Biography: Gunther M. Hega
Gunther M. Hega
I was born in the German province of Swabia, home of the great poets Schiller and Hoelderlin, on All Saints Day in the year the Berlin Wall was built. Thus my Swabian accent, realistic world view, catholic "joie-de-vivre", and deep interest in politics all came naturally to me. The youngest of four children of Anne and Max Hega, who at the end of the Second World War had been forced to flee their home in what is now Slovakia, where their families had lived for centuries as part of an ethnic-German community, I grew up in Neckartailfingen, a small town in southwestern Germany on the river Neckar, close to Stuttgart, the Swabian Jura mountains, the Black Forest, and Lake Constance.
After a happy childhood and early jobs as a construction worker, brewery hand, and on the assembly line “beim Daimler” to finance my extensive travels hitch-hiking around Europe, I successfully passed my “Abitur” (high school graduation exam and university entrance certificate) at the Albert-Schaeffle-Wirtschafts-gymnasium in Nürtingen and was drafted into the German army in 1981. I served as, first, a “Panzergrenadier” in an armored infantry battalion, before becoming a noncommissioned officer, squad leader, officer candidate and platoon leader, and learning among other useful things, how to drive a tank and jump out of a flying airplane. I was honorably discharged at the rank of lieutenant and continued to serve in the army reserves to defend the free world until the end of the cold war.
In 1983, I enrolled at the University of Tübingen, studying political science, history, and economics, and successfully passed my “Zwischenprüfung” (BA equivalent) in 1986, after finishing my thesis with Volker Rittberger. The German Academic Exchange Service awarded me a one-year exchange student scholarship to study at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After my first semester at "WashU" I applied and was admitted to the Ph.D. program in political science. I studied with Arnold J. Heidenheimer, John H. Kautsky, and Douglass North and concentrated in the fields of comparative politics, political economy, and methodology. I spend most of 1989 in Germany at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld, working on my dissertation and witnessing some of the historic events of the fall of communism and German reunification.
I received my MA in 1988 and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1992 after defending my dissertation on education policies in federal systems, comparing Switzerland and Germany, subsequently published as Consensus Democracy: Education Policy between Federalism and Subsidiarity by Peter Lang Pub.., New York, Frankfurt, and Bern, in 1999. I moved to and worked in Cambridge, Mass., for a few years and held my first academic position at the University of New Hampshire, where I taught comparative politics and international relations. Subsequently, I also taught classes at Kalamazoo College and the University of Tübingen during the summer or on sabbatical leave, and did research at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
I have been teaching at Western Michigan University since 1994. At the undergraduate level I teach international relations, comparative and European politics, and at the graduate level I offer seminars in comparative politics and comparative public policy. In March 2004, I was awarded WMU's College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Achievement Award in Teaching, and in September 2004 I was honored by the American Political Science Association and Pi Sigma Alpha-The National Political Science Honor Society for Outstanding Teaching. In April 2011, I was named a faculty fellow at WMU's Lee Honors College, and I enjoy advising students in the international and comparative concentration in the political science major and serving as advisor and faculty director for WMU's study abroad programs in Germany.
My research focuses on comparative public policies in advanced industrial societies, European political economy, and German, Austrian and Swiss politics. Currently, I am working on a book comparing education policy in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, articles on the reforms of federal systems, and research projects on European welfare states and education policies. My publications to date include a book, several articles in journals like German Policy Studies / Politikfeldanalyse, Regional and Federal Studies, Compare-A Journal of Comparative Education, and the Journal of Studies in International Education, several book chapters and review articles, and numerous conference papers, media interviews and and invited presentations on German and European politics, comparative education policies, federalism, and welfare state development in Europe and America. I also work as a reviewer or consultant for various clients, publishers and think-tanks on projects related to my research interests, among them the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels and the Institute of International Education in New York.