Lakeland University

Why Luxembourg?

October 23, 2013 By In Scott Niederjohn Blog
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Bonjour, Guten Tag, Hello, Moien, Lakeland Friends,

While on sabbatical this fall from Lakeland, I am living with my wife and four children in Luxembourg City. The U.S. Fulbright Scholar program has provided me with the opportunity to teach and work at the University of Luxembourg this semester. This is the first of periodic updates on my activities here in Europe as they relate Lakeland.

First, many readers might be asking, “Why Luxembourg?” Actually, I suspect many are also asking, “Where is Luxembourg?” as I’ve had kind well-wishers from campus offer me good luck in London, Belgium, Lichtenstein, and Germany. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given the size of this tiny country—smaller than Rhode Island and wedged between France, Germany and Belgium. To provide an example of how small this country really is, we travel just 20 minutes to Belgium to visit the local IKEA store and about 25 minutes into France to find a sporting goods store. I’ve finally learned to put my phone on “airplane mode” when I go shopping so my Luxembourg-based service provider doesn’t charge me international roaming fees as I do errands.

The choice to spend a semester here wasn’t made haphazardly; in fact, this opportunity came about after a number of years of careful planning and relationship building both in Europe and Wisconsin. My interest in the country of Luxembourg originated with a meeting back in the spring of 2010—organized by Lakeland Interim President Dan Eck— at the Luxembourg-American Cultural Society, located in Belgium, Wis. This society is involved with activities designed to preserve Luxembourg heritage and culture in America and nurture the ongoing relationships of family, friendship, commerce, and tourism between Luxembourg and America. Since that meeting, Lakeland has worked closely with this society on projects related to student internships, philanthropy, research, event planning and business development activities between the United States and Luxembourg.

This relationship with the LACS eventually led to an invitation by the University of Luxembourg to visit their campus and investigate opportunities for our two institutions to work together. I visited Luxembourg in February of 2012 in an effort to begin to establish student and faculty exchange programs between our college and the University of Luxembourg. During this visit, I made a number of important contacts with officials in the Luxembourg government and with faculty and staff at the university. Connections made during this visit eventually led to the invitation to visit the University of Luxembourg as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar. Both institutions believe that a semester-long faculty visit will be an ideal way to solidify the relationships we have begun to build in terms of student and faculty exchange. I’m happy to report that our first two Lakeland students will be studying in Luxembourg during the spring term of 2014, but more on this in future updates.


Due to various rules related to the Fulbright Scholarship Program and Luxembourg’s immigration process, our family was not allowed to enter continental Europe until early September. Given this restriction, we decided to spend the last couple of weeks in August visiting the United Kingdom. While most of our time in England and Scotland was family vacation, I did have the opportunity to arrange a meeting with the general manager of the Kohler Company-owned Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, Scotland. The tour of this beautiful facility, right next to the famous “Road Hole” on the Old Course, made me feel like I was back in Sheboygan County with the Kohler plumbing fixtures and water spa identical to the one in Kohler, Wis. This visit led to a promising invitation to work with their personnel to develop opportunities for Lakeland students to serve as interns at the hotel, and I’ve already heard from colleagues at home telling me they have advisees interested for next summer.


We were fortunate to have a week to get settled in Luxembourg before my duties at the university began. The immigration process is quite time consuming (especially for six!) and it took a while to understand how to use the bus system, shop for the basic necessities of life, and generally acclimate ourselves to life in a new country. Luxembourg is a very interesting place—at any time you can hear a multitude of languages being spoken in the various public places around the city. The Luxembourg education system emphasizes language instruction and produces high school graduates that are generally fluent in their native language of Luxembourgish, as well as German, French and English. The official language of the government is French and therefore signs and official documents are displayed in that language. My investment this past year in attempting to learn French has come in very handy as I navigate the public transportation system and fill out the various government forms. 

One of the wonderful benefits of the Fulbright program is the connection with the U.S. State Department and Embassy system. We receive invitations to all of the local U.S. Embassy’s official events, one of which occurred during the first week we arrived. My wife, Stephanie, and I attended a reception and premiere of the movie “The Butler” with a distinguished group of guests, including the American and British ambassadors to this country. Interestingly, I learned that evening that America’s first African American ambassador was stationed right here in Luxembourg in 1965. 

I’m now about three weeks into my course titled, the United States Economy, Culture and Business Practices. My class is one of four options students in the economics and business majors can choose among to satisfy one of their requirements. This seminar-style course explores a number of topics, including: U.S. economic history, the American economy today, the financial crisis of 2007-2009, American business and entrepreneurship as well as general issues of cultural and business differences between the United States and Europe. To enrich the final topic, the class will be visiting the U.S. Embassy in November and hearing from a guest speaker from the American Chamber of Commerce here in Luxembourg, as well. We are reading two books—Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang” which discusses how the U.S.-centered housing crisis spread quickly to Europe’s economies, and Walter Issacson’s well-known biography “Jobs,” recently made into a film, which will help us think about entrepreneurship in America.   


My class is, of course, taught in English. The university is tri-lingual and all of the students enrolled in my section also take classes that are taught in French and German. In addition to being a multi-lingual school, all of the University of Luxembourg’s undergraduate students are also required to complete a “mobility” assignment. Essentially, this assignment requires them to study abroad for one semester. Because the country is so small, many of the students choose to simply live at home with their parents and drive to one of the universities in the neighboring countries to fulfill this requirement. This problem explains their interest in Lakeland as they would like more of their students to study in North America, Asia or at least outside of the bordering European countries.

I currently have more than 70 students enrolled in the class, which is causing my wife some stress as I’ve invited them all over to our small rented home for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (and to watch the Packers beat the Lions) next month as part of the “culture” component of the class. The students at the university are allowed to spend the first month of the term sampling various classes and are not required to actually register for their final schedule until next week. This system has taken me some time to adapt to as I have no idea which students will actually be enrolled in my class until we are almost one third of the way through the term. Another significant difference between American higher education and the typical European university also became apparent in my first class meeting. The students here are used to classes that are completely lecture-based with their entire grade dependent upon one high stakes exam at the end. They seemed very confused when I explained that part of their grade was dependent upon discussion of the books we’re reading and that they would also be making group presentations on different topics related to America. Even the quiet students that are a little nervous about the discussion and presentation components of the class are excited not to have to take a long final exam in January and instead be evaluated throughout the term on a diverse set of assessment activities. 

I’ll close by mentioning that I’ve also been busy attending faculty meetings, discussing strategies for building our exchange program with University of Luxembourg faculty and staff, and learning more about best practices for internationalizing Lakeland’s business programs. This week, I will be making presentations to the students here about opportunities to study abroad at Lakeland. I’ll share more about all of these activities in next month’s installment.

Until then, Addi, Au Revior, Good Bye, Tschau,


PS—The first question many of those that know me well asked when they heard I was moving to Europe wasn’t where we will live or where my kids will go to school, but how I will watch the Packers. Well, it’s about 7:30 pm here in Luxembourg on Sunday, October 6, and I’m enjoying watching the Packers beat the Lions. We plugged a device called Slingbox into our cable box in Wisconsin and we can watch all of the Time Warner Wisconsin cable channels—including our DVR—here in Luxembourg on our computers, iPads or iPhones. Another example of how flat the world has become.

Read 2370 times
Scott Niederjohn

A noted state economist, Scott Niederjohn is one of the nation's top advocates for adding economic education to K-12 curriculum. Since joining Lakeland's faculty in 2004, Scott has led the creation of the Lakeland Center for Economic Education, which works with EconomicsWisconsin to create financial literacy and economics curriculum and other tools for K-12 teachers. His research has been featured in numerous academic journals, and his research and thoughts on public policy and other state issues regularly have him quoted by statewide media outlets.

Related items

  • Serious science
    If you happen to see Lakeland University biology students Brooke Wilder-Corrigan and Madison (Hull) Runge laughing during lunch, approach with caution. You might be walking into some really, really complicated humor.

    “When you’re making Daphnia jokes outside of the lab, you know you love your job,” says Wilder-Corrigan with a laugh.

    No, Daphnia is not a person. Rather, Daphnia magna are small zooplankton, important staples near the bottom of many fresh-water food webs. These tiny animals also happen to play a huge role in these bright women’s summer.

    Wilder-Corrigan, a senior from Lake Linden, Mich., and Runge, a senior from Suring, Wis., are research assistants collaborating with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, located just outside of Knoxville, Tenn. Working in Lakeland’s labs, the two students are performing critical ground-level research about Daphnia magna and its reaction to man-made pollution.

    Specifically, Wilder-Corrigan and Runge are helping the national lab analyze the vast effects of coal fly ash (sludge-like waste residue from the burning of coal) on this species – and indirectly, the entire food web. During the length of their contract, from April 1 to Sept. 30, they will work approximately 300 hours between them, and that includes weekends and holidays. Daphnia, you see, never take the day off.

    “One of the biggest challenges facing freshwater ecosystems is understanding the effects of multiple stressors,” says Teresa Matthews, aquatic scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    “Although toxicity standards most often consider individual contaminants, most environmental disasters involve complex mixtures of contaminants and other stressors. Because it is impossible to screen for the effects of every possible stressor combination using standard methodology, we are developing a new framework (using Daphnia magna as a model species) which is not stressor-specific and which will allow for the translation of effects of stressors seen at the subcellular level to larger scale, longer-term impacts at the population and ecosystem level.

    “Madison’s and Brooke’s experiments are a critical piece to building this new framework, which has the potential to change the way we think about toxicology. I was very lucky to find two students who are passionate about environmental science and are highly skilled at working with these fascinating creatures.”

    This project sprouted from the extensive, award-winning work Wilder-Corrigan did during the summer of 2015 for her Lakeland Undergraduate Research Experience (LURE) project. Guided by Paul Pickhardt, Lakeland’s associate professor of biology, Wilder-Corrigan investigated the coal fly ash Tennessee waste disaster of 2008, and its effect on the Daphnia magna. After a large storm, the waste containment system for the coal fly ash failed, causing major seepage into the environment.

    “When 1.1 billion gallons affects 300 acres, it’s certainly an environmental disaster,” Pickhardt says.

    As a result of her work, Wilder-Corrigan’s research poster won honorable mention recognition at the Midwest Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Madison. Her research also caught the attention of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which hired her and Runge to continue the study.

    “What is so satisfying about this is how important our work actually is,” says Runge, who would like to launch a career in zoology. “Learning about animals, and how they are affected by something serious like this, really matters. I’ve loved every minute of this experience. It’s also really special that we can do this type of research right here at Lakeland.”

    The Daphnia magna is actually a complicated little animal. Pickhardt explains that when thriving, it reproduces asexually and only bears female offspring. When stressors are introduced, the species may resort to sexual reproduction and males are born – throwing off the more efficient asexual reproductive mode for the species.

    The national lab regularly sends Wilder-Corrigan and Runge new Daphnia and various algal foods to work with. Wilder-Corrigan, who plans to attend dental school, and Runge, have seen their zooplankton give birth, die and, unfortunately, produce males. They have become experts.

    “Not everyone can pick up a vial of Daphnia, look at it and say, ‘Hey, she’s gravid!’” Wilder-Corrigan says.

    Gravid, by the way, means pregnant.

    “They have accumulated such expertise,” Pickhardt says of his stellar students. “The problem-solving skills they’re acquiring are applicable to any field they could possibly enter. In the lab, things go wrong – a lot. It’s up to you, the researcher, to solve the problem. You never stop problem solving, and Brooke and Madison have become amazingly good at solving problems to obtain results.”
  • Alaskan adventure
    Karen Hjelle was looking for a unique internship experience. Thanks to some help from a couple of Lakeland faculty members, she got one.

    Hjelle is currently enjoying a three-month internship in Sitka, Alaska, where she’s working full time at the Westmark Sitka Hotel.

    “It's been an awesome experience,” said Hjelle, who will be a senior accounting major at Lakeland University this fall. “It's nice because I’m able to experience all the beauty Alaska has to offer. And I’ve met a lot of great people.”

    Talking last year with her advisor, Lakeland Assistant Professor of Accounting Brett Killion, Hjelle expressed an interest in completing an internship outside of Wisconsin. She had previously talked about her infatuation with Alaska, and then-Professor of Hospitality Management Chuck Stockman overheard.

    Stockman, who is now retired from Lakeland and works at the Totem Square Hotel and Marina in Sitka, spoke with Killian, and Hjelle had her internship. Now she works with Stockman’s wife, Anna, an employee of the Westmark. The parent company of both properties even paid for Hjelle’s travel and set her up with inexpensive lodging mere minutes from the Westmark.

    “I work half-time in accounting, and half-time on the front desk,” Hjelle said. “They wanted me to learn the front desk system, and how it works. The accounting involves direct billing and routing.”

    Hjelle usually works a standard Monday-Friday, 8-5-type of week, which leaves her plenty of time to explore Alaska. Her mom and dad came to visit, and they enjoyed a spectacular hike and an ocean tour. They spotted sea lions, humpback whales, sea otters and dozens of bald eagles.

    The curtains in Hjelle’s apartment are unusually thick, to keep out the sun. As she explained, it doesn’t get dark until almost midnight this time of year, and even then, it’s not totally dark.

    Her experience at the bustling hotel has made Hjelle re-think her plan of pursuing a typical staff accounting job after graduation. She’s realized that she enjoys interacting with people. One of the people she works with in Alaska is Joseph List, a 2006 Lakeland grad who is the general manager of the hotel.

    “Lakeland people are always willing to help other Lakeland people,” Hjelle said. “It’s so much a part of Lakeland. Even after college, Lakeland graduates are willing to reach out to and help current Lakeland students. It’s a great network.”
  • Flying at 15
    Plymouth’s Jovianne Schwibinger has never driven a car.

    But she’s flown a plane.

    Schwibinger, 15, is enrolled in Lakeland University’s five-week summer collegiate aviation course for high school students. Last week, the soon-to-be Plymouth High School sophomore co-piloted Lakeland’s SR-20 aircraft. Accompanied by Steven Vaught, Lakeland’s assistant chief flight instructor, Schwibinger steered the plane across Sheboygan County skies.

    “It was really fun,” said Schwibinger. “You feel so independent up there. We flew over my house, and took a picture of it. We saw Road America, too.”

    Vaught said he enjoys introducing young students like Schwibinger to the incredible joys of flying.

    “Leonardo da Vinci got it right,” said Vaught. “He said, ‘For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.’ ”

    Lakeland’s comprehensive course features far more than just time spent in the air. For nearly an hour before they took off, Schwibinger and Vaught meticulously went over the pre-flight checklist in the hangar. Once they got the plane onto the tarmac, additional pre-flight checks ensued.

    Even before she earned the right to fly, Schwibinger proved her mettle in the classroom. Lakeland’s course includes the basics of flight aerodynamics and flight systems, FAA regulations, how air traffic control works and more.

    Lakeland is the only university or four-year college in Wisconsin with a professional flight training program. The program is offered as a minor, which allows student to earn full flight certification while also completing a four-year degree in another discipline.

    Lakeland’s summer course intensified Schwibinger’s interest in aviation. She enjoyed evaluating maps and planning her first flight path, and she plans to continue flight training.

    “I would tell anyone, if you’re interested in flying, you should try it,” she said. “People might think flying is reserved for only certain people, but it isn’t.”
  • Passionate, persistent, patient
    Daniel Zea Zapata is passionate and persistent, but he’s also patient.

    So while the Lakeland graduate’s dream of becoming an on-air radio personality motivates him daily, he’s happy to learn and wait his turn.

    “It would be awesome to someday host my own radio variety show, interviewing guests, interacting with people and playing music,” he says. “But I hate to get ahead of myself, because I’m absolutely loving where I’m at in my career right now. Still, you have to dream.”

    Zea Zapata, who graduated in 2015 from Lakeland with a double major (communications and Spanish), works full time for national radio giant Entercom Communications in Milwaukee. He was recently promoted to full-time production assistant and deejay. Five nights a week, he plays music from midnight to 5 a.m., then helps produce and lends his smooth voice to advertisements.

    “I introduce songs, take calls, talk about contests and provide necessary information to listeners,” he says of his nightly on-air duties. “The timing is huge. You don’t want to ‘step on the song’ and you don’t want dead air. It’s those little things that make radio run smoothly.”

    Zea Zapata arrived at Lakeland from Gurnee, Ill., in 2011, a football recruit who thought he might become a teacher. He flourished, serving as an ambassador and resident assistant and working for Lakeland’s campus safety and security office. His naturally gregarious personality and Colombian heritage helped him interact seamlessly with everyone in Lakeland’s diverse population. He also fell in love with Erin Carlson, who he will marry on Oct. 1.

    “Lakeland welcomed me into a very tight-knit community, a place where I was able to connect with people on a whole different level than I ever experienced before,” he says.

    “I credit my parents, who taught me to say hello, make eye contact and treat everyone with respect. Once I got to Lakeland, I grew. The communications program was great for me academically. Socially, I was with a great group of guys on the football team, and made many other friends, as well.

    “Lakeland really helped me come into my own as an adult.”

    Zea Zapata interned with Entercom as a junior and senior, working on a Milwaukee Brewers postgame show on “The Fan,” and “doing whatever needed to be done.”

    Shortly after graduating, he landed a position with Entercom – the parent company of Milwaukee stations 103.7 FM, 99.1 FM, 105.7 FM and 1250 AM (“The Fan”) – in promotions. He’s been steadily moving up ever since.

    “I realize it’s a huge break for me to start my radio career in a market like Milwaukee,” he says. “Many people in this industry start out at small stations in remote locations. I’m at a great place. It’s a blessing to say the least.”

    A few months ago, a car full of Lakeland students was headed back to Sheboygan County after a spring break trip to Florida. In the very early morning hours, the students heard a familiar voice on the popular Milwaukee hit music station 103.7. They excitedly alerted the world through social media that their friend, Dan, was playing tunes on one of the state’s most popular stations.

    That made Zea Zapata smile, of course. He’s really happy where he’s at. But also excited about where he’s going.

    “If you have a dream, you should focus on it and strive to put yourself in position to grow and achieve it,” he says. “If your faith is strong enough, anything is possible.”
  • LU Madison Center student earns scholarship
    Lakeland University Madison Center student Shonna Neary has been awarded an $8,000 Government Finance Professional Development scholarship from the Government Finance Officers Association.

    Neary, who is pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and her CPA license, earned one of just four of the 2016 scholarships, which were established to recognize outstanding performance in graduate programs and encourage careers in government.

    “I have always enjoyed learning, and government accounting intrigues me because of its complexity,” said Neary, who works as an accounting supervisor/project manager for Columbia County in Wisconsin.

    “I have a very supportive husband and two wonderful children. This scholarship is truly an honor, and it gives me additional motivation to earn my MBA from Lakeland University.”

    In a letter to Jon Kuecken, Lakeland’s Madison Center director, representatives from the Government Finance Officers Association lauded Neary.

    “Our scholarship committee was impressed with Ms. Neary’s academic achievements and her course concentration at Lakeland,” said the letter. “Her desire to dedicate her many talents to work in government is to be commended.”
More in this category: Thanksgiving in Luxembourg »
Lakeland University Logo

Contact Us

Got questions or comments? Let us know:

  • PHONE: 1 (800) 569-2166
    FAX: 920-565-1062
  • MAIL: W3718 South Drive, Plymouth, WI 53073-4878 | Directions

Connect with us

Follow us & get in touch.

You are here: Home Scott Niederjohn Blog Why Luxembourg?