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About the Program

Concept and Aims

Experiential Learning as Central Methodology

The Transatlantic Students Symposia allow us to provide graduate students with a multi-dimensional, both theoretical and applied, outlook for their field of study and their future occupation, moving beyond traditional classroom instruction. The symposia are conceived to address a variety of key learning objectives embedded in an experiential learning philosophy.

The symposium started out as a student activity with faculty guidance, which remains the guiding principle. Therein, the symposium follows a methodology that is strongly focused on experiential learning. The classroom seminars are aimed at preparing participating students for the experiences of the symposium week. Students are also encouraged to conduct their own research, partially in a collaborative way, which will then cumulate into the final conference presentations.

The field trip portion specifically provides students with a hands-on perspective to otherwise rather theoretical classroom discussions. Traveling (whether at home or abroad) to key locations relevant to the symposium topic and meeting with practitioners in their respective fields highlight the potential practical applications of knowledge gained through classroom discussions and readings, and may provide critical reevaluations of theoretical insights. By integrating practical components into the symposium week, we are also offering an outlook on future career opportunities and internships (in diplomacy, policy, consulting, cultural work, etc.).

The field trip also allows students to visit and engage with different cultures by meeting with international students and faculty. Such meetings provide all participants with a different and more critical perspective towards their own culture and background.

By taking responsibility for organizing the symposia, program alumni who have been chosen as student organizers translate their previous experiences into guiding a new cohort of students throughout the process. This model of student leadership ties in with the experiential learning methodology of the symposium. Faculty - whose role is the long-term maintenance, financing, and academic preparation of the program - guide the student organizers, but also allow them to find their own solutions to particular problems. Student organizers may also play a role during the classroom phase of the program by leading student discussions and guiding peer review of student research.

Both in the preparatory phase and throughout the symposium week, academic faculty engage in team-teaching and in expanding their own disciplinary boundaries by allowing for an inter- and trans-disciplinary exchange of ideas and methods. Furthermore, opening up an experiential space for the student organizers and the students requires faculty to shift their roles from active teaching to facilitating experiential learning. As a result, this may allow for innovative approaches to both teaching and learning.

Central Objectives of the Program

The program builds on six central components as part of the experiential learning framework:

  1. Internationality

    A central aim of the symposia lies in the internationalizing of the students' experience. This encompasses both the bringing together of students from different American and European universities, and also conducting the field trip portion during the symposium week. As a result, domestic perspectives are confronted with international counter-narratives that provide students with an alternative way of positioning themselves within an increasingly global world.

  2. Interdisciplinarity

    The symposia aim to unite different theoretical and practical approaches from different academic cultures in order to discuss a topic of contemporary relevance. This is achieved by the collaboration of different academic departments in setting up both the preparatory coursework and the field trips. Confronting the students with differing methodologies allows them to put their own respective fields in a specific research context, and to see interconnections, similarities and differences to other, equally valid, academic approaches to issues of cultural and public policy.

  3. Collegiality and Collaborative Learning

    Throughout both the preparatory and the field trip portion of the symposia, students are both encouraged and required to work closely together. The aim is to create a productive group dynamics as a prerequisite for a working cultural exchange, with an added emphasis on the collaborative nature of academic learning.

  4. Diversity

    In recruiting students for the symposia, we have been putting increasing emphasis on diversifying the composition of both the student and faculty group. Our aim therein is both the inclusion of students from traditionally disadvantaged parts of the population, and the decentering of the normative national discourse by the inclusion of minority voices.

  5. Student Scholarship and Research

    The final symposium conference is a student-run forum which allows the students to share their scholarship with their fellow students, faculty and interested guests. The presentations are based on their own research conducted throughout the preparatory seminars.

  6. Student Leadership

    Supporting student leadership has been a cornerstone of the program since its inception. While the long-term and recurrent parts of the organization - such as finances, teaching, and establishing and maintaining contact with academic partner institutions - have been conducted by faculty, students have been playing an active part in the organization of central components of the program.

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Transatlantic Students Symposia