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uni'alumni 2015_ENG

“Setting a Good Example” Ellen Biesenbach is head of Family Services at the University of Freiburg INTERVIEW The University of Freiburg attaches great importance to family friendli- ness: The Family Services Office was established under the authority of Head of Administration Dr. Matthias Schenek in 2010. What services does the office provide to employees and students? An- ita Rüffer asked Ellen Biesenbach, head of the office and managing director of the nonprofit university subsidiary com- pany Familienservice GmbH. Estab- lished in 2011, the company runs the university’s four day care centers. uni’alumni: Ms. Biesenbach, the university is a place for research, teaching, and studying. Why does it need a Family Services Office? Ellen Biesenbach: Work-life balance is a hotly debated topic in society as a whole. That is also reflected at the uni- versity. Men want to spend more time with their children, and women don’t want their career to stall. As an impor- tant societal actor and educational insti- tution, the university has a special responsibility on this issue and wants to set a good example. Does it also adopt examples set by others? The university is an active member in the regional network of family-friendly companies. The members share good ideas. We all learn from one another. Is the university motivated exclu- sively by the welfare of its employ- ees and students and by social responsibility – or does self-inter- est also play a role? Family-friendly services have become an important factor in the competition between universities for the brightest minds. The birth rate has been espe- cially low among academics. In practice, the university has always demanded of its employees a great degree of availa- bility and extraordinary performance. Our goal is to ensure that the needs of families and children receive due con- sideration at the entire university, also at the executive level. What kinds of services do you offer? One important element is child care: The university now has four day care centers of its own. We organize holiday child care and care during conferences. Parents can take advantage of flexible working time models like flexitime and telecommuting, and we have a working group that is considering other meas- ures, like services for people caring for family members. It’s not about offering a hodgepodge of individual measures. Family friendliness is a topic that affects the university as a whole, and we are working on achieving an overall family- friendly culture. Earlier generations of researchers and students could probably only dream about such advantages. We have indeed come a long way since 1996, when we opened our first day care center. Back then, it was still quite a struggle for the women’s representa- tive to get the university to open a day care center. When we opened our fourth in 2013 – Murmelgarten – the rector, the head of administration, and Freiburg’s mayor were all on hand. » Ellen Biesenbach, head of the Family Services Office, has been associated with the University of Freiburg for many years: She completed a degree in the humanities, was involved in the foundation of the Center for Anthropology and Gender Studies as a research assistant, and served from 2000 to 2010 as an equal opportunity consultant. Photo: Sandra Meyndt Playing : The university day care center Murmelgarten, opened in 2013, has space for 40 children up to three years of age. Photo: Patrick Seeger 21