Joint MBA/MA and JD/MA: German Language and Culture Program

An underlying premise of the Lauder German Language & Culture Program curriculum is that effective cross-cultural management requires both a high level of language proficiency, which demonstrates abstract thinking and conceptual communication, and a correspondingly strong understanding of the history, culture, politics, and business practices of the German-speaking world. The curriculum develops both dimensions and prepares students to understand the larger cultural context in which German business takes place.

German Language and Culture courses integrate applied language study and cultural analysis in a comprehensive program made up of the following phases:

May Courses
Summer Immersion
Academic Year

May Courses
German program students take two classes in May, including International Political Economy of Business Environments (INTS 721) with all first-year MBA/MA and JD/MA Lauder students. In addition, students take the European Area History course (INTS 71X) with students in the French and Russian program. Students also receive German language instruction and do coursework in May to prepare them for the upcoming overseas summer immersion in June and July. May language course activities are required, and along with the summer immersion, count toward the first academic unit of the INTS German Language and Culture curriculum. Activities related to the German Language and Culture Program include, but are not limited to, a review of the current social, economic and political issues; introduction to the business environment in Germany and relevant business topics; preparation of résumés in German; and one-on-one interviews in German, all of which are geared towards increasing language proficiency and cultural understanding.

German Summer Immersion
A core component of the program is the eight-week summer immersion in Berlin with extended excursions to Munich, Frankfurt, and Istanbul for summer 2013. The primary goals of the German summer immersion experience are to advance students’ language proficiency for academic and professional contexts, expand their cultural literacy/knowledge and develop an increased disposition for critical reflection. These are achieved through in-language classroom instruction, seminars, excursions and company visits.
Students complete about 100 hours of in-language classroom instruction focused on economic, social, political and business topics. The content complements the European Area History course from May and provides an opportunity for students to reflect upon the historic, linguistic and cultural context of the German-speaking world. Over the summer, students develop the ability to discuss complex social, political, cultural, and economic issues; develop increasingly formal and culturally appropriate communicative abilities; and work towards obtaining a Superior level of language proficiency as defined by ACTFL guidelines. Students also conduct research and interviews in teams in order to write a short article on a business, economic, cultural, or political topic related to their summer immersion site. These articles are published by Knowledge at Wharton, as part of a new series called the Lauder Global Business Insight Report. Recent articles by students in the German program have included such diverse topics as the German beer industry, the debate over German patriotism, the role of franchising and German entrepreneurship, and language etiquette in German business.  Although student teams write the article in English, research for the topics includes gathering information and conducting interviews in German, and teams deliver an oral presentation on their topic in German at the end of the summer immersion.
Through a diverse agenda of national and multinational organization visits and guest speakers, students are exposed to the current economic and business landscape and future outlook of the region. While visits may change from year to year, previous visits have included Estée Lauder Cosmetics, Siemens AG, McKinsey, BMW and Deutsche Börse. During these visits, students discuss issues related to specific companies and industries as well as the social and political environments in which they operate.  Students can also expect several cultural excursions during the summer, including activities such as a hiking tour in the Alps, a trip Potsdam; a Bavarian countryside tour with visits to a castle, church, and private brewery; visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp; and various museums, theater, and musical performances. Last year the group had a Lauder alumni gathering in Munich at the Starnberger See and Wharton gatherings in Frankfurt and Berlin.

Academic Year
Upon their return from the immersion program, students complete their academic degree requirements through INTS German Language and Culture Program courses. The program complements the international MBA business and management skills developed at Wharton and in Lauder’s International Studies curriculum to prepare both MBA and JD students to confidently navigate a rapidly changing global economic, political, social and cultural landscape. The Language and Culture Program during each semester of the two-year program includes classroom instruction and specialized activities. Thematic content during the two years typically drawn upon political, legal, socio-economic, and market issues; literature, history, and philosophy; contemporary business and industry concerns; and arts, film, media, and sports as contemporary expressions of a culture and its values; and issues related to current events. Our small, focused classes emphasize mastery of the language, with the goal of reaching a Superior-level of language proficiency, and develop students’ ability for critical thinking and problem solving within the framework of German culture. Students are expected to demonstrate their linguistic proficiency and content awareness through activities that range from debates, presentations, reports, and discussions. Some examples of specific themes that may guide the classroom include historical perspectives on German identity; German unification; the role of Germany in the European Union; capitalism and the cause, extent and consequences of the financial crisis for Germany as a partner in the global economy; management styles and leadership in Germany; culture and language in German humor; and everyday culture in Germany.

Throughout the semester current events are incorporated in the classroom to connect the curriculum with what is actually happening in the students’ lives. Current news issues are discussed based on short articles/videos either presented by students or watched together in class to make the topic digestible in German. To build real understanding of the events we take an in-depth look at the events and at the history and background behind the news stories. As Program Director Dr. Susanne Shields says, “the goal is to engage the students in debate by taking their understanding to a deeper level.”

In addition to class, students explore the different facets of the target culture in contexts that take them outside the classroom. One example is the spring semester mini immersions. These extended in-language activities vary from year to year but are usually related to the themes of the academic curriculum. Last year’s mini immersion was to a German restaurant in Philadelphia, and this year the group is planning to host German-speaking guests at the home of the Program Director as well as visit Yard’s Brewery in Philadelphia with a Lauder alumnus.

Lauder students complete their MA degree with a course sequence that includes International Political Economy of Business Environments and the Global Economic History, two approved electives from the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Global Knowledge Lab research project.