Management collaboration at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

On 1 June, professor Carsten René Jørgensen assumes his duties as head of the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, and joining him as deputy head of department is professor Jan Tønnesvang. The current head of department Henrik Høgh-Olesen is returning to his position as professor at the department.

[Translate to English:] Den nye ledelse på Psykologisk Institut. Foto: Tine Bagger

Carsten René Jørgensen and Jan Tønnesvang have applied for the position as head of the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences at Aarhus University as a team. The constellation is based on the belief that it will be beneficial to have more than one perspective on the issues at hand and to have someone to exchange ideas and viewpoints with on a daily basis. Carsten René Jørgensen will be appointed head of the department, but there is also the option that the two of them can switch places along the way.

As a joint management team they fully agree on what they want the department to be and evolve into, and they also agree on how the collaboration will proceed:

“At this moment, we don’t need large-scale changes and high-flown visions; we need a period during which we have time and peace to reflect on what works well and what doesn’t work so well following the restructuring of the university – and then we need to act on that. As a starting point, we want to get our hands dirty and gain more substantial knowledge about how things are working, before we start making decisions about what will be the most productive and appropriate course of action,” explains professor Carsten René Jørgensen.

“It’s important for us to ensure continuity, but as a management team we also agree that the department needs plurality. We have a lot of researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines, and it’s crucial that we maintain this diversity and that we get it to evolve as well,” says professor Jan Tønnesvang.

“We have structured the teamwork so that we will be able to continuously collaborate on solving the challenges at hand, and then at one point, if we find it necessary or expedient, we can switch places. In this way we’ll be able to handle the tasks associated with being head of department while at the same time focusing on what goes on elsewhere at the university. But we also take this collaboration to be an innovative move, and we expect great things to come from it,” says Carsten René Jørgensen, who will be the first of the two to take up office as head of the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences.

Why do you want to be head of department?
“First and foremost, because it’s important to have a head of department who really has the department’s best interests at heart.  We are in a place right now, where it may be hard to navigate. The financial situation has been unviable for a while now, and my most important job is to consolidate the department and improve the coherence between the faculty and staff following the extensive changes that have taken place over the last couple of years. We have moved, there have been substantial reorganisations, the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research has been integrated into our department, and the basic research centre CON AMORE has been established – so we have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of getting everything to correlate, and we are very willing to take on that challenge,” says Carsten René Jørgensen.

What is the most important challenge that needs to be solved over the course of the next three years?
“We need to make the department into a unified entity, and in terms of the students we need to address and solve the challenges we are facing in light of the study progress reform. Then there’s the challenge of maintaining a critical awareness while working to stabilise the financial situation and making sure that we provide the best education for our students. To prevent the cutbacks from having a negative influence on the contents and quality of our programmes and courses we will have to balance the budgets according to the academic standards we want to uphold,” emphasises Carsten René Jørgensen.

Jan Tønnesvang elaborates: “We have some very committed employees at the department, and we need to figure out how to preserve their sense of commitment and enthusiasm in face of the financial obstacles that we are currently dealing with, and it must not compromise the quality of the work. It’s crucial that the cutbacks do not affect the department’s core services, our research, research communication and teaching. At the same time we are also taking on the important task of finding new directions for and within the field of psychology, not least in terms of education and research but also towards the development of society.”

Who is the future head of department Carsten René Jørgensen?
“I’m originally from Svendborg, I earned my degree as a psychologist in 1992 from Aarhus University, and then I started working in the psychiatry sector in Hillerød and Elsinore before returning to Aarhus to do my PhD in 1999. I’ve also spent a little time at Aalborg University.

I‘m professor of clinical psychology here at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, and since 2002 I’ve been affiliated with the personality disorder clinic at the Psychiatric Hospital in Aarhus, where I do research on and work therapeutically with people suffering from severe personality disorders.

Apart from this, I deal with issues of identity, and I recently wrote a book about ADHD, which addresses our notion of what constitutes normality.

I live in a house close to the university with my wife and two daughters. In my spare time I like watching AGF lose over and over again – but I remain faithful even though they aren’t doing very well at the moment,” explains Carsten René Jørgensen with a smile - “and then I’m very much into watching and reading the great contemporary works such as House of Cards, Homeland, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and also Karl Ove Knausgaard’s gigantic autobiography My Struggle. These great stories are exceptionally interesting both from a psychological and societal point of view.”

Who is the future deputy head of department Jan Tønnesvang?
“I was born in Esbjerg and earned my degree as a psychologist from Aarhus University in 1995. I studied medicine and spent some time at the teaching college before deciding to dedicate myself fully to the field of psychology. I was employed at the Danish School of Education (DPU) for 3 ½ years before settling down at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences.

I’m now professor of pedagogical psychology, and before that I was professor of social and personality psychology. My primary interest is integrative psychology, focusing on how to build a bridge between theory and practice in the work with humans in pedagogical, organisational and managerial contexts. We are facing a great challenge in making sure that the unity between the various forms of human work persists and is not overtaken by our urge to make everything more efficient and constantly generate growth. This applies both to the field of education and our working lives – and to the question of establishing balance and sustainability in our ways of life. My research and knowledge exchange focus on all of this.

I’m a father of three children, I’m married and have a dog, I do contemplative karate and I also run quite a lot. So I manage keep busy, even when I’m not working,” concludes Jan Tønnesvang.

Both members of the new management team at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences are very eager to get started and are looking forward to the collaboration.


Further information

  • Future head of department, Professor Carsten René Jørgensen


Tel.: +45 87165804


  • Future deputy head of department, Professor Jan Tønnesvang


Tel.: +45 87165796

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