Mini-conference to address German culture

Octoberfest may be over but its still time to learn more about German culture than just the seasonal interest in beer and bratwurst.

 From Nov. 13 through Nov. 17, Sonoma State will be presenting a mini-conference, “Germany and European Integration,” addressing the migration into and within the European Union, Brexit and integrating refugees, among other topics. 

Organized by German professor Dr. Michaela Grobbel and in collaboration with economics professor Dr. Florence Bouvet, this conference is directly sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington, D.C. The conference includes two exhibits, two lectures, a film screening, an essay contest and a discussion panel, all pertaining to the integration of migration to, from and within the European Union. 

There will be two exibits running from Nov. 13 through Dec. 8. Grobbel requested the first exhibit, “Germany: Integrating Immigrants,” directly from the German Embassy. Students will find this display in the lobby of International Hall, and it will focus on the importance of immigrant integration in Germany. While this exhibit covers German history, economics and public policy, it also explores experiences of first and second-generation immigrants and refugees living in Germany, specifically focusing on those who’ve arrived since 2015. 

The second exhibit, “The EU: A Kaleidoscope of 28 Countries,” will be featured on the second floor of Stevenson Hall. Bouvet’s students created this poster display in her new class, ECON 313, which studies the economics of European integration.


“It is important to highlight what is going on outside the US,” Grobbel said. “To learn about other countries that are dealing with the same problems we face here, but that may address them differently.” As the US population has been built by immigrants and continues to grow, “re-thinking borders and the need to construct them, physical borders as well as borders in our thinking, is not only a good thing but necessary to work toward international collaboration and peace.”

The two lectures will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday in Zinfandel room 1000A, and from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Student Center, Ballroom B. Visiting Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant from Germany, Rebecca Meier, will present “Empathy: Where Integration Starts and Islamophobia Ends?”

“Both islamophobia and integration will be discussed in relation to the concept of empathy,” Meier said. The nationally renowned expert of International Migration Studies, UC Davis Professor and Department Chair of Economics Dr. Giovanni Peri, will present the second lecture, “Immigration to Europe in a Global Perspective: Opportunities and Challenges.” 

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Economist magazine have all featured Peri’s research of the effects of international migration on labor markets.

Moderated by Grobbel, a panel titled “Germany and the EU’s Triple Crises: Brexit, the Euro, and the Refugee Crisis,”  will feature German Deputy Consul Patrick Heinz,  political science professor Dr. Cynthia Boaz, Bouvet and Meier. According to Grobbel, Heinz will discuss Germany’s economy and trade and provide information related to Germany’s role in the EU and the international community.

In addition to the exhibits, lectures and panel discussion, Grobbel has organized a campus-wide essay contest. All students are welcome to participate. First, second and third place winners will receive $300, $200, $100 and a certificate of recognition. 

The requirements are to write a three to four page comparative essay by 5 p.m. Nov. 27, discussing either “The EU and USA: Partners or Competitors?” or “A Critical Look at Integration Efforts of Refugees in Germany and in the USA.” 

There will be a screening of the film, “Willkommen bei den Hartmanns” (Welcome to Germany, 2016) followed by feedback and discussion. This comedic film addresses the modern-day refugee crises and the school will show it at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday at the Warren Auditorium in Ives Hall.

According to Grobbel, the conference is a way for the Sonoma State community to gain understanding about international education. 

“It is not only Europe facing these problems but many other parts of the world as well,” Grobbel said. “We need to do more at SSU to internationalize our campus; this campus-wide mini-conference is one step to help create more awareness about the significance of international education for all members of our university community.”