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“I am proud of my department”

Professor Niels Haldrup is the new head of the Department of Economics and Business Economics. He will work towards creating stability and good conditions for the employees at a very special department which - despite a few turbulent years - has continued to deliver research and degree programmes of the highest calibre. Here he talks about his plans and about what characterises him as a leader.

2018.03.14 | Sinne B. Jakobsen

Photo: Sinne Brandt Jakobsen

Can you describe yourself in three words?

Hmmm.....I would probably say visionary...I try to be attentive and transparent...and focused.

Can you elaborate on that description?

There is no doubt that I’m now head of a department with a rather unique - and somewhat turbulent - managerial history. It’s not necessarily an easy task, but I really look forward to taking it on. I feel a great sense of responsibility towards the department and I’ve lots of ideas for how we can move forward. Although on a smaller scale, my time as head of the basic research centre CREATES has given me a solid managerial experience - and I’ve learnt that when I have a vision, I’m good at focusing on my goals. To me, this is an important part of being a leader.

How will the department’s employees know that you’re now in charge? 

Well, I’ve been acting head of department for six months now, and right from the start I made several considerable changes with the dean’s approval. The Department of Economics and Business Economics is a huge department with many academic fields, and it’s important that our management team is well-balanced academically. For that reason, one of the first things I did was to reorganise the academic sections so that they now more appropriately reflect our academic fields. I sense a broad support for these organisational changes and naturally, I’m very happy about that. It’s a good starting point for the future and I very much look forward to the work ahead.

What do you see as your most important task as head of department?

To make sure that the department’s employees have the best possible conditions under which to unfold themselves, deliver good research-based teaching and carry out research of the highest quality. The physical surroundings are also important, and we’re currently rather challenged in terms of space. However, we’re working on a solution. Our department is both complex and unique because we have a broad range of academic fields that originate from both a “business-school” culture and a more classic university culture. We also have a number of degree programmes on all levels and several externally-funded research centres. 40 per cent of our employees have an international background.

This diversity gives us a lot of interesting opportunities, but it also presents us with challenges that other departments might not have. It’s important that we have a shared strategic direction while making room for academic and cultural differences. To strike this balance, we need to collaborate closely across our sections and degree programmes. The department management team has also been extended. In addition to section managers, it now comprises directors of studies and coordinators of some of our largest degree programmes.

I’m very aware of where I want to go, but it’s also my job to listen to the employees and be transparent when making decisions. To me, it’s very important to be an open and visible leader. I want everyone to know that the role I’ve now taken on is that of head of the entire Department of Economics and Business Economics.

It must be quite a change going from being a researcher to being the head of department?

Naturally, it has certain consequences. As head of department, you have to be willing to put your own research on hold and abstract from your own academic position. Of course, it’s quite a change to suddenly head a huge department with almost 250 employees (VIP, TAP and PhDs). But somehow, I’ve always known that I’d like to apply for the position as head of department at some point in time. I just didn’t think it would be quite so soon.

However, after six months as acting head of department, I can safely say that it’s the right thing for me to do. Not least due to the incredible support that my employees have shown me. I’ve always enjoyed going to work, also as acting head of department and despite often working long hours.

You said before that you feel a great sense of responsibility towards the department. Can you elaborate on that?

I’ve been a part of the Department of Economics and Business Economics since 1982 - first as a student, then as an employee and finally as centre director. The department has played an important role in my working life - I care about it deeply and would very much like to safeguard it. I’ve experienced the many changes that the department has seen, and I’m deeply impressed by what we’ve been able to deliver despite the somewhat turbulent time that we’ve been through for the last couple of years. Many people in this department are taking a lot of responsibility.

Our department is academically strong with outstanding and dedicated employees from all over the world. Everyday, they deliver research and teaching of the highest calibre - and they also excel at attracting external research funding. I’m very proud of the department and I look forward to developing it even further in the years to come. I also hope that I can create more stability and continuity management-wise.

You’ll also be joining the faculty management team. What do you see as the greatest possibilities for Aarhus BSS?

I think that we’ve already come a long way in terms of showing that we’re a broad business school. We’ve achieved excellent accreditation results that cover the entire Aarhus BSS, and lots of things are going on across the school.

At the Department of Economics and Business Economics, we collaborate with the Department of Political Science on the Public Policy programme, we share the BSc in Economics and Business Administration with the Department of Management, and we collaborate with the Department of Law on two of our Master’s programmes in Business Administration and Commercial Law. In addition, we’re currently planning a new degree programme in Business Administration and Psychology and this’ll be interesting to follow.

All in all, there are lots of unused possibilities for collaborating across Aarhus BSS, and we need to exploit this potential. I already have some ideas that I’d like to develop together with the faculty management team.

Finally, I'd like to hear a bit about Niels in private. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m married to Charlotte Christiansen, who’s a professor of financing. We have two sons; Alfred who’s 12 and Marius who’s 15. In my spare time, I’m a outdoor person - when time and the season allow, I go hunting and fishing and I love working in my garden.

We’ve recently bought an old fishing house from 1829 in Sæby, which we’re currently renovating. It’s a great haven where I sometimes spend a few days working in peace and quiet or relaxing with my family. When I have the time, I also really enjoy painting. I have my own studio where I enjoy being creative in my own company while listening to classical music.

Read more about Niels Haldrup here.



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