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Foreign students from the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld on excursion in Berlin (December 2014)

From 3 - 5 December 2014 the students of the Study Semester “Principles of Sustainable Business” visited Berlin with their professor Christian Kammlott. Experts discussed topics from the lectures in various locations around Berlin.

The visit of the German capital itself was a highlight for the foreign students and therefore, the first day started with a two-hour tour through the western and eastern city centre of Berlin. Highlights on this informative and diverse tour were among other things the government district with the Reichstag building and the Chancellor’s Office, the embassy quarter, the Potsdamer Square, Checkpoint Charlie and the grand boulevard “Unter den Linden”. The students were particularly impressed by the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.

Our first speaker was at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWMI) where we met Christina Mertsch who presented the High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH. This fund is a successful concept where the state helps to finance young and innovative companies for whom it would otherwise be hard or impossible to find adequate financing.  Particularly interesting were the real-world examples of successfully implemented ideas; almost 400 companies, accompanied by the High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH, mastered the way from the inception of an idea to a real company. The problems and challenges that can arise as well as how they can be solved in Germany were intensely discussed with Mrs. Mertsch. This was also a topic in one of the lectures in the program. In this lecture they intensively worked on the topics of innovation management and entrepreneurship.

The next appointment was at the forum Ecological and Social Market Economy (FÖS) which is a non-profit association that lobbies for the development of an ecological financial reform and the implementation of further steps, especially in the areas of subsidy reductions and emissions trading. Together with Mr. Amani Joas it was discussed how sustainable politics - appropriate instruments and incentives - have to be organised in order to effectively contribute to climate protection, the conservation of resources, the reduction of exploitation of nature and the protection of the health of citizens.

The second day of our excursion started at the government district: Dr. Thomas Gebhart, a member of the German parliament, welcomed us at the Paul-Löbe House. Dr. Gebhart is a member of the committee for the environment, nature conversation and nuclear safety of the German Bundestag. With him we had a direct perspective to discuss exciting questions on how things stand regarding the energy transition. Dr. Gebhart reported on the preparations for the UN climate conference in Lima and the from his point of view; most interesting questions regarding a global energy transition. This was of course the perfect occasion for a vivid discussion with the participants of the Study Semester who come from the USA, China, India, South Korea, France and Germany and therefore have controversial opinions on this topic. In the end, the students were impressed by the “tangibility” of German parliamentarians and the chance to discuss these topics in such a straightforward way.

In the evening the last highlight took place: the visit of the German Bundestag. During the 60-minute guided tour the history and architecture of the Reichstag building as well as the tasks, the working methods and the composition of the parliament were explained. How are the seats of the Bundestag currently distributed to the different parties? Where does which party sit? How does a voting work? Interesting to know was also that the Reichstag building and the neighbouring buildings use energy-saving and environment-friendly technologies. Particularly fascinating was the dome of the Reichstag building: with the help of big mirrors the funnel-shaped building that leads to the plenary hall guides glare-free light to the hall so that only a minimal amount energy is used for artificial lighting. Furthermore, the funnel transports the exhaust air from the plenum through the opening in the dome into the open air. All of the participants of the excursion were impressed to see that the dome of the building is indeed open on the top. The fresh air that enters is navigated beneath the plenary hall in an energy-saving manner and is then led to the hall with the appropriate temperature and moist.

The excursion to Berlin was great. The practical lectures about the topics that are also discussed during the lectures present an ideal link between science and practice. We would like to thank the “Freunden der Hochschule” who supported this excursion financially.


Study Semester and students from the study program „Renewable Energies“ visit the PYREG GmbH (November 2014)

On 14 November 2014, the international students from the Study Semester “Principles of Sustainable Business” as well as the students from the interdisciplinary Bachelor study program “Renewable Energies” visited the PYREG GmbH in Dörth in the Hunsrück region. The excursion was led by Prof. Dr. Christian Kammlott and took place within the courses “Business Model Development” and “Fundamentals of Entrepreneurial Management”.

PYREG is a textbook example for an early-stage financing of a company. The idea for this business model already emerged during the earlier work of the managing partner Helmut Gerber as a scientific worker at the University of Applied Sciences Bingen. The first steps of the business were funded by “Business Angels”; the idea of a business angel is a private investor who specializes in helping companies in the early stages. They did not only bring financial support but also a wider range of networking making it possible for the company to receive more investments and assistance.  The subsequent public equity financing of the Investment and Structure Bank Rhineland Palatinate had among other things the goal to create a basis for a stable and sustainable company growth. In the meantime, one of the most prominent institutional investors of Germany joined the company in order to quickly expand the company with adequate financial resources.

With this practical example, the students were able to see how a good business idea can lead to a dynamic company within a couple of years if you bring along the necessary passion, courage and determination as well as the appropriate investors. Helmut Gerber explains that not only the will to succeed but also fun and joy for what you are doing is necessary. Thorsten Bechtel from the Investment and Structure Bank Rhineland Palatinate was also there to answer questions from the perspective of an investor.

The PYREG GmbH is one of the top GreenTech companies in Rhineland Palatinate. Since 2010 they produce compact carbonisation plants which are able to dispose and sustainably use wet biomass like sludge, green cuttings and food residues with its repeatedly awarded techniques.

All participants were impressed by the companies’ business model. The flourishing market of the company indicates a strong growth in the future which induces of course great need for young junior executives who have interdisciplinary competences. On this excursion first contacts were established between the company and the students.

We would like to thank Mr. Gerber and Mr. Bechtel as well as the employees of the PYREG GmbH for a successful excursion with exciting ideas for our future scientists and company founders from the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld.


100th Study Semester participant (October 2014)

Getting to know other countries, improving your English, pushing the boundaries of a university education and making new friends - this is what the young guest students at the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld are aiming for. This winter semester the Study Semester welcomed its 100th student.

„The best certificate for our Study Semester is the high number of participants. It has been widely accepted and can now also be offered in the winter semester”, says Dr. Christian Kammlott, professor for general business management studies. “The first inquiries for a full year program approached us already some years ago”, explains Julia Mertens who coordinates this study program. Since the program has been established in 2010, students from 18 different countries have participated.

“The 100th participant this winter semester motivates us to develop a new study program in the area of sustainability”, says Kammlott. The goal is to create an English Bachelor study program - it would be the first of its kind in Rhineland Palatinate. The Study Semester could be an important impulse generator for a further development of the university location Birkenfeld as e.g. internationalisation strategies are the focus in the current draft of the university development plan.

The Environmental Campus Birkenfeld offers optimal conditions for holistic studies with its concept of “living, learning, working”. This is also how it is seen by students from all over the world. Ilaria from Italy is thrilled. Because the courses are taught in English she was able to improve her English skills a lot. Having contact with fellow German students has enabled her to also learn a little bit of German. “I never would have thought that I will get to know so many different people from different countries.” Aurélie from France is fascinated by learning how to find her way in other cultures. And Daniel from Brazil did not dare to hope that his stay would be so educational and exciting. When he heard about the new program in the current winter semester he decided to apply again.

Through the Study Semester and the alumni activities, new opportunities opened up for these young people. Furthermore, the program leads to multiplier effects for the university location. Also the regional economy in this comparably structurally weak area can profit. It is not unusual that guest students decide to stay and become professionals who want to stay in Germany in the long-term. There are some examples: Maria from Colombia worked in a start-up company in Berlin for one year after she finished the Study Semester and is now doing a Master degree at the University for Engineering and Economics in Berlin. Paulo from Brazil has moved from Birkenfeld to Karlsruhe in order to work at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology.


Second award for the Environmental Campus (November 2012)

For the second year in a row the Environmental Campus was awarded with the renowned award “Education for a sustainable development” for its Study Semester “Principles of Sustainable Business”. This award honours projects that impart sustainable thinking and acting.

“We are completely convinced of the sustainability and the future ability of our Study Semester”, says Dr. Christian Kammlot, Professor for business management, as one of the initiators of the exchange semester programme at the Environmental Campus. “It offers the opportunity to exchange ideas with people from all over the world and to develop models for tomorrow. This is why we have applied a second time for this award, this time for 2013/2014.”

“The Study Semester of the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld shows impressively how a future-oriented education can look like”, says Professor Dr. Gerhard de Haan, chairman of the national committee and the jury of the UN Decade in Germany. With the Decade “Education for a sustainable development” from 2005 until 2014, the states of the United Nations have committed themselves to establish this kind of learning into their educational system.

Conditions for the participation in the competition of the UNESCO-Commission are compromised of at least two of the three sustainability dimensions (economic, social and environmental) “In our Study Semester we work in all three directions”, says Kammlott. “We give students the knowhow for a sustainable development of the future. In a multicultural team they learn to recognize innovative ideas, to understand their legal and economic backgrounds, to model and to finally implement them.”

The Study Semester “Principles of Sustainable Business” has been active for 5 years. It consists of six modules: on one hand, the students spend time on the energy forms of the future; on the other hand they deal with synergies of ecological and economical systems and learn what makes a good entrepreneur. Further components of the English-speaking programme are the analysis of environmental systems, legal and economical frameworks for sustainable management as well as the German economic culture, history and society. Despite the enormous number of applications, only 20 students can participate in this international educational project each semester. “This is the only way how we can ensure a challenging programme and show our guests a comprehensive picture of Germany”, says Kammlott.