Being part of something bigger
Dr. Camille Couralet is the new Coordinator Campus Strategy
She studied and worked in Europe and Australia and did field research in Africa and South America. In January 2016, Dr. Camille Couralet arrived at the University of Göttingen. Here, the 35 year-old French is the new Coordinator Campus Strategy. In this interview by Heike Ernestus she talks about Göttingen and what the younger generation can contribute to strategic processes.
Camille Couralet, about one year ago you and your family returned from Australia to Europe. Why Göttingen?
My husband and I were looking for a place where we both could work and develop our careers in science or science management. Göttingen is a perfect place for that. Furthermore, Göttingen is special to me personally: when I was a Master student in the Netherlands I collaborated with researchers in the forestry department in Göttingen. I was here for a short visit 12 years ago and it was actually the first time that I felt like a scientist. I liked the atmosphere at the north campus, the Mensa and I was really impressed by the old library in the Paulinerkirche.
From your outside perspective, what is special about the University and the Göttingen Campus?
For me the most impressive aspect is the size of the University compared to the size of the city. And the presence of the Max Planck Institutes and the other research institutes is also very special. This creates a unique atmosphere in our daily life: when you walk the streets, you hear people talk about science. There is a lot of excitement when visiting scientists and foreign students visit the city and learn about all the discoveries that happened in this particular spot.
You worked for three years at the Australian Academy of Science and successfully developed a Forum for early-career researchers. What kind of experiences do you bring to Göttingen?
Firstly, one advantage that I have is my fresh perspective. In Australia I learned how universities, the scientific sector and politics work. At the moment I don?t really know yet how things work here. This is why I ask a lot of questions and question everything. My goal is to find out about people?s priorities and what they would like to achieve at the Göttingen Campus. Secondly, in Australia I experienced the inspiration that fresh ideas can bring to people and to the scientific sector. We developed a network of 3.500 early-career researchers to identify their specific issues. For example, short-term contracts and the difficulties of matching a very competitive career phase with starting a family. The younger generation was given a voice, and together they proposed concrete solutions. The government and funding agencies were very happy to receive us and to hear those ideas. The whole process injected a lot of new energy.
Having said that, which ideas you have for the strategy process in Göttingen?
I think we should involve students and young researchers more in the strategic processes, because they are the generation that will actually live the changes in 10, 15 or 20 years. They should be able to decide what their future looks like. And the other thing is: think big. I worked in many countries and I compare everything on an international level. Göttingen should have the ambition to compete at the international level. It would be great if I could contribute to the feeling for everyone at the Göttingen Campus that we are all part of something bigger.