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International News | University of Colorado Denver | April 20, 2014

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Sustainability in Berlin

Sustainability in Berlin

| On 12, Aug 2013

CU Denver and Ecologic Institute Sign Agreement for Semester-long Study Abroad Program

On August 12, an agreement between the University of Colorado Denver and the Ecologic Institute of Berlin formalized the start of a new semester-long program of applied research: Sustainability in Berlin. The MOU (memorandum of understanding) was signed by university representative Provost Roderick Nairn and R. Andreas Kraemer, Founding Director of Ecologic Institute of Berlin.

Kraemer expressed his appreciation for the discussions that had taken place and for the strategic thinking that is embedded into the partnership. “Clearly, there is real institutional interest,” said Kraemer. “My job is now to make sure this program goes very well. It merges scientific theory with practice; this program of applied research will enrich the student experience.” The agreement is structured as an “open framing MOU” to allow for new collaborative activities in the future.

On the first day of the fall 2014 semester, ten CU Denver students will step into their classrooms in the Ecologic Institute, a leading “think-tank” on environmental issues headquartered in Berlin, Germany. They will study and research global challenges and solutions relevant to maintaining and developing sustainable environments. The institute’s interdisciplinary approach enables students in different fields—architecture or economics, for example— to work with others in political science or public affairs. This creates a richer understanding of the many sides of environmental issues such as water, “cap and trade”, or transportation.

Students will also have internship opportunities with organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund. While English and German are the official working languages of the institute, almost 20 foreign languages can be heard throughout the halls, owing to the presence of researchers from around the world who bring unique global perspectives. In 2013, for the third year running, Ecologic Institute was voted into the Global Top Ten Environment Think Tanks in the prestigious Global “Go-To Think Tank Index,” conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

Christoph Stefes, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), will be one of the instructors; he has conducted research at the institute and has spearheaded the program’s creation.  The cross-disciplinary nature of the research, internship, and study opportunities are ideal for students from every CLAS department, and for students in the College of Architecture and Planning and the School of Public Affairs.

Laura Argys, Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), noted how well the program fits into the interdisciplinary direction of CLAS.  “We are impressed with EI’s comparative advantage in research and application,” said Argys. “CU Denver’s program with the Ecologic Institute also provides tremendous research possibilities for faculty.  The program originated in our department of Political Science, but I anticipate interest from many other departments, including Geography and Environmental Sciences and Health and Behavioral Science.”

Architects and planners must increasingly address global issues of sustainability to create healthier, more sustainable, and more meaningful urban environments,” said Mark Gelernter, Dean, College of Architecture and Planning. “We are joining with our colleagues in finding solutions to serve the design and energy needs of today’s rapidly growing cities and communities. The College and Ecologic Institute share an alignment of values.”

R. Andreas Kraemer, Founding Director of Ecologic Institute in Berlin, Germany, since 1995 and Founding Chairman of Ecologic Institute US in Washington DC since 2008.  Kraemer has been a researcher, teacher, and policy advisor on environment and resources, climate and energy, and international relations and global affairs for nearly 30 years. He explained that the Ecologic Institute is almost exclusively funded by research grants from the European Union and from federal governments. Each project team is composed of experts that are addressing the specific and policy question at hand. “Economists need to explain in ways that biologists can understand,” said Kraemer. “This helps policy-makers and administrators understand and implement programs.”

Paul Teske, Dean, School of Public Affairs (SPA), is looking forward to the potential of this program. “SPA is delighted to be part of this relationship with the Ecologic Institute in Berlin.  Several of our faculty, and students, currently do international and/or global work on energy, climate change and sustainability, and this relationship will both expand and deepen their opportunities to learn more and develop new partners.”

The core and first activity of the MOU between the University of Colorado Denver and the Ecologic Institute will focus on study abroad. The University of Colorado Denver Office of Global Education: Study Abroad focuses specifically on customizing short-term and semester-long programs that serve the needs and educational goals of the university’s 13 schools and colleges. Students who study abroad in these programs gain an invaluable global perspective on their chosen field of study. The Berlin program is distinguished by its intentional interdisciplinary research perspective, which provides students with real-world experience surrounding complex global problems.

John Sunnygard, Director, Global Education, observed that the world’s environmental challenges “do not fit into a single discipline or country”, they are global and impact all disciplines.  “Our students are fortunate to have the opportunity to study, research, and work in a highly respected leading-edge institute while making progress toward their CU Denver degree.” He added, “Berlin is an exciting city; it’s the most affordable capitol in Europe.”

Roderick Nairn, Provost, expressed gratitude for Kraemer’s journey to Colorado and his interest in developing the semester-long program. “This will be the first of many exchanges between the University of Colorado Denver and the Ecologic Institute,” said Nairn. He also thanked Carolyn North, Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Affairs, and John Sunnygard, Director of Global Education: Study Abroad, and the three deans for their work.

“Internationalization efforts of the University of Colorado Denver focus specifically on the goals and strengths of individual schools and colleges and academic programs, said Carolyn North, Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Affairs.  “Because many of the world’s most pressing and complex problems are distinctly global and trans-disciplinary, the partnership with the Ecologic Institute provides an unprecedented opportunity to enhance interdisciplinary learning opportunities for our students and to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration among the various schools, colleges and academic programs within the university.  In this respect this is a truly contemporary global partnership.”

For more information, visit online at: ucdenver.edu/sustainabilityinberlin.