Transforming Industrial Heartlands

Join an international effort to revitalize communities and preserve democracy.

When factories close, jobs disappear and for some, hope is lost. People worry about how to care for their families. Economic losses impact how workers think, what they believe and how they vote. This fall Gettysburg College students will engage directly with these residents and share their compelling stories with policymakers from the U.S. and Europe to address challenges and opportunities facing formerly industrial regions.

The economic impact of globalization has had a ripple effect in small towns across the Rust Belt, including Pennsylvania. Researchers believe that rebuilding communities and fostering new economic opportunity can not only help these areas thrive but improve feelings of alienation and economic anxiety which underpin polarizing politics and anti-democratic movements.

This transition is happening in the U.S. and in Europe. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic formed the Transforming Industrial Heartlands initiative to share strategies, elevate practices and advocate for policies to enhance economic growth in older industrial regions.

As part of this initiative, the Eisenhower Institute will take a small team of students to western Pennsylvania to do on-the-ground research and interview residents. The team will create a case study to present at a transatlantic conference at the University of Michigan.

Students will learn from experts on economic revitalization and project design; collect data; conduct interviews; then travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to present their findings to American and European leaders and practitioners at a November 11 conference titled “Engaging Heartland Residents – Rebuilding Pride, Ownership and a Bright Future.” The event is hosted by the Weiser Diplomacy Center and International Policy Center at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Students will have the opportunity to engage with and hear from:

  • U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna, author of Dignity in a Digital Age, a blueprint for building a newly vibrant heartland tech economy;
  • National security expert Fiona Hill, whose book, There is Nothing For You Here, tells her own story of growing up in one of England’s “left-behind” places;
  • Dr. Julia Frohe, Chair of the Management Board of Business Metropole Ruhr Germany;

and other experts from the U.S. and Europe. The initiative is a joint effort of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Georgetown University’s BMW Center for German and European Studies, the Michigan Economic Center, Policy@Manchester at the University of Manchester, the Ruhr Konferenz, North Rhineland-Westphalia, the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chicago, the European Commission’s Directorate on Regional and Urban Policy, and other international partners.

This opportunity is open to all Gettysburg College students, and led by Eisenhower Institute Executive Director Tracie Potts. It is well-suited for students interested in economics, international and global studies, community development, political science, public policy and writing. Only 4 students will be selected for this program. 


The following schedule provides a tentative outline of the program. We appreciate your flexibility as some changes to the schedule may be necessary as additional opportunities and conflicts arise. Attendance is required at all sessions below.

Fall 2022

  • Wednesday, Sept. 21, 4–6 p.m. — Background briefing with Bruce Stokes, Visiting Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and Executive Director of the Transatlantic Task Force “Together or Alone?”
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27, 12–1 p.m. — Project design and interview practice with Das Progressive Zentrum Project Manager Johanna Siebert
  • Thursday, Oct. 3, 4-6 p.m. — Project planning and interview practice with Tracie Potts
  • Oct. 10-11 — Western Pennsylvania research trip
  • Monday, Oct. 31, 4-5:30 p.m. — Presentation planning
  • Monday, Nov. 7, 4-5:30 p.m. — Presentation planning
  • Nov. 10-12 — Conference presentation in Ann Arbor, Michigan