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Studienforum Berlin

Faculty Seminar in 2017

Germany, Europe, and the Refugee Crisis

The Challenge to integrate

                Date 2017
  9 - 19 June in Berlin, Germany


Program Design and Highlights

The background: two perspectives

In 2015 and 2016, Europe - and particularly Germany - experienced a dramatic increase of migrants, both asylum refugees and other immigrants. A report by the Deutsche Welle news organization recently summarized the situation:

"A year has passed since Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees and Chancellor Angela Merkel uttered her famous mantra - "Wir schaffen das," or, "We can do this."

Her critics at home have grown louder over the past year with proof that migrants have overburdened the system, right-wing violence has worsened and Islamist terrorism has finally arrived.

But how has the refugee crisis impacted Germany's international reputation as a steadfast ally, and economic powerhouse and a country with a troubled history?

Europe watched the refugee crisis slowly heat up over several years as unrest and dire poverty in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa drove people to desperate measures in search of safe haven. Summer 2015 was the boiling point.

Regular reports of migrant deaths at sea and on land combined with Hungary's violations of refugee rights prompted Germany, in coordination with Austria, to suspend Dublin regulations of Syrian refugees last August. The move freed Syrians from the asylum process in their EU country of entry; it was also viewed as a welcome sign to refugees everywhere."

Peter Wittig, the German Ambassador to the United States, articulated the impact of Germany's decision, from a diplomat's point of view, to accept a considerable number of immigrants:

"It was clear from the outset that Germany had to assume responsibility in the crisis, and so we did.

The refugee crisis is highly complex and there is no single lever we can pull, no magic wand we can wave in order to solve it. Instead, we have to work continously on many different levels. There are the root causes, such as the civil war in Syria or the often desperate situation in some African countries; there are joint European efforts to address the crisis; and there is the situation on the ground in Germany itself. Overall, I think, the circumstances have much improved since September 2015, when the refugees began arriving in Germany.

Addressing the root causes is probably by far the hardest part of solving the refugee crisis. In Syria, fragile ceasefires might provide opportunities for the Syrian people, although caution is advised. At a donor conference in London this year, the international community raised $11 billion in humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees residing in, among other places, Jordan and Lebanon. Germany pledged $2.5 billion at that conference.

On the European level, solidarity among the member states is still not as strong as we would like it to be, but Germany will continue to press for more cooperation within the EU. A central part of the EU effort has been the refugee agreement with Turkey, which has significantly brought down the numbers of refugees arriving in Europe. The EU has now particularly focussed on the situation in Africa. It has established a close cooperation on migration issues with Niger, a country through which 90 percent of the refugees boarding boats in Libya pass. The European border protection agency, Frontex, has been completely reformed over the last year and can now help protect the EU's external borders much more effectively.

Germany took in 1.1 million refugees in 2015. This has been a great challenge, but Germany has lived up to it and the situation has improved on any levels compared with one year ago:

Asylum procedures have been expedited. This August, Germany adjudicated the applications of 57,000 people, more than three times the number as in August 2015. Hundreds of additional employees were hired to process applications more swiftly.

Contrary to what some populists claim, the security situation in Germany remains stable as well. Crimes committed by migrants dropped by more than 36 percent between January and June of 2016. And many of the crimes were more of the petty sort, such as attempting to ride a train or bus without a ticket. The crime rate is especially low among refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the countries from which most new refugees in Germany come.

The main challenge, of course, remains integration - this is why Germany is now providing courses for refugees to help them integrate into society, learn the German language, and find employment. At the same time, refusal to join integration courses will lead to cuts in benefits for refugees.

Overall, we have achieved a lot in the last 12 months - internationally, on a European level, and in Germany itself. But the refugee crisis is far from over and still needs enormous efforts. Germany will continue to stand by its commitment and do its share, internationally, in Europe, and at home, because it is our humanitarian obligation to do so."

The Faculty Development Seminar's focus

The challenges outlined by Ambassador Wittig and DW News are certain to remain, and the will require huge efforts by Germany and on the European level to find adequate solutions, not just in the short run but even for decades to come. Only a few of the quite critical hurdles to overcome will certainly be:
  • To accommodate the refugees fairly and sufficiently;
  • to maintain a stable political and economic system;
  • to keep the extreme right and the populists under control;
  • to providea decent education to all refugees;
  • to conclude agreements with neighbor countries.
At Studienforum Berlin,
  • the 2017 Summer Faculty Seminar will consider the multiple consequences for Germany and Europe created by this immigrant influx that has already developed.
  • The Seminar will provide participants with a balanced assessment of Germany's approach, conflicting interpretations of its "success" and the partisan views from across the national and international political spectrums.
  • Berlin, the nations's capital, provides arguably the best venue, with its rich multi-cultural environment to set the stage for U.S. faculty who intend to acquire maximum exposure to the political, social, and academic debates on this controversial issue.

Lectures, site visits and cultural events

Scheduled lectures, site visits, study tours, and cultural events of the seminar will include the following opportunities:

-    Visits to historic sites in Berlin on immigration, escape and displacement
-    Exposure to the political implications of integrating migrants, as seen from business and labor union perspectives
-    Introduction to cultural initiatives designed to make Berlin and Germany a home for new migrants and refugees
-    Consideration of the "Welcome" environment in Berlin on critical issues
-    Critical issues include health, women's rights and their development, the education of adults and children
-    Expectations of and for refugees in Berlin, religious dialogue and the acceptance of democracy
-    Ongoing national research on migration to Germany and Europe
-    The stability of the European Union, as it faces the the refugee challenge as well as populist movements

To meet their goals, participants in the 11-days seminar will
-    have access to several major sites in Berlin that document a long history of migration to Germany
-    hear and learn from experts who will discuss and explore current and future political and cultural developments
-    meet with politicians, leaders of economic, social, and cultural, institutions, labor unions, and academic scholars
-    learn about up-to-date and authentic practical initiatives on integration measures for immigrants
-    meet with migrants to obtain one-to-one perspectives on the pros and cons of the so-called "Welcome Culture"
-    analyze the implications for Germany in the context of the European Union
-    develop or advance their own research projects
-    build a collegial network for common teaching and research interests with faculty from the U.S. 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, especially in connection with the Middle East

enlarge the pool of faculty and administrators conversant in international issues who will develop European curricula on these issues and perspectives and more effectively engage in independent research and publication.

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

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


The 2017 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 encouraged to apply. Consequently, participants are not expected to be experts on the seminar topics or the region. Knowledge of the German language is not required.

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, Mississippi State 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 Dr. Hanns-D. Jacobsen and Dr. William Hopkins. 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.

Seminar Fee

The 2017 seminar fee is EUR 2,385 (single room occupancy).

Applications are processed on a first come, first served basis. The application deadline was 1 April 2017. Applicants cannot be accepted anymore; the Seminar is booked up.

Twenty (20) participants will be accepted. Applicants will be notified of acceptance within one week after receipt of the complete application material.

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.