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Regular version of the site

Meeting of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Scholarship Holders at the HSE

On May 3rd and 4th 2011, the annual meeting of the Association of Russian Holders of Scholarships from the Chancellor of Germany and an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation seminar. It included a presentation of projects by 2012 scholarship holders.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is one of the oldest German foundations supporting young researchers and scientists. Initially founded in 1860 in order to support German researchers, it continued its work until 1945 and also added support for foreign researchers and students during their stay in Germany. Its modern iteration began in 1953 with new headquarters in Bohn and it currently implements a number of scholarship programmes. Among the holders of scholarships for young researchers have been, for example, Alexander Chepurenko, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Sociology, Alexey Rutkevich, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Philosophy, Sergey Kuznetsov, Head of the HSE School of Applied Mathematics and Information Science, and Leonid Ionin, tenured professor at the HSE.

The most recent of its scholarship programmes has been a special Chancellor of Germany Programme for young foreign leaders, launched in 1991. Initially targeted at US citizens who have come to implement their projects in Germany, it was later expanded to include representatives of two other countries – Russia and China. Programme participants go to Germany for a year, where with a German supervisor they implement their project, meet with representatives of the German business community, governmental bodies and academicians and improve their German language skills. Participants of this programme traditionally meet in spring at the HSE to exchange experiences and impressions and to find out about new projects being carried out by new members. This time, in addition to the Russian participants and the Humboldt Foundation representatives, Katharina Fuchs-Bodde, Steffen Mehlich and Bianca Muller, one of the US scholarship holders, Lora Lee Smith, also participated in the meeting.

These meetings are organized by the Association of Russian Holders of Scholarships from the Chancellor of Germany. ‘We have been meeting at the HSE for ten years now, and this is our natural partner. We are pleased with the organization and service here, and in addition to that, Andrey Yakovlev, today’s HSE Vice Rector, was the first recipient of this scholarship from the Chancellor of Germany’ Tatiana Nikitina, head of the Association of Russian Holders of Scholarships, said, ‘This does not mean that we focus only on Moscow, on the contrary, geographical origin of our scholars is very wide. This year the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation supported projects from Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow, and last year’s researchers came from Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg and Abakan. This year’s programme enrolment can be called a particularly notable one: it the number of Russian holders of scholarships from the Chancellor of Germany has reached one hundred people’.

‘Generally the programme has been developing very well’, confirmed Steffen Mehlich, Head of Department Sponsorship and Network at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, ‘The whole sponsorship policy of the Foundation, all our philosophy is to invite the best minds in different disciplines to Germany – talented people who want to develop their ideas. In Russia it is, probably, the hardest to choose participants: for the 10 available scholarships there are more applications than in the USA or China. This year we received about eighty applications’.

What topics and areas of research are most interesting for the foundation’s scholarship holders? ‘Over recent years I have seen a growing interest in mass media, and there is a similar trend among the US applicants’, Steffen Mehlich stated, ‘There are many projects on different problems of the energy industry, including solar and wind power. Germany is one of the leaders in this field, and the state finances many projects in this sphere. The third trend which I would mention is concerning issues of private law. Almost each group of scholars includes some lawyers studying various aspects of family, labour or migration law. A large number of applications come from people working in business bodies and involved in finance, logistics and transportation’.

One of the most important activities of the foundation’s is establishing intercultural cooperation. As Steffen Mehlich said, it was not easy to bring it into effect after the Russians and the Chinese were included in the programme. ‘We started by inviting US researchers’, he reminded, ‘and the group of Americans which came to us was in fact a group of individualists: they were all different. But as soon as the first Russians joined us, a sharp country-specific division occurred. We thought: “It’s not a big deal, they are young leaders, they shall find a solution”. In the end it did happen, but not without our help. We established a dialogue during the introductory seminars and introduced a series of cultural evenings where each group gives a presentation about its country, including its cultural, political and social life. This helped to solve the problem, and today we have a trilateral group of scholars with its dynamics’.

There are over one hundred scholars from the USA, Russia and China’, Steffen Mehlich continued, ‘We had an idea to create a platform where the programme graduates from all the three countries could meet. We shall organize their general meetings every year starting from 2013, by turns in the US, Russia and China. We shall start with the USA, and in 2014 this conference will be hosted by Russia. We would like our graduates to continue to feel that they are part of the Humboldt family. But what is even more important is the exchange of experience, and not only that which they received during their year in Germany, but the further professional experience of out graduates. Another idea is to create opportunities for them to organize new joint projects. Our programme of graduate support is indefinite, and we are always ready to invite them back to Germany at any point during their career’.

Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service

Photos by Nikita Benzoruk

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