HEIDELBERG (May 12, 2017) – Twenty-five years have seen many satisfied students, parents, and faculty: Degrees earned, research projects conceived, and marriages celebrated. Some have come and gone back home, and some have never left.
In May 2017, Connecticut and the German state of Baden-Württemberg celebrated the 25th anniversary of their academic exchanges at the University of Heidelberg.
Invited by the Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg, a Connecticut delegation with representatives from Connecticut College, Connecticut State Department of Education, Metro Hartford Alliance, The Mark Twain House and Museum, Trinity College, University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University, and Yale University traveled to Germany for the special occasion.
The exchange relationship began in 1991 as the result of a legislative partnership between the two states established in 1989. In 2015, the administration of the exchange for all participating Connecticut universities was transferred from the Connecticut Office of Higher Education to the University of Connecticut. Students from any of the Baden-Württemberg public research universities can spend a semester or year at any of the nine participating Connecticut universities or colleges. In turn, students from Connecticut can study at public research universities and Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) in Baden-Württemberg, including the Universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg, Hohenheim, Karlsruhe, Konstanz, Mannheim, Stuttgart, Tübingen, and Ulm. This is a one-to-one exchange program, meaning that student pay tuition to their home institution and then trade places.
Approximately 2,000 students—1,000 from each side—have participated in the exchange to date.
The Connecticut delegation, led by Professor Daniel Weiner, UConn’s Vice President for Global Affairs, visited the University of Stuttgart; University of Mannheim; University of Tübingen; the Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts; and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports before making their way to the official ceremonies hosted at the University of Heidelberg.
Petra Olschowski, Baden-Württemberg’s State Secretary for Science, Research, and the Arts, declared that the trip to Connecticut in March 2017, by Minister Theresia Bauer and the science committee of Baden-Wurttemberg’s state parliament, “only served to further convince us of the great potential that our partnership with Connecticut, and the USA in general, brings.”
Olschowski affirmed, “And this remains true, independent and regardless of any changes in the political situation in our countries. This stable partnership cannot be shaken. Academic and scientific freedom, free and open science as lifeblood of our society, economy and democracy: This is the common conviction that unites us.”
Weiner highlighted that this state-to-state partnership has allowed Connecticut institutions of higher education to design innovative academic programs, such as UConn’s Eurotech dual Bachelor’s degrees in German and Engineering. Eurotech students spend a whole year in Germany studying at Baden-Württemberg institutions of higher education and interning at engineering firms, such as Bosch, Porsche, and Daimler
“The occasion of the 25th anniversary gives us an opportunity to not only recognize our successes and encourage the continued mobility of our students, but to also open doors for faculty mobility programs and translational research collaboration,” said Weiner.
Both Olschowski and Weiner paid tributes to Renate Seitz, and Achim Niessen, both former founding coordinators of the exchange from Connecticut and Baden-Württemberg respectively.
Daisy Schilling, a Connecticut native and graduate from UConn’s Eurotech Program, recalled her academic experiences both in Connecticut and Baden-Württemberg. She was joined by her now husband, Felix Schilling, who, as a student from Germany, studied at UConn. The couple now live in Frankfurt.
Paige Orlofsky, a chemical engineering major from UConn’s Eurotech Program, described how nervous she was when she began her studies at Heidelberg. She attributed to the tremendous assistance from Elisabeth Trnka-Hammel and others who prepared her for her academic learning but also professional internship. As a result, she felt that she was a different individual, and was more confident of herself.
The celebration featured the spirit of innovation and creativity of American writer Mark Twain, who resided in Connecticut and overcame his writer’s block in Heidelberg. Heidelberg Emeritus Professor of English, Dr. Dieter Schultz, and Connecticut’s Mark Twain House and Museum Director of Education, Dr. James Golden shared the podium at the neo-renaissance Alte Aula (Old Hall) to emphasize the importance of travel and understanding of culture as powerful tools of combating ignorance.
To symbolize the collaboration between the two states, the celebration was highlighted by a performance of music selections by UConn Professor Kenneth Fuchs, a world-renowned classical composer. The Academic Orchestra of the University of Stuttgart, under the direction of Maestro Veronika Stoertzenbach, performed songs from Movie House (lyrics by John Updike), and Songs of Innocence and Experience (lyrics by William Blake).
“His music has touched us emotionally and we have studied it with pleasure. For each of my musicians there was an interesting and instrument specific part, so they have played the music with verve and delight,” said Stoertzenbach.
Fuchs regarded the German students’ “preparation of the music and everyone’s performances of it was absolutely superb. I can’t ask for anything more as a composer than to have my music performed as I imagined it, yet with the gifts of new insight into it and fine interpretation. And that is exactly what happened. I was deeply impressed by the musicianship and expression of the performers. I was especially thrilled to have such a meaningful interpretation... I truly admire [Stoerzenbach’s] sensitive and expressive conducting, which so perfectly matches my musical aesthetic.”
The celebration was hosted by Professor Dieter Heermann, Vice President of International Affairs at the University of Heidelberg, and Dr. Hans-Georg Wolf, Director of University Development, Internationalization, Higher Education Statistics, and Capacity Building at the Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts. In addition to the Connecticut delegation, government officials and senior university administrators from throughout the state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as past and current exchange students from both states attended the ceremony.