Elke Sohn and Volker Coors elected as new prorectors

Term of office begins on March 1, 2023 | Interview with the new prorectors

Today, July 20, 2022, the Senate of the HFT Stuttgart elected Prof. Dr. Elke Sohn (left in the picture) and Prof. Dr. Volker Coors (2nd from right) as new prorectors.

Sohn will take over the prorectorate "Transfer and Climate Strategy" from March 1, 2023, and Coors will take over the prorectorate "Research and Digitization". The objectives of both prorectorates are closely linked to the structural and development plan (StEP), which defines the path of HFT Stuttgart until 2027.

Elke Sohn was appointed Professor of Architectural History and Architecture at the HFT Stuttgart in 2012. Since 2017, she has been Vice Dean in the Faculty of Architecture and Design and is active in numerous committees. Volker Coors has been Professor of Computer Science and Geo-Informatics at HFT Stuttgart since 2002, was Dean of Studies in the Information Logistics program (now Digitalization and Information Management) from 2006 to 2017, and has been Scientific Director of the Institute for Applied Research since 2019. Both know the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences inside out. We wanted to know from them what motivated them to apply for these new posts and what goals they will pursue in their prokrectorates until 2027.

The questions were asked by Michaela Leipersberger-Linder from University Communications.

What prompted you, dear Ms. Sohn, dear Mr. Coors, to apply for these new offices?

Sohn: The StEP process appealed to me very much. It was carried out bottom-up, which impressed me greatly. HFT Stuttgart not only agreed on goals, but also agreed on common measures. I have been actively involved in this process from the very beginning, for example as head of the WG University Culture and Campus Design, but also as Vice Dean in the Faculty of Architecture and Design. And so the desire and the decision matured in me to support the university in implementing the StEP in a responsible position.

Coors: I have been involved with applied research for a long time under the still difficult framework conditions and am happy to accept the challenge of further expanding or maintaining the status quo in this area. The HFT Stuttgart is one of the universities in Baden-Württemberg with the third highest level of funding. With the recently granted right to award doctorates, we have a great opportunity to further develop this area. And since I am a computer scientist by training, digitalization is in my blood, so to speak.

Both of you have been with HFT Stuttgart for many years. How do you assess our positioning in Stuttgart, in the region?

Sohn: As a university of applied sciences, HFT Stuttgart is a university of doing. With us, you learn in project-oriented teaching how to get from plan to realization. Our strengths are the intensive support and close ties between teachers and students. We collaborate with many stakeholders in the region. We have degree programs with an outstanding transition rate into the job market and are located in an economic region that has a high demand for workers, whom we train. We are interdisciplinary and broad in content. From within the university, we can tackle projects that meet urgent social and environmental challenges, such as climate change. But you also have to address weaknesses in a process like this. Ours is that the profile of HFT Stuttgart is not visible enough to the outside world.

Coors: We are doing very well in the area of research. In recent years, we have become one of the strongest research universities in Baden-Württemberg. That is outstanding for us as a relatively small university, especially because we cannot fall back on any basic funding in the true sense of the word. My goal is to maintain this level given the current political conditions and the decline in financial resources. The right to award doctorates to universities of applied sciences represents a huge opportunity. This provides the opportunity to integrate doctoral projects into research programs that could be funded by grants. Our task is to create good framework conditions for doctorates at HFT Stuttgart and to fill the right to award doctorates with content. And to your question about where we stand in the area of digitization - well, I would say that compared to research, we're still pretty much at the beginning. We have major tasks ahead of us here. Digitization means that you have to adapt processes - and you have to do that during ongoing operations. This is a difficult and lengthy task, the results of which are not immediately visible at first glance, but which affect the entire university.

Ms. Sohn, your rectorate "Transfer and Climate Strategy" has been newly launched. The goals for your prorectorate are formulated in the StEP 2027, quote: "By 2027, we will have established a climate protection management system at our university that strategically manages all climate protection and sustainability initiatives and leads them to success." What will you focus on?

Sohn: "One very important point is to anchor climate protection and sustainability as content in teaching, and to do so in collaboration with the degree programs. My task will also be to drive forward the establishment of a center for climate protection and ethics. One area of the center will be environmental management; there are still many challenges here for HFT Stuttgart. We have also decided in the StEP to strengthen a common ethical orientation framework. Climate protection is inevitably embedded in questions of ethics. For example, some understand climate protection to mean using even more and even more sophisticated technology to achieve goals. Others want to curb growth and call for frugality. We strive to reflect on various climate strategies again and again against the background of an ethical orientation framework. I will gladly continue to support and strengthen student projects with sustainability aspirations, such as "HFT goes green" or the "Café cre8". In addition, there is a considerable renovation backlog at HFT Stuttgart that urgently needs to be addressed from a sustainability perspective. Transfer is the second topic of my prorectorate. It is important to me to drive forward the dialog with society, with citizens, and the "radiant campus".

You, Mr. Coors, will take over the prorectorate "Research and Digitization," which will replace the prorectorate with the old name "Science and Research," previously held by Prof. Dr. Worfgang Huep, who will retire at the end of February 2023. The following was set as the overarching strategic goal in STEP 27, quote: "By 2027, we will generate substantial societal value through research and transfer and act as an innovation driver for the region and beyond." What path will you take to achieve these goals?

Coors: Transfer has always been an important part of our research. We will strengthen this in the direction of business and teaching. We definitely need better structured key figures that reflect our performance in order to make what is being done here at HFT Stuttgart more visible to the outside world. In addition, it is a matter of concern to me that we network much more strongly and closely with regional players, for example with the city of Stuttgart. We are all facing the same challenges. I could imagine setting up a center for urban transformation, where citizens:inside can find out about our research, and the city works hand in hand with the university on the challenges of the metropolitan region for tomorrow.

Your job starts on March 1, 2023, and you know the universities and the structures very well. What support will you need to implement your ideas?

Sohn: To implement the ambitious StEP, we need a university culture that is characterized by intensive exchange among and with each other. We want to strengthen this in the form of topic-related and open meeting formats. If we agree on the transfer content, it will be easy to communicate it to the outside world. It is important that we get to know each other better as a community and pick up all university members. An important part of the StEP is to strengthen participation and further education opportunities for all university members. Decision-making processes at HFT Stuttgart are already becoming more democratic and transparent. It must also be possible to talk about mistakes or what did or does not go so well. In short: In order to implement the goals, I would like us all to walk together along the path that has been pointed out and to accompany it constructively and critically.

Coors: I can only agree with that. We need the support and trust of all employees. Change involves effort and work. To achieve our goals, many HFT employees have to leave their comfort zone. This must be addressed openly. The topic of digitization in particular affects many interfaces at the university. We are dependent on everyone joining in, faculties as well as administration, and that we all persevere together on the long road.

Sohn: The challenges and the long road to the goal alluded to can succeed very well if we show appreciation for projects and achievements as well as for the employees behind them.

Your two prorectorates are intertwined in terms of content - research needs transfer, climate strategy needs digitization. How will you work together?

Sohn: We are aware that there will be a lot of overlap in our protectorates. We will continue to talk to each other a lot, exchange ideas and work well together.

It is the year 2027 ... Perhaps not all of the goals of the structure and development plan will have been implemented by then, but much has been set in motion. Where do you think our university will be in 2027?

Sohn: In 2027, many goals of the structure and development plan have been implemented. HFT Stuttgart is contributing to the design of resilient living spaces, climate protection, smart technologies and processes even more than we do today. Our achievements are visible to the outside world. We contribute much of our knowledge to society and to the solution of important social and environmental tasks. The HFT community has grown together through the long process, lives the culture of shared values and treats each other with respect.

Coors: The right to award doctorates has been successfully developed, and the number of doctorates awarded at HFT Stuttgart is impressive. The scientific quality of HFT Stuttgart has gained new appreciation as a result. And we have increasingly used the time until 2027 to enable students who have completed their doctorates with us to pursue a professorial career at a university of applied sciences.

Prof. Dr. Volker Coors

Volker Coors studied computer science at the TU Darmstadt and received his doctorate in computer graphics. Since 2002, he has been a professor of computer science and geo-informatics at HFT Stuttgart. From 2006 to 2017, he was Dean of Studies of the Information Logistics program (today: Digitization and Information Management). Since 2019, he has been Scientific Director of the Institute for Applied Research at HFT Stuttgart.

Coors has been working successfully in the research areas of 3D geodata infrastructure and visualization of spatial data for several years. In the past three years, he has carried out third-party funded projects worth around 2.4 million euros. Currently (as of 31.12.2021), 13 academic and research staff members are working in the research group on a total of eleven projects.

Volker Coors is very well connected regionally and internationally: He heads the joint commission 3D city models of the German Society for Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Geoinformation e.V. (DGPF) and the German Society for Cartography e.V., he is speaker of the advisory board of the Round Table GIS e.V. and vice president of the Urban Data Management Society. In the above-mentioned functions, he is also involved in the organization of annual conferences, such as the 3D Forum Lindau, Workshop "3D City Models" and the international conference "Smart Data and Smart Cities", which ideally supports a continuous transfer of research results.

Prof. Dr. Elke Sohn

Elke Sohn studied architecture and urban planning at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts. In 2005, she completed her doctorate on the concept of nature in organic urban planning concepts. She has taught and conducted research on modernist architecture and urban planning at HafenCity University in Hamburg, HTW des Saarlandes, and TU Kaiserslautern. Since 2012, she has been a professor of architectural history and theory at HFT Stuttgart. In 2015, she became a member of the university council. Since 2017, Elke Sohn has been Vice Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Design.

Sohn is involved in the International Building Exhibition 2027 StadtRegion Stuttgart GmbH, has been leading the IBA-AG Wohnen im Umbruch und Wandel (Housing in Transition and Change) for three years with a focus on common good orientation and sustainability in current housing construction.

In the process for the current strategy and development plan of HFT Stuttgart, Ekle Sohn was a member of the structuring team and the strategy steering committee. She led the WG University Culture and Campus Design, among other things with the strategic goal of the "radiant campus" anchored in the StEP and the communication of the HFT content into the urban space. She supports and accompanies student projects with a sustainability claim, such as the participation of HFT students in the "Sustainability Weeks@Universities BAWÜ" or the student "Café cre8".


The new rectorate as of March 1, 2023

Publish date: 20. July 2022 By Michaela Leipersberger-Linder ()