Introducing the New JKU Vice-Rectors

Mag. Alexander Freischlager is the Vice-Rector for Campus Enhancements, Digitaliziation, and Sustainability. We spoke with him about his future plans for the JKU.

VR Alexander Freischlager; photo credit: Robert Maybach
VR Alexander Freischlager; photo credit: Robert Maybach

You know the JKU inside and out; you served as chair for the Austrian Student Union, were an assistant to former Rector Richard Hagelauer, and most recently, served as Operations Manager responsible for campus infrastructure. You now hold the office of Vice-Rector for Campus Enhancements, Digitization and Sustainability. What will be changing?
Alexander Freischlager: A lot will change. As Operations Manager, I was only partially responsible for campus enhancements. Now, as Vice-Rector, my job is more encompassing and it's not just about hands-on execution, but strategic planning as well. This means more creative freedom and new, exciting challenges but, of course, more responsibility. Not will change however; my office and my amazing assistants remain the same.

There are many new buildings, a higher demand for energy: Can a university like the JKU really be sustainable?
Alexander Freischlager: In short, very. I really believe it can be and that the JKU can - and will become - a sustainable university. We aim to reach this important goal by 2030. At the moment, we are developing a corresponding roadmap and projects going in this direction are in the planning stages. The Rectorate, however, cannot actually control or influence everything. We can accomplish a lot when it comes to energy, but we all have to play our part when it comes to mobility, employees and students alike. The ambitious goal to become climate neutral by 2030 can only happen if everyone pulls together.

How important is this issue to you personally?
Alexander Freischlager: It is extremely important. I believe the energy transition is taking too long. I don't want to hear any sweeping statements by those in the government or in the business community, I want to see more concrete action. We have a lot of plans at the JKU, such as rooftop photovoltaic panels to reduce our energy consumption, and we only want to purchase environmentally certified electricity. When it comes to the important area of long-distance heating, we are currently in talks with the Linz AG. We also want to renovate older buildings to be more energy efficient and we’ll be starting with the Juridicum building.

And at home?
Alexander Freischlager: I’m also trying to be more conscious about sustainability and saving energy. I buy local products and take public transportation. One also has to be realistic in that it can’t be done all of the time, but I try hard to do my part.

You are responsible for infrastructure. What is working well and how can it be improved?
Alexander Freischlager: I am really proud of what we have accomplished in terms of campus enhancements over the past few years; and I don't just mean at the JKU, but at the MED Campus, too. We can all be proud of what has been accomplished despite resistance and not really enough funding. We could not have done this without our employees and they have done a great job! It was certainly a very challenging time.

But we cannot rest on our laurels, not for a minute. The JKU must always continue evolving and after all, we still have many decisions to make ranging from construction projects and renovation work, to our interaction with the IDSA. There will never be a dull moment.

At the end of your term of office, what would the JKU have to become for you to say: Yes, it was all worth it?
Alexander Freischlager: At the end of the day, I want to look back and say: yes, the JKU is well on its way to becoming climate neutral. I also want us to use digitization in a smart way, meaning not only digitizing processes and procedures just so that they are digital, but sensibly so that digitization actually simplifies administration procedures and helps educators truly provide our students with one of the best possible educations. This is what I want to see happen.

Regardless of whether it's a favorite spot or an insider's culinary tip - what stands out at the JKU for you?
Alexander Freischlager: There are a lot of places at the JKU where I enjoy spending time, such as the Somnium, for example. I enjoy the high space and there is a fantastic view of the campus and of Linz. But I also enjoy the park by Schloss building and I spend time there, especially if I have to take a longer call. The old trees are beautiful and it’s cool and shady, even on the hottest day. I think that the JKU offers plenty of space to enjoy spending time.