Welt und Wissenschaft: Growing Strong with a Dedicated Community

If you are interested in attending a conference at HSE, there is always something going on. In fact, one of the University’s conferences aimed at young researchers is quite special, as it held neither in Russian nor in English, but in German. Less than half a month apart from HSE’s April Conference, the international conference Welt und Wissenschaft (‘World and Science’) was held for the 4th time. The HSE Look talked to one of the organizers, Yulia Pasko, Associate Professor of the Department of German Language, about how they involve students and faculty in the development of this tight-knit academic community.

Where did the idea of holding a conference in German at HSE come from?

You could say that it originated as a spin-off of an annual festival of German language (‘Wir lernen Deutsch’), which our department has held since 2005. This is a place for all students to present something, usually a song, a small play, etc., to celebrate their love of German language and culture. One year we had several students who wanted to present in German the results of research they did in term papers and theses. We thought it would be a good idea to hold the festival and research events separately if there turned out to be sufficient number of student presenters. So, 2014, we announced that the following year we will hold the student conference Welt and Wissenschaft. This would have been impossible without our colleagues at HSE who were kind to lend their time and efforts to chairing the conference sessions. Initially, they were Oleg Voskoboynikov, Carsten Sprenger and Tobias Stüdemann, our partner from Freie Universität Berlin.

What subjects are being currently considered at the conference?

We have quite a diverse range of subjects to offer students. And this has evolved organically. In our first year, we had three very broadly defined sessions: Law, Economics and Humanities. Political Science branched off in 2016, along with Literature, Culture and Translation. With every passing year, more specialized sessions emerge. We can now offer a wide range of sessions in different fields, including:

Literature, Cultureand Translation - chaired by Iris Bäcker, Associate Professor at the School of Philology;

Politics and Public Administration – chaired by Tim Jaekel, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Administration;

Sociology – chaired by Christian Fröhlich, Assistant Professor at the School of Sociology,

History (‘Past and Present’) – chaired by Martin Beisswenger, Assistant Professor at the School of History;

Economics – chaired by Dirk Meissner, Professor at the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge; 

Philosophy and Logic– chaired by Pjotr Rezvykh, Associate Professor at the School of Philosophy;

Law Theory and Practice – chaired by Alexander Dreut from Russian-German Chamber of Commerce.

Are all of your participants HSE students?

Far from it! We get students from other universities in Moscow, such as MGIMO, MGU, RGGU, Moscow State Pedagogical University, Moscow State Law University, and, what was most surprising for us, from Sechenov Medical University. We’ve also had students come from as far as Vladivostok, as well as German students – a PhD free-mover from Dresden and an exchange student from Göttingen, who is currently doing a semester abroad at HSE St. Petersburg.

It’s a great asset to our participants that we have students of all levels – undergrads, graduate and PhD students, thereby allowing younger researchers to learn not only from established professionals such as our session chairs, but also from other young but more experienced researchers such as PhD students. Some of the participants have been attending for three years already. Naturally, exposure to world-class research is invaluable as well, as it allows them to consider a potential academic career in more depth, as well as produce more solid work as students.

What else was special about the conference this year?

Since our conference has many different sessions, it was difficult to come up with an idea for some integral opening or plenary that would be relevant to them all. So, we decided to hold a fair for students. Our event brings together many talented students. Furthermore, we wanted to show them opportunities made possible through their knowledge of German, both for further education, internships and career development. We’ve had representatives from DAAD, Freie Universität Berlin, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce, Bosch, and many others. We’ve also had many students join this part of the programme, so it has served its purpose – to show that knowing German language and culture, as well as understanding the contemporary society and economy of German-speaking countries, can be a path to a successful and interesting professional life.

Is the conference followed up by any publications?

We published the third book of conference papers this year, and we are hoping to continue with this. Of course, not all paper proposals make it to the conference, and, at the same time, not all the presentations are turned into conference papers. It requires a whole new level of work and motivation – some students are more focused on delivering presentations, while others are looking to expand their list of published works. All in all, about one-third of participants end up selected for the book. In 2017, we were able to bring the publication to a new level with the help of Tim Jaekel, who has been a member of the organizing committee since 2016, both in terms of editing the final papers, as well as getting an ISSN. Our conference also has its own logo, and we are very happy that it helps to visually present a sense of community that we are trying to create through this very dynamic and vibrant academic event.

Read more in The HSE Look May 2018 issue