McCloy Academic Scholarship Program

Doing relevant and useful things

Since 1983, the McCloy Scholarship has been offering outstanding students an opportunity to spend two years at Harvard. Susanna Krüger, Frank Müller, Friederike von Reden and Stefan Wisbauer all jumped at the chance. Four fellows from four different years talk about their experiences.

Mr. Müller, in 1983 you were among the first year of McCloy fellows. Back then studying abroad was a lot more exotic than it is today. What attracted you in the first place?

FRANK MÜLLER: As an economics graduate from Duisburg, I originally wanted to go abroad and study in Melbourne. The German Academic Scholarship Foundation pointed me towards the McCloy Scholarship for the prestigious course at Harvard. It sounded great. Back then the programme was still fairly unknown. In the end there were seven of us, studying at Harvard from 1983 until 1985.

What was your primary drive?

MÜLLER: I wanted to prove myself in a new and foreign environment. I wasn’t concerned about professional expectations. I was a student representative with an interest in society, politics, and other things.

SUSANNA KRÜGER: In some ways, the trigger for me was politics. Some fellow students and I were actually planning to take over and rebuild a political party, but we eventually failed. Following that, I wanted to know about ways to orchestrate change management in political processes. Studying history, philosophy, and international law hadn’t been of much help. That’s how I came across the programme. It wasn’t purely a career thing, but I was definitely hoping that it would open up new possibilities.

STEFAN WISBAUER: I met two former McCloy fellows while on an internship and they were raving about how »applied« their studies had been over there. For me, having completed a very theoretical degree in mathematics and physics, that was key. A broader, more practical approach, doing something relevant and useful. It appealed to me. I felt the world needed more bridge builders.

Ms von Reden, you are currently taking part in the programme. What were you hoping for?

FRIEDERIKE VON REDEN: After completing a master’s degree in history, cultural management, and civil law at universities in Germany and Sweden, I worked for the Association of Arts and Culture of the German Economy in Berlin, which was fulfilling and exciting. But at some point I started missing the international exchange – as well as new challenges. In studying for a master’s degree in public administration, I wanted to add to my existing skills by acquiring new ones in the areas of NGO management and international relations – and gain new perspectives. So far, I get the impression that all my expectations are more than being met!

© Susanna Krüger

To me, the network and many of the people are very, very important. I come from a non- academic family, the fellowship was a life-changing step for me, and I am still very grateful for that. I do have very good work relations with some of the fellows, not least on an international level.

Susanna Krüger

What was your most formative experience?

WISBAUER: As part of my course at Harvard Business School, some fellow students and I got to spend an entire summer in the Middle East. Together with Israelis and Palestinians, we developed bridge-building projects and closely analysed certain trade patterns, for example in important ports. How does the situation present itself from one perspective? What does it look like from the other point of view? That was extremely fascinating. Also, the courses on system dynamics made a lasting impact on my way of thinking.

VON REDEN: In general, the basic attitude in the US is more optimistic and solution-oriented than in Germany. There is also a lot of cooperation. I find the idea of jointly working on creative interdisciplinary solutions for social problems very enriching.

KRÜGER: Most important for me was a new kind of self-awareness. How am I perceived within groups, how do I function within groups, how can I intervene? Your self-confidence grows and with it the sense that a lot is possible. You lose the fear of meeting officials and you move more confidently on the international stage. The focus on change management ended up changing my professional life: For nearly 15 years now, I have been concerning myself with processes of change in non-profit and public organisations.

MÜLLER: We’d be having lunch and government officials or CEOs would suddenly walk past! To a kid from a working-class family, that was truly special. I learned to stop thinking in terms of hierarchies so much and to appear more confident in any given situation.

Having spent part of a degree course examining the issues of social entre- preneurship, of how society and the economy can undergo sustainable and socially responsible change, how much of that later translates into the real world?

MÜLLER: I have spent most of my life working on alternative economic policy, even when playing a leading role in the financial sector. My »vita« foundation promotes the environment, education, and culture. My wife and I founded it in 2007, to support such search processes. Just recently, I was in Bhutan where there was a young king who once, when asked about the Gross National Product, replied: »My people’s happiness is much more important to me, the ›Gross National Happiness‹.« It’s a subject that continues to fascinate me.

WISBAUER: I had already signed a contract with McKinsey, but I decided to go to the World Bank before, specifically to experience working in the public sector. I wanted to do something meaningful, something that suited the Harvard Kennedy School spirit. And the realisation that peo- ple in an institution like that actually listen to one’s ideas is very satisfying.

© Stefan Wisbauer

Anyone looking to move things along in politics or in foundations would be well advised to get an understanding of how businesses work. In many cases, it is possible to move from business to the non-profit world or vice versa at a later point.

Stefan Wisbauer

Ms Krüger, your consulting firm »Goodroot« is helping organisations with a social and sociopolitical focus increase their impact. Do you get the impression that holistic and socially responsible approaches have become more important in this country’s economy and society over the past few years?

KRÜGER: I am seeing a delicate and fragile shift in awareness and in the way we perceive things. However, we are talking about rather isolated developments in specific environments. There are leaders who already think and act differently today. But they are the exception. In the practical organisational reality in ­Germany, you don’t see much of that.

Are the recent economic scandals such as at VW and Deutsche Bank speeding up the shift of awareness in management? Is the »respectable salesman« making a comeback as a role model?

KRÜGER: I’m not expecting recent events to have any significant consequences, the forces of inertia are very strong, the show must go on. But those examples are raising important questions: Can we actually still control anything in these increasingly complex situations? Do we need new types of leadership?

WISBAUER: There have always been scandals, but because of global networking in social channels we are seeing completely different dynamics at work today. Nowadays, a wrong policy can fundamentally damage a company. Compared to other countries such as the US, for example, German awareness of the need for a more sustainable, responsible, and value-driven behaviour – see the protection of the environment – seems a lot more pronounced.

MÜLLER: I have high hopes for the younger generations to do something about it. I am not so sure about long-standing managers. I have worked in large companies. In times of crisis, people only reacted because they had to. The younger folks can change this. I can see it in younger McCloy fellows: they come at it with different ideas and take on more responsibility.

What do you mean by that?

MÜLLER: Kennedy School graduates from my generation all ended up in very lucrative jobs. It was basically what was expected to happen naturally. Today, graduates rather more consciously prioritise usefulness over money. They are much more value- oriented. This type of bottom-up pressure could change society and business.

VON REDEN: It’s true, the salary usually isn’t the top priority for generation Y. We McCloy fellows are lucky in that we are not in debt after graduating. This gives us a bit more freedom when choosing a job. Many American students tend to go for a high-income job after graduating because they need to pay back their loans. Personally, I would like to go on to working on international understanding, integration, or humanitarian response.

© Friederike von Reden

To us who are still students, the network plays an important role too – in both a professional and a private context. Even before going over there, you attend the annual meeting and are integrated into the McCloy family like a new family member – I like that a lot.

Friederike von Reden

So you wouldn’t view a classic DAX company as a potential employer?

VON REDEN: Yes, I would, but I’d prefer in the field of corporate social responsibility or at a corporate foundation.

Should a young McCloy fellow looking to affect change in our community enter the business world or join a non-profit organisation?

WISBAUER: Anyone looking to move things along in politics or in foundations would be well advised to get an understanding of how businesses work. And even within companies, it’s possible to work on projects that have no commercial focus. When I was with McKinsey, I regularly got involved in pro bono projects. In many cases, it is possible to move from business to the non-profit world or vice versa at a later point. It’s difficult to make a generalised recommendation.

KRÜGER: Both paths make sense, just let your own interests decide. Changing sides later in your career is easier today than it was 15 years ago. That is a nice development since we need a lot more people who move between the two worlds and act as translators.

Do you need higher frustration tolerance in the business world?

KRÜGER: No, I think it’s the other way round. In a classic German corporation, work targets are more ­easily definable and success is more clearly measurable. In a foundation or the non-profit world, visibility and meaning are generally the currency. It’s harder to initiate the intended change processes, and progress is often barely palpable. It takes a lot of energy. In the business world, it is often easier to feel a sense of ­achievement.

How did your time at Harvard change your perception of the US?

Müller: In those days we tended to be quite critical of the United States, due to sensitive political issues such as the NATO Double-Track Decision. While in the States I learned to see many things differently, and I left the country feeling a lot more sympathetic. This was mainly down to great contacts with regular American ­students.

KRÜGER: Before my stay I had imagined the US as a big innovative service society sharing many similarities with Germany. But there were surprisingly large differences. Often completely different things are meant by using the same words, for example. Therefore my stay in the US was helpful. Also, my view of US foreign policy changed. On September 11, 2001, we all watched the Twin Towers collapse on a large screen at Kennedy School. That increased my empathy for the Americans considerably.

WISBAUER: I was already familiar with life in the US from having spent time at a Californian high school and studying in Michigan for a while. So there were few surprises. But I gained deeper insight into other cultures, after all, Kennedy School is very international.

VON REDEN: Actually, there are big cultural differences, and sometimes I notice how »German« I am. We like to be thorough, do things in more depth. But on the whole, my positive attitude toward the US is confirmed.

© Frank Müller

I have spent most of my life working on alternative economic policy, even when playing a leading role in the financial sector. Today, the ›Gross National Happiness‹ is a subject that continues to fascinate me.

Frank Müller

How active is the exchange between former fellows?

MÜLLER: It’s getting increasingly better and it means a lot to me. Particularly the dialogue with the younger generation is very inspiring. Since the McCloy club came into existence, the exchange has become a lot easier.

Are these contacts more of a private nature or do they have a business angle?

KRÜGER: Both, but the private aspect is predominant. To me, the network and many of the people are very, very important. I come from a non-academic family, the fellowship was a life-changing step for me, and I am still very grateful for that. I do have very good work relations with some of the fellows, not least on an international level. It makes working very easy, because we speak the same language in a way.

VON REDEN: To us who are still students, the network plays an important role too – in both a professional and a private context. Even before going over there, you attend the annual meeting and are integrated into the McCloy family like a new family member – I like that a lot.

WISBAUER: I am relatively active and I always enjoy going to the meetings. I mostly focus on the social aspect. McCloys really are a species of their own! A very inspiring bunch, it’s always great fun to meet them.

Von Haniel Stiftung

McCloy scholarship programme

Spending two years at one of the world's best universities on a full monthly scholarship that includes all tuition fees – every year, thanks to the »McCloy Academic Scholarship Program«, this unique opportunity is afforded to six outstanding prospective leaders who wish to gain a better understanding of current transatlantic perspectives, opportunities, and challenges. The aim is to prepare fellows for demanding tasks in the economy and society, and to support them in helping shape innovative and multi-sectoral solutions to relevant social challenges. Every year, the Haniel Foundation funds one of up to six scholarships. Further partners are the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, Harvard University, the McCloy Scholarship Foundation in the Donor's Association, the McCloy Alumni as well as the German Academic Scholarship Foundation that is the programme's central coordinator and carrier on the German side.

The McCloy Program is one of the highest-value scholarship programmes in Germany as well as one of the oldest and rich-in-tradition international fellowships at Harvard University. Applications must be submitted by November 1st of any year. Go to the German Academic Scholarship Foundation’s website for information on how to apply: www.studienstiftung.de/mccloy