What would studying be like without the necessary exams? Probably less stressful and nerve-racking - but don't worry: With Dörthe van Eyck and Heike Brinkkötter you have the best support team for all your concerns concerns around the topic of exams at hand and you will be competently guided through the exam phase! Whether you have questions about your exam regulations, are unsure about the exam system itself or are looking for your certificates and certificates of achievement, this is the right place for you! A look behind the scenes of the examination office in the Department of Biology!

For this interview, we spoke with both employees of the Examination Office: Dörthe van Eyck (D.v.E.) and Heike Brinkkötter (H.B.).


What are your tasks in the Examinations Office?

D.v.E.: Basically, we are responsible for the entire examination logistics. We supervise almost 1,000 biology students in the bachelor's, master's, mono and teaching degree programs. There are currently nine degree programs with 24 different examination regulations that we deal with on a daily basis. In addition, there are biology exports to other subjects! We receive and process applications, prepare admissions, certificates, registrations, prepare final documents such as transcripts, certificates, diploma supplements and performance overviews, clarify accounts, transfer and book services and much more..... We also provide advice on all aspects of examination administration. Here we inform the students about the study, their possibilities, the examination regulations and procedures. We are also the contact for the ERASMUS+ program in Europe and BAföG certificates.


And since when have you been working in our department?

H.B.: I have been in the Biology Department since 1997 - but there have been interruptions from time to time due to my three children and parental leave. I completed my training as an administrative assistant at the municipality of Mettingen. Afterwards I was responsible for housing subsidies in the social welfare office for one year. Finally, I applied for an advertised position at the university and started there on May 1, 1997, initially with a half-time position in the dean's office and a half-time position in the examination office.

D.v.E.: I have been at the university since 2002 and first worked as a secretary in the AGM (editor's note: department for "Applied Genetics of Microorganisms"), since 2006 I have been working here in the examination office. After graduating from high school, I trained as a foreign language and European secretary, after which I worked for four years as a management assistant in a medium-sized company in the Deister-Sünteltal. After that I stayed at home with my children for a few years. Due to the change of residence back to Osnabrück, I started at the university with a half-time job. I found the job interesting, among other things also with regard to the good compatibility of working hours and raising children.


What do you appreciate about this department?

H.B.: We know most of our colleagues personally, so many matters can be dealt with quickly. We also appreciate the decentralized structure of the examination office and the good cooperation with our examination board chairman, Prof. Dr. Klaus Mummenhoff, and his deputy, PD Dr. Knut Jahreis. Due to the spatial proximity, decisions, applications and signatures can be made quickly. In the department we also like the festive activities like Christmas parties and summer festivals very much (both laugh)!

D.v.E.: Hopefully they will take place again after Corona, just like before! We are a very good team here in the examination office and are on the same wavelength. That is also very important for the working atmosphere.


© Birte Pahlmann


And how do you like working with the students here in the department?

D.v.E.: We simply enjoy being in contact with young people, advising them individually and providing solution-oriented support. When I started here, the students were a little older than my own daughters. I was able to empathize with them. Now I'm getting older of course, but by interacting with young people, I hope to stay young. It's a pleasant, engaging, and enjoyable activity.

H.B.: That's right, I have my own children in mind a bit as well. My oldest children are now 18 and 19 years old and they have just graduated from high school. I sometimes imagine what questions they would have in the examination office.


What are the most common questions students ask?

D.v.E.: Oh, it starts with questions about certain exams, how to deal with our exam system Opium (editor's note: soon to be HISinOne/EXA), but it also gets to a personal level. Sometimes, when students come to us and have big problems, for example, when there has been a case of death within the family, they stand here and are very agitated emotinally. Then we first have to take the pressure from them and simply talk and ask the right questions. After that, the problems are usually not as big as they first appeared to the students. There are often questions about work procedures, registration of theses, admission requirements or certificates. 

H.B.: Yes, that happens very often. Mainly they are questions about their studies in general, their study modules, but sometimes also about the lecturers.

D.v.E.: And also, of course, questions about their examination accounts: "Do I have everything there?", "Is there anything missing, can you take a look?", things like that.


What has changed for you in your day-to-day work as a result of Corona?

D.v.E.: It simply has changed. The flood of e-mails and telephone calls has increased many times over and it is sometimes more difficult because matters cannot be clarified on the spot during office hours. You often have to ask questions, and there's always a back and forth with e-mails until you finally decide to talk to each other briefly on the phone. Unfortunately, there is no personal contact. Whether it's seminars or training sessions for us, meetings with others and so on - it's all online and very different from before. We also miss eating together in the cafeteria with our colleagues.

H.B.: To exchange information with colleagues from different areas of biology, it was really nice and practical to go to the cafeteria together. In this way, many matters could be discussed and clarified in the shortest possible way.


What are your favorite tasks?

D.v.E.: I always find it quite nice to have varied tasks where I can find solutions to problems. I also like to have contact with the students, I generally like to give advice and implement innovations. For example, people often claim "it's always been done this way" but then we always ask ourselves "and where is the reference to today?". So everything is changing, especially in the examination system, and we have adapted the processes quite well ever since.

H.B.: I also really like the contact with the students, but I also like the various administrative tasks, such as preparing final documents or approvals for final theses.


Is handing out diplomas and seeing how happy the students are about it also one of your favorite tasks?

D.v.E.: Definitely! We are always happy with the students when they graduate! At the moment, we can only send the documents by mail. That's a bit of a shame. Many years ago, a master's student came to pick his diploma up. He had brought us chocolates, even came in a suit and really wanted a photo of the handover for his family. He was very happy about the photo. I still remember that very well!

H.B.: In any case, I'm happy for the students when they graduate - it's always interesting and exciting to find out what happens next in their lives. What comes after the bachelor's degree? Is the master's degree on the way? In Osnabrück or in another city?

D.v.E.: It's also nice when the students thank us at the end, when they receive their certificates, for having accompanied them throughout the years. Or they give us feedback, such as "You helped me a lot with this phone call!". These are simply nice moments when you realize that you were able to make a difference and do something good.


If you could and wanted to study again by choice, in which study program would you most likely enroll?

D.v.E.: I think psychology is exciting. I even thought about it in the past as a option to study, but then rejected the idea. What motivates people to act? How does the environment react? You are constantly confronted with people's psyches in all situations in life, and I find that fascinating!

H.B.: At the time, I graduated from a commercial college for business and administration and I think I would have gone on to study business administration!


What do you appreciate about Osnabrück and the rural district?

H.B.: I was born in Mettingen (editor's note: this is a municipality in the "Tecklenburger Land") and live there with my family. We like to be out and about here in the city more often, going to the Nettebad or to Bad Rothenfelde to play miniature golf and to like go to the ice cream parlor there. 

D.v.E.: I was born in Osnabrück and I like living here. My family and my friends live here as well and that is very nice. Osnabrück has a lot of infrastructure, but has the vibe of a big village. I'm more of a city person, enjoy the hustle and bustle, but I also like to relax in the green areas and go to the county! 

H.B.: But we still get along well! (both laugh)


When you have a vacation and travel, where do you prefer to go?

D.v.E.: My parents already traveled a lot with my sister and me and I've kept it that way. That's why I've seen a lot of the world already, but my overall favorite place is the sea. Whether it's the North Sea or the Baltic, the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, I'm always drawn back there!

H.B.: We were also regularly on vacationo with the children, often we the mountainside of Austria, for example in Tyrol. But I also like to travel to the sea, Norderney, Mallorca, or Crete. Usually we alternate, one year it's the mountains, the other year we'll visit the sea! The two of us have also been on the Mosel together with three colleagues from the university and the "Fachhochschule" (University of Applied Sciences)!

D.v.E.: That was a long weekend at the Mosel, we were lucky and had excellent weather. We went there by train, did bike tours or small hikes during the day and also tasted the good wine (both laugh) - we had a lot of fun, it was very harmonious and all 5 of us have a nice memory of these days!



What do you wish for this year?

D.v.E. and H.B: To get back some normality. Meeting friends, going out to eat, playing sports. And of course, that we all get through the corona crisis well and stay healthy, especially our loved ones.


Thank you very much for the interview!