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German Universities Seek to Reclaim Lost Glory

A proposed reform would promote a class of super-elite schools

7 min read

Heino Beckmann, a German finance professor, recalls his student days during the early 1960s in Berlin very fondly. "You were in charge of your own studies, with little direction," he says. "It was a wonderful time of exploration. You read whatever you wanted." When he came to the United States later, he was surprised and a little shocked at the extent to which students were guided. "I couldn't read what I wanted to read but rather what the professor wanted me to read. I must confess, I had liked being in charge of my studies."

What Beckmann remembers so nostalgically, he realizes now, was an educational world that was on the verge of being drastically changed, almost beyond recognition. Originally conceived in the early 19th century by the Prussian statesman, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt (brother of the famous explorer and natural scientist, Alexander), Germany's universities were designed to train members of an ultra-elite cadre to become teaching researchers.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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