Jeanne Mengis

1977

Professor at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), Lugano

"My research topics are what drive me, together with being able to work with colleagues who value what I do and with whom I can create great things."

My career path

I’m a professor of organizational communication at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Lugano, where I head up the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management. The institute offers two master’s programmes and two bachelor-level specializations. My research is focused on the coordination and knowledge processes involved in interdisciplinary work, as well as innovation-related processes. I am particularly interested in understanding how communication and materiality (e.g. objects and space) shape these processes.

My passion. I have the luxury of being able to work very independently – I get to shape the structure and content of my courses and define my own research agenda. In this way, I can focus on the topics and issues I really believe in. My research topics are what drive me, together with being able to work with colleagues who value what I do and with whom I can create great things.

My career path has been shaped a lot by the people who believed in me and encouraged me, as well as by the opportunities that I’ve been given and the work I’ve done. Key people include : my PhD supervisor, my mentor and co-author in the UK, my former boss (institute director) and my mother. And some of the key moments have been : a coffee break during a conference, the professorial vacancy in Lugano, and getting tenure, which coincided with the birth of my first son. The people closest to me supported me in my career even when I had to go abroad for a few years. It was comforting to know that, if everything went wrong and the precarious academic path led nowhere, I would have some financial and social support. Finally, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) made it possible for me to start working with the best people in my field.

A downside or obstacle ? I can’t do everything I’d like to do – I’d like to spend more time with my kids, look after my mother more, call my father more often, and see my friends. Work often takes up a lot of my time. There aren’t many women in my field, and there are still men in power who have problems with strong, determined women. Women are still pressured into pursuing a career in the same way as a man. To some extent, having kids is still perceived as an either-or choice (when I was pregnant with my second child, a male colleague said to another colleague of mine : “she won’t be able to advance in her career”). There are complicated practical arrangements that have to be resolved for mothers with a career.

I am not particularly “proud” of myself in general. There are specific situations that make me proud. I’m proud when I see my doctoral students finish their PhD, and see them flourish in academia, or when I proofread a paper of mine that finally gets published and I think : “hmm, not too bad after all”. I’m proud when I see my students pulling their sleeves up and working hard on the projects I guide them through. Most of all, I’m proud of my two little boys and my husband.

The Proust Questionnaire

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Other interests beyond work

My academic work, the visual arts, dance, poetry and nature.

People who inspire you

Many. Virginia Woolf, Ingeborg Bachmann, Karen Barad, Ann Langley, Judith Butler, Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, Louise Bourgeois, Meret Oppenheim, Marina Abramovic, Yayoi Kusama, Herlinde Koelbl, Ruth Dreifuss, Anna Karenina, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Damla Sönmez, Jacky Swan, my mother, my best friend and several others. Paul Celan, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, Wim Wenders, Olafur Eliasson, Paul Klee, Hari Szeemann, Hari Tsoukas, Davide Nicolini, my husband and my father.

A book & a film

Se questo è un uomo (Primo Levi) and Rhythm Is It ! (Thomas Grube and Enrique Sánchez Lansch)

An objet

A piece of driftwood

A colour

Green and violet

A dream

When I was a teenager, I often dreamt of flying over vast landscapes. I’d like to have that dream again.