Though separated by the Atlantic and more than 4,000 miles, Blacksburg, Virginia, and Darmstadt, Germany, just got closer.

In January, the Virginia Tech-Technical University of Darmstadt Liaison Office opened in Blacksburg with the mission to strengthen collaboration between two longstanding partners.

For almost two decades, Virginia Tech and the Technical University of Darmstadt have shared robust study abroad programs, joint faculty research projects, and faculty and staff exchanges. Nearly 400 students have traveled between each university to study engineering, political science, German language and literature, and architecture.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony between President Timothy Sands and President of Technisch Universitat Darmstadt, Hans-Jurgen Promel.

Technical University of Darmstadt President Promel and Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands sign an memorandum of understanding in 2016.
Technical University of Darmstadt President Hans Jürgen Prömel and Virginia Tech President Tim Sands sign a memorandum of understanding in 2016.

In 2016, the universities signed a memorandum of understanding continuing the relationship and committing to a strategic partnership. In the same year, a research-matching workshop was held in Darmstadt to explore and develop common interests between faculty members.

Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs, said, “As leading universities in their respective nations, both Virginia Tech and TU Darmstadt have a long history together, and we are keen to deepen this partnership. The establishment of the liaison office in Blacksburg provides VT with the perfect opportunity to promote German higher-education opportunities on our campus and explore new ventures together.”

Technical University of Darmstadt President Hans Jürgen Prömel will visit Virginia Tech for a ribbon-cutting event Feb. 20 to celebrate the office’s opening.

Philina Wittke will join the Global Education Office, part of Outreach and International Affairs, as head of the liaison office. Along with promoting existing programs, advising interested students, and facilitating enrollment, Wittke will explore potential areas for joint research with Virginia Tech colleges. These include refugee integration, smart housing, cybersecurity, and business informatics.

Photo of Philina Wittke.
Philina Wittke, head of the new Virginia Tech-TU Darmstadt Liaison Office in Blacksburg.

“At a broader level, these efforts will support the development of initiatives that expand cooperation between the United States and Germany in the areas of education, research, and corporate engagement,” Ghosh said.

This semester, Wittke is teaching a German language course with Virginia Tech’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. She holds teaching and language degrees from the University of Kiel, the University of Tubingen, and Bowling Green State University.

“In German terms, having a partnership for 18 years signifies a mature relationship. While the current relationship is strong, we also recognize the possibility for further growth in a number of interest areas that complement both universities’ research strengths,” Wittke said.

Wittke most recently worked in Johannesburg, South Africa, as the director for The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the world’s largest funding organization for the international exchange of students and researchers. Her work in Blacksburg will include exploring funding opportunities with organizations such as DAAD, the German Embassy's office of the cultural attache, the U.S.-German Chamber of Commerce, and corporate collaborators.

The liaison office address is 526 Prices Fork Road, across from the Surge Space Building.

Written by Rommelyn Coffren