Mayor Mike Bell pauses in the marketplace in Bremen, Germany, on Sunday. Toledo officials are set to talk about the Glass City at Delmenhorst City Hall today.
The Blade/Ignazio Messina
BREMEN, Germany — Mayor Mike Bell has been to a few places looking for investors, but the University of Toledo’s Mark Schroeder has literally crisscrossed the globe looking for new students.
He’s in Germany this time, at the same time Mr. Bell is in the country seeking investors and solidifying a sister-city relationship with Delmenhorst.
“I started in Kazakhstan on March 22 and mainly what I was doing was meeting with the administration of the Bolashak International Scholarship [program] from the Kazakhstan government,” Mr. Schroeder said.
He was also in Azerbaijan, Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, and the West Bank before going to Bremen, which is near Delmenhorst.
“I saw probably more than 6,000 students between the school visits, the fairs, and visitations,” he said.
The mayor, the team that accompanied him to Germany for the world’s largest technology fair in Hanover, and Mr. Schroeder took Sunday to tour Delmenhorst and Bremen.
“Let me get this straight: You have a meat plant and a doughnut plant, and the Becks brewery up the road in Bremen,” Mr. Schroeder quipped to the group’s tour guide, Anke von Wittke-Grothenn, on the bus ride through historic Delmenhorst toward Bremen.
The first stop Sunday was the Nordwolle in Delmenhorst, a historic textile manufacturing complex that has been transformed into a mixed commercial, educational, and residential development on the north side of the city.
“This could be the steam plant right here,” Mayor Bell said.
“All these buildings were converted into reuse.”
Much of the day’s meandering around Delmenhorst and Bremen invoked thoughts of ways Toledo could do things differently, including the reuse of old buildings like the former Toledo Edison steam plant downtown.
The facades of the Nordwolle buildings were salvaged while the interiors were completely rebuilt, beginning in the late 1990s.
A museum inside one building on the complex shows the transformation from the past to today.
Inside are examples of the city's past cork manufacturing and the linoleum industry, which is still a major employer in the city of 77,000 people.
“It’s Armstrong Linoleum and when you go to Home Depot to buy linoleum, most of it comes from right here,” Mr. Schroeder, UT’s associate director of admissions, said.
The Toledo group traveled the streets of Delmenhorst, on the way to a 13th-century church, St. Laurentius.
Along the way, they passed brick homes, farmhouses, and barns built in the 1800s, nestled close together, including many still with thatch roofs.
Cows could be seen grazing in fields and sheep peeking out of barn doors while Mr. Bell and the group walked toward the church.
Later in the day, the group spent several hours in Bremen. Mr. Schroeder had visited the University of Bremen last week and plans to return again today for meetings.
“When I visited here last time, we met with the American studies department of the University of Bremen and they were interested in looking at a study-abroad program,” Mr. Schroeder said.
“So what I am trying to work on is how many students they would like to send because we would like it to be reciprocal. In order to make it a true exchange, we need to send as many American students as they send.”
He said UT hasn’t always sent as many students as other countries send to Toledo.
Just like Mr. Bell, Mr. Schroeder is trying to get people to consider UT when they’ve previously only heard of bigger places.
Both men said it's good to combine their efforts.
“When the mayor is there, it adds some weight to the trip,” Mr. Schroeder said.
“We want to leverage the city as a great place to live and study and have jobs, and at the same time, the city wants to be known as a university city because it adds weight for potential investors in terms of you can get your education there.”
Selling UT to overseas students and parents includes highlighting the engineering and pharmacy programs, the medical school, which is the former Medical College of Ohio, and the university’s tuition, which is lower than some schools.
Mr. Schroeder said he does the same thing in China, where he has visited nine times to recruit students.
Having the mayor there in 2011 “opened several doors,” Mr. Schroeder said.
UT has a signed relationship with Yanshan University in Qinhuangdao — Toledo’s coastal sister city that is a four-hour drive from Beijing.
Students from the University of Bremen, or those living in any of Toledo’s sister cities around the globe, pay in-state tuition, which gives them a savings of close to $10,000 a year compared to out-of-state tuition.
Toledo’s Bowsher High School has an exchange program with a high school in Delmenhorst, in which Ms. von Wittke-Grothenn’s daughter participated. Also, Delmenhorst Mayor Patrick de La Lanne and his wife, Irene de La Lanne, hosted a Bowsher student under the program.
“One of the most fundamental goals of a University of Toledo education is that UT students graduate only after having been exposed to a wide range of new ideas, beliefs, and cultures. International students receive that exposure by coming to the United States to study and domestic students receive it through study-abroad experiences and by interacting with fellow students that come from all over the world,” said Cam Cruickshank, UT interim vice provost for enrollment management.
“As we’ve seen from Mayor Bell's travels internationally, once we let people know about the opportunities available in Toledo and at UT, there’s a lot of interest. And as the number of graduating high school seniors in Ohio and in the Midwest declines, diversifying our enrollment with students from outside the region and internationally is good for UT and the regional economy,” Mr. Cruickshank said.
Mr. Bell said the educational exchange fits into his plan to make Toledo more international.
“We have engaged the University of Toledo and the Regional Growth Partnership, which are both on this trip, in order to make Toledo a better place,” the mayor said.
The Toledo group, which includes Paul Zito, vice president for international development of the Regional Growth Partnership in Toledo, Deputy Mayor Paul Syring, Finance Director Patrick McLean, and city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei, will give a presentation on Toledo today at the Delmenhorst City Hall.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6171.