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Casey Craig

BS Business Management & Leadership (International Business Concentration), German Minor, 2015

Studying at KU opened me up to a world of unique and diverse perspectives that I had yet to encounter in my life. In so many ways my time at KU prepared me for an eventual move across the country and to build professional and personal relationships with people around the globe.

Yes, it has. Studying a foreign language has not only given me a new skill, but has exposed me to unique cultures, diverse perspectives and histories, and individuals that have shaped me into the person I am today. I work for a German multi-national company. I'm not required to speak German daily as a part of my job, but knowing the language and the culture that led to its development has helped me navigate a complex organization and build great relationships with my colleagues.

You will never have a better time or environment to learn a language than you will while studying at KU. Just like in the classroom, speaking a second language with those that are native speakers or have full-fluency can feel awkward and demotivating. I encourage you to take advantage of the classroom in the KU German Department to make those mistakes and push through the challenges of learning a second language.

Lauren Cassidy

BA German Studies, 2018, BA Global and International Studies, 2018

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

Last year at KU, I conducted an honors research project in the German department with Professor Vyatkina as my research mentor. My research focused on the linguistic appraisal of German and Russian news reporting on Crimea. Recently, I had the opportunity to present this research at the 2nd World Congress on Undergraduate Research at the University of Oldenburg in Oldenburg, Germany. At the congress, I got to meet fellow undergraduate researchers from over 35 countries and learn about their research. The congress was an amazing experience and an excellent way to connect and share ideas with students from across the world.

Has your study of German benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Currently, I am living and working in Austria, so the language skills I gained through my German studies degree have been invaluable. The skills I gained while conducting my undergraduate research will certainly be beneficial in the future as well, as I will begin my pursuit of a PhD in German next fall at the University of Wisconsin.

What advice do you have to students currently studying German at KU?

I would encourage current students to spend an extended amount of time abroad and to consider taking on an undergraduate research project. It's a great way to focus on your specific interests, build self-discipline, and can lead to some excellent opportunities.

David Hanson

BS Chemical Engineering, 1995; BA Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1995

I did a graduate direct exchange at the Swiss Federal Inst. of Technology in Zurich the school year after graduation. Got my masters degree at Minnesota upon return to the States and worked in the orthopedic medical device industry. I have worked in the agricultural industry the last several years with John Deere. 

I allowed me the opportunity to put my studies into practice being immersed in the language and the Swiss dialect version for 10 months. In my first 6-7 years in industry I had the opportunity to work with a partner company in Germany and my own company colleagues in Switzerland several times a year. It has certainly played a pivotal role in defining my worldview and my career path. 

Speak the language as much you can. Listen to it as much as you can. Yes, most German-speaking natives speak English better than most of us will be able to speak German, at least initially..But the ability to dive into another country and culture and experience it, not just observe it, is invaluable.

Beth (Brady) Rands

BA Biology, BA German, 1991, Graduate direct exchange, ETH Zürich, 1991-92

Not one regret about choosing KU. I’m still proud to be a Jayhawk and feel connected to the university 30 years later. My life since KU has been one unexpected turn after another (in a good way). Undergrad education didn’t prepare me much for the real world, but I figured it out. 

I didn’t use my German professionally at all, though the graduate study abroad was a big influence in the direction of my life. I studied forestry in Switzerland and wound up being a career wildland firefighter (which involves lots of ecology). I’m now within a year of retirement at 52.
Personally, returning every few years to German speaking countries has been one of my biggest joys.

Do it! (But maybe study something else too). And definitely, 100%, do at least the summer abroad courses, and a full year if you can. And learn to make Feurerzangebowle. Your friends and family will thank you for years to come. (Thanks, Herr Kiel).

Mark Kieffer

BA European History and Political Science 1976

I attended the summer language program in 1975 in Holzkirchen. This inspired me to find a summer job in Germany in 1976 during which I learned how to milk cows and make hay while perfecting my conversational German. Much of my career was in the international sector, first with NASA's International Affairs Office and later in industry. This allowed me to use my German in my work including 3-year assignment at a German company in Ottobrunn bei Munchen privatized after the end of the Cold War. I retired in 2019 but still watch Tageschau, read the SZ and correspond with friends in Germany. 

Career-wise as described above. Learning a language opens your mind to other cultures and helps one understand one's own culture better, both the good and the bad. I had the good luck to live near to Berchtesgaden, one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I later lived with my family near Munich giving my children the opportunity to live in a different culture and see the sights in Europe. 

Find a summer job in a German-speaking country in order to really learn conversational German.

Beth Reiber

Bachelor degree in German, 1975, Master's in journalism, 1977

I became interested in German at an early age because of my German heritage and the fact that my grandmother was born in Austria. I think my main goal at university was to spend a year abroad in Germany, but I didn't want to wait until my junior (3rd) year so I started taking university classes while a senior in high school, too summer school and enrolled in 18 and 20 hours my first year of college. That enabled me to have my 50 hours by my second year, which I spent in Erlangen on KU's year abroad program. It also allowed me to graduate in three years, after which I enrolled in KU's master's journalism program. I spent the second year for that going back to Germany for another year, to Tübingen to write my theses (on the Nazi Völkischer Beobachter). 
I then worked for a year at a small-town Kansas newspaper before going back to Germany to wing it as a freelance travel writer for another two years. I sold to newspapers all over the US but never made much money. Still, I stuck with it and eventually ended up in Japan as editor of a travel magazine. I have remained a freelance travel writer ever since, the author of nine guidebooks, contributor to many more, and countless articles.

Much of what happens in life comes from being in the right place at the right time, plus being open to changes. Knowing a foreign language--or two or three--is never a bad thing. As you get older you appreciate that second languages help the brain. Plus, there are many ways to benefit from knowing other languages in addition to teaching and translations, sometimes in ways you've never thought of.

Marietta Shipley

1969 M. A T. Master of Art in Teaching.

I taught German in high school three years in Washington D.C. I Springfield Va.), teach all levels 1 - 4. Then taught 3 years in Nashville Tennessee, Levels 1 & 2. German was not a popular language in Tennessee. Banned after 2nd World War. Then went to law school and graduated in 1976. Have been an attorney since then. In 1990 elected as a judge and served for 16 years. In 2006 I became a private mediator with my own business. ( I had brought mediation to Tennessee as a judge both in civil and family cases. 

My junior year was a life-changing event. I obviously learned German ( also went to summer studies after Freshman year) and made some German friends. It gave me a totally new view of the world. Learned to rent my own apartment, traveled for two months all over Europe and Great Britain, learned to hitchhike, be very independent. It was very hard to return to Senior Year at KU.

I do not use German in my profession, but I am a member of Sister Cities of Nashville. I am on the German committee. I have housed at least five teachers, puppeteers in my home. I have made several trips to Magdeburg (an hour from Berlin) to visit friends. I feel that I have a much better connection to the world, as a result of my German education. It also helped me learn some French, and Italian. I am currently studying Spanish. I travel as much as I can. 

Go to Germany at every chance you have. Become friends with Germans, not just your fellow students. Travel every day you can. Soak up the culture. Get a German boyfriend or girlfriend and you will learn the most German. Study, but the best thing is to soak up the culture of another world and see how they view the United States. If you don't do anything specific with your German, you might consider international business or international medicine. You have a unique opportunity to really be a part of the global experience. Even if you can't go to Germany this fall, I would do something else this semester and come back and do the Junior Year. I also did the summer after my Senior Year as part of a graduate program in Eutin Germany.

Donald Nease

BS Ed, German Minor, 1958, MS Ed 1964, MA German 1967, PhD Ed (minor German) 1968

I taught German in HS and College for 20 years. I received a Fulbright to Germany 1968. 
German summers with Stanford 1961 and 1963. German and French Translator for Military Review 1980-1981. 18 years in military intelligence (Ft Leavenworth, Ft Rucker, and Wright-Patterson AFB) Director of Joint Military Intelligence College satellite campus at Wright- Pat

German assisted me in getting tenure at Ottawa University and Benedictine College. German assisted me in getting a translator position with the Army. German also assisted me in receiving promotions in Intelligence from an intern to a GS-14 (Colonel equivalent).

Take advantage of the many opportunities in the public domain. I received one year and four summers of German instruction from U.S. Government. Be ready to travel to get a position. I had to move many times and my wife had to find a job wherever, but it worked out. Another thing which helped me was my military experience in the Army and Air Force Reserve.

Julie Pinkerton Johnson

BA 1967

It was 1966; there was civil unrest in the U.S.; I had flown on my first airplane; I was in Eutin, a small town in northern Germany, known as “Die Rosenstadt” for a summer language institute sponsored by the University of Kansas. True to its designation as the city of roses, there were rose bushes in parks, outside restaurants and shops, at homes, almost everywhere one looked. It was lovely. There was a large park by the lake that hosted an outdoor opera festival every summer. Well-known opera stars would spend the summer in Eutin performing. I heard my first live opera. As part of the language program we traveled–to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Kiel, Munich. Living with a German family, group excursions, individual explorations, and classes enabled amazing improvement in my German language skills. It was a memorable summer.

That was the first year for the institute in Eutin. It was to be for advanced students.

I taught German in high school for several years before I had children. In the 1990s I taught beginning German classes at Emporia State University. Through the years from 1966 to today we have traveled often in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Our younger son majored in German at KU, participated in the Holzkirchen program, spent a year in Erlangen, worked in the German Embassy in Washington, DC, and wrote his Ph.D dissertation on post-unification German economics. So although the monetary value of my study of German may be insignificant, its impact on my world view, cultural knowledge, education, and family is incalculable.

I would advise them to take advantage of all the travel opportunities available to them. I had to borrow money to go to Eutin, but it was one of the best investments that I have made.

Virginia Lewis

BA Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1967; MA, Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1969. Independent graduate work at the Albert Ludwigs Universität, Freiburg I'm Breisgau, 1967-68 (Sprachgeschichte).

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

I was in the first Eutin group (1966) led by Professor Grotegut. I will never forget how one of the students (a young man trying to be polite) attempted to ask for the location of the "Toilette" on my behalf - and asked the Kellnerin, "Bitte, wo ist das Frauenzimmer?" She got a puzzled look on her face and said "Ich bringe es sofort!" And of course "it" never came. . . . Students today might be interested to know that at that time the department typically had 20-25 sections of both German 1 and German 2 running in any given semester (5 credit hours with 2 hours of additional in person "lab") - and the German labs each had soccer teams! (Mine was "die Tigerpacker" - wer erinnert sich an "Pack den Tiger in den Tank?"). With the dropping of robust language requirements in the 60s, there was little market left for German professors. I spent one year as Assistant Professor of German at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma and later taught a course or two in German at both SMU and the University of Texas at Dallas as an adjunct. But, on the whole, I had to "reinvent" myself - several times during my career before retiring the end of this past August. I did research in entrepreneurship and taught in the SMU Cox School of Business for ca. 16 years - then seized the opportunity to get back into foreign language in the mid-90s via foreign language multimedia. I founded Language Learning Centers at Haverford College and at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas (both with "token" appointments as Assistant Professor (I did teach a course or two) and eventually became a distance learning professional with a start up company that spun off the Center for Academic Technology at UNC-Chapel Hill. After it was acquired, I was able to "bail" to aging research at Duke University (on the basis of a half-completed PhD program in Medical Anthropology) and later came back to KU Medical Center as Director of Operations of the KU Diabetes Institute. Liberal Arts (and German!) majors are flexible!

Has your study of German benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Learning ANY foreign language is beneficial in and of itself. It gives one a perspective that is invaluable. German has been invaluable to me in many ways. I am an alto who has often sung in German (often as the only one who actually spoke the language!). I have also tutored other singers in German. Incidentally, I also tutored athletes in German before the Munich olympics in 1972. My brother (a Religion Professor) and I were once members of the team (University of Michigan) that translated some of the 1830s sermons of Friedrich Schleiermacher into English. Currently I am engaged in some personal research on the interface of Christianity and Judaism - and 80% of the writings of a key scholar (emeritus Princeton, now in Berlin) are only in German. And they are accessible to me!

What advice do you have to students currently studying German at KU?

Go to Germany! Speak German with one another! Go to lectures in German (I am sure KU still has many!) even if you don't understand everything! Read German newspapers on the Web. Find German movies (and zap the subtitles!) It is all about immersion. You won't regret it. And if you think you will never use your German later on, you will probably be wrong!

David White

BA (honors) in German and philosophy, 1964

The study abroad summers I did in the summers of 1962 and 1963 to Holzkirchen Germany and Paris France after my first year of German and French, were among the most important events in my life. I ended up majoring in German and philosophy and I picked up Spanish and limited Italian later. I'd wanted to go to Europe even in high school in Salina, Kansas, but having these two summers where I discovered that I had a talent for language and my interest in an international career was solidified were crucial turning points in my life. I've now lived over half my life outside the US both working and studying in Germany, France, the UK, Colombia, Mexico, Hong Kong and Singapore and I married a Peruvian ballet dancer whom I met in New York. I think the most valuable thing that my wife and I have been able to give our two sons (and our 4 grandchildren as well) is cultural flexibility and tolerance and multilingual ability.  
I started out with my focus on Europe, but in 1973 I took a job with Chase Manhattan Bank in Colombia then Mexico and then in 1986 I had the opportunity to move to a regional job with Chase in Hong Kong and then in Singapore. Both our sons married Chinese women and all of our grandchildren are exposed to English, Spanish and Mandarin from the day they are born .
I'm currently on the International Affairs Board at KU and I was previously on the board of the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies at KU

I've been able to work full time in German in Frankfurt and full time in Spanish in Bogota Colombia and I have German and Latin American life long friends whom I probably wouldn't have had if I hadn't spoken their languages.

Even if you don't end up with a career as a professor of German (as I originally though I wanted to be), do learn as least one foreign language and seek out at least one or two opportunities to actually live in another culture. It will expand your horizons immensely if you let it. I encourage you to check out the programs of the KU International Affairs Board. They may be able to refer you to a faculty member in your major that is active in supporting the international programs at KU that relate to their departments


Robert Wahl

BA 1964, MD 1968

KU and my studies there shaped my life considerably. My father was born in what was a part of Germany at the time—East Prussia in Memel, now Klaipeda in Lithuania. His father was a gunsmith with the Kruppwerks. He and his family came to the US before WWI and settled in central Kansas in a German community, Saxman. His father did gunsmithing and blacksmithing there. It was because of this family connection that I studied German at KU. I attended the first German Language Institute in Weyern near Munich in 1961 with Tony Burzle and his wife. On that trip I met two members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at KU and subsequently became a member of that fraternity. The associations I made there shaped much of the rest of my life including my medical career and meeting my wife of now 53 years. At KU Med School I did one summer of research in the history of medicine. There was a collection of letters to and from Jacob Henle, a German anatomist at the time of Goethe. In fact, there were letters from Goethe to Henle. This research led to a senior thesis and a review published in The Southern Medical Journal. The material was reviewed by Dr Helmut Huelsbergen at the time. Since then my wife and I have traveled extensively, with several trips to Germany. As you can see, German has completely shaped my life—even though it’s now become a bit rusty from disuse.

Has your study of German benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how? 

Yes. See above.

Use German or any language you study to broaden your life experiences. You never know where that might lead.

Bob Fanning

BA Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1964; BS Education, 1965

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

My degree in German let to teaching German in High School for about four years (1 year in Eudora, KS, 3 years at Shawnee-Mission South. Also took graduate level courses in German and education for four summers, including a summer abroad with Stanford University, a 10-week graduate level course in Germany which led to pretty much total fluency in German.. After four years of teaching German looking at the salary schedules, I decided to move on to something else and eventually joined the FBI as a Special Agent in 1971.

Has your study of German benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

My first seven years in the FBI were in small offices in Alabama and North Carolina and my German did not get much if any application in my work. In 1978 I was transferred to Chicago and assigned to counterintelligence work focusing on the Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe. There, my German knowledge came in handy several times and then by chance I learned about the FBI's Legal Attache program, This program assigns FBI agents to US Embassies abroad. In 1981 I was transferred to the American Embassy in Bonn, The job of the "Legal Attache" is to establish and maintain a good liaison relationship with the police and security agencies in the host country. After three years as an Assistant Legal Attache (we had four agents in Bonn) I was promoted to head the office for the final two years of my five year assignment in Bonn. In 1986 I returned to FBIHQ in Washington, DC and then went to be the Legal Attache in Bern, Switzerland where I stayed for six years. I would also note that both of our children graduated from high school at the Bonn American High School and our son then attended Colorado University, majoring in German and computer science and has been an FBI employee for over 20 years, currently working as a senior Intelligence Analyst.

What advice do you have to students currently studying German at KU?

There are many more opportunities out there for a well-educated person, especially one with fluency in a foreign language, than one can imagine.

Gary Smith

BA Germanic Languages & Literatures

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

Post BA year abroad at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel

Graduate study in Germanic languages and literatures at the University of Texas, Austin - 1965-1969

Ph.D. - 1970

Professoir of German - College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA - 1969-2004

Now professor emeritus

Has your study of German benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Definitely, it was the springboard for the rest of my life.

What advice do you have to students currently studying German at KU?

Study abroad, preferably for a year. Use the experience to develop your German skills and your knowledge of German culture to the greatest extent possible. Do not allow your skills in German to atrophy, even if you enter a career where they are not used.

Breon Mitchell

BAs in German, Art History, Philosophy, Humanities--all 1964. D.Phil Oxford 1968.

Like my two brothers Tim and John, I attended KU in the early 1960's. All three of us were from Salina, Kansas. My wife Lynda (also from Salina) studied at KU before joining me in England to study Russian. My father and mother also had degrees from KU--my dad got his M.D. there and was later President of the Kansas Medical Association. Our mother studied art with Albert Bloch and in addition to raising her three sons, was a published short story writer. All of us loved our years at KU and always felt a deep debt of gratitude for the outstanding education we received there.

German was my weakest subject when I entered KU, and in my Freshman year I received my lowest grade in any subject there. But the teaching was first-rate and I soon improved. The true turning point for me was attending the KU German summer language program after my Freshman year. That experience opened my eyes to European culture and immersed me in the German language. I returned determined to make German one of my majors. I was also inspired to study further languages at KU, including French and Italian. I met my closest friend, Philip Kimball, in a German class at KU. We both loved German literature and decided to translate a German play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. We also started a bilingual literary magazine called "Versuch", with the support of the German department--I believe the magazine lasted thirty years. Philip eventually published two fine novels (his papers are at KU's Spencer Library now). Although I began as a student of philosophy at Oxford, my training in German allowed me to switch to a Ph.D. program in Comparative Literature. I wrote my dissertation on the influence of James Joyce's Ulysses on the German novel. On a personal level, Lynda and I still love and read widely in international literature. Together we have translated several German novels into English, including works by Franz Kafka and Günter Grass. Our latest effort will appear this year--a novel by the Berlin author Sten Nadolny entitled (in English). "The Joy of Sorcery". 

Don't give up if you find German difficult--it is a key to some of the greatest literary and philosophical works ever written. But even if you simply want to use the language in business or travel, it will open the door to a richer and more enjoyable life. And if possible, take advantage of the opportunities KU offers to study abroad--that changed my life and it can change yours.


Willard Hiebert

BS, 1963

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

I started out at KU in the Engineering School. However the lack of an adequate math background made me change my mind. I transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences. I now needed a language to fulfill requirements, so I enrolled in German as a sophomore because my ancestors had spoken this language. As luck would have it, my German professor (Dr. Helmut Huelsbergen) encouraged me to apply for admission to KU's first summer language institute in Germany. I was accepted and spent the next summer in the village of Weyern in Bavaria. Later the institute was moved to Holzkirchen. This summer changed my life and enabled me to major in German. After my senior year I was awarded a direct exchange scholarship to the Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet in Mainz, Germany. This enabled me to study for my MA at the University of Colorado where I received an NDEA Academic Year scholarship through which I finished my MA.

Has your study of German benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Holding an MA enabled me to get a job teaching German at a small college in Moorhead, MN, where I spent my entire professional career. While at Concordia College- Moorhead, I started the first foreign travel seminar in the summer following my first teaching year. My time in Germany gave me the confidence to attempt something new like this. Later I started the German for Business course at CC. I loved my job and enjoyed making many trips to Germany throughout my career and having a rewarding career introducing my students to the German language and culture. I still feel the liberating effects of knowing a second language and enjoy keeping up with things German in my retirement. Left on my bucket list is walking across the Glenike bridge as I haven't been back to Berlin since reunification.

What advice do you have to students currently studying German at KU?

Take every opportunity to travel abroad that presents itself to you. You can always learn more.

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