Last Friday, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the GAME program. It was a day full of joy, words of gratitude, memories and positive intentions for the future.
But let’s start from the beginning. In the afternoon, German GAME alumni were invited to participate in a networking workshop. It provided the chance to get to know each other across the various generations of students who participated in the different projects. Together, they created a timeline to visualize GAME’s past, present and future. About 30 alumni of the project years 2013-2022 (and one future participant of 2023) took part in the workshop and reflected on their time as GAME students, discussed about the current state of the program and developed ideas for the future.
After being creative and having made some new contacts, the GAME group of 2022 took over and presented their research results.
In the early evening, Martin Wahl, the founder of GAME, opened the festive reception. Members of the board of trustees, alumni and partner scientists from different countries gave heartwarming speeches in which they highlighted the importance of GAME as a unique combination of research and training for Master students in biology, ecology, and environmental sciences.
Sadly, Mark Lenz the coordinator of GAME since 2004 could not join the event due to a sickness. In his stead, Martin Wahl presented facts and numbers about the last two decades of the program. In total, 269 students from 31 countries and 40 partner institutes worldwide participated in GAME during the last 20 years. GAME provided an opportunity to go abroad for 147 German students, while 122 incoming students teamed up with German partners and visited GEOMAR in Kiel. Interestingly, two thirds of the GAME participants, i.e. 190, were female young researchers. To all participants GAME provided a skill set for a future career in academia or elsewhere.
Martina Schmode, member of the board of trustees, pointed out the innovative approach of GAME and the added value it gives to students and partner researchers – scientifically and personally. “GAME was always a bit ahead of its time” said also Nikolaus Gelpke, a further member of the board of trustees, and emphasized the incredibly forward-looking idea of Martin Wahl and the courage to implement it.
After Martin Wahl had presented measurable facts about the program, Sinja Rist (GAME alumna of 2014) and Svea Vollstedt (alumna of 2021) provided some more personal perspectives on aspects that numbers cannot express. Sinja explained why the research topic of 2014 still is an important part of her professional life and how the different impressions she had in Indonesia still influence her today. Especially, the ability to deal with unpredictable difficulties and failures was one of the skills she learned when participating in GAME. Furthermore, she made great friends with whom she is still in regular contact today.
Svea highlighted that living and working abroad always comes with challenges but it also provides the opportunity to grow, personally and scientifically. The team concept of GAME and also the lively exchange between the teams during all phases of the project helped to overcome challenges as “you will never feel alone with your problems”.
GAME partner scientists and project supervisors from Brazil, Japan and Chile provided their view on the program via video messages and used this opportunity to express their appreciation for the collaboration within GAME. “Not only the students who are directly involved in a project benefit from GAME, but also other students in the partner institutes get inspired by the research topics, the unique approach and the team spirit” said Martin Thiel, GAME partner from Chile. Karen von Juterzenka, the former project supervisor in Indonesia, closed the round of speeches and pointed out the personal growth of all the students who are connected to the program.
Finally, great food and cold drinks invited to linger. The evening reception took place in GEOMAR’s west shore main building with a view across the Kiel Fjord. New contacts were made, old friends met again, and everyone enjoyed the festive atmosphere in honor of a unique program.
Overall, the biggest thank you went to Mark Lenz, who established and maintained contact with partner institutes all over the world and gave hundreds of public lectures along the way to promote the program and communicate the scientific results. Moreover, he has not only organized, implemented, and scientifically managed GAME projects very reliably over the last years, but he also personally listened to the students and cared for each of them individually. For many alumni, GAME was such an unforgettable experience, because of his tireless commitment, his solution-oriented approach and kindness. Thank you, Mark.
Let’s look forward to the next 20 years full of up-to-date research, intercultural exchange, and a growing GAME network!