Student spotlights: Verena Wingerter (MIA 2021)

Get to know one of our first-year MIA students, the president and founder of the Hertie School Security Club.

Verena Wingerter is a first-year Master of International Affairs student from Germany and the founder and president of the Hertie School Security Club. She is also the current recipient of the International Security Policy Scholarship – for which you can still apply until 1 May! Isabell from the Recruitment and Admissions team conducted a short e-mail interview with Verena this week. You can find her answers below.

What were you doing before joining the Hertie School last fall?

Before I joined the Hertie School, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences at University College Freiburg. I majored in Governance with a focus on security policy and Eastern Europe and studied abroad for a year at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO). In Moscow, I had the opportunity to enrol in various security-related courses, from strategic intelligence to armed conflicts in the 21st century to security issues in international law. I enjoyed the analysis and study of security dimensions of international relations and wrote my bachelor’s thesis on "Deterrence and the End of the INF Treaty: possible consequences of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty for NATO-Russia relations." After I graduated, I also did an internship at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I worked on innovation and security policy in the Balkans.

Why did you choose the MIA programme?

I chose the MIA programme at the Hertie School because of the opportunity to specialise in security and sustainability. I knew that I wanted to focus on security policy and work in German / European security institutions. The Hertie School is one of the few schools that offers security-related programmes in Germany and the only one that offers a Professional Year with relevant partner institutions. Lastly, I appreciated the variety of topics covered by the research of different professors and the possibility to work with the Centre for International Security, which was then chaired by Wolfgang Ischinger.

What have been your favourite courses so far? Any favourite discussion topics?

I enjoy the security-related courses the most. Currently, I am enrolled in the core course International Security with Anita Gohdes and Julian Wucherpfennig, which covers different security concepts and areas of conflict studies. Furthermore, the course International Conflict Management by Wolfgang Sporrer, allows me to deep dive into the conflicts of the post-Soviet area. As a guest lecturer who worked for the OSCE for many years, his insights are very interesting and valuable. In general, the topics I enjoy most are either related to emerging security challenges or Eastern Europe. Often, though, the most interesting debates are on topics I have little prior knowledge in. I find that I learn the most from these discussions.

You’re the president and founder of the Hertie School Security Club. How did the club get started, and what kinds of activities do you organise?

When I enrolled at the Hertie School, I was keen on engaging with other students who share my interest for security issues. Since Hertie School students are very active, there were already a lot of clubs, but none focused on security. Fortunately, it is quite easy to found new clubs and I met eight other students who were eager to invest their time and energy in setting up the club. The Hertie School Security Club (HSSC) is hence a student-led collective that contributes to the thematic discourse on security policy by connecting leading practitioners in the field with interested students and faculty. We held our launch event on space security last fall and had more events planned this semester, which we unfortunately had to postpone due to Covid-19.

Currently, we have adapted to the circumstances by moving our bi-weekly discussion meetings, which are open to everyone, online. We are currently organising an online discussion series with practitioners in the field on specific security-related topics. The first guest in our online discussion series was Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian security affairs who shared his insights from and about the Kremlin with us. Additionally, we have mentoring sessions planned both with external practitioners and Hertie School staff. Lastly, we publish analyses and op-eds on security issues by students and guest contributors on our website. If you are interested in learning more about the club or contributing, you can find us at

Which MIA concentration will you choose and why?

I have chosen the Security and Sustainability concentration, although I will focus mainly on security. The choice was very easy for me since my interest and expertise are in this field.

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