Strengthening the network

Gabriele von Fircks just recently took over the DAAD’s Development Related Post-Graduate Courses programme.  A historian and geographer, von Fircks had previously served as director of the DAAD Regional Office in Nairobi, after which she was responsible at DAAD for the Iberian Peninsula, France, Benelux region.

Gabriele von Fircks is the new head of the Development-Related Postgraduate Courses Department  Photo: Michael Meinhard

Gabriele von Fircks is the new head of the Development-Related Postgraduate Courses Department
Photo: Michael Meinhard

What are your main focus areas for the future?
Networking is at the top of my agenda. It is the core goal of the DAAD programme and creates the basis for a lasting impact by enriching the experience of scholarship holders and alumni in their careers, and ensuring more intensive and effective development cooperation in general.

What about Millennium Express?
Millennium Express is a platform that continues to generate new networking ideas. The scholarship holders contribute a tremendous amount of creativity and enthusiasm, as with the many interesting workshops that they themselves organise. One example is the event this coming February hosted by students in the Environmental Governance Master’s programme at the University of Freiburg. The workshop will be exploring the true costs of food production – in terms of resources, manpower and health. Other events are currently being planned by students in the Horticulture programme at the Universität Hannover, as well as students in the Renewable Energy degree programme at the University of Oldenburg. We are always open to new ideas and initiatives.

What other initiatives can we expect?
I also expect input and new ideas from the network coordinator, who began work this past November. And we will certainly organize a network meeting for April. This is an opportunity for the student representatives from the various degree programmes to get together – and it has proven very enriching and motivating in the past. These meetings continue to focus on ways to strengthen intercultural competencies and ensure a successful return to the home countries and the home-country job markets.

Which areas need additional support?
Alumni relations is an area of particular importance to me. During my time as director of the DAAD Regional Office in Nairobi, I experienced first-hand how important it is for the alumni to stay connected after completing their degree programmes, and how lasting and fruitful these relationships can be.

One issue to consider is how alumni outside the academic/research community can stay better connected. While contact tends to remain close in the academic environment, alumni working in health management, the public sector, private sector, or environmental protection often end up working alone without access to a network. A large portion of our scholarship holders in the post-graduate courses go on to careers outside academia and research. These professionals are particularly interested in staying in touch with other alumni and their German host university – and are often looking for ways to do this.  We will continue to work on this.