Thomas Dengler has probably seen every employee at HSWT, either in real life or on Zoom: he is the chair of the staff council, and as such he leads the staff council meetings. He has held this role since 2016, and was recently – in June this year – re-elected for a further five-year term. "But I’m just the mouthpiece for the staff council – the entire council is hard at work behind the scenes and makes any decisions jointly," he stresses. It is important to him that this team effort is recognised. As the chair, he is the person responsible for communicating externally and for organising administrative matters and meetings. To enable him to do this, the 35-year-old has been released from 50 percent of his 'day job'. "And that only works because I have fantastic colleagues and a great manager who have supported me in my decision to take on the role of chair of the staff council right from the word go. We make a good team and have each other’s back whenever anyone is in a tight spot. I know I’m lucky to have that." A couple years ago, a colleague was appointed specifically to support Thomas Dengler with his duties in the department.
The Middle Franconian native has been an administrative assistant in agroeconomics at the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition at the Triesdorf campus since 2011. Before that, he studied agriculture at HSWT, specialising in agroeconomics. Agriculture has been part of his life since he was a child, as his parents run an arable farm with a biogas plant near Weißenburg. When a job vacancy was advertised at HSWT just after he had completed his studies, Thomas Dengler decided to stay on at the university to work. "After my A levels, I had considered studying to become a teacher. That’s one of the reasons why I like my job at HSWT so much: I get to work with students a lot and also prepare teaching materials," he explains. He also has a freelance teaching position in the international degree programme of Agricultural Management, and leads exercises in production economics and business management for international students.
"On the staff council, I have the opportunity to engage with lots of colleagues across all levels of the university and externally. It’s important to strike the right tone in order to move forwards constructively," he says. This varied interaction is one of the things that he particularly likes about his role on the staff council. As is – he stresses – the council’s cross-campus cooperation. There are other aspects that he particularly enjoys: "I really like organising," he says with a chuckle. "So I actually really enjoy preparing the staff council meetings and the staff meetings. When the meetings go well, you get to see the result of all your preparations straight away."
When it comes to making decisions on issues where the staff council represents the interests of the university employees, the opposite is often true, although, as Thomas Dengler highlights, the cooperation with university management and other decision-makers is a positive one. "You often need patience and perseverance," Thomas Dengler says, "as naturally far-reaching decisions have to go through lots of stages and processes – it can take a while." That is another reason why he enjoys his work in the department: "If all you were dealing with was these long, long processes, you would wear yourself out."
Thomas Dengler likes to get involved and make a contribution – you can tell when you speak to him. Since 2019, he has also sat on the senate at HSWT as 'representative of the other staff', i.e. employees who are not classed as academic staff. Outside of work, he is on his local council, a member of the voluntary fire brigade and part of the shooting club.
How does he relax with all this on the go? "When I finish work, I spend three hours on the tractor at my parents’ farm," he says, laughing. He also makes music: Thomas Dengler plays the baritone horn in a brass quintet, and the group regularly performs small concerts. He also met his wife through music; the couple got married in June this year. During his studies, Thomas Dengler was part of the Brass Band Music Association at the Triesdorf campus, and his now wife used to occasionally listen to their rehearsals. One thing led to another, and after a while they became a couple. "That’s how it goes in Triesdorf," says Thomas Dengler with a smile.