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uni'alumni 2013_ENG

Top-class research, high-quality teaching, outstanding guidance of students, and last but not least a network of influential alumni: Harvard University is one of the best and most renowned universities in the world. But Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz-Josef Brüggemeier says that this does not make the students arrogant: “Although they have to read around 600 pages a week and have to take examinations and turn in papers at the end of each semester, they leave the impres- sion of being quite relaxed.” The University of Freiburg professor of economic, social, and environmental history taught at the American university from January to July 2012. The visiting professorship was part of a unique new partnership between the two institutions. It is based on an idea that Brüggemeier developed together with the Harvard history professor Sven Beckert. The histori- ans met each other many years ago in Germany. “Wouldn’t it be great to initiate an exchange of knowledge and teaching between the two universities?” they thought. The result is the Harvard College Europe Program. In the first round of the program, 20 American students spent half a year in Freiburg. Beckert accompanied them to Freiburg – and Brüggemeier took his place at Harvard while he was gone. Freedom for Creativity The Freiburg professor was struck by the fundamental differences between the higher education systems of the two countries. At the start of their undergraduate studies, American students take courses from the entire spectrum of disciplines before deciding on a major at the end of their second year. “This freedom gives young people the chance to think creatively, to discover their strengths and weaknesses,” says Brüggemeier. “The students in Germany could also profit from this model.” The historian also found the teaching conditions appealing: Most courses only have between five and twelve students. “Small groups like these are the most important precondition for high-quality instruction.” Educating undergraduate students is the main focus of the university, its true purpose, as Brüggemeier observed. “Harvard is known above all for the graduates of its bachelor’s programs, who go on to launch successful careers in business or politics, not for its graduate programs.” A Large Alumni Network Each year numerous alumni come back to Harvard for the big graduation ceremony – whether to see their children graduate or to go to their own class reunion. At a graduation ceremony Brüggemeier attended, a single class of former graduates donated almost 70 million dollars to the university. Harvard University’s alumni network is a cleverly devised model that enhances the university’s reputation and brings in enormous sums of money. Could this be a model for German universities to follow? “It would be desirable to create a sense of togetherness among the students and strengthen their bond with university,” says the historian, “but one of the reasons why the alumni support their university is because they know that they will profit from it throughout their lives – they reason: If I study at Harvard, my later career is as good as secured.” Rimma Gerenstein PORTRAIT A Fresh Look at Freiburg The historian Franz-Josef Brüggemeier taught for a semester at the leading American university Harvard within the context of a new partnership Back at the library in Collegiate Building IV: Franz-Josef Brügge- meier spent half a year at Harvard University as a visiting professor. Photo: Seeger 24