Franz Jenewein is the Director and Head of Education at the Grillhof Seminar Center. He speaks to us about the history of the MA Program in Peace Studies, on the art of hosting, the importance of education and finding inner peace in the Tyrolean Mountains. The interview was conducted by Johanna Mihevc.
MPM: How did the cooperation with the Master in Peace Program start? What are your responsibilities at the Grillhof?
FRANZ JENEWEIN: I have known Wolfgang Dietrich for almost fifteen years now. We worked in a group together that organized talks on peace and war, for example about the North Tyrol-South Tyrol conflict – how everything began, how the conflict was resolved and how to live in a peaceful coexistence. Some of the talks also took place here at Grillhof. Out of this, the MA Program for Peace Studies was created. Originally, the program was held at the Management Centre Innsbruck before Anton Pelinka, who was head of the Department of Politics at Innsbruck University and who had been a dear professor of mine, asked me to host the program at the Grillhof with its campus-like structure. The beginning was quite a challenge, because our house was used to a different target group than students; our guests were mainly professionals who work in the administration of the local government, the University, or private companies. Originally, our house was closed in summer, and we were also not accustomed to hosting a group for such a long period of time. The philosophy of the Peace Program fits perfectly with our focus on political education, and the cooperation is also economically very profitable for our house – all in all the program accounts for 1600 overnight stays per year!
Two years ago, the Grillhof was renovated and now we have about twice as many events, which of course demands a lot from our 18 employees.
When we reach our limits in terms of capacity as well as physically, it requires a lot of efficiency and sensitivity as the director, I must say.
MPM: What has your experience been so far? In retrospect, what has changed since the start of the program and what are your hopes for the next ten years of the program?
FRANZ: From the start, I was actively involved in the program development, the finances and the administration along with Norbert Koppensteiner, who was still a student back then. Initially, the program only took place during the summer. The winter term has existed for ten years now. We used to have more students from the Global South – unfortunately the financial situation does not permit this to such an extent anymore.
During the Peace Program, we have a totally different dynamic in the house than usual: the Grillhof is much livelier when so many young international people live here. Especially in summer our house provides a beautiful environment for outdoor activities such as BBQ parties and sports, which are also an important part of the learning process.
Communication can sometimes become an issue, because not all of our employees speak English. Also, for our kitchen staff it can be a challenge to cater to all the needs of our students for example when it comes to dietary restrictions or eating preferences. We try our best to fulfill everyone’s needs. We also have a new chef who is very good.
Sometimes I get asked by our guests who the hippies are, and I tell them they are peace students. When people say, “Peace studies?” I usually respond that it is important to invest in peace in times like these and everyone agrees. Our guests also enjoy looking at the Master theses in our library.
For the future, I would like to have more students from conflict zones to share their experiences. I hope the students will afterwards work in international Institutions and in the decision making process and contribute to conflict transformation. I would also like to see more themes such as religion and environment integrated into the program. I hope for continuity of the program. It is wonderful to see the activities organized by the Alumni Network.
MPM: Where do you find peace within your personal realm?
FRANZ: With my wife I enjoy hiking and skiing in the high alpine areas. We have two adult children. We live in a village called Hochgallzein near Schwaz. I love the Tyrol and nature. I like to experience my borders in the mountains. I am also very interested in other countries and cultures. We had planned to go on a trip to Nepal next year – sadly the region just got hit very badly by an earthquake.
MPM: What is the significance of learning and education for you?
FRANZ: I think that education is the key to personal development and it brings us forward. It widens our horizon and enables more possibilities – socially as well as professionally. Sadly education is not necessarily a guarantee that people treat others well.
I very much enjoy working with people. I have a very interesting and satisfying job in this house which creates space for people. It is beautiful to see how people develop their potential.