March 12, 2013

Think Transatlantic: Promoting Transatlantic Dialogue

Think Transatlantic: Promoting Transatlantic Dialogue By: Margaret A. Cude

"What brings Europeans and Americans closer together and keeps them close is a common basis for shared values, is a common idea of the individual and his inviolable dignity, is a common understanding of freedom and responsibility." - Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel

Initiated by the German Information Center USA, the center for public diplomacy at the German Embassy in Washington, the Think Transatlantic campaign was designed to stimulate discussion about the historic importance and stability of the German-American partnership and its relevance for the future.
As noted on the German Information Center website, “Aptly entitled ‘Think Transatlantic: The United States & Germany in the 21st Century,’ this campaign sought to promote dialogue among students and to exchange the knowledge of best practices on building upon past transatlantic successes with new initiatives.”[i]
In the fall 2012 semester, “more than 6,000 students at 30 colleges and universities across the United States discussed the current state and possible future roles of the close and vital relationship between the United States and Germany”[ii] as well as Germany within Europe during the "Think Transatlantic Campus Weeks." The list of universities privileged to host this event, with the help of a grant from the German Information Center, included Brown University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Mississippi, University of North Carolina (at Chapel Hill and Greensboro), and Ball State University.
“The event was designed to be a week-long, interdisciplinary event open to the whole campus community,” said Dr. Nicola Schmerbeck, new assistant professor of German who applied for the grant and organized the Ball State campus events. The BSU program was held from November 7-13 and included various presentations from guest speakers, including keynote speaker Dr. Giles Hoyt, Professor Emeritus from IUPUI, a panel discussion with students, as well as poster, essay, and debate competitions.
Dr. Schmerbeck also organized a panel discussion with the University of Bremen in Germany. Students from Ball State University were able to engage in a conversation via teleconference with students at Bremen discussing transatlantic relations. The conversation also touched on the recently concluded election and US politics. “American students were very interested to hear how closely German students follow American politics. Some seemed surprised about the effects that the American leadership can have on other countries like Germany. It was a very productive and informative exchange.”
The winners from the poster, poetry, essay and debate competitions were recognized at a luncheon on the final day of the program. The essay and debate competition winners of the universities that participated in the “Think Transatlantic Campus Week” will attend a nationwide conference and final competition in Washington, DC, in March 2013. This event will be hosted by the German Information Center USA, and the expenses of the competitors are covered.
“Overall, I think the event was a success,” said Dr. Schmerbeck. “Anytime that Modern Languages and Classics can get outside funding, it’s a great thing. However, what is more impressive is that we were able to organize and carry out these 14+ events with only a couple of months to plan them. But the students enjoyed it. Hopefully, if we ever do this event again, we will have more involvement from other departments and the whole university.”

[i] "Think Transatlantic." German Missions in the United States. Federal Republic of Germany, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
[ii] "Think Transatlantic Campus Weeks." German Missions in the United States. Federal Republic of Germany, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

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