I’m interested in the relationship between human beings and meaning

From MSc in political science to pastor. Svend Thorhauge, who began his academic career by studying political science, is making a career change. After many years in politics, culture and education, he returned to Aarhus University a few years ago to take the newly established supplementary programme in theology with a view to becoming a pastor. Aarhus University has played a major role in his life – and he has many favourite lecturers.

[Translate to English:] Svend Thorhauge, født 1971, har været højskoleforstander, kulturnatsleder og teaterproducent, men også leder af et talentakademi, en læreruddannelse og gennem en årrække landsformand for Radikale Venstre. Svend Thorhauge er cand.scient.pol, og har dertil næsten fire års studier på teologi i bagagen. Svend Thorhauge går lige nu på pastoralseminariet og håber at blive ordineret som præst først i det nye år. Foto: Lena Paaske
Svend Thorhauge, born in 1971, has been a folk high school principal, a director of the annual culture night event, and a theatre producer. He has also headed a talent academy and a teacher training degree, and he chaired the Danish Social Liberal Party for a number of years. Svend has an MSc in political science and almost four years of theology studies under his belt. Svend is currently attending the Pastoral Seminary and hopes to be ordained as a pastor early next year. Photo: Lena Paaske (attached)
Political Science Class 1 of 1998 in the University Park. Svend Thorhauge is second from the left in the top row and has just returned from a trip to Nepal (but you probably guessed that from his jacket)

What is your favourite memory from your university days at political science?
I was in a small group of students who set up a project seminar in which we were allowed to define the curriculum ourselves, and we decided to study the sociologist Niklas Luhmann and philosopher Michel Foucault, reading one work a week. This collaboration resulted in the birth of Distinktion – Journal of Social Theory, which has now existed for more than 20 years, is published by the publishing house Taylor & Francis in London and has an international editorial board. That pioneering spirit and confidence, but also confidence in the future, was absolutely amazing.

Who was your favourite teacher?
That's a really tough question. There have been so many. Bjørn Lomborg, whom I railed against because of his climate change policy, but who was phenomenal at teaching statistics. Lars Bo Kaspersen, who taught us all to exploit the system – that is, the university – to get the most out of our time on the programme, and who had a special smile that made everyone in the lecture feel seen and heard. And of course there’s Nils Mortensen, who had so much confidence in us students that he added the title of associate professor to our first application for funding for Distinktion, and Gorm Harste, whose farewell lecture I just attended and who loved talking about the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

What advice do you wish you had been given?
I’ve always had good advice from the university. Throughout the years, I’ve maintained close contact with Aarhus University, and I still feel at home when I visit the Department of Political Science. I don’t believe that universities can or should be as rooted in the labour market as professional degree programmes. Universities offer academic programmes, and becoming less academic and adapting to working life will always be necessary after graduation. This isn’t something we should worry about. On the contrary, it’s unavoidable for degree programmes aiming to form the future rather than reproduce the past. But advice in general? Maybe that it would have been OK to relax and take things a bit easier.

Are you still in contact with anyone from your time at AU?
I still see several people from the project seminar, including Lars Thorup Larsen, who is an associate professor and the director of studies at the Department of Political Science, and Christian Borch, a professor of sociology at the University of Copenhagen. There’s also Marie Østergaard Møller, who’s started her own market research firm, ProPublic, and her husband, Simon, whom we also studied with. And many others. In fact, all of us in our class of 1998 are going to meet for a reunion in November to celebrate our 25th anniversary. And then there are all the people from theology.

What are your current interests?
I’ve always been interested in the relationship between human beings and meaning. How and why we attach meaning to some things and not to others. That's why I've been working in culture, education and politics. And now I’m at the Pastoral Seminary doing an internship as a pastor. When I was studying political science, I always took at least one subject at the Department of Theology every semester to give me another perspective, and after my Master's, I continued my studies there, so I’ve actually already studied theology for almost four years. I was fortunate enough to have Professor Bo Kristian Holm in dogmatics back in the day, and he’s kept my interest in theology alive ever since. In 2021, it became possible to take a three-year supplementary programme to become a pastor if you already had a Master's. So, in the end, I've taken my basic education as well as my continuing education at Aarhus University.

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