Thursday, October 27, 2005

Learning more each day

I had a wonderful meeting with Dr. Ekkie Stiller the Director of MUDEC this morning. I had an entire string of logistical details to ask about - everything from how do I do my laundry, how do I make phone calls, to technology access issues. All of this is in the context of trying to get acquainted in a community that is pretty U.S.A.-friendly but still very foreign and different. As a "note to self" for future reference (I'll probably begin including these more often), don't underestimate the difficulty of travel, learning new systems and ways of being, and not having the easy accessibility of resources that you assume each and every day. In many ways it makes me almost ashamed that I haven't learned to be more flexible to handle this sort of thing but now I'm beginning to learn.

The meeting with Dr. Stiller started with the end of a previous meeting he had with one of the students who is in my "Global Leadership" seminar - Sarah. She and another MUDEC student were so moved by a panel of concentration camp survivors who spoke at MUDEC last week that they wanted to compile a thank you reflection book to include comments from as many MUDEC students as would be willing to contribute. This conversation spun into what relevance there is to remembering the Holocaust in the contemporary age. We talked about conditions around our world today that are in essence mini-Holocausts involving the degradation and killing of people. The lessons that can be derived are mainly related to leadership - shared leadership and responsibility for the world in which we live. We can't be in everyone's business around the globe but what are the things that are so critical that they demand our attention? How does the U.S.A. respond and how/why is that different than how European countries respond? The fact is, Europeans are forever grateful for the role Americans played in concluding WWII but they have trouble understanding some of the other choices the U.S.A. has made intervening elsewhere. These are very difficult questions and they are ultimately about critical thinking and leadership, topics that we hope to dig into as we prepare for our trip to ILA next week.

Ekkie and I began to strategize things I can do to connect with Differdange and the surrounding area so that future Harry T. Wilks faculty can travel here and create powerful learning experiences for students. We agreed that I will attend the American Business Association, Luxembourg, luncheon on Monday, November 7th. The meeting, featuring Mrs. Marie-Jeanne Chevremont-Lorenzini, Senior Partner of PriceWaterhouseCooper, will be a good opportunity to connect with the business interests of those in the community. A particular contact that I will want to make at this meeting is Paul Shoenenberg, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg. In addition, we decided that the week after next Ekkie and I will meet with the mayor of Differdange, Claude Meisch, to explore how MUDEC students can engage more actively with the community. I've been finding out more about Differdange and its history. The recovery from the 1970s demise of the steel industry left Differdange in a very difficult financial state. There was a period of decline and now the community is recreating itself as a bedroom community for Luxembourg City. There are many very nice and expensive homes but there is also evidence of people who do not have a lot. There is also a significant migrant community primarily composed of those emigrating from Portugal, Spain, and eastern European countries. The main reason for their coming to Luxembourg is to find economic prosperity. However, with Luxembourg's commitment to providing services to all citizens, finding the funds to support the immigrant population has been difficult. In addition, there is a feeling that immigrants do not connect with the city in the same ways as others. The result is a possible deficit in the social capital that would really make this a wonderful community in which to live.

The possibilities I'm now seeing are reenergizing the commitment I have to being here. Until this morning, it wasn't altogether clear what difference I could make but now I can see some possibilities.


Darbi said...

Hi Dad! The pictures are beautiful! It looks like from one of them that you were able to take quite a long walk (from seeing a building in one picture way in the distance of another). I was thinking today, another purpose that this trip might serve is to give you perspective on the lives of international students. I'm not sure how Miami handles their's, but at CMU there's a whole orientation program. I'm not saying that it works better or worse, but having this experience (as well as me having mine this summer) gives you a totally different outlook on what international students must feel like when they arrive on campus for the first time. I could imagine it's probably traumatic for some.

Also, your comments about social capital were interesting. I wonder if you could do a mini-experiment on developing social capital and civic engagement in Lux. It sounds like a completely opportune situation to do that. Keep us posted on what initiatives you and the people at the university come up with to engage the students more. And definitely let me know how they work! Love you!

Jeff said...


I vote for Plunge in Lux? Sounds amazing, and it is great to see that you're jumping right in! I have no doubt that you'll leave the campus a better place. The pictures look great, and I trust that you've found a more reliable source for your coffee. I spent a good portion of the evening working on sending out Scholar Leader nominations, and we are making forward progress. I'm going to encourage more members from the community to check our your blog - I think its fantastic how much effor you're putting into it - I almost feel like I'm there. If there are issues or ideas that you would like the community to discuss and comment on - just let us know. It would be great if we could find a way to tie your class to the community. Have a good day - peace

Denny Roberts said...

Darbi - Thanks for posting on my blog. I'm definitely acquiring a lot of empathy for visiting international students. Seriously, I have it easy by comparison but it's still a challenge. I will remember the feelings I've had for a long time and the blog helps me record it all. We have another meeting with the Universite du Luxembourg faculty on 11-7-05 and we'll have a chance to see if they want to pursue deliberative democracy and questions about social capital.

Jeff - Yeah, Lux would be a great destination but a little out of our price range. Got any fund-raising ideas? Thanks for staying with the blog. I hope the current Scholar Leaders do some poking around on the "American Dream" question as well as look more into the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. It was so cool talking to Jean about it. She's a very humble but proud person.