“With today’s information technology and campus facilities, I would enjoy studying on my own”, says Pavel Lízal, Vice Dean for Undergraduate Studies.

Pavel Lízal, a former graduate of the Faculty of Science at Masaryk University (MU), has been working as a lecturer in the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology for more than 15 years. In February this year, he become Vice-Dean for Undergraduate Studies. In his new role, he will make effective use of the experience he has gained as a member of the MU Academic Senate and the Faculty Academic Senate (which he also chaired), as well as his active role in various commissions and the Council of Higher Education Institutions. In the following interview, he shares his experiences and his vision for the future.

24 Jun 2022 Tereza Fojtová Kevin Francis Roche

Foto: Lenka Jaskowiecová

Do you already have an idea of what the Vice-Dean’s agenda entails?

I took over the agenda at the end of the exam period before the new semester began. The first hundred days in office have been very hectic; it was a shock for me as there was so much to do.

Who was your predecessor in office?

I took over the entire agenda of undergraduate studies from Zdeněk Bochníček, who is now the Vice-Dean for Teaching Programs. But it's not that he only takes care of students from the teaching program and I take care of the others; I oversee all undergraduate students. Zdeněk will now focus on how to move teacher education further; how to develop it and make it more attractive.

What does the care of undergraduate students include?

First, it involves all administration associated with undergraduate studies, from routine applications, such as recognition of subjects, to dealing with special situations and needs, such as permitting special exam dates, additional course enrollments, etc. Basically, it covers all the necessary administration. Other organisational and coordinating roles include activities related to the pedagogical commission, the scheduling commission and the admission procedures commission, and coordination of the entire study department. Lastly, I prepare and submit study-related regulations to the Academic Senate.

Doesn’t the Dean submit the internal regulations of the Senate?

Yes, the translator is the dean. It is a delegated competence, which means that we prepare it, discuss it with the Dean’s Board and, if the Dean agrees with it, he submits it to the Senate.

You have been a member of the academic Senate for a long time, and even chaired the Faculty Senate. Do you see this as an advantage for the position of Vice-Dean?

Yes, definitely. Thanks to this experience, I can foresee what information the senator needs. I know the approval processes and I try to prepare materials such that the course of discussion and approval runs smoothly, giving the senators clear and comprehensible reasons in advance for the changes we want to make and why.

As vice-dean, however, you are still on the other side of the barricade. How do you perceive this transition?

It is a transition to the other side, but not so crucial. Whether I was an ordinary senator or a chairperson, I did it because I enjoyed the job. I was happy to be able to participate in the running of the faculty and, in a good way, to influence how it developed. Not much has changed in my present position. I do it from the other side of the barricade, but for the same reasons and with the same pleasure and commitment. I can learn to recognize the needs and thinking of senators, and that could be an advantage.

You have been the chairperson of the Faculty Senate for more than a year, can you give us an evaluation?

This is difficult to assess. I took over the position of chairperson in the autumn of 2020 when everything was being run online due to the anti-covid measures. But even under those difficult and complex conditions, the Senate managed to approve the necessary internal regulations and budget, and even managed the most important task of electing the Dean. Many thanks must go to the commission, and especially its chairperson Zuzana Došlá, for successfully completing the Dean’s election process. Despite all the complications it went smoothly, and the Dean was elected in the first round.

Will this experience be useful in the future?

I have managed to introduce the possibility of hybrid Senate meetings, which will be useful, not only when someone is in quarantine but also in situations where students and staff are studying or working abroad. Now they can join the meeting and exercise their mandate at any time; they can even vote remotely.

What are your priorities as Vice Dean?

I would like to strengthen communication between pedagogical representatives and the pedagogical commission. We are considering the introduction of a dean's award for the best teacher. The Rector's Award is given throughout the university in only three areas. We have many more people at the faculty who would deserve the award and will not get it at the rector's award. Right from the start, I have also tried to address the growing number of students who are admitted but do not enroll or leave after just a few weeks.

What can you do about this?

Perhaps it was because of the covid pandemic and the epidemic measures that had to be put in place. But even so, I would like more students to enroll than we presently have, and for them not to ‘run away’ prematurely. Ideally, it's about working with them, trying to impress them with a more personal approach. In this regard, I will collaborate with Vice-Dean Hana Svatoňová, who has already been proactive on this issue as regards PR.

Will students be aware of the change in position of the Vice-Dean?

Actually, I hope they don’t notice it. If something works, it makes no sense to change it; and if it works well, there should be no change in the person performing the function. Consequently, I will try to make everything work the way students are used to. When I took office, I was lucky to be able to discuss many things with my predecessor. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well the study department worked, thanks especially to the Head of Department, Marcela Korčeková, who is well-versed in everything.

Will you still have time to teach while serving as Vice Dean?

Teaching is my heart’s desire. I really don’t want to limit the lectures I give, but I will have to limit the number of seminar groups and exercises, which I will reduce by half and pass on to my younger colleagues. But I couldn't give up teaching.

You are a graduate of our faculty. Can you compare what it was like when you were studying and the situation today?

I am a proud graduate and I have a warm relationship with the faculty and university. But the truth is, a lot has changed. One profound change since 1997, when I finished my Master’s studies, has been the construction of the new campus and its modern lecture halls and laboratories. When I wrote my Diploma, we had laboratories in the corridors of Kotlářská. Another substantial change is the new information system. We had walk everywhere, we went to the big boards at the Dean’s office for the schedule and enrolled for exercises and exams on papers placed on the door. If one wanted to change anything, they had to come to the faculty in person. And today’s interactive curriculum is fantastic. We only had a limited amount of study material, whereas today, the possibilities are almost unlimited. I think I would enjoy studying on my own today.

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