Alumni Stories

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

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

Used German daily on graduate exchange in Zurich for year after graduation, Thanks to Dr. Keel. Even could understand the Swiss dialect. Grad school at Minnesota, 12 yrs in orthopedic medical device industry, and the last 7 plus years in systems engineering at John Deere in Des Moines.

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

Yes. It got me to study abroad which got me connected to a Swiss company for a grad school project which got me a job out of grad school with the spinal device branch of that company. From there I got to work in a product line that was with a partner company located in Nürnberg and traveled there 3-4x a year for several years.

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

Go abroad. Immerse yourself and it won't leave your brain. It may get rusty but it will be there. Understanding another language opens up your mind in many other ways than just speaking it or reading it.


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!


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.


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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