Since 1920 in service for students: As one of the oldest German Studierendenwerke, Studierendenwerk Aachen is looking forward to a colorful anniversary year due to its' 100th birthday. How is it celebrated? “Definitely eventfully,” said Dirk Reitz, CEO.
An idea comes up
On 18 May 1920, about thousand hungry students gathered in a remodeled gym to line up for a cooked midday meal. The improvised dining room was called “Mensa academica”. It was opened by the university during the post-war period turmoil. This idea was groundbreaking. An organized support of students was unlikely to this point. It was the start of a success story. It was the beginning of today’s Studierendenwerk Aachen.
In the same year a small self-help organization for students was found. It became more professional and independent throughout the decades. At this time other organizations were founded at other universities in Germany. The organizations built dormitories, dining halls, took care of student's children and created equality of opportunity by organizing loans and later BAföG. At the beginning the organizations were connected to the university, later on they became independent, medium-sized organizations, which offered a support in all basic needs to students.
Grown with duties
‘‘The Studierendenwerke grew with their social duties and made a remarkable progress, ‘‘said Dirk Reitz, who has been CEO for 16 years. It started with hardly more than five employees. Throughout the years more and more challenges came up. It has not always been easy, remembers Reitz. Studierendenwerke reduced the council's workload, but due to the lack of state support they were confronted with the limits in the past and present. ‘’This is no new realization: It is impossible to study without a social infrastructure. All students need to have a place to stay and to eat’’. The whole system has been still working thanks to the staying power and economic thinking of all Studierendenwerke.
Studierendenwerk Aachen is one of 57 Studierendenwerke. It’s about 370 employees care for 61,000 students in Aachen and Jülich. It has nine dining halls, 24 residence halls, five childcare centers and it supports students with BAföG. The priority is to enable all young people to go to university: For example, the prices for a meal start at €1.80, a room is available for less than €200. In 2008 a subsidiary for cleaning and catering service was found.
The anniversary year
Dirk Reitz wants to share the anniversary year with the students as well as with the staff. ‘’They build the backbone of the system – nothing would work without them. Ours cooks, for example, cook 2.6 million meals in one year, the service staff serves the meals and the cleaning staff takes care of cleaning the plates, so they can be used on the next day. It needs to go well’’.
Insights into the history and a chronicle offer a little anniversary exhibition. There was no doubt about it that the exhibition would take place at the former “Haus der Studentenschaft” at Pontwall. “This place, where students come to since 1925, is just right for an exciting travel through decades”, said Ute von Drathen, Head of Marketing and Public Relations. Pictures and texts, which show the moods of every single Studierendenwerk phase, are to be seen. ‘’We have had a long year of preparation in which we have met a lot of great people, who had a lot of interesting subjects to talk about,’’ she said. Not only the development of the residence halls, childcare centers or dining halls were meant to be documented, but also the critical subjects. ‘’The main focus are the people, ‘’said Ute von Drathen. The exhibition contents were a great addition to the ones of the RWTH. This exhibition, on the occasion of RWTH's 150th birthday, is shown in Centre Charlemagne. ‘’Science and social life are combined since the RWTH was found. These two subjects cannot be separated’’! The Studierendenwerk exhibition takes place on 28 May in the main building, Pontwall.
Delicious food of the old times
All guests can look forward to four dining hall special weeks in which typical, but also unusual meals from the past are served. ‘‘We did not think about the typical dining hall menus, ‘‘said Peter Schröder, Head of the dining apartment Mensa Academica. ‘’Spinach, potatoes and eggs was a typical meal in the seventies, but is not very exciting. I guess we cooks want to make something special for the anniversary’’. These special weeks are not the only thing to look forward to: In 2020 the recipe competition MENSA STAR and the cooking class “cooking like the pros” belong to the anniversary theme.
Also colleagues from other facilities contribute. In the anniversary year the kids from Studierendenwerk childcare centers are going to be little reporters and report on the different facilities. A photography competition, especially for students, who live in a residence hall, was planned and for the staff a big employee party is taking place.
No chance of missing one of the items on the agenda in 2020 with the upcoming anniversary page. The page as well as an event calendar keep all interested people up to date.