Student Spotlight: Tillman Rüther (Executive MPA 2022)

Close-up of Tillman smiling, next to images of the Bundestag and European Parliament.

After a start in European and German government, Tillman Rüther is pursuing a new career path - and using his Executive MPA to do so.

Tillman Rüther is an Executive MPA student from Germany, who entered the programme in September 2022. He shares his thoughts about the programme so far, his experience of balancing work and studies, and his plans for the future.

What attracted you to the Hertie School's Executive MPA programme, and what inspired you to apply?

After completing my bachelor's degree, I was offered a position as a staff member in the European Parliament for an MEP. Although I had a desire to pursue a master's degree, I was drawn to the experience of working in the EP at that time. When I moved from Brussels to Germany to work in the German Bundestag, I found that my workload became more manageable, providing me with the opportunity to finally pursue an executive master's degree.

I learned about the Hertie School's programme from a former student whom I have known for many years. He spoke highly of the flexibility and quality of the course, which motivated me to apply. I did not have a master’s degree prior and I always felt, I would have liked to stay longer in academia, yet the job opportunity that opened itself up would have created too much of an opportunity cost if I had not accepted it. So, the Executive MPA seemed to be ideal for me to obtain a master’s degree while staying connected to the realm of work.

You mentioned the flexibility and quality of the course. Could you expand on your own experience with this?

I started in the two-year track at first. Once I was offered a new position at a company that does not make it possible to study while working, I was able to reorganize my studies in a way that will allow me to have the majority of my courses finished by the time I start my new position.

Additionally, the professors I had were usually very good and passionate about their academic field. I feel that it is this combination of competent teachers and some limiting constraints, like time, that leads to a very productive study experience and impactful output as you get really good at focusing your energy and ressources.

Which courses have been your favourites so far?

While many courses have been invaluable to me, such as those taught by Prof. Gerhard Hammerschmid on "Digital Governance", or "When to Trust the Numbers" by Prof. Mark Kayser, my favourite course has been "International Law" by Dr. Bernhard Knoll. I have always been fascinated by legal topics and analytical thinking, and Bernhard's approach to teaching, his presentation style, and his energy and quick-wittedness have been both inspiring and motivating. It is evident that he is deeply passionate about his profession, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

What has been the most memorable part of your studies so far?

For me, the most memorable part of my studies has always been the process of completing assignments. I enjoy the challenge of developing my own ideas and arguments and presenting them in a coherent manner for others to understand. Often, I start my assignments with fragmented ideas and arguments, and then slowly build upon them. It has been a fulfilling experience, as it reminds me of my time in university after completing my bachelor's degree.

I am grateful that Hertie School has given me the opportunity to re-enter the academic realm at the age of 34 while still being able to work.

How does your Bundestag experience relate to your Hertie studies?

It related in a way that it was a very welcoming change of pace and approach to thinking. Staff members of members of the parliament are usually rather executive roles that, although being in touch with the ongoings of politics and policy, rarely have impact themselves. This can leave some with the impression of losing personal agency in a rather cumbersome machine that is not open to new ideas and approaches. Hertie was a good counter-weight to that.

What was it like to continue working while pursuing your Executive MPA studies?

Continuing to work while pursuing my Executive MPA studies was a breath of fresh air. At the Hertie School, the intellectual environment encourages you to use data, sources and facts. I am sure the Hertie School directly and indirectly helped me to realign my professional life which has contributed to me beginning my new job after my master degree at Orphoz, a McKinsey public consultant company. It widened my horizon of what I can do well and what is achievable for me with my personal skillset.

It is not always easy to do both at the same time, yet it can also be fruitful to get your mind off work or off academics to pursue the other.

What advice would you give to Executive MPA applicants? What advice would you give to incoming students?

If you, like me, are at a stage in your career where you are looking to reorient yourself professionally and have some interest in academic knowledge, Hertie School might be perfect for you.