Time at Hood
Going on 17 years, although it seems just like yesterday since I started at Hood.
Your research is focused on a really interesting topic—pain, suffering and violence in medieval Germany. What drew you to this area?
My research was focused on pain, suffering and violence in medieval Germany. While I am still interested in these topics—for instance, I am co-editing a volume of essays on Endtimes and the Apocalypse in Medieval German Literary Culture—I have been working extensively on the relationship between architecture and memory, specifically the castle and memory. I am interested in how constructing space shapes cultural identity and contributes to the collective memory of a culture. Each society has important spaces in which stories are shared and memories are created. This is ultimately an ideological process, as whoever controls these spaces controls the narrative, whether or not that narrative is entirely true, which means that these spaces are often fraught with tension. One only has to think about the hotly-debated Confederate Civil War memorials in the United States, which were erected to celebrate confederate war heroes and to propagate the idea that the Confederate cause was a just one, while erasing the memory of slavery and all the suffering that went along with it.
You were recently named as the director of study abroad. What are your goals in this position?
The most important goal I have is to increase the number and types of students participating in study abroad. This means, in part, increasing the visibility of study abroad at Hood College. I want every student to know what programs the College has and what they need to do to go abroad. This also means getting students in other majors that traditionally have not studied in a foreign country to see the importance of doing so. I also want to see a greater diversity of students going abroad. In order to do this, it is paramount to me to help students in overcoming the financial hurdles they are confronted with when going abroad. I would like to find funds and donors—and here alumni can play a significant role—that would guarantee that any Hood student who wants to study abroad would receive at least some funding from the College. Similarly, I want to increase the number and types of study abroad opportunities for our students. Whether it be direct exchanges (both student and faculty) with partner colleges and universities abroad or more faculty-led experiential learning trips abroad (for example, we currently have trips led by Dr. Shannon Kundey to the Galapagos and Dr. Tammy Krygier to Scotland and England), every Hood student should have an opportunity to go abroad. Because these types of programs take a lot of time and effort on the behalf of faculty, I am planning on developing a faculty-led study abroad grant to help interested faculty develop these high-impact activities for our students.
What can students gain from having a study abroad experience during their college careers?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many things that students gain from studying abroad. If I had to choose three, not in order of importance, I would say that 1) students learn to be self-reliant adults who can manage just about any challenge they face. Studying abroad exposes students to so many new situations, often in a foreign language, that they quickly realize, “hey, I can do this!” This positive attitude transfers into future goals and endeavors, a source of confidence that study abroad students tap into throughout their entire lives. 2) Students become culturally sensitive and proficient, learning about the culture they are immersing themselves in and about their own, which leads to students who think both globally and critically about themselves and their own country. 3) Study abroad enriches the lives of our students in so many different ways. They make life-long personal relationships. They gain invaluable professional experience that often opens doors to new opportunities and solidifies their career paths. They learn to appreciate different types of art and music. For these reasons, students who have studied abroad travel abroad again and again the rest of their lives.
What is your “wish” trip to put together for students?
I have been taking students to Berlin for years now and have so many great memories from those experiences, but if I could put a “wish” trip together it would be similar to a trip that I organized for my Austrian students when I was a Fulbright Fellow in Austria in 2014. This experiential learning trip would enable me to share my passion for my research and Austrian culture and language with Hood students. I would immerse students in my field of research, introducing them to experts and colleagues in my field. We would explore together different medieval memory spaces in Austria and Northern Italy such as a Wunderkammer in Innsbruck, a ninth century church with frescos of the Apocalypse in Hall in Tirol, and many wonderful medieval castles in and near Brixen and Bozen, Italy. We would also take advantage of the stunning landscape of Austrian Alps and the Italian Dolomite Mountains, which surround these cultural sites, and take a hike or two, followed by wonderful Austrian food.
Is there anything else you want us to know?
There may be students who think that study or travel abroad is not something they can attain. I want them to know that there is always a way. It may not be what the student initially planned and it may require a lot of hard work, but he or she will eventually get abroad. The pay-off can be well worth the effort. A personal anecdote helps to illustrate this. I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to study abroad and applied to a couple of programs in high school for year-long exchanges to Germany. Each time, I was turned down by the programs. I was discouraged but did not give up, and after I graduated from high school I was able to go to Germany for a month through a teacher-led program. This month-long program showed me my future path to where I am today. I knew I wanted to teach, travel abroad and help students go abroad. I am now doing all three.