German dynamo powers innovative energy course

Module is first in business school's new Executive-in-Residence Program

If you’re going to learn about the global energy industry, you might as well get your lessons from someone who helps keep that industry running.

That’s the idea behind the new fall module “Europe, Energy and the Environment,” taught by Dr. Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht, an executive from the major German energy company Verbundnetz Gas AG (VNG).

Barbknecht’s on-campus talk and guest lecture last year stimulated so much interest – and proved so rewarding for him personally – that he offered to teach a three-week seminar this fall revolving around international gas markets and related issues of energy and sustainability.

“It’s really exciting to have an industry-focused module taught by a business leader who knows it from the inside out,” said Professor John Ballantine, who is co-teaching the class. Barbknecht “understands the geopolitics and the players involved, and he can bring those insights to a learning environment that has students who actually hail from the different countries he’s discussing.”

Anna Kovalenko MA ’13, who has had two years of experience in the gas industry in her native Ukraine, said she leapt at the chance to learn from someone who has logged countless hours in the board rooms of energy companies.

“We’ve talked about everything from the process of ‘fracturing,’ which is much better for the environment than deepwater drilling, to the long-term investment markets,” she said. “It’s been intense, and we’ve covered a lot of information, but I can honestly say that I feel like this class was designed just for me!”

The class with Barbknecht represents the start of the business school’s new Perlmutter Executive-in-Residence Program, which has been driven by Louis ’56 and Barbara Perlmutter, the latter of whom is a member of the school’s Board of Overseers. The Perlmutters have described the program as an opportunity for students to have personal engagement and direct dialogue with major business executives from around the world.

For his part, Barbknecht said that he has enjoyed interacting with students both in and outside of class. He has also had extended discussions with members of Net Impact about other environmental topics and he announced in September that he will be establishing two VNG internships exclusively for International Business School students next summer.

“Students are very interested and invested in the seminar,” he said. “Their questions keep me thinking about these issues myself. I feel like I learn at least as much from the class as they do.”

Categories: Business

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