Campus - 06.08.2019 - 00:00 

"A privilege to be able to become involved"- Why HSG students are politically active.

Political panel discussions are par for the course at the University of St.Gallen. But what about our students’ political involvement? Three young politicians talk about their activities and their connection with their studies at the HSG. By student reporter Thomas Tarantini.

6 August 2019. One of the hallmarks of the University of St.Gallen is its students’ high degree of active involvement. Besides the more than one hundred associations at the HSG, some students are also active in political parties. Recently, the University of St.Gallen was pleased about a positive political decision, which will enable the Platztor campus extension to be built. Thus politics undoubtedly also determines what happens at our University. But where are HSG students politically active and how do they apprehend the nexus between their studies and politics?

Students assume political responsibility

Andrin Monstein came to politics by accident. “I first made a contribution at an emotional panel discussion at the Cantonal School. Then it just fell into place,” said the St.Gallen resident. Before he went to London on an exchange, Andrin chaired the St.Gallen Young Green Liberals (jglp) for more than five years. In terms of issues, he focuses on the energy turnaround, electric mobility and sustainable economic growth. The Master’s programme in Business Management (MUG) in combination with the CEMS  degree in International Management provides Andrin with a great deal of positive input for politics: "The MUG area of concentration of Sustainability Management, and Sustainability courses of the CEMS enabled me to acquire new knowledge. In a CEMS course, we even simulated the UNFCCC climate negotiations."

Sustainability issues and their long-term management are also important to Sarah Bünter, who is studying for a Master’s degree in International Affairs (IS) and has chaired the Young Christian Democratic People’s Party (JCVP) since May. Sarah, who hails from the Canton of Thurgau, has been actively involved in politics since 2015. Further focal points of hers are family policy and Europe policy. In family policy, the compatibility of work and the family, as well as shared parental leave, are of particular concern for Sarah: "In our party, we advocate an 18-week parental leave which mother and father can divide between them. We regard both of them as very important and therefore also want a minimum period for both parents."

Positive interaction between politics and studies

In his political activities, Philipp Alex Gehrig sets great store by a balance of national and communal issues. The Young Liberal undergraduate, who is majoring in International Affairs, has been a member of the local council of his home municipality of Kloten in the Canton of Zurich since August. One of his central topics is old-age provision, which the young wing of the Liberal Party (FDP) wants to tackle with a pension initiative of its own. In this respect, he can see an added value of his political involvement for his studies: "My political work provides me with more context, particularly in connection with a complex issue such as our pension system." In addition, his many-layered activities enhance his time management. Conversely, studying at the University of St.Gallen also has a positive impact on his political work.

Philipp is particularly grateful for the network he has been able to establish in his studies, as well as for the many discussions with professors, corporate founders and fellow students. Like Sarah, he is full of praise for the interdisciplinary IA course, which opens up a wide variety of perspectives. Sarah additionally emphasises that the Business Journalism course enabled her to become better acquainted with the media and their way of looking at things. This, she says, is an important factor in politics. For Andrin, critical thinking is a main benefit from his studies and will be helpful to him in many respects in the future.

Promoting a political exchange at the HSG

Whereas politically neutral associations like Vimentis and foraus organise panel discussions and further political events at the University of St.Gallen, party-political associations are not permitted. The three interviewees do not find this particularly bad, but Philipp thinks that more could be done at the level of associations in spite of this limitation. For instance, he would like to improve a political exchange with exchange students in order to be able to share experiences from different home countries. Sarah criticises the subordinate role of Swiss politics in IA studies, adding that they are sometimes somewhat too Europe-oriented, which is a pity at a Swiss university. Students’ awareness of Swiss politics could by increased by means of stand presentations by political parties, for instance – in analogy with many other events at the HSG. Andrin would be pleased by a promotion of the international political discourse, remembering his exchange university: "At the LSE, guest lectures by high-ranking politicians have a long tradition. The HSG with its excellent international reputation could surely offer more in this respect."

Valuable experience through political activities

The three young politicians agree that although political activities can be time-consuming, they are definitely worth it. While Sarah and Andrin are now preparing for the National Council elections in the autumn, Philipp is devoting his time to his imminent accession to Kloten’s legislative. "The experiences you can gain through politics are hardly feasible in a comparable bandwidth elsewhere. The work is not only helpful for my IA studies but also exciting for many other spheres," says Sarah. "It’s a great opportunity and privilege to be able to be involved in such a way."

Thomas Tarantini is studying Business Innovation (MBI) and Business Journalism.

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