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CCU Atheneum: Barbara Ritter in Strasbourg, France
Barbara Ritter in Strasbourg, France

Ritter teaches abroad, recommends experience

by Katee Upchurch
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Barbara Ritter, associate professor of management, spent the majority of this past summer in Germany teaching and learning at one of CCU’s partner institutions, the Fachhochshule (FH) Mainz University of Applied Sciences. It was her first formal teaching engagement in a foreign country, apart from a Maymester course with CCU students. This time she taught only German students and was immersed in the German system of higher education.

Her description of the experience proves that education is a two-way street. “I would recommend this to students and faculty members,” she said, “not only to learn about another culture but to learn about themselves as well.”

From mid May to early July she lived in Mainz, the capital of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, with her husband Brandon and their 19-month-old daughter Maya. She “team taught” a class in negotiation and intercultural teams, sharing the instruction with a German professor.

Higher education in Germany is more structured than in the states, says Ritter, in that it imposes “top-down” rules about how grades are determined. Sixty percent of students’ grades are based on a final exam, and 40 percent on a class project.

Another difference is the attendance policy – or lack of one. Students aren’t required to attend class, and with no quizzes, some students just keep up with the readings and show up for the final exam. German students are also allowed to retake courses several times.

Ritter says it all required some adjustment on her part. “I learned a lotabout myself and how the American system is embedded in me,” she said. “I gained a new perspective on my own values and expectations.”

One of the goals of the trip was to create a collaborative course for Spring 2011, CBAD 472 or “Cross-Cultural Management.” Through Blackboard and programs like Skype, CCU students will work in “virtual teams” with FH Mainz students in Germany on a hypothetical scenario concerning the merger of a German and a U.S. corporation.

Ritter has a high regard for the faculty at FH Mainz. She and her familyreceived many dinner invitations, which gave Ritter a deeper insight into the academic life of Germany. “All of the professors were very friendly, open and interested,” she says.

While in Europe the Ritters also visited the Czech Republic, France andSwitzerland. One of their highlights was the Ecomusée in Ungersheim, France, a vast farm village-museum that recreates the rural life of the Alsace region.

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