Professor Anikó Zsolnai will be the new dean of ELTE PPK

Professor Anikó Zsolnai will be the new dean of ELTE PPK
At its meeting on December 8, 2020, the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology of Eötvös Loránd University unanimously elected Anikó Zsolnai as a new dean of the faculty. She said that in her new position, she wants to put great emphasis on ensuring continuity. She plans to develop the faculty's achievements further on and keep up high-quality teaching and research activities. Dean Zsolt Demetrovics will hold office until the end of January 2021.

All former and current leaders of the faculty attended the dean election meeting of the Faculty Council: academician György Hunyady, the founding dean of the PPK, and his successor, Professor Emeritus Attila Oláh, were also present. The Rector of Eötvös Loránd University, Dr. academician László Borhy also honoured the meeting with his presence. He thanked the resigning dean, Zsolt Demetrovics’s work and in his greeting to Anikó Zsolnai he wished success in representing the faculty and further strengthening collaborations within the university.

"You have to be authentic," said Anikó Zsolnai, formulating her leadership philosophy on our question, stressing that she devotes a key role in cooperation both within the faculty and within university and inter-faculty relations. The elected dean emphasised that she intended to implement the effective representation of the interests of the faculty in cooperation with the lecturers of PPK, the Student Union and the staff of the faculty.

After the dean election meeting, we talked with the resigning dean Zsolt Demetrovics and the elected dean Anikó Zsolnai:

How would you assess the current situation of the Faculty of Education and Psychology of ELTE?

Zsolt Demetrovics: The faculty has been on a good track since its foundation, the values represented by my predecessors, György Hunyady and Attila Oláh, also determined my work as a dean, and I am sure that this unified approach will be the basis of Anikó Zsolnai's work. An important element of this common knowledge across cycles is that we see the faculty as a community of researchers, teaching and research support staff and students being able to offer a more diverse, expanding and high-quality range of teaching and research together. I feel that we have a kind of common, cultural knowledge of what it means, what principles PPK operates along, and this common approach permeates the whole faculty. It helps a lot that no matter in what position, but from teaching assistants to professors, from first-year students to the leaders of the Student Union, from coordinators to secretariats, we all have a unified mindset about PPK.

Anikó Zsolnai: In my programme, I focus on the field of the continuous enforcement of quality principles, which is still fundamental at PPK, as it is unavoidable in both our Hungarian and international study programmes and research to maintain and further strengthen excellence by international standards. In this regard, it is also essential that the faculty continues to place great emphasis on educating and retaining the new researcher generation.

What do you consider to be the most important achievements of your career as a dean?

Zsolt Demetrovics: I consider it very important that we can continuously improve, the fact that we can develop new study programmes that reflect the progress of science and integrate new research results. With these, we are continually expanding PPK's study programme offer in all the fields represented by the faculty, such as in the fields of psychology, pedagogy and sports science. And it is also crucial that regarding this ambition of ours we can cooperate effectively with other units of Eötvös Loránd University. Just a few examples: we are launching a BSc in Human Resources with a degree in Economics. We are also training sports managers on a master level (both in very close cooperation with GTI and TÁTK), or to introduce an example of Anikó's narrower field of study, we started a new specialisation, namely the digital pedagogical assistant specialisation, within the Education BA study programme. In addition, our geographical horizon has expanded significantly as well: it seems that within a few years, PPK will become a leading research location in the fields it represents in Western Hungary. We have significantly expanded our student body on the campus in Szombathely, and we also offer undergraduate and graduate study programmes based on our local teaching staff. I think the improvement of the infrastructural situation is very important, as well as our renovation programme, although we still face huge problems here. Finally, I make no secret of it, that as a psychologist, I am proud that ELTE PPK’s psychology study programme has been listed the highest for years, not only in Hungary but also regionally: we have been in the top 5 percent of such study programmes in the world, which means we are in the TOP 300 according to international rankings.

Please mention some goals that you, as the new leader of the faculty, consider to be of great importance.

Zsolnai Anikó: As a priority, I will deal with the completion of the development of the cadastral system of the faculty's teaching and research activities, which has already begun, and also with the introduction of multi-faceted evaluation at a system level. This task, of course, gives the faculty leadership work across dean cycles. I also consider it essential to support the faculty's ability to develop in the future continuously. A necessary element of this is the innovation activity, which has always played an important role in the life of the faculty. I think we can be proud, for example, of how the faculty has organized distance education in a conscious and supportive way, including a mentoring network and life counselling to help teachers' activities in the new circumstances. Finally, I consider the effective representation of the faculty to be a priority. I will emphasize the development of interdisciplinary collaborations between faculties that have already started, the development of joint training with other faculties, and the encouragement of various multidisciplinary research projects. But I also consider the third mission activity of the faculty, such as the program of the University of the Third Age, to be preserved and developed.

How will the handover process take place?

Zsolnai Anikó: From now on, we will work together with Dean Zsolt Demetrovics. We will have a lot of meetings where we will review the affairs of the faculty. I think that working together will help me to be able to perform a coordinating leadership role, which is close to my nature, after taking over the position of dean of the faculty.

Demetrovics Zsolt: Over the next two months, our top priority will be ensuring continuity. And although a new dean will take over the management of the faculty from February, I do not want to draw a sharp line: Anikó can, of course, count on me in the future, just as I could rely on the knowledge and expertise of my predecessors in my work. Besides, as a lecturer and researcher, I will continue to be present in the life of the faculty, and I will help where I am needed.

If you could just give one piece of advice to your successor, what would it be?

Demetrovics Zsolt: Although Rogers addressed the issue in the context of psychotherapy and not leadership, I think congruence may also be one of the most critical factors in dean work..

What is your message to the employees of the faculty?

Zsolnai Anikó: We are moving forward on the path set by the former deans, and in this, I look forward to the collaboration of teachers, researchers, students, and staff.

Anikó Zsolnai, a professor and doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, graduated from Eötvös Loránd University with a degree in Hungarian Literature and Language and pedagogy. Then she worked for decades at the University of Szeged (formerly József Attila University). As a researcher, moving at the frontier of pedagogy and psychology, he examines the issues of the possibilities of social development in childhood in an interdisciplinary approach. She is the author of seven books and several studies and book chapters. Anikó Zsolnai has been working at ELTE PPK since 2017. She is responsible for coordinating the launch of the English language MA in Education study programme. She is currently the head of the Doctoral School of Education and the Faculty Habilitation Committee, a member of the University Habilitation Committee and the Scientific Council of Eötvös Loránd University.