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Frank Oprandy was one of 15 U.S. higher education officials who received Fulbright
International Education Administrators awards and spent time visiting German universities
in the fall of 2022. The group, which networked and learned about the German education
system, is pictured at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Inspired by a Fulbright-sponsored trip to three German universities in the fall of 2022, Harbert College of Business administrator Frank Oprandy is now planning ways to enhance the international educational experiences of Auburn graduate students.
The recipient of a prestigious Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) award, Oprandy was part of a cohort of 15 faculty and administrators from 15 American universities who spent two weeks based in Berlin with the Fulbright Germany Commission and visited the campuses of the Leibnitz University Hannover, University of Potsdam, and Berlin University of Applied Sciences and Technology, where they met with their German counterparts and learned about their host country’s education system.
“I went into it pretty wide open,” said Oprandy, Harbert’s director of Graduate Career Services, who met and interacted with professionals from advancement, risk management, international programs, alumni relations and executive administration. “It was interesting and eye opening to sit down with people who do different kinds of work from both German and U.S. higher education organizations.”
One of the biggest takeaways, Oprandy said, was building relationships with his German counterparts and learning about the structure of German higher education, which provides free tuition for its students. Harbert students will benefit in the long term.
“Harbert does a great job around international trips and study abroad for our students, but we don’t have a lot of European students coming here because school is free there,” Oprandy said. “That’s part of the value of these type of programs. You hear about something, but when you see it there and meet the people who are living it, it lands differently—moves from a theoretical construct to a practical issue.”
As a practical issue, Harbert Business’ Soaring to 2025 strategic plan calls for creating a global mindset for its students—a goal that can be better achieved by building more relationships abroad.
According to the 2020 Auburn University Internationalization Report, there were three graduate students and two undergraduates from Germany studying at Auburn. As a point of reference, there were more than 500 graduate students from China and 172 graduate students from India studying at Auburn.
Despite this obstacle, Oprandy sees opportunities where Harbert and German students can interact and learn from one another. For example, he envisions weeklong summer exchanges in which Auburn students visit Germany and the German students visit the Auburn campus.
Frank Oprandy at the German Parliament building.
“They have a great system of connecting schools with employers, so we could take Harbert students there for a week and visit several companies that our students might not otherwise have access to,” he said, noting that such an exchange could facilitate longer industry internships in Germany for Harbert students.
Alternately, there are many German companies in Alabama—Mercedes-Benz and ALDI being the among the largest—which provides a possible outlet for German students interning at the companies to visit the Auburn campus each summer. Another opportunity exists where students from both countries collaborate on joint projects for the benefit of American or German companies.
According to Danny Butler, assistant dean for Harbert Global Programs, the Fulbright experience was both an honor for Oprandy personally and for Harbert Business because the Fulbright awards are highly competitive.
“Frank’s Fulbright experience helps advance Auburn and our college’s internationalization strategic goal,” said Butler, a former Fulbright faculty scholar who taught in Croatia during 2013. “I believe diversity in our MBA programs is key to our success. You want different perspectives—people from different places and with a variety of world views.”
Oprandy is now considered an alumnus of the Fulbright program, which enables him to return to Germany next summer to further build relationships so he can implement some of his ideas.
“Frank now has a whole new network of people he can call on,” said Butler. “And Auburn now has an ambassador who went over there and made us look good.”
In addition to the deep dive into Germany’s higher ed system, Oprandy and his Fulbright colleagues visited cultural and historical sites like the Bundestag, or German Parliament, and the European Union Commission.
“I learned just how burdened the German people are by their history still,” Oprandy said. “They’re determined not to repeat that past again. The Fulbright Germany program is built to help Americans understand Germany’s past and get insight into their innovations in higher education.”