Margit Heissenberger studied Educational Science in Klagenfurt and earned her doctorate in Psychology. After many years in Vienna, Brussels and New York, she now lives in Velden again and is the managing director of the “Initiative für Kärnten” (Initiative for Carinthia). She has spoken to ad astra about her way back to Carinthia.
You have been in Vienna, Brussels and New York for over 20 years. Why Carinthia again?
I returned for private reasons, otherwise I would certainly still be in the USA today. I have intensively cared for and accompanied my mother in her last years. Then the “Initiative für Kärnten” contacted me and offered me the management of the company, because as an exiled Carinthian I also know the view from outside. I accepted the position with great pleasure.
And what do you think Carinthia needs?
Carinthia has so much potential that it should make greater use of it. People should be much more self-confident and get involved in social policy. I took that with me from my time in the USA, including my personal motto “to energize people”. I try to ask people, what can you do for Carinthia? Where are your strengths?
What are your concrete goals?
It is about building citizen participation processes and encouraging citizens to take on more responsibility. We want to work out Carinthia’s strengths and thus give the state a future and perspectives. You should not use your energies to try to compensate for deficits, but rather always try to start with your strengths and build on them. By the way, this is my approach in principle, especially as an educational scientist.
In Vienna, you worked in education policy. What exactly did you do?
From 1991 to 2001 I headed the Office for European Educational Cooperation in the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education. During this time, I also worked as a consultant for the EU Commission in Brussels and helped prepare Austria’s accession to the EU. I was in direct contact with schools and teachers from other European countries, and together we designed and implemented various educational programmes such as Sokrates or Lingua.
What professional challenges followed?
Actually, I built something new every five to seven years. First, I was back at the ministry as managing director of the “Unternehmen Bildung” (Enterprise Education) initiative, and then I built up the “Institute for Research, Innovation and School Development” for the University College of Teacher Education Vienna and headed it for six years. Thereupon I finally fulfilled my childhood dream and moved to New York, USA. There I worked for a construction company in the field of International Hospitality Management.
Can you recall a nice anecdote from your student days?
Yes, professor Schöler often held his dissertation seminars at Keutschacher See. It inspired a musician friend of mine to compose the Carinthian song “Übern Keutschacher See is a Falterle gflog`n”. As assistant of professor Schöler I arranged the ceremony for his farewell and held his laudation. I sang this song for him with my choir. I always remember this with pleasure.