CSU and German officials sign memorandum of understanding to extend CSU — Baden-Württemberg Program
CSU and German officials sign memorandum of understanding to extend CSU — Baden-Württemberg Program. More photos.

Nearly three dozen German officials from the State of Baden-Württemberg, from high-ranking political leaders to the leading state academic ministers, university presidents and renowned researchers and scientists, journeyed to CSU East Bay to celebrate the achievements of the CSU — Baden-Württemberg Program and witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding to extend the program to more universities and students in the coming five years.  The CSU — Baden-Württemberg Program is Germany’s premiere international educational exchange program.  Since its inception 20 years ago, more than 2,000 students have studied at CSU campuses and German universities, gained German and English language skills, learned about the economy and culture of another nation, and deepened their knowledge of their academic disciplines of study.

While each of the German dignitaries gave rousing and inspiring presentations, all had a common theme summarized in the comments made by Theresia Bauer, the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science, Research and the Arts. “Our future lies in the internationalization of state universities. Global challenges can only be faced with cross-cultural cooperation.  The partnership with the CSU is the cornerstone of our globalization strategy.”

From Minister President Winfried Kretschmann (who is equivalent in authority to the Governor of California) to the campus presidents from the Universities of Tubingen and Freiburg, the dignitaries touted the value of the international exchange and vowed to broaden the partnership to include more students and universities, and to expand opportunities for faculty exchanges.

The highlight of signing ceremony included presentations by current German students studying at CSU East Bay and video-taped interviews from program graduates who are now employed and/or are working on advanced degrees in Germany.

The six international exchange students from CSU East Bay who presented during the ceremony represented a broad spectrum of academic disciplines from molecular biology to international studies and English.   Bianca Walter, an exchange student from the University of Tübingen who is studying molecular biology, noted the difference between American and Germany faculty.  “In Germany, the faculty don’t interact with students.  They lecture.  And, we don’t have homework.  I’ve had to get used to that!” she said drawing chuckles from the audience. “My CSU East Bay faculty are wonderful.  They are available to help and make time to explain the concepts discussed in class.  The experience is very different than what I am accustomed to in my home country.” Franziska Wagner from the University of Heidelberg, who is majoring in English and Philosophy, was intrigued by the CSU’s approach to the curriculum.  “The work we do at East Bay is interdisciplinary.  This approach really helps me to better understand the curriculum.  This is a very different from the way these subjects are taught in Germany.”

Participants were also treated to interviews with program alumni working and studying in Germany.  San Francisco State alum Dylan Gaul-Sanchez, who earned a bachelor’s in political science and is completing a master’s degree in American Studies at the University of Tubingen, said “The quality of the education at the University of Tübingen is world-class. I’m constantly challenged by my professors and being challenged to think independently. I’m presented with a whole different wide range of opinions and points of view.”

The program was equally life changing for Chico State alum Andrew Wold, Ph.D., who credits the international program with his chosen career.  “The exchange program is responsible for the career that I chose in academia. I wouldn’t have gotten into such a prestigious school in Germany had it not been for the exchange program.”  Through the advisement of CSU Program Coordinator Anita Binder, Wold studied a wide range of courses while participating in the CSU — Baden-Württemberg Program.  He made a favorable impression on his instructors, and was invited back to Germany on a scholarship to study neuroscience at the Max Planck Graduate School.  Now a 10-year resident of Germany, Wold recently completed a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary neuroscience.

The memorandum of understanding with the state of Germany will extend through 2020.  The CSU — Baden-Württemberg Program is one of 18 international programs offered by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. Now a 50-plus year institution of the CSU, the International Programs are among the high-impact practices that enable CSU graduates to succeed in a global economy.