A classicist by training, I am now working as head of department in the academic management of the University of Zurich. Whereas I am still intrigued by (not only ancient) historiography, the making up of narratives, and the use of rhetoric and communication strategies, I love to spend my spare time with my wife mountain hiking in the Alps, travelling to vibrant cities and other places of interest, cooking with friends or just enjoying the cultural and culinary delights Zurich and its wider surroundings have to offer.
My studies in Switzerland
After growing up in a small town in the Rhine Valley I studied Ancient Greek and Latin Languages and Literatures as well as Ancient History at the University of Berne. As I was offered the position of a research associate after graduation, I decided to go on with doctoral education.
Going to Oxford
I had always been fascinated by Britain and its rich cultural, literary and political heritage. And there is hardly a better place than Oxford University for a classicist to conduct research and to exchange views with plenty of witty peers. From the beginning of my research project it had therefore been cIear to me that I wanted to spend at least one year in the UK. Oxford University’s Visiting Student scheme and the Berrow Scholarship seemed just perfect for this plan. In the preparatory phase I seized the opportunity (at first quite reluctantly though) to improve my English language skills, when a fellow applicant for the Berrow Scholarship brought me round to play Lysander in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream as she staged this comedy for the English Drama Group at the University of Berne one year before we finally both got the scholarship.
My degree at Oxford University
In my thesis I explored the literary and rhetorical techniques and innovations of Herodian, a Greek historiographer of the 3rd Century AD who wrote contemporary Roman imperial history. My supervisor at Oxford turned out to be quite demanding (he wanted to read substantial new pieces of my thesis every fortnight), but also a very keen reader and impressively erudite and subtle interlocutor and critic. He received me every two weeks in his grand office at Corpus Christi College for an in-depth discussion (sometimes over a glass of Sherry) of the chapters I had submitted. Thanks to this focused and concentrated manner of work and continuous reflection I managed to (re-)design and write the core of my doctoral thesis in the one year at Oxford.
Life as a Berrow Scholar at Lincoln College
In addition to my supervisor Lincoln College had assigned a College Advisor who was to look after the progress of my scholarly endeavor every now and then. There could not have been a more fortunate choice, since Nigel Wilson is not only a very distinguished Classicist, but then was also Lincoln’s Wine Steward. I will never forget his fabulous “advisor’s luncheons”, bringing together scholarly advice, great food and tasty wines. Generally, the wealth of opportunities offered by the stimulating environment of its very international, creative and interdisciplinary community is certainly among the most enriching and rewarding aspects of Lincoln College life. Where else would I have had the chance to share my flat with a mathematician from Texas, who was into bodybuilding as much as into numerical simulations or probability calculations (and other stuff I didn’t understand) but also turned out to be a connaisseur of both whiskeys and whiskies. Oxford, of course, is not only an academic experience. My fondest memories include rowing on the river Isis on early winter mornings, attending carol services in Chapel and Christmas Dinners in Hall, punting on the Cherwell River with friends or indulging in College Garden Parties in summer, participating in hilarious MCR events all around the year, exploring the landscapes of Southern England with the OU Hillwalking Society or going to the theatre and concerts in London.
Upon leaving Oxford
After returning to Switzerland I took my PhD at the University of Berne and then relocated to northern Germany, as I was offered a postdoc position in the Classics Department of the University of Göttingen. When this temporary assignment was drawing to a close, I felt time had come to move beyond the fascinating, but small world of Ancient Greek scholarship with its rather hazy career perspectives. Those happened to be the days when the German Excellence Initiative was launched, and the University of Göttingen was eager to go for it. I was given the chance to draft a proposal for the Graduate School of Humanities and then became its first manager, once we had got the funding. Later the President asked me to join his team which was to elaborate an institutional strategy for the University as a whole. This was hard and intense work but I soon realized that I had discovered a new professional passion.
My life today
Having spent seven years in Göttingen, I moved on to the University of Zurich in December 2007, where I took over the position of Head of Academic Programme Development. Since 2016 I have also been the Deputy Manager of the Vice President responsible for Teaching and Learning. My team is concerned with developing the University’s educational strategy, with conducting major development projects, and it is also responsible for the legal regulations of the University’s study offerings as well as for the university-wide quality assurance procedures concerning undergraduate and graduate education.
Both in my work and in my private life my Lincoln experience continues to inspire me.