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Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, will host and deliver the German Fulbright Summer Institute virtually from July 19, 2021 to August 14, 2021. The four-week Summer Institute is offered through a grant awarded to Virginia Tech, through its Cranwell International Center, by the German-American Fulbright Commission, and is designed for undergraduate students from Germany’s Universities of Applied Sciences.

The Summer Institute includes a unique and innovative core academic component offered through Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science, along with a number of experiential co-curricular components with partners like the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technoloy (ICAT) (check out the ICAT Creativity + Innovation Day  for a celebration of creativity and innovation at the convergence of science, engineering, arts and design, held online May 3 this year).

While the program will be delivered virtually, Virginia Tech remains committed to building community, engaging students, and maintaining the highly interactive and participatory nature of the curricular and co-curricular components. We will teach and engage synchronously, likely having online meetings between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm CEST and including generous breaks, with a total of 45 hours for the online program (15 hours each week for three weeks), with 30 hours for the curricular components (10 hours each week for three weeks) and 15 hours for the co-curricular components (5 hours each week for three weeks). Please note that this is subject to change. More details, including a final schedule, will be forthcoming prior to the program start. 

An integral part of the Summer Institute has been introducing students to the American college campus experience as well as providing a perspective on the diverse range of activities that are part of US higher education, including centers for the performing and visual arts as well as entrepreneurial innovation, research institutes, scientific laboratories, campus farm operations and agricultural extension programs, student life organizations, community outreach, recreational and professional sports, etc.

While some of this will be lost due to the shift to a virtual program, we will strive to recreate the Virginia Tech experience through a series of virtual tours and simulations combined with interactive seminars and workshops to replicate the feel of being on a college campus.

We will also provide virtual opportunities for German Fulbright students to engage with US students to build relationships with peers. More specifically, we will virtually connect the German Fulbright students with undergraduate students engaged this summer in undergraduate research at Virginia Tech, a program which runs May 24-July 30, 2021.  German Fulbright students will take virtual lab tours with American student hosts, attend the American students’ symposium  at which their summer’s research is presented, and be offered opportunities to engage in professional development opportunities with American students. During the Summer Institute itself, we plan to have Virginia Tech graduate students matched with German Fulbright students for daily conversations.. 

The co-curricular aspects of the program will complement the academic content of the “Communicating Across Disciplines: New Approaches for Applied Sciences” course. They will allow for additional dialogue on and experimentation with the course themes, while taking measures to guard against Zoom fatigue. The co-curricular components will be structured as a combination of asynchronous modules that could be accessed in advance of the program in addition to scheduled live synchronous sessions with breakout one-on-one or small group conversations with peers throughout.

Past co-curricular site visits around campus have included the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), part of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS). As an FAA-designated test site for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), students visiting campus would have the opportunity to fly a drone at Virginia Tech’s Drone Park. In a virtual format, MAAP representatives will be able to share about their unmanned aircraft research and the development of emerging technologies bringing together engineering, the humanities, and the physical, life, and social sciences.

Researchers will be able to walk students through their industry collaborations like the partnership with Project Wing, which has teamed up with NASA on unmanned traffic management and making history in drone home delivery. In fact, Wing delivery drone No. A1229 is to be displayed with the Smithsonian at the Air and Space Museum’s Allan and Shelley Holt Innovations Gallery in Washington, DC. In interactive ways, students will have the opportunity to hear from researchers and see aircrafts in the Wing delivery fleet as if they were here on campus, and instead of flying a drone at the drone park, students will pilot drones via an online simulator.

This is just one example of the co-curricular components of the program.  

In the context of an online program, we will collaborate with other selected co-curricular partners like the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs.

Finally, in the past, part of the program was spent in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, with a focus on American history, democracy, and cultural identity. As the US and world enter into a critical dialogue on racial and social (in)justice and the pandemic reveals how interconnected we all are, more virtual resources are available now than ever before. In an in-person context, students would spend time exploring Washington, DC and walking the halls of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture(NMAAHC). In an online setting, the program would leverage resources such as NMAAHC’s recently launched “Talking About Race” portal featuring tools and guidance committed to understanding the racial and cultured aspects of identity as well as the systems and policies of equity.

360-degree online tours will allow students to discover the historic and cultural sites as well as governmental institutions of Washington, DC in order to learn more about the US as well as contrast a very urban setting with the rural reality surrounding Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. As examples, see the US Capitol Building’s virtual tour and the Appalachian Trail’s 3D Explorer.

The program will use a wide range of online tools and platforms, including but not limited to:

·      Canvas (Virginia Tech’s Learning Management System)

·      Flipgrid

As a university, and as a society, we are increasingly aware of the fact that the most urgent challenges facing us are unfathomably complex, large, and interconnected – “wicked problems” (Kolko, 2012). These challenges cannot be addressed by individuals or by traditional competitive means. They require communication and collaboration skills that allow new approaches and new systems to be developed. Effective communication and true collaboration help individuals and societies to create new paradigms rather than revisiting old and failing structures.

The next generation of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, health professionals, and other workers must be able to communicate more effectively about their work in a variety of contexts, and in our increasingly global society the ability to connect and communicate across differences of many kinds is essential.

The ability to communicate directly and vividly can enhance career prospects for the next generation of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, health professionals, and other workers, helping them secure funding, collaborate across disciplines, compete for positions, and serve as effective teachers, supervisors, and mentors.

Thus, the focus of the Summer Institute will be to develop participant's communication, collaboration, and connection skills across differences and disciplines


The Summer Institute is designed to be a transformational experience for the German Fulbright students, as well as the faculty and staff who will teach, serve, and learn alongside of the students on a daily basis for three weeks, both inside and outside the classroom. The overarching goals are for the students to:

  • Enhance their knowledge of the United States and the US system of higher education;
  • Experience academic life and studies on an American campus;
  • Engage with the American tradition of interdisciplinary and/or general education courses;
  • Expand their intercultural competencies; and
  • Develop their English language proficiency.

Students will leave with:

  • A stronger command of the English language; a better understanding of US higher education; a deeper understanding of US culture;
  • An increased confidence in their ability to communicate across disciplines and differences;
  • A commitment to continuing to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for communicating, collaborating, and connecting across disciplines and differences; and
  • A number of new personal and professional relationships that will last a lifetime.


On successful completion of the Communicating Science course, students will be able to:

  • Speak spontaneously and effectively to others about their disciplinary focus; Speak personally about their disciplinary focus;
  • Apply theories of performance and improvisation within the context of technical communication;
  • Distinguish and respond to indicators of audience comprehension and attentiveness; and
  • Respond effectively in both individual and group interactions.