Postcard from the Midwest

Spreading #hertielove from Detroit to Minneapolis via Greyhound bus.

Dear Hertians,

Greetings from the upper Midwest, USA! I am road-tripping this week from Ann Arbor to Minneapolis via Chicago, giving presentations and hosting coffee chats, all the while meeting students and professors who are curious about an English-language graduate school of governance in Europe’s coolest city!

After a day at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I boarded a Greyhound bus for Chicago, where I was welcomed at Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Chicago. In the next few days, I’ll visit the Twin Cities and even make a trip down to St. Olaf College and Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. By the time I board my plane back home to Berlin, I’ll have a good 1,000 miles of Heartland behind me – from rolling acres of farmland to the industrial belt south of Lake Michigan and the third-largest city in the US.

You won’t be surprised that among these friendly Midwesterners I’ve found Friends of Hertie and Berliners as well. Even before I visited Ann Arbor, I’d spoken with a graduate of our Master of International Affairs programme, Kate Saslow, who did her bachelor’s degree in the German department and in the Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS) at the University of Michigan. Kate grew up in Detroit and noted that a strong sense of social justice and the desire to protect democracy, both in her hometown and especially on campus at her alma mater, contributed to her growing interest in public and international affairs. The Hertie School was attractive to her for its highly international student body, and because she could continue research on issues she’d studied as an undergraduate. Kate wrote her master’s thesis on artificial intelligence and gender inequality in the US labour market and now works in technology-related topics for a public policy think tank in Berlin.

At the University of Michigan, I also met the director of PICS, Professor Robert Franzese, who told me there are many internationally-minded students at these major universities across the region, in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and beyond, who are eager to go abroad. Indeed, students at the Ann Arbor coffee chat wanted to know all about life in Berlin – not least about the cost of living. I never would’ve guessed that housing would also be a big issue for students in a college town like Ann Arbor – many said they had to sign rental contracts as early as a year in advance! The Berlin market may be getting tighter, but it’s still fairly reasonable compared to other major world cities.

Next stop: Chicago.

At Northwestern, the Director of the International Studies Program, Professor Ian Hurd, stopped by to say hello before my presentation. He’d spent some time at one of the Hertie School’s partner institutions, the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. He told me the international programme at Northwestern draws students from all departments across the university and trains them for work in many fields – much like Hertie School programmes equip graduates with practical skills applicable to jobs in business, government and civil society. Among the students at the info session, one had also studied abroad at the Humboldt University in Berlin and at Sciences Po in Paris. Students had a lot of questions about our partner schools, dual-degree programmes with Sciences Po and others, and about our Professional Year option.

At Loyola, I was amazed to learn from Professor Tracy Pintchman, Director of the Global and International Studies Program, that more than 300 students were pursuing a degree in international studies – a clear indication that topics in global affairs are in significant demand among Loyola students.

I also spoke with Meg Sieberg, director of the Fried Public Policy Program at the University of Chicago’s Career Advancement Center. U of C is a socially aware campus, she said, and the current US political climate has motivated many students to become actively engaged in domestic politics and international affairs.

At the Chicago coffee chat, a student admitted to the Hertie School for fall 2019 turned up with oodles of questions about our student body, our community, our partners, the Global Public Policy Network and what it’s like to be an expat in Berlin. We talked about digital governance, the EU, sustainability and security, about the teaching and research professors like Daniela Stockmann (who, by the way, did her PhD at Michigan), Mark Dawson, Lion Hirth and Wolfgang Ischinger are doing in these areas and how our new Centres of Competence will focus on these fields.

There was certainly much more to talk about than just the weather, although people still seemed traumatized by the “polar vortex” that hit the region with Antarctic-like conditions for several weeks this winter. Everyone seemed relieved at the emergence of sun and spring blossoms across their beautiful campuses.

It’s been a great trip and I’ve met so many interesting people, and hope I’ll see some of those faces again at the Hertie School in the future!

With #hertielove,