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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Graduate Student Profiles - Germanic Studies

Judith K. Atzler – Applied Linguistics & Early Modern Literature
Bradley Boovy –Gender and Sexuality in German Literature and Film
Jan Uelzmann – Literature and Cultural History of Post World War II West Germany

JAN UELZMANN


Graduate Program: Ph.D., Germanic Studies, The University of Texas at Austin;Dissertation: “Heimat Bonn: The Provisional West German Capital as Social and Spatial Imaginary, 1949-63”

Other Degrees: M.A., German Literature, Texas Tech University – Lubbock, TX; Staatsexamen (M.A. equivalent), German and English, Christian Albrechts Universität - Kiel, Germany

What is grad school life like?
Well, you will have to like to study! The program is demanding and intellectually challenging. You will spend a considerable part of your day preparing for your graduate classes, may it be reading texts or writing papers. If you have an AI or TA position, there will be grading, preparing your class, communicating with your students, and such. This is definitely not an eight to five kind of life, where you can close the book in the evening, go home, and do something else. For this program, you need intellectual curiosity, the willingness to fully dedicate yourself to your studies, and discipline. That said, we also have time to go out in the evenings, and we can take advantage of Austin’s cultural offerings. Being a graduate student is a busy life, but it is definitely a lot of fun as well.

What is a typical day in the life of a grad student?
A typical day in our department would look as follows: You get to the department early, you prepare materials for the class you are teaching (most of our grad students are either assisting or are teaching their own language class), then you go teach. In the afternoon, you typically will have your own graduate courses. You normally will take three courses per semester, and they meet either twice a week (1 ½ hour classes) or once a week (3 hour classes). After class, you prepare your teaching for the next day, grade your students’ homework, and complete assignments for your graduate courses, such as readings, essays, or term papers. In between: breakfast, lunch, coffee with your colleagues, a lecture series, the Germanic Film Series, guest speakers, workshops, and office hours (for your students). It’s a full day, and every grad student will have to find his or her own routine.

What is the coolest thing about your graduate program?
This department is one of the largest in the country and has many distinguished scholars with different fields of specialization. Consequently, graduate students can choose from a vast amount of possible specializations in Germanic languages and literatures, cultural studies, film studies, linguistics, applied linguistics, or intellectual history. A huge benefit of learning from such a large and diverse faculty is the possibility to pursue interdisciplinary approaches, something from which my current dissertation research benefits a lot. We also have a large and diverse graduate student body. Consequently, we all learn from one another. There is always the possibility for intellectual exchange and discussion.

Can you tell us a bit more about your current research interests?
My dissertation “Heimat Bonn: The Provisional West German Capital as Social and Spatial Imaginary, 1949-63” investigates Bonn’s symbolical function during the Adenauer era. I argue that Bonn at that time served as local metaphor for the Federal Republic, as it was still taking shape. I am reading Bonn as projection screen and laboratory for challenges that the Federal Republic was facing during its founding years. I am drawing on several cultural domains (city planning, architecture, newsreels, fiction, and others) to examine how the provisional West German capital city was instrumental in implementing a complex strategy for a new beginning in a post-fascist, war-torn country that found itself divided and located on the fault line of the emerging Cold War.

My second area of specialization is the literature and culture of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933).

Where are you in the PhD sequence?
I am a Ph.D. candidate, which means that I have passed the candidacy exam and have completed my Ph.D. coursework. I am currently in my fourth year and working on my dissertation. Last summer, I received a Continuing University Fellowship. This is a great luxury, since it allows me to work on my dissertation fulltime (I usually teach first and second year language classes). On the other hand, this demands discipline: you have to set up a strict writing schedule in order to make the most out of the time free of obligations.

Do you have teaching responsibilities in your department?
Most of our grad students work as instructors in our lower division language classes, either as TAs or AIs. While AIs have their own classes, TAs typically assist either a professor or an AI in a class. Once my Fellowship is over, I will return to teaching as an AI, and I really love it. Of course, it is extra work on top of your own studies, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it. Especially as Ph.D. students, we are trained to become professionals in the field, which usually requires both research and teaching. If you want to continue working in academia, your time as an AI will provide you with invaluable experience in teaching. Besides, interacting with our undergraduate students is a lot of fun and a truly rewarding experience, and you will be proud to be a part of your students’ university education. You will typically take a pedagogy class as part of your studies, and our AIs and TAs have regular meetings with our coordinators to discuss pedagogical questions, assessment and grading, or other concerns related to teaching.

What would you consider to be the greatest difference from your time as an undergrad?
The main difference in my eyes is that as a graduate student, you have to “live the program.” There will be a lot less time for other activities, such as hobbies, although you can, and you should, still carve out time to do something totally unrelated to school. To succeed in graduate school, you will have to fully identify with what you are doing and why you are doing it. For this, it helps to have a clear career goal in mind.

Based on my experience, classes usually are a lot smaller in graduate school, and there will be much more one-to-one interaction with the professor than as an undergrad. Every class is an intellectual challenge, and it will be expected of you to contribute to each and every class session. Graduate classes are usually less rigid in structure and allow for more dynamic interaction with the professor and your peers. A lot of a good graduate class depends on you taking an active part in it.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew as an undergrad?
It is important to work on your foreign languages as early as possible. In my program, you will need reading proficiency in one foreign language for the M.A. degree, and in two foreign languages for the Ph.D. degree.

What are your top 3 tips for students interested in applying to a program like yours?

  1. Take the time to do thorough research on the different universities you are considering and compare them with regard to which departmental profile fits you best. Most importantly, pay attention to: the profile of the faculty and funding opportunities (AI/TA jobs, fellowships and scholarships awarded by the department). Carefully study the departmental website. Among the faculty, find at least two professors with research interests related to yours. Could you see yourself working with them on your M.A. thesis or dissertation? If so, get in touch with them and express your interest in the program, even before you actually apply.
  2. Spend a lot of time and care on the application materials. Be sure to submit a strong statement of purpose (why you want to come to this department specifically) and writing sample. Have someone from the field read your application materials and give you feedback.
  3. After you have looked at the faculty, check out the “graduate students” section of the website! I would recommend getting in touch with graduate students from the departments you are interested in. After all, these would be the people you will be working closely together with for the next few years. Their profiles already can tell you a lot about the intellectual life in the department. Also, it is often helpful to have colleagues or potential future friends with similar or related interests to study together. The graduate students often have invaluable “insider information” on how the department is run and can help you identify positive factors or potential problems.

Did you work on a research project as an undergrad? If so, what was it? Would you recommend research for undergrads?
As an undergrad in Germany, I wrote a Staatsexamen thesis of about 100 pages on narratological features in the early novels of Arno Schmidt (My particular Staatsexamen degree in Germany is considered an M.A. equivalent, therefore you have to write a thesis). Having already completed a longer research project as an undergrad was an excellent preparation for my M.A. thesis in the US and my work here at UT. In my area of study, I therefore would definitely recommend doing a research project (an honors thesis or the like) as an undergrad. This would help you hone your academic writing. A good command of academic writing is crucial in order to succeed in grad school, so start working on it as early as you can. A research project would also provide a good writing sample to submit along with your application for grad school.

If you wouldn’t have accepted the UT Austin offer, which school was your #2 choice?
My #2 choice was the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, VA.

What is one an interesting website you would tell a friend interested in Germanic studies to check out?
H-Net German and H-Net Germanistik are two websites which contain resources on current topics in German studies. Among other things, they offer discussion forums, calls for papers, and academic book reviews.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years, I see myself working as a professor of German literature and culture in the United States. I would like to find a good working balance between research and teaching, since both are equally important to me.

Do you have an achievement or “grad school survival tip” you would like to share?
An achievement: I just recently published my first academic essay! When my copy finally arrived in the mail, and I held the book in my hand and read my name in the table of contents, I have to say that was a great feeling…

A grad school survival tip: In order to be productive, try to counterbalance your grad student life with another interest outside of school. To varying degrees, grad school will consume between 70 and 90% of your time awake. In order to stay sane, your precious free time needs to be spent with something totally unrelated to school. A hobby or sports definitely will help clear your mind for the next day. I found that my overall sense of wellbeing was vastly improved when I picked up playing the guitar again, which I neglected during my first years in grad school. There is always time during the day, if only a few minutes, to do something fun that will help balance your life as a grad student.

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BRADLEY BOOVY


Graduate Program: Ph.D., Germanic Studies, The University of Texas at Austin; Dissertation Topic: “Gay Men and the Culture of the Closet in West Germany, 1949-1969”

Other Degrees: M.A., Spanish, Tulane University – New Orleans, LA; B.A., Spanish & German, Loyola University – New Orleans, LA

What is grad school life like?
I can’t imagine things being much better, to be honest. I spend most of my time reading, watching movies, working on languages, thinking and writing. And I’m surrounded by interesting people who do the same thing and who enjoy talking about it.

What is a typical day in the life of a grad student?
My daily routine is pretty flexible. Aside from teaching (usually one to two hours a day), grading and planning, I try to dedicate three to four hours each day to research and work on my dissertation. There’s always a bit of professional development and logistical stuff to take care of, too, like writing up abstracts for conferences, going to meetings and presentations, bringing back library books, filling out forms, etc. Whatever time’s leftover I like to spend reading, seeing movies, hanging out with friends, cooking, going out. Typical stuff.

What is the coolest thing about your graduate program?
The department really offers a lot of opportunities for professional growth and development, such as teaching your own course. I also think it’s cool that there are people in the department who speak Icelandic and Yiddish.

Where are you in the PhD sequence?
I’m in candidacy now and am done with coursework.

Can you tell us a bit more about your current research interests?
I just defended my prospectus in November 2009, and got the go-ahead from my committee to continue my research and write. The title of my dissertation at this point is “Gay Men and the Culture of the Closet in West Germany, 1949-1969.” I’m looking at several gay cultural magazines from the postwar years in West Germany, and examining how they fit into the larger contexts of postwar reconstruction, the Cold War, and debates over the criminalization of homosexuality.

Do you have teaching responsibilities in your department?
I’ve worked as an AI since I came to UT. I teach German and Dutch language courses, and have also taught a content course on Grimms’ fairy tales. Grading and planning do get exhausting sometimes, but it’s worth it since engaging with students really is the best thing about working at a university. Teaching provides a good balance to research, which I often find very solitary, and also gives my research on German culture a greater purpose beyond publication.

What would you consider to be the greatest difference from your time as an undergrad?
Something I’ve struggled with is adhering to a more flexible schedule. Undergrad (and even the first years of course work in a grad program) are easier in the sense that you’re on the university’s schedule, and professors assign the tasks and deadlines. It’s been a challenge for me to come up with my own tasks and deadlines and then to stick to them. I’ve got a good routine down now, though...for the most part.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew as an undergrad?
I sometimes wish I would have been a little more creative in thinking about career paths. I’ve always been very interested in languages, and suppose I knew early on that I wanted to do something with them. Sometimes I think I might have gone into translation (which I do on the side now), or into cultural administration instead of academia. Degrees in language and culture—although they may not seem as “practical” or profitable as other degrees—can still open a lot of doors, and they provide a good foundation for work in several fields. Think creatively and look past the raised eyebrows when you tell people you’re getting a graduate degree in language and cultural studies.

What are your top 3 tips for students interested in applying to a program like yours?

  1. If you’re not a native speaker of the language you’re studying, practice the language as much as possible, both before you enter and while you’re in the program. Find native speakers who aren’t annoyed by questions about your accent, usage, idiom, etc. If you are a native speaker (of German, etc.), be nice and help the rest of us out.
  2. Read a lot and in all kinds of genres. See movies, watch TV, go to concerts and plays. In short, get as much exposure to culture and cultural production as you can. (It doesn’t matter so much if it’s not the culture you’re focusing on.)
  3. Find people you feel comfortable exchanging ideas with, and meet with them to discuss. Start a reading and discussion group. Or, just go have coffee or a beer, and talk about your progress, what you’re reading and writing, what movies you’ve seen. Discussion and exchange drive cultural studies, so get as much practice as you can.

Did you work on a research project as an undergrad? If so, what was it? Would you recommend research for undergrads?
I worked with ESL students and teachers to develop a kind of guide to common ESL errors. It was intended to give ESL teachers and tutors an idea of the types of mistakes speakers of particular languages might make in English (e.g., what kinds of mistakes a Japanese speaker might make because of her/his first language), and suggest ways to work on correcting those mistakes. I would absolutely recommend research, even if it has little to do with what you see yourself doing long-term. It’s important to start developing good research skills early since there’s not much time to concentrate on that when you’re writing your dissertation.

If you wouldn’t have accepted the UT Austin offer, which school was your #2 choice?
I considered UC Berkeley and KU.

What is one an interesting website you would tell a friend interested in Germanic studies to check out?
I keep up with news on sueddeutsche.deSpiegel and Deutsche Welle. Wikipedia has pages in a lot of less common Germanic languages and dialects (e.g., Frisian, Kölsch, etc.) that are fun to read, and there’s plenty of stuff on YouTube for people interested in Germanic Studies. There’s also a bunch of sites where you can watch German TV shows.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
To be honest, I hope my life is similar to what it is now: teaching, research, having discussions with friends and colleagues. I’d like to be at a small to mid-size university or college at this point, but have also started to consider working at large state universities since I’ve been at UT. I’m sure I’ll be busier in ten years, and I expect to have a heavier workload and more commitments. I’d like to imagine that my life won’t have changed that much in terms of what I do, though. (I do hope I’m making a little more money, too.)

Do you have a ‘grad school survival tip’ you would like to share?
Work hard but be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, good food and drink, and time with friends.

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JUDITH K. ATZLER

Graduate Program: Ph.D., Germanic Studies, The University of Texas at Austin;Dissertation Topic: Utilizing a combination of the field of applied and theoretical linguistics to develop new approaches to teaching and learning

Other Degrees: M.A., German Language and Literature, University of Kentucky – Lexington, KY; B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University – Clemson, SC

What is grad school life like?
You need to be organized and plan your days. It can be stressful and it is important to find something outside of graduate student life to balance it out (hobby, sport, etc.). If you love teaching being an AI/TA is a very rewarding experience - the undergraduate students you will meet in the courses you teach are great.

What is a typical day in the life of a grad student?
Well that depends on what kind of person you are. Everyone is different. But having a routine might be a good idea to help you stay on track and to be organized. Certain things have to be included such as preparing for the class you are teaching and of course the classes you are taking (which are usually in the afternoon). You will also spend time in the library (which is very well stacked and getting books from other libraries via interlibrary loan works very well), and find yourself writing abstracts for conferences on some days. Coffee might become a big part of your graduate student life. Being a graduate student and an AI counts as two jobs. They take a lot of time, thus it is essential that you have non-school related interests so you can balance it out.

What is the coolest thing about your graduate program?
Having the opportunity to work with people with diverse interests.

Where are you in the PhD sequence?
I just had my candidacy exam in May 2010. It was stressful, but now I am one step closer to starting with my dissertation research. The spring semester 2010 was my last semester of course coursework and I plan to conduct the study for my dissertation in the coming fall semester (2010).

The courses I took during my M.A. and my PH.D. helped me to figure out what I wanted to do. If you are not sure what your main research interest is, I encourage you to take different courses and see what sparks your interest. This will also prepare you for the job market. Having a well-rounded education and being versatile will make you more marketable.

Can you tell us a bit more about your current research interests?
It took me awhile to figure it out. I got my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering but I realized that I do not want to work as an engineer for the rest of my life. I was always interest in literature and culture so I decided to change course and study language and literature. During my masters I was intrigued by turn of the century literature from around 1900 and 2000. I wrote my M.A. thesis on this topic comparing those times. But my interest in applied linguistics and pedagogy was already sparked during my master studies. I wanted to continue with literature at UT but then I decided to dive into applied linguistics. I am also still interested in literature, but I moved a few centuries into the past - now it is Early Modern Literature and it is fascinating.

My dissertation investigates a new approach to vocabulary teaching and learning. Instead of using traditional approaches to teaching vocabulary in the classroom and using vocabulary lists I am combining aspects of the field of applied and theoretical linguistics (Frame Semantics). Having had the opportunity to take courses in different areas helped me to figure out my research interest.

Did you work on a research project as an undergrad? If so, what was it? Would you recommend research for undergrads?
I would definitely recommend research for undergrads. During my last semester in my undergraduate studies we worked on a research project. The mechanical engineering department in Clemson brings in companies and students are assigned different real-world projects for those companies. Having had that experience doing research gave me a first glimpse at the process.

If you are in the field of German language and literature (or other language programs for that matter) I would recommend it as well, because it helps you to get familiar with different research tools and how to approach a topic.

Do you have teaching responsibilities in your department?
In the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters I worked as a GRA for our department head. This gave me a great opportunity to experience research on a different level than as a graduate student writing term papers. The two semesters prior to that I had a position as an AI which I will have again in the coming fall (2010). I enjoyed the GRA position; however, I missed the classroom. I love teaching and being an AI gives me the opportunity to do just that. If you are interested in teaching, being a TA or AI is a fantastic opportunity to get your feet wet and a great start on your journey of teaching.

What would you consider to be the greatest difference from your time as an undergrad?
You have to learn to work independently and it is your responsibility to do the work. Also, as an undergrad I had a lot of time for myself. Teaching and writing on the dissertation has greatly diminished that ‘me’ time.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew as an undergrad?
Professors are a great resource and not scary. You can come to them and discuss your research with them, but they also have great advice for your student life - they’ve been there.

What are your top 3 tips for students interested in applying to a program like yours?

  1. Check out and compare different programs. Look at the research interests of professors in the department you are interested in and look at other things that are important to you (e.g. program structure, course offerings, study abroad opportunities). Contact professors if you are interested in what they do and want to work with them and ask if they are open on taking on more advisees.
  2. Contact the graduate students that are currently in the department and ask them for their opinion.
  3. It will be stressful at times, BUT: it is all worthwhile - it is what you love to do! Remember: this is NOT undergraduate work. At times, undergraduate work you have done will seem like Kindergarten.

If you wouldn’t have accepted the UT Austin offer, which school was your #2 choice?
My second choice was Georgetown University.

What is one an interesting website you would tell a friend interested in Germanic studies to check out?
Spiegel Online - Kultur: This website might come in handy because it contains a lot of German literary works.
Deutsche Welle DW is not only a good source for news but also useful for teaching purposes.
The Linguist List: This website provides information and resources for linguists. You can find information about conferences (call for papers), publications, jobs, etc.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself teaching and doing research as a professor at a university in the United States. Both teaching and research are important to me and I hope to find a position that allows me to balance both.

Do you have a ‘grad school survival tip’ you would like to share?

  1. Prioritize! A wise person once told me: “You are a human being first, then a graduate student.”
  2. Follow your heart; take the time to figure out what you are interested in and work on that.
  3. Not everything needs to be perfect.
  4. Ask (professors, other grad students, admin staff).

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