Nature blog

Interview with Ruth Shimmo, the Director of the School of Natural Sciences and Health

Director Ruth Shimmo will continue to lead Tallinn University's School of Natural Sciences and Health for the next five years.

ruth Shimmo

How do you feel looking back at the past five years?

Its reminiscent of a hike in the Alps. At first you're trekking through the woods and don't know what's around the corner or how long the road ahead might be. Your field of view is obscured, but the trail continues. Then, stepping out from the forest, your perspective widens. The same happened during my years as a director.

How do you assess the current state of the new schools formed by the structural reform?

Observation data for other schools is very limited. However, I believe there to be a trend towards unity and co-operation in all of them. I see many examples of growth in the SNSH, I see the beginnings of interdisciplinary projects, integration in studies and communication. Still, there is a long way to go. Some fields and groups have not yet integrated co-operation to a meaningful extent. However, I believe we are headed in the right direction.

Which questions/problems still require solutions?

The SNSH is not like a building that will one day be finished. Rather, it is a living organism that is still growing, developing and discovering its strengths and capabilities. During this process, questions and problems may arise that we cannot formulate today. Still, we have a sense of what to do and which direction to head in.

As a specific example, I'd like for cooperation and trust between students and staff to raise considerably. And for a motivating sense of security to increase.

What sort of experience have the past five years given you for your new term as a director?

Most "things" are polygons. There are always more opportunities than what you can see at first glance, and fixating on routine choices is our biggest obstacle to seeing them.

What are your main goals in the field of studies and supporting scientists and science?

The main goal is to offer something of good quality, meaningful and, in hindsight, useful.

If someone is proficient and successful in their field, they must be supported, not forced to integrate for the sake of integration. However, we must also remember that we need the support of others in one way or another.

If someone is a "jack of all trades" and can work on a variety of topics, we must help them find partners to create ventures that unite entire schools (or other units or groups).

If someone is proficient and productive both as an expert and in creating networks of cooperation, as much as possible should be done in the supporting structure so that they can give their all to their field of expertise.

What are your main objectives in managing the SNSH and bolstering team spirit?

I am of the mind that a director/leader is not a person who, with their wisdom alone, chooses the right path. A leader/director should be someone who helps others harness their inner motivation in the best way possible, amplify their strengths and overcome their weaknesses so that every person can reach their maximum potential. A goal set together is easier to strive towards.

Team spirit can be bolstered by good example. We have to help one another see the importance of our colleagues and not only think about what is important for ourselves. Understand that we're stronger together. It helps to like one another. This can be grown through communication, but also when individuals don't need to worry about their own future all the time.

What are your main goals when it comes to communicating with students?

One of our priorities is for trust, cooperation and respect between students and staff/lecturers to reach a new level.

How can the SNSH help Estonia solve future problems?

SNSH fields: Health Behaviour and Wellbeing (mental, physical, biochemical and environmental) and sustainability at every level are also societal problems. Solving them in the SNSH will benefit society at large.

Should the position/role/importance of Tallinn University change in society and how?

Yes. Clearer and better every year.