The Johns Hopkins University, founded nearly 125 years ago on the German research model, is returning to its roots, in a manner of speaking. President William R. Brody has accepted a task force recommendation to open a university office in Berlin. The office, which will be situated in the city center just across the Spree River from Humboldt University, is expected to open in January 2000. Stephen M. McClain, vice provost for academic planning and budget, will move to Germany and run the office for the first three years.
"The key to this initiative is that we are placing a very senior and experienced representative--someone who really knows and understands the nature of Hopkins and the range of its programs--in a position to identify and follow up on opportunities for collaboration across the university," said Provost Steven Knapp. "Steve McClain has been at Homewood for 27 years, as a graduate student and an administrator in the controller's office and for the past 21 years the provost's office. He will be in a position not only to find new opportunities but to assess them critically, so we can choose among them and develop the relationships that make the most sense."
The university currently has many programs and academic exchanges operating in Europe, including the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies' Bologna Center, in Italy, and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Charles S. Singleton Center for Italian Studies at the Villa Spelman, in Florence, Italy.
The Berlin office, Knapp said, will have no oversight responsibility for these ongoing academic endeavors. "These established programs are very successful and valuable extensions of particular schools and departments," he said. "The new office can certainly help to support their efforts, but its main purpose will be to seek new opportunities, some of which may well cut across divisional boundaries."
"This is an attempt to try something unique, something no other U. S. university is doing," said Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs and international programs, who headed the Berlin task force and oversees the university's global initiatives. "We think we have something to offer, particularly in areas that are well-developed at Hopkins but much less so in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
"One example," she continued, "would be part-time graduate education, which is now going strong in nearly every one of our divisions. Should Johns Hopkins establish a satellite in Europe that is analogous to our very successful satellites in Montgomery County and elsewhere? It's too soon to say, but that's one of the questions--and the type of question--that Steve will be in a position to explore," she said.
Along with looking for and considering program possibilities, McClain will be charged with raising the visibility and presence of Johns Hopkins in Europe; developing contacts in academia, among alumni and in corporate, foundation and government circles; and responding to divisional and administrative interests.
Why in Berlin?
"What we are attempting just can't be accomplished from an office on the Homewood campus," McClain said. "There are numerous possibilities, and the trick is to sort them out and to choose the ones that make the most sense from the point of view of the academic strengths of our various divisions. And that is very hard to do on short trips from Baltimore."
He said the possibility of locating an office specifically in Berlin was raised about 18 months ago, when former board of trustees chairman Morris W. Offit visited Germany and conveyed the sense of vibrancy and dynamism he felt in Berlin, culturally, academically and within the business community.
"We also have a long history of successful academic collaboration with the three major Berlin universities," Knapp said. "Berlin will soon replace Bonn as the German capital, and it already functions as the gateway to Eastern Europe."
McClain will staff the office with one assistant he'll recruit in Germany. How his current responsibilities will be managed, Knapp said, is still a work in progress.
"We are still exploring this, but we will certainly make sure that the functions Steve so ably performs will be covered when he leaves next January," Knapp said.