Episode 58: Economic Transformation and Social Divisions in Germany’s Ruhrgebiet

Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AICGS

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

Vanessa Simpson

Lidl U.S.

Vanessa Simpson works as a on a team of linguists at Lidl U.S. headquarters doing translation work and stakeholder coordination for the grocery store. She has previous experience as Community Outreach Director in the Providence District Office for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Fairfax, Virginia. Having spent a year as an exchange student in the CBYX program and living in the Ruhrgebiet, she is dedicated to the exchange of ideas around identity, culture, and community.

Yasmin Al-Douri

Technical University Munich

Born and raised in Germany as the daughter of two immigrants, Yasmin Al-Douri noticed an underrepresentation of minorities in youth leadership programs and founded Diverse Young Leaders, an organization that advocates for more inclusion and diversity in youth leadership. Ms. Al-Douri holds a BA in political science and psychology from the University of Heidelberg. She is currently pursuing her MSc in politics & technology at the Technical University Munich, where she researches topics involving the future of work and societal change through technology. Her engagements have led her to funded study experiences abroad and work opportunities at the German Embassy in Canada, the United Nations, as well as the German Development Agency GIZ. Ms. Al-Douri currently works at the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Studies as the head of the Working Group Arabian Peninsula.

On this episode of the Podcast, AICGS President Jeff Rathke talks with participants in the AICGS project on social divisions in Germany and the United States, which recently visited the German city of Dortmund. Yasmin Al-Douri, MS candidate in politics & technology at the Technical University Munich and founder of Diverse Young Leaders, Venessa Simpson, linguist at Lidl U.S. and former Community Outreach Director for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in Fairfax, Virginia, and Susanne Dieper, AICGS Director of Programs and Grants, shared their impressions and findings of their visit to Germany’s Ruhrgebiet, which was once the heart of the country’s coal mining and steel industries. In Dortmund, participants from Germany and the United States met with local government representatives and civil society organizations to discuss common challenges of diverse communities, including questions of identity and polarization of societies. In what ways have economic opportunities shaped political participation and attitudes toward immigration in the Ruhrgebiet? How do traditional and social media create or bridge social divisions in the region?


Jeff Rathke, President, AICGS


Susanne Dieper, Director of Programs and Grants, AICGS
Yasmin Al-Douri, Technical University Munich
Vanessa Simpson, Linguist, Lidl U.S.

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