'What sticks in your memory is how someone behaves and how they interact with others," says Anton Buchmeier and – thanks to his open, engaged manner and the fact he treats everyone he meets as equals – it’s likely he has made a positive lasting impression on many of his own students and colleagues. A student representative summed it up well at the presentation of Buchmeier’s Best Lecturer award at HSWT’s Dies Academicus 2020: "He’s got a good heart."
The subject areas Anton Buchmeier works in at HSWT are by no means straightforward. For almost 20 years he has taught Informatics, Mathematics and Statistics at the Department of Horticulture and Food Technology – subjects which do not come easily to many students, whose knowledge at the beginning of the course often varies widely. Buchmeier has also been the university’s IT Security Officer since 2016 and until recently was the Data Protection Officer as well. Likewise, very complex fields which require a lot of explanation.
Above all, when interacting with students, Anton Buchmeier finds it important to treat them as equals. "When I did my degree, I felt a significant distance between professors and students. My motivation was always to do things differently: I want to work with the students and not teach down to them," he emphasises. He finds witnessing people’s development particularly rewarding. "Some people find mathematics daunting, or are even afraid of it. When I then notice that as time goes by, I can win them over to the subject and see their motivation, it’s really great. I view it as a privilege to work with young people who want to make something of their life." He also considers it important to have a certain level of humility towards his own role: "We’re all learning. In light of everything that we don’t know, what we do know isn’t actually all that much."
He particularly enjoys discussing technical issues with students – sometimes even at odd times while eating pizza. "A few years ago, I was working in my office at the weekend, as happens quite often. Four students were sitting in the seminar room opposite and it turned out they were doing maths exercises together. So, I spontaneously ordered five pizzas and we sat together for hours talking about maths problems," the 55-year-old remembers.
It’s hardly surprising that Anton Buchmeier has already received multiple awards for his teaching, from the Free State of Bavaria as well as the department and the students themselves. What does good teaching mean to him? He doesn’t have a secret method or ingredient, he smiles. "It’s important to like your subject, to value the people you’re teaching and enjoy the fact that the students are there and wanting to learn." And also to keep your feet firmly on the ground. Taking regular examinations as IT Security Officer, to attain or maintain certifications, is one thing that helps him with this. "It means I regularly experience how stressful it can be to sit an exam and can empathise with the students. I find that grounds me and makes sure I never get on my high horse."
For seven years, up to the end of April this year, Anton Buchmeier was responsible for HSWT’s compliance with the legal provisions on data protection in his role as Data Protection Officer. One of his main responsibilities was advising colleagues, for example, if they wanted to buy a new tool for their workspace. Combining their requirements with data protection was often and continues to be a difficult task. "I always tried to work with people to find a way," Buchmeier explains. Over the years, the issue of data protection became more and more complex, so the way data protection is organised at the university has now changed and Anton Buchmeier focuses on IT security.
It is his responsibility to work with colleagues from the computing centre to protect the university’s IT infrastructure and investigate security incidents. As a trained mathematician and business informatics specialist, Buchmeier finds IT security an extremely exciting field. "Our society today is so dependent on IT that it makes us vulnerable. This makes it an incredibly important but also incredibly complex issue. My work also involves cooperating with public authorities, so I gain insights that other people don’t have," Buchmeier says, and with a smile, adds: "But maybe over time you get a bit paranoid." One thing he particularly values about his role as IT Security Officer is the close cooperation with the university’s computing centre.
When he’s not giving lectures or constructing digital barriers, Buchmeier enjoys sports activities, including ballroom dancing. Outside of the pandemic, Anton Buchmeier and his wife practise rumba and cha-cha-cha weekly. "For ten years now I’ve also been doing cross training workouts regularly," he adds. And since he’s a professor through and through, it’s not surprising that he’s shared his passion for sport with his students as well. A few years ago, Buchmeier (who is also a certified fitness and nutrition coach) gave in to their requests and organised a workout for around 40 students with broom handles and skipping ropes next to the greenhouses in the trial garden.