Students Gain Industry Insight at German-American Business Summit

More than 300 students, faculty, alumni, recruiters and industry executives attended the College of Charleston’s second annual German-American Business Summit earlier this month.

“The summit’s reputation is clearly growing,” says Morgan Koerner, chair of the Department of German and Russian Studies and associate professor of German. “Students from six other universities, from as far away as Furman and Clemson, traveled to the event, and we anticipate the summit to grow even further in the future.”

Participants at the summit. (Photos by Reese Moore)

A total of 135 CofC students attended the event on Feb. 8, 2018, which featured 15 companies including the summit’s main sponsor Mercedes-Benz Vans. There were also 38 recruiters on-hand seeking applicants for internships and employment opportunities.

A joint effort between the Department of German and Russian Studies, the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs, the Career Center, and the School of Business, the event targeted a wide spectrum of majors. From business majors (international business, supply chain, finance, accounting, marketing) to STEM majors to communication, political science, and international studies majors, the summit served to engage a variety of students and fields of study. The event, of course, focused on German majors and minors, most of whom combine their study of German with one of the other fields, as well as other foreign language majors, as many of the participating companies have subsidiaries in foreign countries and need multilingual employees.

“The Summit provides a wonderful venue for our students to experience firsthand the impact and influence German businesses have in South Carolina,” says Kent Gourdin, chair of the Department of Supply Chain and Information Management and professor of global logistics and transportation. “The internship and job fair is especially valuable as the students are very interested in working for German companies. In fact, several applied for internships with firms that same afternoon.”

Participants at the summit.

Keynote speaker Michael Golz, chief information officer of Americas SAP, discussed “Digital Transformation,” and a panel discussion on innovation brought together executives from Mercedes-Benz Vans Ludwidsfelde & Charleston, KION North America, BASF, and ZF Transmissions Gray Court.

“The big takeaway,” says Koerner, “is that in order to be successful in the ever-shifting world of industry, students need to be comfortable thinking critically and creatively and navigating ambiguous environments. The sooner they develop these skills, the better. And internships, especially those abroad, are crucial for their development.”

Koerner adds, “I also left the summit thinking that we at the College are very much on the right track and are giving our students a clear advantage on the job market by emphasizing practical internship experience, foreign language proficiency and intercultural competence, and the critical thinking skills that come from a liberal arts education.”