Bridging continents and connecting people

Allison Berg, communications officer with the York University Foundation, sent this story to YFile.

The motto of the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES) – Bridging Continents-Connecting People – came to life on Nov. 3, when members of the German-Canadian Business and Professional Association (GCBPA) visited with members of CCGES for an evening of friend raising.

The open house, held in the Gallery of the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts, was made possible through the support of Dale & Lessmann LLP, Miele Limited and the commercial section of the Consulate General of Austria. Guests who attended the event included representatives from the German and Canadian business communities, European dignitaries, academic visitors from German partner universities and York faculty, staff and students.

“Bringing the academic institutions here in Toronto into our association has always been one of our great objectives,” said Karsten Mertens, president of the GCBPA and chair of the event. As part of their networking platform, the association provides opportunities for businesses and other organizations with German and European interests to showcase their work, discuss items of mutual focus and develop ideas for future cooperation.

Right: From left, Mark Webber, co-director, CCGES, Karsten Mertens, president of the German-Canadian Business and Professional Association and chair of the event, and Kurt Hübner, acting co-director, CCGES

“We are the Canada-wide resource for thinking, learning and educating the public about Germany,” explained Mark Webber, co-director of the CCGES. “We use academic mobility as a way to foster understanding and break down the walls of stereotyping.” Through teaching, research and outreach activities, the centre’s mandate is to foster an educated social awareness among Canadians about Germany and Europe that will contribute to international understanding and a celebration of Canada’s multicultural spirit.

In his formal greetings, Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation, referred to the CCGES as a “jewel in the crown” of York’s research agenda. “The centre brings together interdisciplinary research areas at York and places a strong emphasis on international collaboration and new understandings about cultural identity, citizenship and the new economy. This is important to the world at large, now more than at any time in history,” he said.

Students who are enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program in such varied fields as international business, economics, education, environmental studies, film and video, history, humanities, law, linguistics, political science, sociology, and social and political thought can all hone their expertise in German and European studies through the graduate diploma program offered by the CCGES.

Left: From left, Stan Shapson, vice-president, research & innovation, and Eric Bremermann, partner with Dale & Lessmann LLP, one of the evening’s sponsors

“Through my involvement in the centre, I’ve had the opportunity to meet other students and established scholars who are studying in a multitude of interdisciplinary areas,” said Jeremy Weyerman. Weyerman is pursuing a master’s degree in history and a graduate diploma through the centre.

“The CCGES has been very supportive in helping me with grant applications and I have learned a great deal serving as a student representative on the executive committee,” said Weyerman.

In order to complete the diploma program, students are required to demonstrate knowledge of the German language appropriate to their specialty and level and successfully complete a study period, research stay or internship of at least one semester in Germany. “We are very proud of the exchange component of this program,” said Sheila Embleton, vice-president academic. “It gives students the opportunity to spend a semester or often a year broadening both their academic and cultural horizons.”

The practical experience and exposure to German and European culture that students acquire through the diploma program is very appealing to both the Canadian and European business communities, remarked Eric Bremermann, a partner with the law firm Dale & Lessmann LLP, one of the evening’s sponsors. “Our law firm, specializes in the representation of German and European companies doing business in Canada and we have been encouraging the centre to form partnerships with the professional schools for quite some time,” he said. “There is no other centre in Canada where students have the opportunity to study law with an in-depth exposure to German and European law. It is important to broaden this international focus, so that firms across the country can attract candidates that have proficiency in the German language and familiarity with German and European law.”

In its seven-year existence, the CCGES has established itself as a leading centre in interdisciplinary German and European studies. The open house successfully showcased its accomplishments. “This event is a wonderful opportunity to mix and meet with this group of professionals,” said Kurt Hübner, acting co-director of the centre. “I hope that it will help us successfully continue to build relationships with the business community.”

Other guests at the event included Ulrich Schmidt, deputy consul general of Germany, Jean-Claude Hagmann, consul general of Switzerland, Karl Schmidt, consul and trade commissioner of Austria and Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation.