From the old to the new Student Government: Taking responsibility for student issues and events in the Brandt School

building "Weltbeziehungen"

The student government: A name that means very different things in different countries. While we see student politics going to the barricades in India or Turkey to get better living conditions and pay for general university staff, student politics in Germany are a little bit different in both scale and the sector for which the student government members are responsible. There is much more of a focus on connecting the students’ academics-related opinions and needs with the faculty. We strive to create an environment where discussions and exchange are fostered but issues with the curriculum, organization, and lectures are taken seriously as well. And, of course, the occasional fun events to free the mind from all the academics will hopefully give us students some of the most memorable moments in our time here at the Willy Brandt School.

The “old guard” of the student government was asked about lasting memories from their year together, as well as the challenges and lessons learned that might be interesting for both the new government and the batch of MPP students in general.

From the old…

As with every team, figuring out the strengths and motivations present was the first step to evolving into a functioning unit. Florencia (’23-’24 student representative) talked about how it’s not always easy, but when you find your way as a group and overcome the first obstacles, everything just goes that much more smoothly and, in the end, the team works perfectly. The diversity in the group – not only cultural, but, more importantly, in mindsets – was what made the experience so unique, Mafer (’23-’24 social planner) added. Her advice was to always be open to new ideas and approaches.

Flexibility is a major skill to keep in mind, said Julia (’23-’24 president). It’s important to have a clear distribution of work: one who manages the social media game, one who talks to the professors, etc. Nevertheless, when somebody needed additional help, everyone jumping in to assist was a critical step to make for good teamwork in the group. Everybody had each other’s back.

Flexibility wasn’t always an asset, however, said Julia. Student government sometimes is more work than what the rest of the batch sees in the end. Staying late to clean up and putting in the extra hour every now and then was more the norm than the exception, plus several hours of organization beforehand.

That’s what we signed up for, said Julia. She liked to organize things and wanted to see them run well, so somebody had to do it. And the result was definitely worth it. Working with the institution itself, getting to know the issues and challenges of the everyday workings of the Brandt School and the issues of the students, was one additional asset of being on the student government. Florencia enjoyed the fact that she had the opportunity to be that connection between the students and the institution. For Mafer, the main motivation was to give back to the Brandt School community and create a social space where everybody could interact outside of classes; planning social gatherings has always been a hobby of hers, and creating a community among all the international students has been an extremely joyful experience.

…to the new

I think everyone in the new student government can see some of these things ringing very true already. We have been given the great advice from the old student government members to enjoy the time and do the best we can while knowing that it’s important not to overdo it. We will have only a year and we should use it in the best way possible…and that’s true for everybody in the batch.

The first events of the year have already been organized; some have already been held. Even informal events like a batch-wide Eid party to celebrate the ending of the Ramadan fasting period have been initiated by members of the student government, while others from the batch helped greatly with the preparations. This enthusiasm to celebrate and prepare for important events together and share in the rich diversity of the people from the program has been motivating for the months to come.

Looking ahead

While the organizing can at times be very tiring while juggling everyday life in Germany, it is definitely worth it. Many happy faces at the events, engaging conversations, and some memorable moments will stay from the new student government’s first events such as the first Afterwork-event last week at KreativTankstelle.

For the coming months, there is much more being planned, but one of the most anticipated events this year will again be the big graduation party. When asked about the most memorable event of the past year, the former student government instantly and unanimously said it was that evening. Being looked at weirdly while pushing a supermarket trolley full of 25 champagne bottles and, of course, several non-alcoholic items through the streets of Erfurt, decorating the venue, or enjoying a well-deserved kebab together at the end of the night brought back a big dose of nostalgia: “It was a really fun day!”

The graduation party has been the big highlight of the last few years, so we want to continue the tradition and are already deep into the planning process, mostly done by our social planner, Ankita, and our student representative, Sofia. They have already put hours of work into contacting venues, preparing a concept, and encouraging all students to participate in the program to make it an unforgettable evening. In the coming weeks, we have many more events planned, such as game nights, excursions around Thuringia, public viewings for the European Championship, and much more, as well as exploring opportunities to have academic nights. But, as always, the more the merrier. Anyone who is excited about an event and wants to help organize something can come straight to us (see below!).

The other members of the new student government are also working hard. Loise (president) is always on the outlook for internship programs and academic opportunities while helping where she can, Talia (vice president) organizes a lot in the background and focuses on the feedback for the academic programs, and Vivek (secretary) manages our social media and looks for new academic input. 

As always, there are also challenges along the way. At the moment, we have to plan as financially sparingly as we can, as the bigger University of Erfurt student council – which provides us with the financial means for our projects – has a budget freeze right now. We will plan around this by trying to organize events that can be done without a major financial influx, but as a result, prominent past events like the “Willy’s Back to School Party” cannot be offered this semester. But stay tuned for one or another cool event(s) coming your way in the next few months! Budget constraints lead to creativity, as they say in our classes.

Additionally, the student government is here for your concerns. If there is anything bothering you about the MPP program or things that you would like to see changed, we will always listen and work on your concerns. We are here to represent you, the students, to the school and bring forward your opinions. Don’t be shy – just contact us and we will search for a solution.

Finally, as the new student government, we want to say thanks to the old guard: to Ari, Calep, Florencia, Julia, Mafer, and Shreesh, who have provided our batch with an amazing start to the program. We hope that we can give back some of that effort in the coming semester and via the graduation party. Stay tuned, and to everybody: have a nice start to the semester and much academic success. Enjoy!

Brandt School MPP students: Want to contact the student government? Speak to us or write us a message:

About the Author

Manu Mollenheimer

Manuel Mollenhauer is a first year MPP student at the Willy Brandt School. He has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Mannheim and has worked at a German television station for an investigative-reporting news show. His interests are migration and integration policies as well as climate-related developmental and energy security issues.

~The views represented in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Brandt School.~

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