Vignette on career choices, burnout, and the magic of the woods
I am still the department head and professor for arts and design education in Basel, Switzerland. My kids and I are in New England for the fall vacation. I am glad to be on a break from work. We visit Colin, my husband. He is teaching in Rhode Island for the year, where he still keeps his philosophy professor job. I am happy to see our old friends from the time we lived there. We visit our favorite cafés, museums, and beaches. I fill my break with an interview with an artist from Paris. I answer all my students’ emails. Through zoom meetings, I serve as an external advisor for a search committee of an Austrian art school. Somehow, I always work while on vacation.
One day we meet with old friends for brunch. My phone rings. I see an Austrian number on my display. I assume the call is related to my search committee job. I pick up. It’s a headhunter. She is looking for a new president for the biggest art school in Vienna. She wants me to apply. I say yes to a first zoom interview. The interview is scheduled for a couple of days. Quickly, I write an outline for the art school’s future. I scroll through Austrian university’s quality management PDFs. I do prepare.
Then it is time for the interview. First, I enjoy the contrast between me sitting in our friends’chaotic American family home and the humorlessly black-dressed Austrian people. When asked about my ideas, I talk about well-being at work. I introduce eye-level exchange with all the janitors and students. I introduce the humanization of the art school. They talk about budgets, strategies, and negotiations. After one hour I feel grilled. I already miss hanging out with my kids. I miss going on walks with the dog. I am happy when the interview is over. I stop thinking about Vienna.
Two weeks later, I am back in my office in Switzerland. I am busy filling in excel sheets. Colleagues call me to discuss meeting strategies. I shoot back emails. I get an email from the headhunter. I am invited to the second and last interview round in Vienna. My mind is back in the game. In anticipation of a new life in Austria, I research apartments for us in the inner circle of Vienna: huge, eccentric, art deco. I research English-language schools for…