Dr Katerina Vatsella
Our alumni board, personally speaking
After training in design at the School of Applied Arts in Athens, Dr Katerina Vatsella studied art history at the University of Zurich and worked there for six years as an assistant at the Art History Seminar. After that she led the Jacobs-Suchard Museum in Zurich for four years, then moved to Bremen in 1990 for personal reasons. Since then she has been working here through her Büro für Kunstprojekte as an exhibition curator, art mediator, author and publisher (Open Space Edition). She completed her doctorate at the University of Bremen in 1996 in Faculty 9 under Prof Michael Müller, was from 2005 to 2022 a member of the Rector's Circle, an advisory body under the rectors Wilfried Müller and Bernd Scholz-Reiter, and was a founding member of the alumni association in 2006.
Volunteering…that’s all well and good, but it also means work. Why do you serve on the board of the alumni association?
The idea of founding an independent alumni association came from the then rector Prof Wilfried Müller in 2005. It was important to him that such an association, in which the connection to the university would be purposely cultivated long after graduation, should exist independently of the university. Because an independent association could more credibly promote the university in city society and politics. That has often been the case. At the time, I was a member of the Rector's Circle founded by Wilfried Müller, and he approached me with this idea. He did the same with two other alumni, Tim Nesemann and Andreas Kottisch. So the three of us set out to find another four alumni and in 2006 we founded the alumni association, which now has around 4,000 members.
Uni Bremen has undergone such fantastic development in a short time and has achieved so much, especially through the Excellence Initiative, something Bremen can really decorate itself with internationally, that I was pleased from the start to be able to help ensure that this is also recognised and appreciated by the general public. On the personal side, it was a wonderful opportunity for me, as a foreigner and newcomer to Bremen, to get to know a lot of different people with whom I could make a difference for the university – which also helped me to put down deeper roots in Bremen. And it’s simply fun, working on the board as a team – that is not to be underestimated!
What was an alumni experience where you thought: “Wow, what a great association!”?
There wasn’t just one experience, but time after time there were events that inspired us on the board – whether it was the successful professional "speed dating" in the Weserstadion rooms, the many lovely summer parties at the homes of dedicated, successful alumni, the exciting cooperations with institutions in the city, for example as part of the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations, or even our awards for young researchers and teachers – there were and are often occasions to be happy with our association!
When have you thought: "We could do better”?
Even if we don’t have any big issues, there is always room for improvement. We sometimes have to question our means and be open to new avenues, for example in the way we approach new members or in our public relations work. Sometimes something was timely and successful in the past but can no longer be done the same way, then we have to rethink it.
Uni Bremen alumni in ten years: What will be different from today?
We will certainly have a lot more members and really give Werder Bremen a run for its money, the club with the most members in Bremen! Joking aside, I hope and wish that the alumni association will by then have a much stronger presence in the city of Bremen, that even more people who studied here or did their doctorate here or are otherwise connected to the university will, thanks to their professional position or other opportunities they receive, advocate for the university and its goals, and that the connection to it will continue to bring people together who might otherwise never have come together. Because then something new and exciting always comes into being!
About your time studying/working at Uni Bremen, what makes you say: “I wouldn’t miss that for anything!”?
From my doctoral phase, which ran alongside my job, I wouldn't have wanted to do without the few but very in-depth and productive discussions with my doctoral supervisor Michael Müller; they were very helpful both profesionally and personally. Otherwise, I can only relate this question to my many years of commitment to the university in the Rector's Circle and the alumni association – and there I would absolutely not want to miss out on the many exciting encounters with very different people, the fruitful and invigorating exchange with them and, finally, the shared joy in successful projects!
When you’re not busy with alumni and the University of Bremen, what else is important to you in life?
No matter what I do, it is first and foremost people who constitute my life and mean a lot to me: my relatives, that is, my family, and my chosen family, that is, my friends – old and trusted ones who give me security, but also new ones who can stimulate me with other perspectives. My profession as an art historian, which I love, also always offers me opportunities and avenues to engage with quite a lot of subjects, ideas and thoughts that go far beyond my everyday horizon and at the same time relativise and enrich my existence.