More female professors than male at NMBU’s Faculty of Landscape and Society

By Jayne P Lambrou

Marte Karoline Råberg Kjøllesdal
Marte Karoline Råberg KjøllesdalPhoto: NMBU

Marte Kjøllesdal was recently promoted to professor, bringing the proportion of female professors at her faculty to over 50%. Immigrant health and epidemiology are some of the areas of expertise that she brings to NMBU.

Marte Kjøllesdal has recently been promoted to professor at NMBU’s Department of Public Health Science. The promotion means that the proportion of female professors (54%) has surpassed males at NMBU’s Faculty of Landscape and Society.

This shift comes in the wake of an initiative to improve the gender balance of professors at the university, which at 31% female, still falls below the national proportion of 37% in 2023.

“We still have a way to go, both at NMBU and nationally,” says NMBU rector Siri Fjellheim. “Our work to further improve the gender balance in professor positions continues in 2024. We want to increase awareness of why so few female academics progress to professorship compared to males. On a personal level, congratulations to Marte! She brings in public health expertise that is valuable both for NMBU and for Norwegian society.”     

From master’s in nutrition to public health professor

Marte started her academic journey with Bachelor- and Master degrees in Nutrition. “I didn’t have a clear plan after that, but I enjoyed research, so as I got the opportunity, I continued to work at the Department of Nutrition,” explains Marte.

“I helped with a few different research projects regarding social inequalities and immigrants, which eventually ended up constituting my Dr.Philos. After that, I got a position as a postdoctoral researcher working on socio-economic differences and the importance of family factors in cardiovascular disease, based on Norwegian register data.”

“This led to work at the Migration Health Unit at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. I got the chance to continue working on projects related to health among immigrants in Norway, and I still cooperate with colleagues there now, three years after I switched to NMBU.”

Immigrant health research put into practice

Marte’s research on the health of immigrants in Norway and the social determinants of health has been used directly in public health practice in the country: “Migrant health is considered to be an important topic among decision-makers in various sectors,” says the professor. “During the pandemic, my research on high rates of infection among certain immigrant groups was used quite directly. For example, information about preventive measures to immigrant communities at high risk was formulated and translated into practice.”

Other aspects of Marte’s work have been more descriptive of the situation regarding health and well-being in different immigrant groups. These findings can be informative for more long-term initiatives to promote health in the population.

“My research has been contributing directly to ongoing discussions in society, such as ADHD in children,” says Marte. “Whilst there are increasing rates of ADHD in children, there are lower rates among immigrant children.”

Currently, Marte is working on a project on the health of Norwegian-born children to immigrant parents, based on data from the Norwegian register. “This is a growing group of the Norwegian population, and we know relatively little about how they are doing in terms of health,” she explains.

“I am also involved in a project on immigrant patients` experiences of mental health care. It is very interesting, and rather concerning, to see that when answering standard questionnaires used to all groups of patients, immigrants do not report worse experiences than other patients – despite it becoming evident in qualitative interviews that they experience various challenges related to culture differences and language.”

“I have also become interested in the association between integration and health, and I’m working on some applications for funding to dive more into that.”

A teaching philosophy that facilitates shared experience

Marte teaches on NMBU’s master’s degree in public health science. We asked her if there any innovative teaching methods or approaches that she brings to the university.

“We have lots of students with diverse and rich working experiences from various professional backgrounds. I find this a very good point of departure for activities where we all can contribute, discuss, and learn from each other`s experiences.”

“As public health has so many intersection points to other sectors of society, we all have something to bring to the discussion. I thus try to facilitate such discussions related to public health topics, both in plenary sessions and in groups. I also believe that learning happens through experience and by being part of an academic community. Through master projects I enjoy seeing students experience being a researcher, and when possible, I think students benefit from being part of an established research group or a project.”

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