Georgetown Alumni Excel in German Fellowship Program

Robert Bosch Fellowship program
The 2015-2016 class of the Robert Bosch Fellowship program. Photo credit: Cristina Gonzalez

Since 1984, the Robert Bosch Fellowship program has selected 15-20 Americans each year to work at German institutions in various fields. The program is fully funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, one of the largest foundations in Germany, and seeks to promote German-U.S. relations through an exchange of ideas and an intercultural immersion.

Now in its 32nd year, the program has had many Hoya participants, with 51 Hoyas counting themselves as alumni of the program, or "Boschies." Alumni Miranda Gardiner (C'01) and Todd Williamson (G'07) are part of this year's group of fellows.

Branching Out to Help Others

After hearing about the Bosch Fellowship from a colleague who had been in the program, Miranda Gardiner became interested in the program's direction and interests, and felt drawn to the opportunity because her own family has ties to Germany--her father was a Fulbright professor and her family lived there when she was a child.

Gardiner's research and work with the program this past year took place at KFW Bank and the City of Hamburg, Germany, and focused on financing and planning for sustainable development, international environmental corporate and government policies.

To date, 51 Georgetown alumni have completed the Robert Bosch Fellowship program.

"I assumed I would find successful strategies in Europe that could be applied in North America," she said. "Instead, my work turned into an understanding that we are both doing some things well--some not so well--and that the true solution lies in behavioral and mindset changes on a global scale."

Gardiner plans to use what she's learned to move into more hands-on work with large-scale development projects, such as wastewater treatment facilities and sustainable housing in rapid population growth areas. Her experience with the Bosch has given her the drive to dive deeper into projects where the end result is helping others.

German Bundestag in Berlin
The Bosch 32 class at the German Bundestag in Berlin (Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany). Photo credit: Cristina Gonzalez

Hoyas Excel as Bosch Fellows

Both the collaborative and the global nature of the program make it an excellent fit for Georgetown alumni who champion a global perspective and the opportunity to share an intercultural dialogue.

Carolin Wattenberg, Bosch Stiftung program assistant, explains why Hoyas make great Boschies.

"Hoyas actually cover the whole time span from the first class in 1984, until this year's class with Miranda and Todd," she said. "In the past 32 years, we have had 16 Boschies who did their undergrad at Georgetown and 35 who received graduate degrees."

"Many Bosch-Georgetown alumni are from the Georgetown MAGES program (Master of Arts in German and European Studies)," said Wattenberg. "Since it is directly related to German studies, they are already interested in and have experience with transatlantic relations, and are looking to develop their careers in that area."

2015-2016 "Boschies" at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Berlin, Germany. Also pictured are Carolin Wattenberg, program assistant at Robert Bosch Stiftung; Margaret Clark, Ruth Conkling and Will Maier from Cultural Vistas; and Ambassador Emerson from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

"They've both built impressive careers for themselves and represent what we're looking for in Boschies--professional expertise, ambition, and leadership potential," she said.

Finding a Niche

While most Bosch Fellows split the year between two different companies or government entities, Todd Williamson (G'07) enjoyed working with Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) in Berlin so much that he and the company decided to keep him on for both terms of his fellowship. His research focused on Trans-Pacific partnership issues, and how relationships with Asia and U.S. affect Germany. He also explored external and internal threats to a country and how they affect things like investor confidence and private sector priorities.

As his fellowship comes to an end this year, Williamson has plans to transition into a related profession. He and his wife, a screenwriter, plan to remain in Germany and are expecting their first child soon, and he is excited about the possibility of his child being bilingual, or even trilingual.

"The language component of the program is really great. In addition to the training you receive when you first arrive, you also receive a stipend to continue your language training throughout the year," said Williamson. "I know my German has improved remarkably since I first came."

Todd Williamson, Bosch Fellow

In addition to expanding the fellows' language skills and global knowledge, the program also helps them learn about themselves.

"I've learned not to sell myself short," said Williamson. "Previously, I worked for institutions where I had to tow the company line, and didn't get to have an opinion. Participants in the program have diverse backgrounds in areas like international relations, civil engineering, architecture, journalism, education, and more. This program helped me find my niche."

For more than three decades, the Robert Bosch Fellowship program has fostered a community of American leaders who have firsthand experience in the political, economic, and cultural environment of Germany and the European Union, with Georgetown's best and brightest as some of its most standout stars.