“Anyone who has been on campus, and who has experienced this very special atmosphere, quickly gets very excited and often comes back again,” says Dr. Freia Hardt. At the International Summer Camp, which Jacobs University is holding for the first time this year together with the VDI (Association of German Engineers), 100 students from Germany and around the world will experience the campus of the international university in Bremen during the last week of July. Freia Hardt is one of the organizers of the meeting, which is unique in all of Germany, a cooperation between “VDI-ZUKUNFTSPILOTEN“ and Jacobs University – her statement about excitement also applies to her.
15 years ago, the political scientist came to the campus for the first time – and stayed. Back then, in 2001, the university in the north of Bremen was just being founded. “That was an exciting time,” she says. There were still not any students or professors on the premises of the former barracks; soldiers were still walking around. Her first job was to assist Professor Max Kaase, the founding Dean of Social Sciences, by going through tons of application documents from professors. Today, as the Head of Academic Management and Undergraduate Education, the 45-year-old is responsible for 20 employees.
Helping to establish a new model in the German educational landscape, one based on internationality and interculturality, one that bids farewell to the traditional compartmentalized orientation and is instead built upon modern, transdisciplinary, and integrated degree programs – “I found this idea so grand, deserving of support, and future-oriented,” she says.
To this day, these fundamental principles have not changed at all; they are also reflected in the program design of the International Summer Camp with VDI, the largest technical-scientific association in Europe, with about 155,000 members. High-school-level students from Germany, the USA, China, and India will come together with other like-minded students for one week to conquer the world of science. They will discuss topics from the MINT disciplines (mathematics, information science, natural science, and technology), along with questions from the social sciences, humanities, and environmental sciences – in total, eight workshops are being offered.
The question facing these young people is the following: “Can’t we do things better?” In eight workshops, they will work together in small international groups led by professors at Jacobs University to develop ideas and maybe demonstrate at the end of the week that there is indeed a better way. At the same time, the participants in Bremen will also enjoy a leisure program, including visits to the Lürssen shipyard or the Bremen drop tower. “It will be a great experience,” Freia Hardt is certain.
She hopes to see as many of the participants as possible again later on – as students at Jacobs University. After all, her job as Head of Academic Management and Undergraduate Education also includes finding suitable students for the private university: the application process, the admission process, courses of study, the testing organization, and the graduation ceremony – in other words, the entire student life cycle. In addition, she provides support to the faculties, including organization of secretarial support for the professors, their work group budgets, and procedures for appointment to various positions. The goal is a smoothly functioning administrative area.
What does she like about her work? Freia Hardt does not have to think long; the answer comes quickly: the people. “The students, the professors, and the employees continue to be excited about our intercultural offerings as well. They are open, interested in people from other countries, want to contribute to a better understanding, and want to help solve problems. This spirit of wanting to make the world a little better is always palpable here, and that is something special.”