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Andrei Poama

Andrei Poama

I’m meeting Andrei Poama, a Romanian PhD candidate in Political Theory at Sciences Po in Paris, where he is working on theories of punishment. This fall he co-taught a class on Foundations of Moral and Political Thought, which I attended. He is also an alumnus of Bard College Berlin’s (previously ECLA’s) International Summer University of 2004, and studied in Bucharest, at Oxford, and Yale. We talked about his experience of the ISU, his current research, and models of education.

D: You joined the ISU in 2004, right?

A: Yes, I was there just for the summer school in 2004, when I was 20 years old. I arrived one week earlier, which made it almost two months.

How did you find out about the school?

I remember I was watching about it on television. The director of the program at the time was Theodor Paleologu. He talked about it in very nice terms. During the communist times there was this ‘Romanian Heidegger’—Constantin Noica—who founded the school Școala de la Păltiniș: kind of elitist, not so phenomenological as Heidegger, but close – in places as unintelligible as Heidegger. Noica’s idea was to create a school where the professors would learn more than the students, and Theodor presented the ISU as being sort of the same as Noica’s project. He really advertised it, and so I went on the internet, looked it up, and eventually applied.

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This article originally appeared on The Point and has been republished here with their kind permission. David Kretz is a German-born Austrian and a BA 2016 alumnus.

Philipp Ruch (front left) in the action Center for Political Beauty’s action “Lethe Bombs” in front of the Reichstag, 2009. (Credit: Lara Wilde via Wikipedia)

The most compelling political performance artists in Germany do not like to be called “artists.” Nor do they prefer the label of “activists”—a term they reserve for gradualists, clicktivists, and the letter-writers of Amnesty International. Founded in 2009 by the philosopher Philipp Ruch, the Center for Political Beauty makes its base of “operations” (Aktionen in German) in Berlin, with changing groups of volunteers and partners throughout Europe. Its members, who wear suits and charcoal war paint, are organized into “assault teams” aiming to establish “moral beauty, political poetry and human greatness [Großgesinntheit].” They call themselves “aggressive humanists.”

The Center initially made a name for itself when it launched a campaign in the style of “Wanted” posters promising a reward of twenty-five thousand Euros for information leading to the arrest of the von Braunbehrens and Bode families, who share ownership of the arms corporation Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. Controversially, the company had proposed exporting several hundred Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia. One member of the board stepped down from his post after the exposure, and eventually the deal was abandoned on account of public pressure.

The Center has risen to new national prominence during the recent refugee crisis. In May 2014 the German Ministry for Family Affairs, headed by center-left secretary Manuela Schwesig, announced on a new website that it would offer asylum to fifty-five thousand Syrian children—1 percent of the five million who would need it according to UNICEF. This was in the build-up to the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, months before Merkel’s exhortation “We can do it.”

The website, which offered online forms for Germans to register as host families, went viral on social media. A video showed happy, grateful children in Aleppo thanking Secretary Schwesig for her initiative. Large crowds spontaneously assembled in front of the offices of the Ministry for Family Affairs in Berlin, celebrating and leaving an ocean of flowers and teddy bears. Such is the political beauty that the Center imagines. It was they who had created the website, as well as a complete Federal Emergency Program, including IT infrastructure, a ready-to-implement legislative framework, extensive PR materials, active hotlines with actors answering questions about the program, and contacts with schools and other organizations inside Syria—a hyper-real theater performance. The Ministry could have played along but chose not to. Embarrassedly and awkwardly, they declared a day later that, no, they would not save the children.

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Tuvshinzaya during the 2012 Commencement ceremony, held at Rathaus Pankow. (Credit: Personal Archives)

On the BCB campus, it’s not uncommon to find students who switch seamlessly between their three mother tongues. Someone might hesitate before answering the question “Where are you from?” or “Where will you be next year?”

Last month, I sat down in front of my computer to chat with Tuvshinzaya Gantulga, a BCB alumnus who is also always on the move. Born in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Tuvshinzaya was studying economics at the American University in Bulgaria when he decided to come to BCB (then ECLA*) to attend its Academy Year program. Before the year was up, he had decided to stay in Berlin and complete his BA studies at ECLA as part of its first graduating class in 2012. Upon his return to Mongolia, he worked in a grassroots NGO, founded the Mongolian Rowing Association, and headed the American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia. My webcam caught him in Manhattan, New York, where he had just graduated with a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Over the course of a few hours we talked about Berlin, rowing, and education: what does a liberal arts education offer to students who are exceptionally mobile, and what can being mobile offer students who are exceptionally curious?

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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission. David Kretz is a German-born Austrian and a BA 2016 alumnus. 

Heldenplatz, Vienna, Austria (Credit: Shawn Harquail | Flickr)

Heldenplatz, Vienna, Austria (Credit: Shawn Harquail | Flickr)

December 4, 2016, was a fateful day for Europe, and the world. The Italians held a referendum about constitutional amendments and their No vote brought down the government. Though any longer-term effects remain unknown, the financial and political chain reaction that some said had the potential to unravel the European Union did not manifest.

On the same day, Austrians also voted in the final round of their presidential election. There, center-left candidate Alexander Van der Bellen (Green Party) defeated far-right candidate Norbert Hofer (Austrian Freedom Party, FPÖ) 53.8% to 46.2%. Austria is a small country, but the outcome of this election has international significance for at least two reasons.

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Alumnus Florian Hoffmann giving a talk at Bard College Berlin (photo by the author)

Alumnus Florian Hoffmann giving a talk at Bard College Berlin (photo by the author)

On December 4, in the frame of the core course “Bildung: Education and Formation” led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Hurst, Bard College Berlin welcomed alumnus Florian Hoffmann, the Founder and President of the DO School, for a talk on “21st Century Skills and the Future of Higher Education.” Florian is one of the old “veterans”– an Academy Year (and later Project Year) student in one of the first generations of graduates. He is one of the people who witnessed how the college was taking shape, and still remembers the days when students, with great enthusiasm and joy, helped set up the classrooms by moving furniture, patiently eating tons of pizza before the Cafeteria was established – whilst enjoying a number of enlightening and educational early guest lectures that took place on campus. Florian says he would describe our college as “a small liberal arts education institution in the beautiful city of Berlin, offering courses in humanities.” As a social entrepreneur and innovator in the field of higher education, he is greatly engaged in helping liberal arts students actualize their greatest potential that the liberal arts education helps increase.

On our campus, Florian Hoffmann talked about the dynamics of the modern Western university system and how the DO School – a globally engaged social enterprise that educates, trains and mentors talented post-graduate individuals to transform their ideas into action – fits within the transitional period between college and professional occupation/post-graduate studies. He is a man of action, with a strong emphasis on doing, regularly engaging himself by contributing to the public debate on higher education and innovation. He has taught the DO School method at a variety of universities including Columbia University, Oxford University, and the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University.

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Hannes Kloepper

“Students should be made aware of the fact that there is no such thing as knowledge as such – knowledge that just exists out there and is discovered by people as the objective truth.“

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Hannes Klöpper (Germany) is a 2006/2007 Academy Year alumnus of ECLA of Bard. He holds a Dual-Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and a B.A. in International Relations from the Technische Universität (TU) Dresden. Hannes is the co-founder and the current Managing Director and Chief Academic Officer (CAO) of the online open-course platform start-up iversity, situated in the northern borough of Berlin called Bernau. Last year Hannes wrote a book in collaboration with Yehuda Elkana on the future of the university in the digital age. In addition to that, he worked on the “New Digital Society” project in 2010/2011 as an associate of the “Stiftung Neue Verantwortung,” and was also one of the initiators of the blog for “Causa Guttenberg.” Today we talked about his experience at ECLA of Bard, his life after the Academy Year, as well as the future of education in the context of his work on iversity. 

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ECLA Family Portrait

ECLA campus

We use our beautiful campus gardens in a variety of ways:  student-professor football, volleyball, or badminton matches, mastering the Frisbee, sunbathing, reading or sleeping in the grass, and even treasure hunting.  Elizabeth Hanka (AY, USA) proposed dining there too, and the idea expanded to that of a barbecue in the garden, which warmly welcomed everyone from the present student–body, faculty and administration.  One of the skillful people behind the grill was Adrian Nicolae, alumnus of the AY 2005-06 program, currently an MA student in Bonn, who coincidentally was an overnight guest. Without doubt he easily connected with the current class and attracted our interest, mostly since he was the one grilling our potatoes. He admitted to being struck by nostalgia, and to being happy to be back in these gardens.

Elizabeth’s idea coincided with her bicycle community project, and afforded an opportunity to finish a process that had been in the works since the first weeks of the school year.  Her proposal that students should be supported in buying bicycles to use during the year resulted in people pairing up to buy bicycles at the Mauerpark flea market, for which they were then reimbursed.  Everyone had bought their bicycles by the end of the winter term, and it was a relief to have such an easy way to get off campus and explore the city when the spring came. However, the project was not complete, as another part of it, aside from simply having the bikes to share and use, was to make them community bikes by decorating them.  After much debate about whether to paint them all, attach some kind of sign to them, or put stickers on them, we finally decided on the sticker method.  Each student was presented with a veritable rainbow of stickers, and getting together for the barbecue proved to be a great opportunity to “rebrand” the bicycles we have been using since spring.  Brightly coloured ECLA stickers signal now that there’s something special about our bikes, something that is worth checking out.  Because they are being pedaled throughout the city by students eager to discover it, we expect the stickers to become visit cards in motion.

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Writing for the Public Sphere - ECLA ISU 2006

Writing for the Public Sphere

On Monday afternoon, members of the ISU faculty and ECLA alumnus Evgeny Morozov (PY 2006, Belarus) held a Special Seminar on ‘Writing for the Public Sphere’. The four panelists shared their reasons for seeking writing opportunities outside of academia and described both the pleasures and frustrations of writing for the general public.

Theodor Paleologu is the Programme Director of ECLA’s International Summer University and the Ambassador of Romania to Denmark and Iceland. Paleologu’s background is in Philosophy and Political Studies and he has experience in both diplomatic writing and editorializing. His opinion pieces have appeared in Romanian newspapers and for him the ‘great seduction’ behind editorial writing is the immediate impact it can have on politics.

Alessandra Galizzi Kroege is an Art Historian who splits her time between Berlin and Milan. Her stories and interviews discuss current issues in German art and architecture and they appear regularly in the Italian art magazine, Il Giornale dell Arte. Kroege initially began writing for the public sphere because she found it to be a refreshing break from the tedious writing she usually does in academia. She appreciates the other perks to art writing as well such as behind-the-scene tours of new exhibitions and access to interesting people in the art world.

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