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Studienforum Berlin
Financial Details


Faculty Seminar in 2016

The Protestant Reformation -
Resistance and Renewal from 1517 to the Present

Preparing for the 500th Anniversary of Luther's Reformation

        Date 2016
26 June - 6 July 2016

Final Application Deadline

31 Mar 2016

Program Design and Highlights in 2016

In 2017, the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting of his theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, will be celebrated. This step symbolizes, more than any other comparable effort to reform the Christian Church, a new beginning.

In summers of 2016 and 2017, Studienforum Berlin will offer back-to-back seminars for academic faculty and specialists in the field and afford opportunities for intellectual interchange and firsthand contact with historic sites that played a  prominent role in the Reformation’s early critical phase after 1517. Visits to these sites, combined with relevant presentations, will provide the structure on which participants may initiate or continue individual research projects. Participants choose a seminar that fits their schedule.

Specifically, seminar attendance and participation will provide faculty the opportunity to gather materials toward curriculum development and visually document important sites such as Wittenberg, the Wartburg Castle (Luther’s early Bible translation), and Torgau (the meeting with the princes).

Participating faculty will be expected to engage in the presentations and colloquies of the seminar and to formulate their own questions and research focus. These will include but are not limited to the issues of democracy and autocracy, religious and cultural ecumenism, economic inequality, individualism vs. socialism, science and ethics, and global challenges.


Like no other single individual, the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, imprinted the stamp of his thoughts and actions on the Protestant Reformation when he set it in motion by the putative nailing of his “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  It drew in countless other personalities and spawned civilizational revolutions.  It was this step - and all the others as its consequence - that shattered not only the unity of the Christian world irretrievably.  It also left fundamental imprints on political, economic, and philosophical developments that reverberate in today’s societies.

The official countdown to this tectonic shift in Western culture began in Germany already in the year 2000. Comparable to the two-millennia commemoration in 2009 of the Germanic-Roman “Varus” Battle (9 CE), the bicentennial memorial of the “Battle of the Nations” at Leipzig against Napoleon in 1813, the beginning of the First World War (1914), or the 70th remembrance of the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the event known today mostly as “the Reformation” will call forth multi-dimensional discussion and renewed research worldwide. 

Leading up to the 500-year mark of the Reformation 2017, discussion and debate is sure to be expected, both in academic circles and in the broader media.  That this historic event transects virtually every academic discipline, reaching far beyond theology and religion, is now a commonplace.  Moreover, the philosophical, political and economic fallout from this “great schism” will be sure to drive debates ranging from global warming, to mass migrations of peoples, to encounters with Muslim societies and will find Roman Catholic and “reformed” sides struggling together against challenges requiring common action. 

To pay tribute to the event, the years 2016 and 2017 will see numerous commemorations, symposia, artistic productions, and most of the historic places of this “German Reformation” have already been renovated and restored, in expectation of the thousands who will participate.

Activities of the 2016 Summer Seminar will include

Exploration of the major sites where Luther lived and the Reformation started, including
-    Wittenberg
-    Torgau
-    Eisenach and Wartburg
-    Erfurt
-    Frankenhausen

Discussion of Lutherism and Reformation with German scholars and Church representatives

Visits of important historical sites in Berlin and Brandenburg such as
-    Sanssouci Palace of Frederic the Great in Potsdam (early enlightenment)
-    Gethsemane Church in Berlin (Protestant Resistance in East Germany)
-    Martin-Niemöller-Haus (Protestant Resistance in Nazi Germany)
-    Berlin Wall Memorial

The Faculty Seminar 2016 participants will be able to share the discourse on these questions via encounters with scholars of research institutions and universities, as well as pastors and other representatives of the Protestant Church in Germany.

Further, participants may advance their professional research and teaching goals by

developing or advancing research projects

gaining on-site expertise and knowledge of local, regional and national resources in Berlin, Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt as a way to expand exchange possibilities for faculty and/or students, and

building collegial networks with faculty counterparts from the U.S.A. and Germany.

Universities and Colleges that support and fund Seminar participants will:

demonstrate leadership through institutional commitment to internationalizing campus curricula and programs by considering the place of Europe and Germany in global issues,

enlarge the pool of faculty and administrators conversant in international issues who will develop European issues and perspectives into course syllabi and independent research,

support international awareness and interest among undergraduate students through faculty exposure to contemporary experience of Europe and Germany,

broaden on-campus dialogue about diversity issues in a world context.


The 2016 Faculty Development Seminar participants should be faculty and/or administrators at two or four-year institutions of higher education. In order to facilitate an interdisciplinary exploration of seminar themes, individuals from all academic concentrations are encourages to apply. Participants are not expected to be experts on the seminar topics or the region. 

Host Institution

The 11-day Seminar is hosted by Studienforum Berlin, an independent, non-governmental, non-political, non-profit organization. SFB promotes better understanding of the people, society, culture, and institutions of Germany and Europe among national, European and overseas students.

Studienforum Berlin offers highly competitive academically oriented educational semester, language, and internship programs for English speaking students. SFB has hosted programs from, among others, the Universities of Hawaii, Richmond, Rochester, from West Chester University, Virginia Military Institute, George Mason University, UCLA, Nazareth College of Rochester, N.Y., the College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS), Washington, D.C. and the Consortium „New American Colleges and Universities.“ In addition, SFB has been the local host of the Institute of Foreign Relation's Program for U.S. Junior Journalists that is supported by Germany’s Foreign Office. SFB also conducts research on cultural, political and economic developments in Germany and Europe.

Seminar Leadership

The faculty leaders for this seminar are Prof. Dr. Hanns-D. Jacobsen and Prof. Bill Hopkins, Ph.D. Sara Thögersen serves as faculty seminar manager.

Dr. Hanns-D. Jacobsen is a retired Professor of Political Science and Chairman of Studienforum Berlin. He studied and earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the Economics Department of the Freie Universität (FU) Berlin, habilitated in Political Science and got his venia legendi at the Department of Political Science of the FU Berlin. He has been teaching and conducting research in European and International Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. He was a fellow at Harvard University's Center for European Studies, at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was also a Visiting Professor at Stanford University and Beijing University. Most recently he was the Managing Director of a multinational research project of the Freie Universität Berlin on "The Eastward Enlargement of the Eurozone", funded by the European Commission. Dr. Jacobsen has published extensively on international political and economic issues, including the subject of European integration. More. . .

Dr. Bill Hopkins is a retired Professor of German at Nazareth College of Rochester, N.Y. He teaches a range of courses, from language and culture to literature and international business German. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with emphasis on German with History and Art History. His specialty of research is Reformation, Humanism, and Baroque studies. In recent years, Prof. Hopkins' students have entered major area companies in international trade and banking. Several have won one-year Fulbright Teaching Fellowships to Germany, after graduation.

Sara Thoegersen serves as Studienforum Berlin’s Project and Development Director. In this capacity, she builds relationships to new partner institutions in the U.S. and develops programs and seminars pertaining to historical events and other topics of interest. A graduate of Goshen College in Goshen, IN, she first experienced collaboration with Studienforum Berlin from a student’s perspective as a transfer student in Nazareth College’s Fall Residential Program. After finishing her Music degree, she moved back to her hometown Berlin in 2008, working as a freelance and studio musician and with Studienforum Berlin in various capacities since then. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Music Therapy at the University of the Arts, Berlin. Ms. Thögersen has performed Bach’s Lutheran Chorales regularly with the Berlin Bach Choir and will oversee the church music component of the Seminar.

Seminar Content

Scheduled lectures, site visits, study tours, and cultural events of the seminar will consider the following issues:
  • Luther Memorials in in Germany
  • The 1983 Commemorations of Luther's birthday in East and West Germany
  • Peasant's War
  • Reformation and religious music
  • The cultural environment of Luther and his early followers (Cranach, Melanchton, Katharina von Bora)
  • The translation of the Bible
  • The role of Monastery today
  • American chruch in Berlin and its community
  • Protestant resistance against NAZI terror
  • Protestant resistance against communist repression
  • Berlin Wall Memorial
  • Gethsemane Church
  • Sachsenhausen NAZI concentration camp
  • Teaching religious studies in Germany

Seminar Fee

The 2016 seminar fee is EUR 2,085 (single room occupancy).

Applications are processed on a first come, first served basis. The application deadline is 31 March 2016.

Twenty (20) participants will be accepted. Applicants will be notified of acceptance within one week after receipt of the complete application material. Thus, by 6 April 2016 at the latest the participation list will be ready.

Invitation as Commentator

Participants may be invited formally as "commentators" to facilitate their access to funding opportunities from their home institutions.

For further information or questions please email us
or visit us at our Luther-

Please find below a brief background essay about the Luther Decade and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Germany:

The Luther Decade:
On the Trail of Martin Luther

(Reprint from of March 3, 2015)

The year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the "big bang" of the Reformation, Luther's legendary posting of his theses on the church door in Wittenberg. The Luther Decade is an occasion for celebration and reflection.

Wittenberg is a pretty, almost sleepy medium-sized town. It is close to the border between the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, and with less than 50,000 inhabitants one might be inclined to call its a largish small town, which would of course insult the citizens of Wittenberg. After all, the town is not only located on one of Germany's longest rivers, the Elbe, it also has a proud history. And this is tangible everywhere. There is no shortage of testimonies to the Renaissance in Wittenberg.

Luther, the Reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546), is inseparably linked with Wittenberg, which is why one should really refer to the town as Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Which only very few people do, because this long title is simply too awkward. What is more, many people seem to think: why all the fuss about a renegade monk called Luther?

Yet at the moment it looks as if all this is gradually changing. Luther, who has always lived on in the hearts of Protestants, is being brought closer to other inhabitants of the town and its surroundings step by step. Not least because so many tourists, especially from abroad and overseas, come here in search of Martin Luther's trail. After all, the Luther monuments in Saxony-Anhalt have been under UNESCO protection world heritage sites since 1996. Luther tourism is certainly an economic factor and a very welcome one, not only in Wittenberg, but also in Eisleben (Wittenberg's little sister in the Mansfelder Land district, between Halle and the Harz district, where Luther was born and also died), as well as in Eisenach in Thuringia.

It was there, up in the Wartburg, that the person the Roman Church outlawed as "Junker Jörg" lived in hiding for a time and in 1521 and 1522 worked on his German translation of the Bible. This was a momentous cultural act, of that there can be no doubt. For many people, the Book of Books is as topical today as it was then – even in eastern Germany where, during more than 40 years of Communist rule, the citizens had their faith driven out of them. This was successful to a degree, which is something that the Christian churches of both major denominations - Catholic and Protestant - unanimously lament.

So the imminent jubilee of the Reformation is coming just at the right time. For this jubilee, the Evangelical Church in Germany has instituted a special position for a prelate, which has been filled by the theologian Stephan Dorgerloh, whose task is to coordinate and manage events on site. His office is in the Town Hall of Wittenberg - there could scarcely be a more prominent place for it.

The Luther Decade? This refers to the period up to 2017, the year that will mark the 500th anniversary of the "big bang" of the Reformation, Luther's legendary nailing of his theses to the door of Wittenberg's Schlosskirche. In those 95 Theses, Luther denounced the Roman Catholic Church's sale of indulgences - and criticized the conditions that prevailed at the time with pertinent references to the Bible. The posting of the theses took place on October 31, or Reformation Day, which is a public holiday in the mainly Protestant central German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

Holidays are always welcome everywhere, even in more secular times. And if traders then sell a tasty morsel called a Reformation Roll, as they do in Wittenberg, then this is also very welcome. But what does Reformation actually mean? And what does it mean today? These are topics which the Reformation Decade will be devoting attention to – and not just for the tourist industry, which already brings welcome revenue to the citizens of Wittenberg, Eisleben and Eisenach.
Initially, it seemed as if both these issues were non-starters. The global economic crisis put a stop to travel, especially among the many Christians in the United States; and the debate about the current meaning of the Reformation got going only very slowly, at least in the public eye. Yet the consequences of the work of Luther and his friend and ally, the theologian Philipp Melanchthon, can be felt everywhere: first in the development of the German language and German thought, then in the upheavals extending from the Enlightenment to 20th century modernism. Two outstanding testimonies to it are only a few kilometers away from Wittenberg: Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Kingdom and the Bauhaus.

Nevertheless, it was still some time before Luther's protest against medieval restrictions and impositions was seen in the context of emancipation and liberation, and consequently as something very contemporary and timely. And before it was accepted as something that not only went far beyond the framework of a local event, but was also worthy of our greatest attention and should be celebrated and subsidized with state funds. After all, as Stephan Dorgerloh pointedly put it in 2010, this is about more than just a town festival in Wittenberg.

Meanwhile, however, things are really moving: a pilgrim path follows Luther's trail through central Germany; theme years and various events are being organized to structure the decade, up to and including the major celebrations; and in early 2011, the state government in Magdeburg held out the prospect of tens of millions of euros, among other things, for the refurbishment of Wittenberg Castle.

Once again, it was an artist who played a vital role in getting the public discussion off the ground. "Aided and abetted" by Dorgerloh, in summer 2010 Ottmar Hörl set about occupying Wittenberg's Market Square with 800 colorful Luther gnomes - representing the missing larger-than-life father of the Reformation, whose monument otherwise dominates the square and now has to be refurbished.

The public outcry, not only from the circles of conservative theologians, was enormous. However, the enthusiasm was just as passionate. Hörl had not actually toppled the figure of Martin Luther from his plinth and trivialized him, but had merely humanized the Reformer with his army of faithful plastic copies, and in doing so had also recalled those questions which many people, also in Wittenberg, prefer to avoid answering: the question of Luther's anti-Semitism, for example. Yet concealment does not suit the image of the Reformation.

Thanks to Hörl's action, the protected Luther came down from his pedestal, so to speak, to stand at eye level with people. Children found this astonishing, teenagers and tourists thought it was funny, and many believers regarded it as disrespectful. But suddenly a debate had been initiated, a bit of a rumpus raised. Luther's temporary "descent" from his plinth certainly did no damage to the idea, or the commemoration, of the Reformation - nor to the sale of various souvenirs. The state of Saxony-Anhalt is sure to become Luther State, and its capital is called Wittenberg.

By Andreas Montag for Deutschland Magazine

For further information or questions please email us or visit us at our Reformation-