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Dr Arne Hofmann
1. What is your current role at UCL and what does it involve?
I am the new Joint Faculty Tutor for the Arts and Humanities & Social and Historical Sciences. As such I oversee all learning and teaching matters as well as student care issues in our faculties, in collaboration with the Deans and our Joint Faculty Management Team. So the main areas of my portfolio break down into admissions, pastoral care and student case work, all teaching matters, contributing to the strategic management of the faculties as a member of the Joint Faculty Management Team, and representing the faculties on various UCL committees, including Academic Committee and Education Committee. I am still getting to know UCL and our two faculties, but after a while I will take over the chairing of the Joint Faculty Teaching Committee and the Joint Faculty Board of Examiners. Since UCL has committed itself to a major review and reform of its teaching provision, the development of our teaching and learning strategy and practice is going to be a main focus of my work over the next few years.
(If you are really interested, there is a detailed description of what UCL now expects of Faculty Tutors in their current incarnation at www.ucl.ac.uk/academic-manual/part-5/faculty-tutors – it lists 24 separate duties!).
2. What attracted you to this position?
In short, dedication to students and an interest in running things. I remain a keenly interested academic (I am still book review editor for Cold War History and am very much looking forward to resuming my teaching next session). But I realised a while ago how very important students were to my motivation, that it was the point where first class research connects with student learning where, to me, the magic really happens in our subjects. And I suppose that I am unlike at least some academics in that I always had a lingering dissatisfaction with the secondary: I like analysing what other people have done, but I also like stepping into the fray and doing things.
3. What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The task and the people. The way the job runs the gamut from working with individual students to contributing to UCL’s development in some of its senior committees is very appealing and provides great variety. As for the people, I have rapidly come to appreciate that I am extremely lucky with our joint faculty team that I work with every day – my immediate colleagues somehow manage to be highly competent, nice and fun all at the same time, and that goes a long way towards making the job really enjoyable on a day by day basis. But departments and staff across both faculties have also been very welcoming: someone told me early on about UCL that ‘it’s the people that make the place’, and I have found that to be true.
4. What is your life like outside UCL?
Pressed for time since I started the new job! Fortunately my wife has a demanding job that takes up a lot of her time as well, so at present we are both working (too) long hours. But we are well looked after by two cats that adopted us in a rescue shelter a few years ago – there is a clear hierarchy in the household, the cats are on top, and they run a tight ship. As an international couple (my wife is American), we enjoy living in London as a cosmopolitan city and try to sample all the culture it has to offer. We also travel a lot: we are usually in the States and in Germany at least once a year as well as visiting other European countries.
5. If you weren’t doing this job, what would you like to do?
I suppose the boring, straightforward answer is that I would be pursuing a mainstream academic career in international history. A bit beyond that, I always wondered what would have happened had I gone for law instead of history and literature. The systematic, analytical and structured way of legal thinking always had a certain appeal for me, and I am intrigued by how law allows its practitioners the combination of scholarly practice and ‘real world’ influence. (This affinity may also explain my growing dissatisfaction with the state of UCL’s regulatory system…)
But I think I may be missing the question, which presumably is aimed at the ‘other’, the unexpected. For me, that might be photography: my intellectual interests have always been supplemented by a visual sensitivity (I mind how things look), and I was a keen photographer in my teenage years. That got a bit lost once I hit university and started to dig into my subjects with a vengeance. But a few years ago I re-discovered that old hobby when I realised the extraordinary amount of control that digital photography and post-processing gives you once you understand the new tools and master Photoshop and a good workflow programme and raw processor like Lightroom.
So for all its hard graft, the world of professional photography with its mixture of aesthetics and technology has always retained a certain glamour