Gefele, Katharina

A moment with...
Dr Katharina Gefele

“I did my degree in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Paderborn University and completed my doctorate on “Authorship and guilt in the post-war prose of Hans Erich Nossack” in 2018. I currently work as a deputy project manager at the German Rectors’ Conference.”

(1) What I love about my current job is...
...that I get to contribute to the further internationalisation of the German higher education system, gain insights into different universities and work with lots of interesting people.

(2) One of the highlights of my career so far has been...
…completing my doctorate. I’m a migrant and so was particularly proud to achieve this – something I’d never have dared to dream possible in the past. After years of hard work on the topic, various forms of funding and the search for a career – with a great deal of doubts and uncertainty along the way – it was one of the best experiences of my life to finally finish my dissertation, confidently defend it and be able to celebrate my success with so many people who’d been there to support me.

(3) A time when I doubted my decision to go to university or to pursue my current career path was...
...when I got to know a successful female professor as part of the university’s mentoring programme and saw just how high the professional demands were on her and her department. I wasn’t sure I’d be up to the job. Yet, this experience also helped me reflect on my own goals and desires and to find my own way.

(4) When I look back on my career so far, I’d say that what has particularly shaped me has been...
...collaborating with highly dedicated people on numerous (voluntary) projects. In particular the theatre and film projects and MIA projects – a gender equality and feminism initiative – I worked on as an undergraduate and the Graduate Centre of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities projects I was involved in as a doctoral student. My collaboration with others on the university’s mentoring programme and in higher education development projects also stand out for me in terms of having shaped me personally and professionally. In addition to the wealth of experience and core skills I gained through this project work, it was also what formed my desire to work in a team on common goals in a professional capacity.

(5) I’d advise any young women wishing to pursue a career similar to mine to...
...not only focus on your academic studies or research and teaching, but to also gain practical experience in international or intercultural projects and fields of work, to gain experience abroad and to begin gaining insights into higher education policy, science management and university administration while at university.

(6) Given my experience as a professional with care responsibilities, I’ve found the following support particularly beneficial...
...When it comes to childcare, the best support I’ve had is being able to share the childcare equally with my partner. We shared our parental leave equally, so that I could return to work relatively quickly after giving birth – and thereby also move up the career ladder. The understanding and support of my team was, and still is also important.

(7) I personally benefited from the equal opportunity measures in place at Paderborn University when I...
...received initial funding for my doctoral studies from the women’s funding line. During a phase of professional uncertainty, this gave me the time and self-confidence I needed to work out my topic and find sufficient funding. In addition, I was able to gain my first teaching experience and undergo training in higher education development and was employed as a research assistant in my institute for the very first time, which in turn afforded me key insights and networking opportunities.

(8) I associate my time at Paderborn University with...
...a highly informative, interest-based degree in German Studies, Philosophy and Media Studies with many exciting and horizon-expanding discussions and projects and life-long friendships made, as well as a wealth of professional and personal development opportunities as a student. When I think of my doctoral studies, I also think of many long days (and nights) of research with all its ups and downs, lively discussions with other doctoral candidates, my own practical-based courses, exciting experiences abroad – and overall the necessary opportunities and support to be able to develop personally.

(9) For the next 50 years, I wish Paderborn University... foster a co-operative culture of dialogue and international interdisciplinary co-operation, as well as to continue to successfully further develop its internationalisation, funding options for doctoral candidates, university didactics and teacher training. And of course, strong and inspiring women – as students, researchers, teachers and leaders.


Photo (Alexandra Feisthauer)

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