By Travis Gulbrandson
This week USD’s Beacom School of Business marked the 10th anniversary of one of its most unique relationships.
For all that time there has been an exchange program between Beacom and Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences of Wolfsburg, Germany.
Representatives from both schools met Thursday in part to observe the milestone.
“We started our international programs 10 years ago, so for us this is something special,” said Prof. Dr. Frieder Meyer-Bulleriek of Ostfalia. “It’s the 10th anniversary, and we are very happy for this relationship.”
Associated professor David Carr of USD agreed, saying, “This kind of opportunity fits into USD’s vision of being a liberal-arts based university in the sense that we want to educate broadly so this kind of experience really allows students to get exposed to a lot of things they wouldn’t get just on-campus.”
The schools each usually exchange two students each year, as well as faculty members. There currently are two Ostfalia students at USD.
“One actually is not in the exchange program,” Meyer-Bulleriek said. “She was in the exchange program last year, but she came back to go for her masters degree, and so she is now a regular student here. Another student is here as an exchange student right now.”
USD instructor Mike Gillispie said the program offers many advantages for the students.
One, the USD students pay tuition to attend classes in Germany at USD rates.
Two, Ostfalia offers a series of classes that are taught in English that the German students also take.
“That way, they’re not just an isolated group of Americans. That’s a very unique experience that a lot of students don’t get when they go overseas,” Gillispie said. “That’s one of the things I think our students find is a really positive thing about this program – both the exchange program and the summer program – it gets our students involved with the German students in their learning.”
“It’s not only German students, as we have other partnerships with other countries like France, South Africa and Singapore that also work quite well,” added Ostfalia’s Prof. Dr. Joachim Hurth. “Usually we have about 10 international students at our school, so they also meet people from all these (other) countries.”
Some students end up staying in Wolfsburg after their classes are over because they have received internships at the headquarters of Volkswagen, which are located there.
“We’ve had about a half-dozen students who have been able to study at Ostfalia, and then stay on and do an internship at Volkswagen, which is kind of a rare opportunity for a school this size,” Gillispie said.
“That’s something we would like to (continue) in the future, as well, so that more and more students come over,” Meyer-Bullerdiek said.
In addition to the exchange students, Ostfalia hosts a program for 15-20 USD students each spring.
“They take part in lectures at our university, they take a factory tour at the VW plant and they visit some other attractions,” Meyer-Bullerdiek said. “They might go to Berlin for one day, because our town is pretty close to Berlin. They can go there within one hour by train. They seem to enjoy it.”
The exchange program started because of contacts Meyer-Bullerdiek made when he studied abroad in Iowa. After he became a professor, he asked someone he had met there if he could start a contact at USD.
The first people from Ostfalia came in 2003.
“We found a lot of similarities,” Meyer-Bullerdiek said. “The university is similar, we offer similar courses, and we found that this would be a great thing for a relationship. In September 2003 we came over and signed the contract of our corporation agreement.”
International relationships between business schools have become more common since that time in Germany, he said.
“Germany is very much dependent on international relationships,” he said. “We produce a lot of things in Germany, but we export a lot of things. That’s why … the German universities put a lot of effort into become more international and offering classes toward English so that students from all over can come over.
“We want more students to come over, and we want that our students can be international as well,” Meyer-Bullerdiek said. “For us, it’s so important, and for our students, as well, that they get an international education.”