On June 15 and 16, 2021, the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt held its Alumni Conference. Over the two days, more than 200 people attended the event and participated in its exciting and multifaceted activities. The meeting was a remarkable opportunity for alumni, current students, staff, and former collaborators of the Brandt School. They got together, relived their time in Erfurt, developed skills, and discussed relevant topics.
On June 15, punctually at 5pm, Prof Dr Achim Kemmerling, Gerard Haniel Professor and current director of the Brandt School, opened the Conference with a fireside chat with Prof Dr Florian Hoffmann, former director. They talked about the differences and similarities between old and present times at the school.
Next, Prof Dr Solveig Richter, Brandt School former lecturer, moderated the panel “40 Years after the Brandt Report: Development, Cooperation, and Conflict Resolution in a Populist Age”. The session counted on Dr Edward Kaweesi, Dr Bastian Becker, and Laura Barrios, authors of the last Brandt School’s publication and alumni. Dr Raphael Robiatti, Brandt School alumnus and former staff, introduced the issue, which he co-edited with Prof Richter. In an interactive format, the audience answered polls, participated in the debate, and featured a vivid Q&A session. For instance, when asked “which words first come to your mind when you think of populism”, participants answered “hate speech”, “propaganda”, “fake news” – but also “hot air”. As their final remarks, the speakers agreed that populism is a challenge but may pose windows of opportunity for change.
The third activity was speed dating: every five minutes, people rotated to a different breakout room to meet a new person. This exercise's fast and dynamic pace allows participants to get to know as many peers as possible. Here, alumni of different generations met each other. An excellent opportunity for networking and for nurturing close ties.
After, Carolina Reis, Brandt School alumna and alumni relations manager, tested participants’ knowledge about the school and its alumni in a quiz. Questions like where most alumni come from or in which city most of them live now came up. Do you want to know the answers to that? Find them here!
The first day's close was held by Prof Dr Heike Grimm, Aletta Haniel Professor at the Brandt School, who delivered a very emotive speech. She acknowledged the efforts and contributions of alumni and staff that made the Brandt School a distinctive institution. She also invited all attendees to participate in the second day of the Alumni Conference.
On June 16, Violetta Pleshakova, Brandt School alumna, conducted a workshop on effective communication skills. She explored the power of listening, shared tools on how to recognise the context and not make assumptions and presented format dialogues suitable for courageous conscious conversations on difficult matters. The audience participated actively, sharing their thoughts, experiences, and queries.
Hereupon, Atif Butt and Sonia Ran, Brandt School alumni, offered their initial insights for the fishbowl discussion “Seeing the Future from the Past”. By recounting their expectations as students, their achievements, and their failures as graduates, they invited others to join the conversation. In a lively exchange, alumni from various cohorts told their stories. Which of their expectations came true? What challenges they faced? Which pleasant surprises they enjoyed? In the end, Brandt School alumni found several common grounds and shared their hope for the future.
The 2021 Alumni Conference had its final words by Brandt School’s managing director, Lena Kiesewetter. Ms Kiesewetter presented the actions geared for alumni, such as the pilot mentoring program, the career prospect talks, and the newsletter. She also launched a new alumni program: The Ambassadors Initiative, aimed at alumni who want to help prospective students and spread the word about the Brandt School. Finally, she invited all alumni to keep in closer contact with the school, expanding our outlook for a future together.
Do you want to check the Alumni Conference program? Here!