Susanne Pfister: 77 semesters already

The dean's office staff member has been committed to student concerns since 1983

 © Sabrina Haas

Enjoyment of her duties and empathy for students: as an employee in the dean's office at the Faculty of Business and Engineering, Susanne Pfister deals with the students' concerns, coordinates events and organises stays for guest lecturers. About challenges, commitment and family life.

She is a true Schweinfurt native: Susanne Pfister was born and raised in Schweinfurt, completed her education in Schweinfurt, and has been working at the Faculty of Business and Engineering (FWI) at FHWS in Schweinfurt for 24 years now. She is an "aborigine", the 60-year-old says. She has been working for the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt since 1983, first in the examinations office after completing her vocational training – at that time as an office administrator – at the Herold family business and then working for SKF in Schweinfurt for around two years.

Quote by Prof. Dr. Rudolf Dögl: "If someone, like Ms Pfister, has empathy for students and their concerns, then she knows what is wanted. She has a feel for that."

Whether in the examination office or in the dean's office, Pfister's personal contact with the students was and is always very close. “She is someone who cares very deeply about the students’ individual needs," the former vice president of FHWS, Prof. Dr. Rudolf Dögl, who worked with her for many years, also knows. She organises specific times when students can come to her and have her full attention. And: "If someone, like Ms Pfister, has empathy for students and their concerns, then she knows what is wanted, she has a feel for that," Dögl said.

Susanne Pfister normally answers questions in person at the counter. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic there are no office hours; questions are answered in emails: "I deeply regret that, I miss the contact with the students – I also think the students needed the contact. But it is what it is, you have to defer to this virus," the 60-year-old says thoughtfully.

Looking for a new employee in the dean’s office

When the discipline of business and engineering was separated from mechanical engineering as an independent unit in 1996, Susanne Pfister was asked if she wanted to take over the dean's office. She wanted to. "It's not every day you get the chance to do something completely new within a self-contained unit. And that was something that challenged me, and that was nice," Pfister recalls while running her fingers through her short hair. However, it was not only the challenge itself, but also the collaboration between the staff that convinced her: "When you feel comfortable, you stay." Starting in the dean's office was also how she got started in the digital world, she says. "In the past, there was an index card for each student, grade sheets were kept manually, the curriculum was recorded manually.”

Quote by Susanne Pfister: "When you feel comfortable, you stay."

When Prof. Dr. Rudolf Dögl was appointed dean of the Faculty of Business and Engineering in 2005, his collaboration with Susanne Pfister was even closer – she was his right hand from then on. But for many, a different picture emerged: Pfister as the dean, Dögl as her right hand. Because: "When someone has been in the business for a great many years, then they know everything, from the organisational area, they know where the student’s main questions are in legal matters which are governed by the study and examination regulations," said Dögl.

"Organisational intelligence" is one of the most salient qualities the former dean attributes to the employee in the dean’s office. Ms Pfister has optimised everything optimally with the appropriate sensitivity which she has displayed." One example: "She entered the appointments such that there was breathing space between them. She made sure I had time to eat lunch." And she also says herself: "I like to organise, it's my pet project." The wall calendars in her office, an orderly stack of filing and two houseplants sitting parallel on the shelf also emphasise this image.

An Olympic champion you can touch

Her organisational talents do not stop in the private sphere. The mother of two children, who are now all grown up, was involved in the organisation of kindergarten, school and sports club. Pfister, who played hockey herself with her husband for 20 years, was also a youth leader in the youth section of Schweinfurt Hockey Club during this time: "I organised camps, Christmas parties, the children's games, championships and tournaments," she says proudly. She invited Max Müller, Olympic hockey champion, to a camp in July 2009; he then trained with the children. "You can tell that she lives for the sport and the girls she has grown fond of," Prof. Dr. Dögl, who has known her for almost 30 years, says.

She misses it a little today, but her knee will no longer play along. For her, however, this is no reason to stop exercising. "Once the kids were in school, I gave up my car and switched to a bike." Shopping at the market and the daily commute to work are done by bike – even in winter: "There are only bad clothes, after all, and once you vanquish your inner couch potato, you can do it," she says with a laugh. In addition to cycling, she enjoys hiking – sometimes with a friend and walking poles through the forest, sometimes with her husband in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the Alps or the Black Forest. "As long as I can ride my bike and go hiking, I'm very happy."

Organisational intelligence and commitment

As someone who is known to be committed and to have a talent for organisation, as Prof. Dr. Rudolf Dögl describes her, Pfister was also involved in the earlier FHWS “SchülerCampus" event during her free time, handing out information brochures outside schools and in private surroundings, for example. But Pfister didn't just do the recruiting; she also helped to develop the concept over several years, launched feedback campaigns and organised the catering. The former dean summarises her work: "These are real commitments. And not blind dedication; all of this also involves organisational skills and intelligence."

Susanne Pfister at the SchülerCampus event
Susanne Pfister and FHWS Academic Advisor Elmar Kemmer at an event as part of the SchülerCampus. (© FHWS-Archiv/Katja Bolza-Schünemann)
Pupils at the SchülerCampus event
SchülerCampus in Schweinfurt in 2011 (Source: FHWS archive)

In addition to sports and organisational activities, and time with her children and grandchildren, she has a lot to do, particularly in the summer: "I have a large garden that I like to take care of, which is also a kind of meditative gardening. I like to cook, especially with things I grow in the garden, like jam." She is just as caring at work as she is in her private life: "She was always spoiling us one way or another, for example with homemade jam, lovingly packaged. Things that show you she likes her work," Dögl recalls.

Quote by Susanne Pfister: "After all, I've been at FHWS for 77 semesters and I haven't been de-registered yet.“

"It's still great fun and I still feel comfortable, even though it's getting closer to the end now," she insists, counting again: "After all, I've been at FHWS for 77 semesters and I haven't been de-registered yet. At some point, I'll de-register myself." 

She doesn't want to settle on one lovely story in connection with her work at FHWS, because there are just too many for that. But: "When you go home feeling good, and for the most part you have over the years, that's actually the most beautiful story," she says with a smile on her lips.

Portrait of Marlen Schubert

Marlen Schubert