Episode 82: Dealing with Social Divisions and Integration in Memmingen

Alexander Thamm


Alex Thamm is a moderator by passion. He is dedicated to issues of international dialogue, civil society, innovation, and diversity. He was a presenter for a TV show on megatrends for the German television channel ARD Alpha. With Julia Pfinder, he founded Kosmopolis.org. They mainly moderate and consult for NGOs, cities, and international government organizations like Engagement Global, the Goethe Institute, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). The focus of their work is the international role of cities and civil society on topics like sustainability, sustainable development goals, education, and democracy.

In his previous career, Alex worked in leading management positions for major foundations like the Körber Foundation, German Marshall Fund, Bertelsmann Foundation, and others. He created projects on civil society, advocacy, and international relations. He is dedicated to the idea of community organizing and is an active leader of the Berlin community organizations (DICO). Alex studied political science at the universities of Bath, Bonn, Grenoble, and Munich. He lives in Kreuzberg, Berlin, as well as in Kreuth, Bavaria, and loves the outdoors.

Carolynn Welch

Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI)

Carolynn Welch was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and has enjoyed watching it become an even better place to live over the years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from D’Youville University. Carolynn has worked at WEDI since 2017 and was appointed executive director in 2019. Prior to WEDI, she worked at various nonprofits for 20+ years in areas including program management, development, compliance, and administration. In her free time, she enjoys reading. She lives in Hamburg, NY, with her three children. Connection to WEDI’s Mission: “I love seeing the direct impact of our work through the smiles on students’ faces, the success of small business owners, and the satisfaction of both when they achieve their dreams. By working as a partner with our clients we see the best results and are able to meet people where they are to achieve success.”

Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



Susanne Dieper

Director of Programs and Grants

Susanne Dieper is the Director of Programs and Grants at AICGS. She oversees the Institute’s programs and projects within the three AICGS program areas, manages all AICGS fellowships, and is in charge of grant writing. Her current focus is on issues related to transatlantic relations, immigration and integration, diversity, the next generation of leaders, workforce education, and reconciliation. She develops programs that align with the mission of AICGS to better understand the challenges and choices facing Germany and the United States in a broader global arena.

Previously, Ms. Dieper was in charge of organizational and project management at AICGS as well as human resource development and board of trustees relations. Prior to joining AICGS, she worked in transatlantic exchange programs, language acquisition, as well as the insurance industry in Germany.

Ms. Dieper holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University with a concentration in International Business and an MA in English Linguistics and Literature, History, and Spanish from the University of Cologne. She has completed course work in nonprofit management at Johns Hopkins University.


sdieper@aicgs.org | 202-900-8331

On this episode of The Zeitgeist, AGI President Jeff Rathke and Susanne Dieper, Director of Programs and Grants, discuss the latest findings in the AGI project “Social Divisions and Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States.” Project participants Carolynn Welch, Executive Director at Westminster Economic Development Initiative, and Alexander Thamm, a moderator based in Berlin, Germany, share their impressions and findings of the group’s visit to Memmingen, Bavaria, where participants engaged in intensive discussions with each other as well as a broader community of experts and stakeholders. What are the most important issues regarding migration and identity in local politics? How have economic and demographic changes shaped the needs and priorities of local residents, and what policies have authorities implemented to address these issues? Are there any notable parallels or contrasts between Memmingen and its sister city Glendale, Arizona, which the project participants visited last fall?

The AGI project “Social Divisions and Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States” seeks to establish new connections within and between communities and is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany, funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Susanne Dieper, Director of Programs and Grants, AGI
Carolynn Welch, Executive Director, Westminster Economic Development Initiative
Alexander Thamm, Moderator

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.