Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Maite Sagasti

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Maite Sagasti

Maite Sagasti holds a BA in History and Cultural Heritage and an MA in Spanish Heritage Management. She is currently the Euroculture course-coordinator at the University of Deusto, where she started working in 2006 and became since then a point of reference for all the Euroculture students studying at Deusto. Next to Euroculture, Maite also coordinates other Erasmus Mundus graduate programmes at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Deusto.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Maite Sagasti (MS): I started to work at the Euroculture master programme in 2006. At the beginning I knew very little about how university networks work. In my previous jobs, I had the chance to work in interdisciplinary teams but always in the same institution/organization. When I started the new position, I had to do the same (at the university level) but also in the consortium level (different work cultures, languages) and for me this has been challenging but also the best part of the job. It has been really interesting to learn how the European Higher Education Institutions work together, to face the challenges and find the solutions jointly, take part in the common project to improve the programme, to work in the European Accreditation System and last but not least, the relationship with the students. I must say that this latter point is for me one the pillars of this job. Moreover, I also learn from students, from their interests and needs, which push me to update my competencies and skills constantly.

Without any doubt, the job has far exceeded my expectations.

EM: What is your academic background and can you tell us about your previous job experience before starting to work for Euroculture?

MS: I studied History and Cultural Management as a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Deusto (1998/2002). Once I finished the BA I won a grant from the Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECI) to take a course on Museum Administration at the University of Museo Social Argentino (Buenos Aires, Argentina) 2002. In 2002/2003 I went to the University of Salamanca to study the Master Programme in Management of the Spanish Artistic Heritage and from 2003/2005 I got the Certificate for Advance Studies, it was the previous stage of the PhD programme in Social Sciences at the University of Deusto.

From the very beginning I was really interested in the management side of the cultural programmes. My first job was in the Arrasate-Mondragon Town Hall. Arrasate-Mondragon was well known for his industrial past. When one of the biggest companies of the town decided to change the location, the town hall inherited all the industrial heritage and I was in charge of creating the catalogue. In 2005, due to my specialization, the Cultural Department of Culture of the Basque Government asked me to work on the update of the Industrial Heritage of the Basque Country (architecture, infrastructure, machinery, and so on). In 2006 I accepted a position at the University of Deusto to coordinate a local master programme and in this way I could work on my PhD project.

EM: Can you tell us about the job-searching path you went through before choosing and being selected for this job position?

MS: I must admit that I have been very lucky during all my job-searching processes. When I was finishing my master programme work placement in the Government of Navarra, I received a phone call from one of my BA Professors. She was my Industrial Heritage professor. She remembered me because I was always really interested in her subject and during my studies I always asked her for more information, I visited different organizations on my own and so on. Moreover, she knew that I completed a specialization in cultural management during my MA programme, therefore, she thought that I had the knowledge and skills to take part in the Town Hall selection process. The selection interview was quite tough. It was a new field and I was aware that other teams had been working at the level of the Basque country, so I publicly indicated that if I was selected for the position I would generate a specific network with those organisations to do a good job in the municipality. After being selected for the position I took advantage of my knowledge and the help of many experts to do a good job.

My former teacher was following my progress so as soon as I finished the job in the town hall she recruited me to do the same job at a regional level. During this period I was taking my mandatory PhD courses so I decided to take the position at the University. I met the requirements of the job profile and the change allowed me to focus on my studies. Once I started to work at the University, I had the chance to start working at the Euroculture programme (managerial skills, linguistic skills,). I have learned so much with the Euroculture programme that thanks to that now I am coordinating three Erasmus Mundus programmes and other European master’s of the Human and Social Sciences Faculty at the University of Deusto.

EM: Could you tell us how a normal workday looks like for you (your tasks)? How did the Covid-19 pandemic change that (advantages/disadvantages)?

MS: As a master coordinator I am in contact with students, professors, different departments of the University of Deusto and with the Euroculture Network members to coordinate the needs of students, teachers, and consortium.

I also work with the communication department to promote the different activities that we organize (conferences, lectures, visiting professors). Furthermore, I participate in postgraduate fairs and during the year I work with different organizations/institutions to check if there are any financial aid options for our students, and we have bilateral meetings also to check if some organisations can offer internships. Apart from that, I am in contact with the Basque Agency of Accreditation to send them the quality reports. Also, I take part in meetings with different university consortiums from Lantin America and Europe to explain the main advantages and challenges that we face in our joint master programmes. As you can see I am used to working with interdisciplinary teams and in a multi-scale way (from local to international) on a day to day basis.

From March 2020 to June 2020 we worked from home. The major problem for me was not being able to meet the students on a daily basis. For me, the interaction and the face-to face meetings are very important because it is a way to check how students are, if there is any specific need. It also is important because I receive a lot of feedback from students and teachers. With COVID-19 everything went online and we (students/direction of the master) worked in different ways to keep contact with students. 

Regarding the ordinary work, the Covid Pandemic led us to check the different advantages of the different platforms (zoom, google meet, blackboard collaborative). I guess that during the lockdown everybody learned to apply different strategies and methods to keep the enthusiasm and the work done. 

In 2020 the University of Deusto was in charge of the intensive Programme’s organization and the University and the Euroculture Consortium learned to be really flexible. Indeed we created a new format for the IP. For the Euroculture Consortium it was really important to keep the structure of the master as much as possible also during the uncertain times we have gone through.

EM: What are the main lessons you have learned and some challenges you have encountered since you started working for Euroculture?

MS: I think that one of the main lessons that you learn on this job – and I think that you can translate it into any position – is the importance of constantly learning from others. You have to be aware that there are a lot of people who have a huge experience (managing teams, programmes, activities) and it is important to approach them without any fear and learn from them. It is important to ask, to check the information when you do not know how to proceed because you always find people who are willing to help you. Moreover, creating networks within your colleagues (in the organization) but also outside. It Is important to invest in the networks because, believe me, the stronger the network is, the better results you get from it. Another lesson is to keep learning all the time: things change rapidly (information, programmes, strategic interest, intuitional strategies) so, it is essential to read specialized information, manuals, to attend to courses, events that will allow us to be updated. Also very important is time management. It is crucial to be aware that we are working on several levels, so it is important to manage different deadlines. It is not just my work, it is a network work, which means that if I do not submit something on time or correctly, it will have a direct impact on the network or in my organization. Last but not least, enjoy! You can imagine how interesting it is to work with colleagues from the wider world. There are always moments to share a good time with your colleagues.

EM: Do you feel part of the Euroculture bubble or do you feel more like a general employee at the University where you are working at?

MS: For me, Euroculture is my family. I have learned a lot from all the members of the Euroculture network (coordinators/directors/students/alumni and others), both on a professional and personal level.

After 14 years, I feel that I have different mentors in the Network from whom I learned a lot and I applied this knowledge on a day to day basis; I am talking about professionalism, enthusiasm, innovation, diplomacy, excellence…  and this knowledge could be used anywhere.

EM: Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? 

MS: I hope to continue working for the international postgraduate programme of the University of Deusto, and of course on the Euroculture programme.

EM: Do you have any tips related to job-hunting for Euroculture students that will graduate soon?

MS: As we know there are different social media and programmes that allow us to create profiles and alerts to be informed about different opportunities, get to familiarise with those systems and keep your profiles updated. Take part in the different job fairs, keep learning (by yourself, taking part in on-line courses.) Take advantage of the networks that you have…you never know when an opportunity will knock the door.

EM: Is there anything else you would like to add?

MS: Thank you for this great opportunity. It has been a real pleasure to participate in the Euroculturer magazine

EM: Thank you very much for answering these questions! We value your contribution and believe it will be useful for prospective and current Euroculture students!


Picture Credits: Personal file

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