German Department Learning Goals

The German department serves three interrelated, sometimes overlapping constituencies: all our courses, taught in German or in English, enhance students’ critical reasoning skills and cross-cultural awareness.

Our sequence of language courses (ranging from beginners to the advanced intermediate level) develops linguistic proficiency and cross-cultural competency that enables our students to interact with native speakers in an informed and culturally sensitive manner.  Our language program thus prepares students for a broad range of opportunities (such as study abroad, internships, and employment in or interaction with the German-speaking world).

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural.  Our students are required to develop German language skills at the advanced intermediate level (at the minimum) and cultural literacy skills for a critical understanding of the literary, historical, and cultural traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  The department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives and opportunities.

Our English courses, open to all students regardless of preparation, focus in particular on developing students’ ability to engage critically with unfamiliar materials through close readings; on exposing them to a broad range of different perspectives; and on enhancing their skills in written and oral expression.

All majors must complete two courses of German cultural history which survey the field conceptually and historically.  In addition, they take a minimum of five advanced German courses of their choice. We welcome our students’ diverse specializations within the field, most often expressed in their thesis work, by special topics courses, and by their individually designed topics for their comprehensive exams.

Our senior comprehensive exams consist of three sections: a broadly conceived set of identifications which range through German cultural and social history, a section that requires close analysis of selected materials, and a section with essay questions which address very specific issues within the student’s field of specialization. Students may choose to fulfill the Comprehensive Exam requirement with GERM 495: Senior Research Seminar in the Fall semester of their senior year.

German majors have the option of writing a thesis on a topic of their choice: under the supervision of a member of the German department faculty, they conduct research or engage in an in-depth analysis of a particular thematic issue or corpus of textual and visual materials.

The success of our program is documented by the percentage of our majors who are accepted to leading graduate school programs; teach or take jobs in a German-speaking country; win domestic or international scholarships (such as Fulbright, Kellogg, German Academic Exchange Service etc.).  Likewise, many students who did not major in German but who took a substantial number of courses in our department have historically excelled at gaining major scholarships (including Rhodes, Marshall, Watson etc.)