James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Studying Sustainability in Saarbrücken

By: Megan Williams
Posted: April 13, 2010

PHOTO: Students with wind turbineGerman citizens expend about half the energy that the average American does. So it makes sense that, when deciding where to take ISAT students to learn about sustainability, Dr. Frysinger chose Saarbrücken, Germany.  This small town is located in the southwestern part of the country, and just a few hours away from Paris, Luxembourg, Strasburg, and other European destinations.

“There are many lessons to be learned there,” Frysinger said. “We have access to the same technology they have access to, if we just decided we wanted to, we could cut our energy use in half.”

Frysinger began teaching at The University of Applied Sciences in Saarbrücken in 2003. Because of the experience and his relationship with the university Frysinger decided to move a study abroad program that had been taught previously in the Austrian Alps, to the city of Saarbrücken. He decided that four classes would be offered and students could choose two to make it worthwhile for the students to travel to Germany to study.

“I think the students enjoy having a choice in the courses,” Frysinger said.  “If you had two courses and you had to take those two courses, that’s basically it. But with ‘have four, pick two,’ you have more flexibility in pursuing your interests and customizing it.”

The four classes offered through the University in Saarbrücken are an energy internship, international energy initiatives, environmental information systems, and industrial ecology. The students work closely with German students on projects and attend lectures with them as well.

Besides learning about energy and sustainability, it’s getting the opportunity to learn from a different cultural perspective that Frysinger said is one of the most beneficial aspects of the study abroad program.

“They learn about the United States from the perspective of Germans,” he said. “That’s very important, because Americans don’t typically get anyone else’s perspective.” German students are not only required to study German in school, but most have taken between seven and nine years of English as well; making it easier for the students to interact.

Because of Frysinger’s connection with the University, and his access to German classes and students, the students participating in the study abroad program have many opportunities to spend time with German students both in the classroom and outside of it.

“They talk about politics, they talk about social customs, they go out dancing, and whatever students do when they’re not working,” Frysinger said. “And the consequence of that [is] they learn about the role of the United States in a more global, geo-political framework, and they get a better understanding of how Americans are viewed and misunderstood to a certain extent.”

It’s what they learn outside of the classroom that makes the trip worthwhile, Frysinger said.   The result is many of the students who participate not only keep in touch with each other but with the German students they befriend in the four weeks that they are in Saarbrücken.

All together about 100 students have gone through the program, which usually travels to Germany during odd-numbered years, but with the potential for trips during the other years as well. Currently Frysinger is waiting to hear if there is enough interest in the program for a summer 2010 trip.