Home schooling was and is a great challenge for everyone. But so is home studying. How do you see it?
My experience is that many chairs are making great efforts, that quite a few professors and their assistants are working on new concepts. There are many dedicated institutions that want to help us. However, it depends mainly depends on the individual professor and his/her attitude towards online teaching.
How are you personally coping with the corona pandemic so far?
At first, I was mainly concerned with getting organized and setting myself up optimally for home studying. I was very concerned with the question of how to study online without neglecting anything. Now that some time has passed, I realize that a very big challenge is to stay mentally healthy. Many students are experiencing a lot of stress, in all kinds of forms.
Back to the Lunch: another topic was the study content. Deep dive or a broad overview, which is better?
Clearly, the deep dive is important. The job market needs experts. But holistic education is very important as well. As a member of society, an academic must be educated not only in depth, but also in breadth. Thus, I ask myself why there isn't a clearly defined part of "holistic education" in a Bachelor's degree, along the lines of many universities in the English-speaking countries. After all, we would have a lot of diverse and exciting content at TUM or, generally, in the university city of Munich.
The opportunity to think outside the box already exists at TUM...
A school friend of mine is a student of Mathematics. He also takes French, and he gets credits for that as well. I think that's good, but it's not like that everywhere. Something like this should become part of the curriculum. For example, I combined Mechanical Engineering and TUM-BWL – but I made that decision on my own initiative.
When asked what the President recommends to you students for your path, he said: "Follow your motivations!" Do you do that?
Yes, I do. I started with Mechanical Engineering and then added TUM-BWL because I realized that I wanted to know more. When I think about the future, my wish is not to define myself through work alone. I want to do something that really interests me – something that has an effect. I read that people who feel they have a purpose or an effect in life are coping better with the pandemic. I would like that for myself too.
(Interview: Verena Meinecke)
Luis Wiedmann (20) is from Munich. He is a student of Mechanical Engineering and TUM Business Administration (Bachelor), holds a scholarship of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and he is involved in the student council of Mechanical Engineering.
The next TUM Presidential Student Lunch with Prof. Thomas F. Hofmann will take place on June 1, 2021 (for students of the TUM School of Management, the TUM School of Education, and the TUM School of Governance) and on June 14, 2021 (for students of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, the Faculty of Civil Engineering Geo Environment, and the Faculty of Architecture). A short application is required in advance. Further lunches are planned. More information and application: TUM Presidential Student Lunch