Exchanges grow stronger as Germany emerges as economic leader
As Germany reaches the top of Europe’s economic ladder, the number of students wanting to learn German language is on the rise, says Jay Lokken, UW-La Crosse director of International Education.
Likewise, partnerships between the UW-L’s College of Business Administration and universities in Germany are growing stronger.
UW-L graduate Eric Rude, an international business and management major, is the first UW-L student to embark on the new joint-degree program in international business between schools in Hessen, Germany, and UW-L. The program is one more step in a Wisconsin-Hessen Exchange partnership between Hessen universities and UW System schools, which started in the 1990s. The exchange averages about 30-40 students traveling either way each year.
UW-L and Frankfurt University of Applied Science decided to make exchanges more formal by offering joint programs. UW-L students can earn a German degree and vice versa.
“It started with some visits back and forth,” says Swen Schneider, dean of Frankfurt University of Applied Science, one of the partner schools in Hessen. “We found out that we have a lot in common.”
Frankfurt is a prime location to send students, says Lokken.
“When this partnership started, we had no idea the European Central Bank would be located in Frankfurt and the city would become the center for European trade in the world,” he explains.
Students are able to learn firsthand from faculty and others in the German banking community.
Rude, who is earning a Master of Arts in Leadership at Frankfurt University of Applied Science, enjoys meeting peers in his classes from diverse countries and majors who “have a different way of thinking or working than the average business major,” he says.
But a degree from Germany doesn’t come without challenges. Almost all of Rude’s classes are taught in German and his entire grade is typically dependent on one final exam or project — a common expectation in German university classes. Such changes have stretched him. He’s gone from feeling embarrassed to speak German aloud in class to presenting with limited notes in front of his German-speaking peers.
Schneider sees German students return, first and foremost, with cultural and language competency.
“It expands students’ way of thinking and their ability to solve problems,” he says.
Faculty exchanges underway too
Some UW-L faculty have also traveled to Hessen universities during the summer for research projects and language learning. Many CBA faculty earned grants to travel and built relationships with German faculty. These relationships led to the joint degree program in international business.
Partnerships: UW-L has three partnerships with universities in Frankfurt, Germany
- Fachhochschule Frankfurt (Frankfurt University of Applied Science)
- Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt
- University of Music and Art in Frankfurt
A historic relationship
The UW System was encouraged to start developing partnerships with universities in Hessen, Germany, in the late 1990s after a sister-state relationship formed between Hessen and Wisconsin. The partnership was based on a historic relationship between the two states including immigration from Hessen to Wisconsin and a history of trade, says Jay Lokken, UW-L director of International Education.
Exchange: By the numbers
Total number of students:
From Germany to UW-L: 229
From UW-L to Germany: 229
– UW-L Office of International Education
Student Association partnership
Nick Bezier, president of the UW-L Student Association and David Wermedal, vice president, reached verbal agreements to establish partnerships with student leadership from three European universities on a trip to Europe in spring 2013. The universities include: University of Oldenburg, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and the University of Luxembourg.
Delegates from the UW-L Student Association will return to Germany and Luxembourg in November, and students from the European schools will visit UW-L in late March and early April. They plan to work on joint projects such as fighting to keep tuition low and social justice campaigns.
“The style of student governance in Europe is much different, but I think there’s something to learn,” says Bezier. “Student leaders there have ensured very affordable, high quality education. At a time when UW System continues to lose funding from the state, we feel students need to take a stand for college affordability and quality and protect UW.”