Global Focus

GLOBAL FOCUS is a new series of Eisenhower Institute programs designed to help students gain insight and analyze American foreign policy, international relations, emerging economies and regional conflict, cooperation and competition around the world.

globe with map of china highlighted on the surface

Germany's Heartlands

Cross the Atlantic to see how the U.S. and Europe are revitalizing post-industrial communities.  

Embark on a unique trans-Atlantic adventure with two Gettysburg College professors who share their lived experience growing up in coal mining towns in east Germany. This spring seminar and experiential learning program takes students from Pennsylvania’s Rust Belt to Germany’s Ruhr region to compare post-industrial redevelopment. Following travel, students will design and share policies and practices that create jobs and economic opportunity in America’s industrial heartlands.    

In Germany, students will explore communities in various states of transition and revival. They will engage with residents, advocates, experts, and researchers. They will participate in a learning exchange with German leaders to discover how the country transformed coal and steel production into a green economy. What public-private investments worked? What challenges remain? What can we learn from Germany’s example? Students will consider the politics, cost and environmental impact of focusing on clean and renewable energy.  

This program advances a recent agreement between Pennsylvania and North Rhine-Westphalia, whose State Secretary visited campus last year. It builds on the international initiative that inspired EI’s 2022 Transforming Industrial Heartlands project. This student research was presented at an international learning exchange 

Global Focus: Germany’s Heartlands continues this ongoing policy work. The program is led by Eisenhower Institute German Studies faculty Dr. Henning Wrage and Christiane Breithaupt, and EI Executive Director Tracie Potts, who led the 2022 student research team 


Students accepted into this program must be available for all the following sessions, and must be able to secure a visa if required for travel to Germany.  

Monday, January 29, 4-6pm

An Overview and Perspectives on Structural Change in East and West Germany

This session provides context and background to understand changes in the 20th and 21st Century that led to the industrial revolution, decline and need for revitalization. Led by Professors Henning Wrage and Christiane Breithaupt, who offer personal perspectives from their experience living in similar regions of east Germany impacted by this change. (May include virtual guest speakers)

Monday, February 12, 4-6pm

Pennsylvania’s Industrial Heartlands: A Student Research Project

Members of the 2022 EI student research team share their experience and findings, and answer questions, about their project looking at redevelopment efforts in five communities in west Pennsylvania. Students reflect and identify similarities, differences, questions and areas to explore in comparing Pennsylvania to NRW. This session would be led by members of the 2022 student research team.

Monday, February 26, 4-6pm

North Rhine Westphalia: What to Expect

This final session before travel offers an overview of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, a thorough review of the travel itinerary and objectives, and required international travel pre-orientation. Students will view and discuss videos of the area, review site visit locations, ask logistical and substantive questions and begin to outline questions for meetings with experts and other individuals. This session would be led by program leaders and may include a remote guest from NRW.

Friday, March 8 – Saturday, March 16

Travel to Germany’s Ruhr region (various cities)

Itinerary is expected to include site visits; meetings with researchers, residents, advocates and government leaders; a learning exchange conference; cultural experiences; and reflection and early presentation planning.

Monday, March 25, 4-6pm

Reflection and Presentation Planning

Students and program leaders will share reflections from the travel experience and begin to identify policy recommendations and outline the final presentation, including individual or group assignments. This session would be facilitated by program leaders, with students leading the discussion and presentation planning.

Monday, April 1, 4-6pm

Final Presentation Planning

Students will finalize policy recommendations and the final presentation. This session would be facilitated by program leaders, with students leading the discussion and presentation planning.


Students will present findings and recommendations. This presentation may take place on campus, or to policy professionals at the Eisenhower Institute office in Washington, D.C. Further details will be shared as they are confirmed.

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