The furniture had yet to arrive, and stacks of papers barricaded the window ledges, but as of Jan. 10 the Johns Hopkins University European Office in Berlin was officially open for business. Viewed as Hopkins' gateway to the Old World, the new office is intended to promote and extend the university's presence and visibility in Europe and to seek out new opportunities there for all university divisions. The decision to establish this office--thought to be the first of its type established by an American university--was approved by university President William R. Brody in May 1999.
Stephen M. McClain, director of the European Office and vice provost of the university, said in a telephone interview last week that he already has embarked on an initial outreach effort as outlined in the 18-page action plan he presented to university administration before his departure. The document states the general goals of the new office and its proposed first-year activities, which are to assess the feasibility of future Hopkins programs and activities in Europe, identify potential funding sources for these efforts, and develop contacts with individual alumni, alumni groups, government agencies, corporations, foundations and universities based in Europe. McClain said he already has met with local officials, including the presidents of various Berlin universities, and will soon see the mayor of Berlin and the American ambassador to Germany.
McClain said he views his role in Berlin as both a Hopkins ambassador and a facilitator to "lay the groundwork" for the expansion and creation of university programs. The university currently has many programs and academic exchanges operating in Europe, including two in Italy--the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies' Bologna Center and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Charles S. Singleton Center for Italian Studies at the Villa Spelman, in Florence.
"One aspect of this office is not to create new or unique things but to build upon what we already have and focus on our strengths. For instance, the university has been very successful with its consortium undergraduate program at the Free University Berlin, so we might explore if we could duplicate that program somewhere else in Europe, perhaps somewhere else here in Germany," McClain said. "Part of my charge is to see what ideas resonate within the European community."
The two-room European Office is located in a relatively new two-story building in the city's historic center, formerly East Berlin, which is roughly a 12-minute walk to the Brandenberg Gate. McClain described the area in which the office is located as a current "in spot" in Berlin, replete with renovation projects and new shops and restaurants.
The site for the European Office was chosen because of Germany's central location in Europe, its role as a European power and the existing ties the university has with Berlin's three major universities, the Free University Berlin, the Technical University Berlin and the Humboldt-University.
Hopkins shares the Berlin office building with organizations such as the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Fulbright Commission. McClain cites the German Marshall Fund, whose mission is to promote collaboration and stimulate ex-changes between Americans and Europeans, as a good example of the type of organization he will make contact with the first year.
The action plan roughly divides the year of McClain and the office's executive assistant, Christina Gehlsen, into four periods.
The month of January, the first period, was intended to get the office up and running, consolidate the Berlin base and schedule arrangements for the next period.
The general focus of the second period, between February and April, will be to establish and extend a series of initial contacts with universities, corporations, foundations, government agencies and alumni elsewhere in Germany and Europe. The substance of these meetings will be to provide information about the European Office and its activities, and to identify possible areas of interests and needs.
"When I meet with people active in the alumni organization, for example, I will basically ask, "What can I do to help you here?" McClain said.
McClain also will spend two days in February at the Bologna Center to see how the European Office can assist in a wide variety of areas.
May to August will entail a continuation of previous efforts and travel to other European countries to make additional contacts.
The fourth period will consist of continuing to expand the range and types of contacts and to identify a number of specific projects and proposals for university entities to either implement or pursue further. McClain emphasized that each division or unit--not the European Office--will be responsible for the actual implementation of a program. An example of one such possibility is a European version of a part-time graduate-level program, such as that offered by the Montgomery County Center.
"We hope to identify what kinds of programs would fit here, what is the market in Europe," McClain said. "That kind of approach, the part-time approach, is something that is not very developed here right now. So it might take longer to get a program like that off the ground because that is an unusual approach to education that European countries really haven't really got into yet. What we will do, however, is sit down with those in the corporate sector and see what their needs are and how are they meeting those needs."
Paula Burger, vice provost of academic affairs and international programs, said the European Office is part of a larger university-wide effort to enhance the visibility of Hopkins' international activities and to improve communication both externally and internally in regard to international efforts. To that end, Burger said that Hopkins faculty, administration and alumni who are traveling on university business to any part of Europe are encouraged to let the European Office know of their plans.
Stephen McClain's e-mail address in Berlin is firstname.lastname@example.org.