Hoisting the Flag in North America

Freitag, 6. Mai 2016 | 

The University of Freiburg and Eucor – The European Campus are pressing on with their internationalization efforts: Dr. Markus Lemmens began his duties as head of the North American Liaison Office on January 1st. The goal is to use the office in New York as a base for positioning the University of Freiburg and Eucor in the USA and Canada in the long term. The institutions hope that support from alumni and successful fundraising campaigns will lead to measurable results that also make an impact at home.

Opening Program
Director Professor Hans-Jochen Schiewer presents the program during the official opening. (Photo: Alumni Freiburg)

New York City, USA, at the corner of East 49th Street and 1st Avenue, with a view to the East River and the headquarters of the United Nations (UN): This is the location of the German House, home of Germany’s Permanent Mission to the UN and a German Consulate General, as well as branch offices of research organizations including the German Research Foundation and German universities. Now the University of Freiburg and its partners in Eucor – The European Campus are also among the tenants.

The North American Liaison Office was officially opened on 29 April 2016. “We’ve built up an active network in North America in the past years thanks to our alumni work,” says Director Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer. “The new office is now the visible base for all further activities.”

Professor Hans-Joachim Gehrke, director of outreach of the University College Freiburg, informed the guests at the official opening of global trends in liberal arts colleges and the opportunities they present. The course offerings of the University of Freiburg’s University College unite aspects of the German and the Anglo-Saxon concepts to form a coherent whole and are intended especially for international students interested in earning a bachelor of liberal arts and sciences degree in Freiburg. Also in attendance were Léa Futschik, a representative from the French Consulate General in New York, and Oliver Haugen, a representative from the Swiss Consulate General in Boston.

The proximity to other research institutions is just one of the location’s many advantages, says Liaison Officer Dr. Markus Lemmens. A topic that is particularly important in New York is networking between science and industry. “The city has witnessed the development of a creative startup scene that is coming together with a lot of risk capital from the traditional finance industry.” But attracting investors and supporting technology transfer is only one of the goals Lemmens is pursuing in the liaison office. As a representative for the faculties, he also aims to support their activities in North America, for instance by helping them to recruit students and researchers, establish or expand partnerships, or design visiting programs. Moreover, he is building up a fundraising structure based especially on the Alumni Club North America, whose expansion the university’s Alumni Office aims to promote with his help: In addition to the head office in New York, there are plans to open further offices in cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston, Denver, or across the Canadian border in Montreal.

Tradition and Innovation – an Appealing Combination

Flagge in New York
The University of Freiburg´s flag outside the Princeton Club of New York. (Photo: Alumni Freiburg)

Attracting attention in North America will be no small task: “American society tends to be very inward-looking. It’s a great challenge for a German university to improve its visibility there. Nevertheless, Lemmens sees good prospects for success on the basis of his previous experiences. “The University of Freiburg has a long tradition and is at the same time innovative, for instance with its research on the issue of sustainability. Such a combination is very appealing to North Americans.” In addition, the region has a good reputation: due to the Black Forest with its recreational value as well as its many hidden champions – small and medium sized businesses that are world leaders in their particular niche markets.

Lemmens sees Eucor – The European Campus, an alliance including the Universities of Freiburg, Basel, Strasbourg, and Mulhouse and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – as having good prospects in North America as well: “115,000 students, 15,000 researchers, a total budget of 2.3 billion euros at the five universities – those are numbers that make you sit up and take notice even in the USA.” The challenge for the coming years is now to develop the alliance further and fill it with life: “The people in America are open for visions, but they’re also quick to ask what opportunities the European Campus has to offer them and where they can turn to with their questions.” The first steps have already been taken – for instance with the establishment of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) in December 2015 as well as with the launch of several research projects receiving European Union funding in the INTERREG-VA program in January 2016.

In order to achieve the goals of the University of Freiburg and the European Campus, Lemmens spends most of his time talking: with people from science, industry, and politics as well as with Freiburg alumni and media representatives. He uses these meetings to send out a specific message to these groups, but at the same time he always signals openness: “I want to find out what topics interest the people I talk to and react to them flexibly.” He regards this concept as forming the identity of a modern liaison office: following a clear strategy but constantly adjusting it and developing it further in response to practical experiences.




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