On an Espresso with… Günther Schwarz
Günther Schwarz, born in 1949, studied Social Education at the University of Bremen between 1972 and 1978. After an apprenticeship and an initial career, he was accepted at the university after taking the exam for students without Abitur. After his graduation, he worked in different jobs in the social sector until he emigrated to England in 1981. There, he most recently was the director of a community center in the town of Newbury in the South of England for 18 years.
What for you was the most formative experience at the University of Bremen?
I was very happy that students were involved in many decisions as part of the one-third parity, be it in self-government or the planning of degree programs. I myself was active in the appointment committee for twelve different professorships. And that although I did not even come from an academic household; I had to work out everything for myself first. Before studying, I did a technical apprenticeship at Nordmende as a radio and television technician, so the university presented a completely different world to me all of a sudden.
What was the most important lesson you learned at the University of Bremen for your career?
The independence that I discovered there. That you can change and improve things yourself. That you can do new things. That you have to take initiative. That you cannot wait for others to do it but that you have to do it yourself. That you find friends and people with similar interests. That’s something I have done in my entire career in England. Hierarchies are more rigid there and institutions much more authoritarian. I had to fight many years in order to have some freedom and to be able to do my own thing.
Which lecturers were important to you at the university?
Christian Marzahn was very important as well as Annelie Keil and Christian Glass. We took mainly their classes. But we also had to take other classes, in psychology and economy, in history and pedagogy. Christian Marzahn was a tremendous help when I wanted to go to England. He wrote me a detailed report about my studies at the university. Due to his report, my degree was recognized in England, which was not a common thing back then.
What advice would you like to give today’s students due to your own experiences at university?
Think for yourself. Question critically. Gather information from all fields. I don’t know how the university is organized today. Back then, we had to put together our own schedules as there was only a basic framework. That was quite difficult in the beginning, but it helped learning to think for yourself and to come up with plans, and to then implement these plans step by step. This independence as well as the critical ability, to not believe everything just because it’s written in a book somewhere, is very important. That you question time and again what the practice is really like. The theory is all well, as is having one to begin with, but has this theory been verified in practice? That’s where the ultimate proof lies for any theory.
What do you connect with the University of Bremen’s 50th anniversary in 2021?
I can hardly imagine that it’s been that long. I started studying at the university in 1972, when it was merely a year old. Most of what constitutes the University of Bremen today didn’t exist then. It was two, three small buildings, and that was it. I think it’s great that the university has grown so much. I enjoy coming back and having a look around. I have to see where I can get involved, also in the alumni association. I’ve only just come back to Bremen recently.