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University of Silesia in Katowice

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Interdisciplinary Centre for Staff Development
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‘I Wish People Were Not Afraid to Talk’. Prof. Barbara Kożusznik talks about the opportunities provided thanks to cooperation with ICRK

24.04.2020 - 11:42 update 17.06.2020 - 17:00
Editors: MK

Zdjęcie portretowe prof. Barbary Kożusznik
Prof. Barbara Kożusznik | Director of ICSD | Plenipotentiary of the Rector of the University of Silesia for Personnel Development | photo by Julia Agnieszka Szymala

Grafika: ciekawość (lupa, moty liści)   “The Centre established by us is intended to provoke certain questions, but also to provide a space for discussion, as well as certain tools. Its origin lies in curiosity and passion for cognition”

Interdisciplinary Centre for Staff Development is intended as a kind of space to be created jointly by researchers, teachers and artists. However, building cooperation and leading discussions within an interdisciplinary circle may become a source of many challenges. Director of ICSD, Prof. Barbara Kożusznik, tells us how to handle them.

Professor, let’s talk about interdisciplinarity. It appears in the name of the newly established centre, which is supervised by you. What does interdisciplinarity mean?

I think that together we may discover very interesting solutions, if we offer a space for individuals representing different scientific and artistic disciplines. I am a psychologist and I have noticed several interesting issues in my research activity that require a comment e.g. from a physicist or musician. One of contemporary challenges is the lack of communication within the family. As psychologists, we can diagnose and describe this problem, and suggest certain solutions, but can you imagine what a musician could say about it? The tone of voice is very significant in a conversation. What happens when emotions dominate is important. Whisper, scream or silence can be either scary or amazing… I’d like to know what in the way of speaking affects the atmosphere of conversation with another human being, and I believe that representatives of other disciplines are the ones who may help me answer this question. Perhaps we will join our efforts in search of the best ways to offer advice to others.

What global problems should we face?

What all of us (researchers, teachers and artists) have in common is a certain duty. I have a strong conviction that what we do is important and should be bigger than ourselves. We take action with others in mind and there are many problems to solve. Climate change, pathologies at work, violence towards others, environmental pollution, challenges in medicine and poverty are only some of the examples.

The Centre established by us is intended to provoke certain questions, but also to provide a space for discussion, as well as certain tools. Its origin lies in curiosity, passion for cognition and understanding of certain issues from the interdisciplinary perspective. It happens that certain scientific disciplines claim the exclusive right to deal with a specific area of issues and research problems, which is not what it is all about. In our centre, the division into humanities, natural sciences, exact sciences or art no longer exists. We are connected by certain challenge that we want to take up and offer methods to solve a problem. The voice of a scientist – physicist, musician, chemist, psychologist, biologist or philosopher – must be heard. Moreover, the Centre is to show that all these voices are equal. It will be possible, if we are all united by research excellence. Our voice must be supported by scientific curiosity, as well as reliable and hard work.

The Centre aims to provide a kind of space formed together by researchers, teachers and artists. To search for a common language will be a big challenge. It will also be important to keep the discussion balanced. How can this difficult aim be achieved?

We will meet, exchange our thoughts, find out if we understand one another well, and try to treat one another as partners in dialogue. What the existing career paths at universities instilled in us is the conviction that we should educate younger people who come to us. However, we have lost the natural need to give up a kind of air of superiority which is related to this assumption. We have forgotten that our relations with the young may be completely different. I can’t imagine any scientific discourse, if any participant of the discussion does not feel like a free and equal interlocutor, regardless of the represented discipline, age or experience.

The Centre also provides specific tools supporting the pursuit of research excellence.

Let’s go back to the problem of our skills. I wish that the Centre was a place where we learn to exchange our thoughts, in the healthy, open-minded way – which is something that we need so much these days. It’s good to think about what kind of interlocutor I am, although the diagnosis may be painful. When I went through such an analysis myself, I got a feedback that I was too talkative and dominant over other interlocutors. This information was very important for me. Next time I may try to participate in a discussion in such manner that its participants feel more comfortable. This is how I learn to notice other people around me.

By using such tools, we can get to know ourselves better. Perhaps we will find out that we are excellent at thinking critically, but we lack the ability to establish contacts with scientists representing different disciplines. Or maybe we should improve our teamwork skills, which is by no means easy. There are more examples like this.

So the key question is whether people wish to participate in such discussions at all. Will they want to find out something more about themselves?

Let me ask a different question: do we treat seriously the tasks that are ahead of us? We tend to make requirements and hold others accountable. In fact, as representatives of the academic community, we have greater capacity to act. We are sometimes capable of asking questions that others would never even think of asking. Just a few words are enough to inspire another human being, to motivate them to change their habits. There are people who understand the language of Olga Tokarczuk. They voluntarily take the effort to bring her works closer to us, because they have the right tools and knowledge, and they move freely within the difficult literary language. We can mutually draw on our talents, but it is our duty to share this knowledge – not only with other scientists, or with artists, but also with the whole society.

As a psychologist, what can you advise us to help us work better in our immediate environment?

Simple gestures will be sufficient. Smile at others when you walk into the laboratory, the room, or the study. Look at another man who is sharing this space with you. Instead of mumbling a standard ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’, why don’t you ask ‘What good has happened to you today?’ It doesn’t cost you anything or take a long time, but please believe me – it changes a lot about how we are going to start the day.

Let’s be understanding to one another, so that we don’t close others in the hell of perfectionism due to our requirements. Let’s give ourselves the chance to get to know the person standing next to us and risk entering a relationship. Let’s ask more questions, because they show that we are interested in other people, their problems and what they work on. Let’s listen carefully, and we will hear the answers. Obviously, many of us will just shrug their shoulders, or maybe smile, because it’s so easy to ridicule certain ideas at the beginning, but when we keep repeating some gestures consistently, then perhaps these simple practices will become an inherent element of our work culture. And this is something that I wish all of us.

Thank you very much for the interview.

|By Małgorzata Kłoskowicz|

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