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German Department Proposes Joint Concentration with SEAS

By Brittany N. Ellis and C. Ramsey Fahs, Crimson Staff Writers

The Germanic Languages and Literatures Department is in discussion with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences regarding a potential joint-concentration program to be piloted in 2016, according to Department chair John T. Hamilton.

The proposed joint concentration would consist of any SEAS degree plus five higher-level German courses and a “guided reading” course completed in conjunction with a summer engineering or applied sciences fellowship in Germany. A secondary in German requires five half-courses at comparable levels as those currently proposed for the joint concentration.

As of now, the German department has endorsed the joint-program, which awaits review from SEAS before approval. In an emailed statement, Hamilton wrote, “We have the strong encouragement from the administration at SEAS and FAS.”

SEAS representatives declined to comment on the proposal.

Harvard’s newest school, SEAS has recently experienced stratospheric growth in undergraduate enrollment, securing a prime spot in the University’s ongoing capital campaign. Between 2008 and 2015, the number of SEAS concentrators has leaped from 291 to 832. By comparison, less than 10 students at the College currently concentrate in Germanic Languages and Literatures.

Hamilton said he began thinking about the joint concentration program “really concretely” last semester and some faculty at SEAS were similarly excited about the proposal.

“Ever since I started broaching the idea with my colleagues and my associates and friends at SEAS, I’ve had nothing but enthusiasm and encouragement,” Hamilton said.

Computer science professor Hanspeter Pfister, who is from Germany, said he thought the proposed concentration was “a great idea,” though he said he was not involved in the development of the proposal.

New SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle III has pinpointed more “bridge-building” between SEAS and other schools as a goal of his tenure. In a February interview, Doyle said he was “trying to identify means of joint-degree opportunities,” though at the time he said none were ready to be announced.

Hamilton reiterated Doyle’s emphasis on interdisciplinary endeavors.

“We are a university. SEAS is not an autonomous engineering school, it’s part of FAS,” Hamilton wrote. “Creating silos between divisions doesn’t serve anyone.”

The joint-program comes at a time when Germany plays a significant role in the global engineering and energy sectors, according to Hamilton.

“Germany’s at the forefront of these technologies,” Hamilton wrote. “Our engineering students will have the capacity to read up on the latest materials and be very much engaged in the cutting edge of what’s happening in Europe.”

If approved, the program’s summer fellowship would involve a summer engineering internship at a German company or university. Though the German department has provided support for German internships in the past, granting credit for foreign internships is something “completely new” in the department, said Ruth Sondermann. the German Department's Director of Work-Abroad.

“The internship idea is not new, the internships in Germany have been provided now for the last 25 years in all disciplines,” Sondermann said. “And now within the last couple years we’ve seen an interest in going to Germany with an engineering background.”

Though Ashlyn Frahm ’19, a prospective electrical engineering concentrator currently in her second semester of beginning German, had not heard of the proposed program, she said she would be interested in considering the option.

“I would actually love to do the program. I was originally interested in doing a joint Computer Science and Electrical Engineering,” Frahm said. “But German, especially overseas with internships, helps out a lot especially in engineering.”

Frahm said she decided to take German this year partly because of the language's utility in the engineering field. “There are so many engineering firms that want to hire students that have a really well-rounded knowledge of German,” she said.

Education School Professor Howard E. Gardner wrote that the collaboration “makes sense.”

“Germany has been vital in the history of engineering, and is a major player today,” Gardner wrote.

Dean of the Arts and Humanities Diana Sorensen applauded the interdisciplinary proposal and suggested that similar initiatives could be on the horizon.

“Will it happen with many others? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did,” Sorensen said.

—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.

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