Whether it’s Germany, Belgium, South Korea or Sweden, professors from around the world are bringing their unique global perspectives to UC Berkeley as visiting lecturers.
Visiting professorships typically range from one semester to a year but can last multiple years.
“It is a win-win situation for both sides: The host university gets input and expertise from outside, the visiting professor gets to know a new institution and can gain experience with the students,” said visiting associate professor of history and German Philipp Lenhard in an email.
Lenhard is a visiting lecturer from the University of Munich in Germany, where he taught for over ten years. He came to campus through the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst scholarship and is teaching modern German and Jewish history as well as European intellectual history during his five-year visiting professorship.
Lenhard believes his German outlook is important in teaching German history, noting his surprise at how positive many of his students’ image of Germany is.
“I think it makes a big difference whether you are taught German history by someone who only knows it from books or by someone who is from Germany, speaks German as a native language and can include their own experiences as a German,” Lenhard said.
He also has academic contacts and networks for students and colleagues interested in deepening their knowledge of German history that would not otherwise be available without a visiting lecturer.
Visiting professor of history Dr. Nel de Mûelenaere expressed she is also delighted to share the history of her home country in her proseminar Shaping of Modern Warfare: The Crossroads of World War I.
“I get to share the history of my country, which most students don’t know much about, and decenter the American experience a bit,” Mûelenaere said in an email. “Each class addresses a different aspect of war and warfare that was experienced in Belgium during WW1.”
Mûelenaere is here for the fall semester from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium after being selected as the recipient for the Rubens Chair for the History and Culture of the Low Countries that brings Flemish scholars to Berkeley.
The campus’s historical ties to social movements and political activism as well as its world-renowned history department appealed to Mûelenaere.
“It seemed like a vibrant and intellectually stimulating place, and I was not wrong,” Mûelenaere said.
The opportunities for intellectual exchange also appealed to Lenhard.
“I was here as a visiting scholar a few years ago and enjoyed the time very much,” Lenhard said. “There are fantastic scholars here and the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with them was very appealing to me.”
However, according to Lenhard, he chiefly chose the campus to gain experience on how teaching is carried out in an American university.
Since his time here, Lenhard has noticed differences between the American and German university system.
“The hierarchies are much more pronounced in Germany, everything is somehow more complicated and bureaucratic,” Lenhard said. “Since studying is free in Germany, it is also not as strongly performance-fixated as it is here.”
He noted that while the cost of an American university may encourage students to be more enthusiastic and ambitious, it causes great financial pressure.
While Mûelenaere describes the campus’s resources and library material as unmatched, she also found that it faces the same internal challenges as universities elsewhere, such as low academic worker pay.
Both professors are enjoying the opportunity to teach and learn from an American university.
“I already feel very much at home here,” Lenhard said.