Faculty, students travel to Heidelberg, Germany for exchange program

Hallie Lauer | Staff Writer

Many people know Germany for its famous philosophers, like Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx. What many Duquesne students might not know, however, is that they have the opportunity to spend a semester studying philosophy in Heidelberg, Germany, through the Duquesne-Heidelberg exchange program.

The program, which began in 2013, is open to all students, graduate and undergraduate, of any major. Up to three three students can be sent to study at Heidelberg University per semester, and spots are still open for students who want to participate this year.

Jennifer Bates, a Duquesne philosophy professor and founder of the Duquesne-Heidelberg exchange program, studied philosophy in Heidelberg 20 years earlier and saw immense benefits in bringing the exchange program to Duquesne.

“It was a no-brainer for me to think of an exchange between their philosophy department and ours, particularly at the graduate level, and it was an easy addition to envision faculty also going on exchange, as well as sabbatical research stays and [spring break] courses,” Bates said.

Lanei Rodemeyer, a Duquesne philosophy professor, was the first Duquesne faculty member to teach and spend some time on sabbatical research at the Heidelberg campus.

“There were no other faculty who have gone there yet [to teach],” Rodemeyer said. “Two [faculty members] came here and I went there.”

Rodemeyer first taught at the Heidelberg campus in the winter and spring semesters of 2014 and 2015, and then again during the summer of 2015. Unlike the fall and spring semesters that Duquesne operates on, the Heidelberg campus follows a winter and summer semester schedule.

Heidelberg University’s winter semester starts in mid-October and runs until February, while the summer semester starts in mid-April and goes through the end of July according to Rodemeyer.  

“The difference with the system over there is anyone can take any course,” Rodemeyer said. “So I had very much beginners and very advanced students, students who are probably going to go on and get their Ph.D in philosophy. That was a big challenge trying to make it accessible to everyone.”

Despite the challenges of the program being in its infancy, the program did have its benefits in the classrooms in Heidelberg and here at Duquesne.

“I did bring stuff back here that I learned that I will be sharing with my students as well. So it benefitted the students that never went to Heidelberg because I went to Heidelberg,” Rodemeyer said.

The staff that worked to make this program possible believed in it so much that in the spring of 2015, they launched a spring break trip to Heidelberg. While it was not offered for spring of 2016, it will return for the spring of 2018. These trips are designed by different instructors, so the course schedule changes. The spring trips are recommend more for undergraduate students in any major who are looking just to get the experience of studying in Heidelberg.

“We’re hoping to keep the exchange going. I was glad that it was extended,” Rodemeyer said. The benefits to students are obvious, and I could give you a long lecture about how great it is.”

When Duquesne started the exchange, five students have gone there to take courses on German philosopher Edmund Husserl and his ideas and courses on phenomenology. The faculty is hopeful to see their hard work grow into an even bigger course, reaching out to even more students.

“I look forward to seeing new Heidelberg students in our classes and our own students going there each semester,” Bates said.