Department of German and Russian
Mission, Core Processes, and Assessment Tools
Based on the core processes, the overall quality of the program and the success with which the Department of German and Russian fulfills its mission can be assessed as follows.
Language proficiency is measured in a series of examinations in the courses of the regular language sequence 101, 102, and 201 (and RUS 202), as well as in the form of a standardized test for placement into the language courses. Students wishing to major in German are required to pass the German university language entrance exam (DSH) or its equivalent, such as TestDaF. As is the case in all courses, quality in teaching and faculty interest in students and teaching is manifest in student evaluations which are solicited at the end of each course. Evaluations are reviewed by the Department chair and the VPAA for tenure and post-tenure reviews. The 2000 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award was a member of the Department, as was the 2002 recipient of the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award.
Knowledge of literary and other aspects of the cultures which the languages represent is measured in the language courses 101, 102, and 201 (and RUS 202) as well as in those courses that no longer deal with basic language acquisition: GER 251—Introduction to German Literature, GER 252—Composition and Conversation, GER 291—Contemporary Germany, RUS 302—Introduction to Russian Literature, RUS 319—Contemporary Russia, RUS 320—Masterpieces of Russian Literature, and GER 321—German History and Culture (taught in Würzburg by the Resident Director). All courses feature a strong writing component and require either a comprehensive final paper or a cumulative final examination.
Knowledge of literary and other cultural aspects of German or Russian is measured in GER 231—Cultural Topics in Translation, RUS 293—Topics in Russian Culture in Translation, and RUS 294—Topics in Russian Literature in Translation, as well as in writing courses offered by members of the Department. Recent examples of such first-year seminars include GER 100W—Images of Science in Literature; The Horror; War Stories; and RUS 100W—Russian Women Poets. All courses feature a strong writing component and require either a comprehensive final paper or a cumulative final examination.
Understanding of complex issues in literature and culture is measured in all 400-level courses, which require a substantial research paper, among other things. Students majoring in German are required to pass a capstone course (GER 499—Senior Colloquium) and a comprehensive senior examination testing their broad knowledge of German literature and culture. The examination is based on a substantial reading list, annually revised by the Department to reflect current offerings and posted on the Web site. Examinations are reviewed by all members of the Department.
Members of the Department regularly agree to work individually with promising students on their research. Recent thesis topics include: “PISA and the German Educational System”; “Second Language Acquisition”; “Magic Women as Medieval Revivalism in Wagner and Gilbert & Sullivan”; “Powers of Small Countries in the European Union”; “Myth and Woman in Christa Wolf’s Kassandra and Voraussetzung einer Erzählung”; “The Fate of Victor Klemperer’s LTI”; “Tucholsky and Journalistic Culture in Berlin”; “Nonfiction Prose Writing and Journalism”; “Armenian Genocide, the German General Staff, and Holocaust Historiography in the Soviet Union, Armenia, and Germany”; “The West-German Press and German Identity”; “Urs Widmer’s Political Theater”; “Theater in the Kovno and Terezin Ghettos”; “Reading and Writing the Novella”; “Educational Reform and the German University System Today”; “Sorben und Deutsche: the Slavic Sorbian Culture in the GDR”.
Some of the students who since the last SACS review have graduated with a major or minor in German or a minor in Russian have gone on to graduate school in German (at Berkeley, Chapel Hill, Duke, Harvard, Rutgers, Washington University, among others) and many other fields. Others have found employment in a variety of professions in which their language proficiency and international experience have been instrumental to lives of leadership and service. Davidson’s 23rd Rhodes scholar was a German major.
The study abroad programs maintained by the Department and the Dean Rusk International Studies Program are an integral part of the German major and minor, as well as the Russian major. Relative to the number of students studying the languages at Davidson, the number of those students who pursue the study abroad in Germany or Russia is extraordinarily high. Over the past ten years, the German program has averaged a dozen students a year, the Russian program half that. The quality of the programs is reflected in part by the students’ level of sophistication demonstrated in the 400-level seminars and the senior comprehensive exam. It is further measured by the student evaluations which the Dean Rusk Program solicits at the end of the abroad experience.
The Department supports the Dean Rusk International Studies Program in the coordination of study abroad, event programming on campus, and the administration of the international studies concentration. Members of the Department serve as Resident Directors abroad, consult on and participate in international events, and serve on the faculty advisory committee that awards student and faculty grants. Moreover, the Department helps administer the reciprocal exchange agreements with the University of Würzburg and with the Moscow State Institute for Foreign Affairs. Members of the Department serve as academic advisers to the students who hail from those schools. Last but not least, the practice of alerting first-year students to the significance of international awareness with the help of a brief test was pioneered by a member of the Department; various colleagues have since then helped with its administration.
Recent speakers hosted by the Department include Clayton Whisnant, Jamie Rankin, Klaus Phillips, Jeannette Lander, John Fuegi, Jo Francis, and Monika Treut. In addition to organizing several regional conferences over the past ten years, the Department secured funds to host two major international symposia, one on Weimar Classicism, the other on the recently deceased W.G. Sebald. Both were attended by scholars, students, and members of the Davidson community.
Members of the Department regularly teach outside the Department, be it in the Humanities Program—the traditional version and the newer “Cultures and Civilizations” variant, which was co-founded by a member of the Department—; the Gender Studies Concentration, which for three years was coordinated by a Department member; the Film Studies Concentration, which was co-organized by a Department member; or in the Writing Program, which was initially co-chaired by a member of the Department (see M3). Members also direct interdisciplinary student research (see M5) and serve as advisers to the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. Beginning fall of 2005, a member of the Department will serve as the Center Director.
Members of the Department continually strive to improve their teaching and, as a result, rarely teach the same course twice. Even in the language sequence 101, 102, and 201, the Department has adopted several textbooks over the past ten years, keeping abreast of the developments in second language acquisition theory. Members of the Department take student evaluations seriously, observe each other in the classroom, occasionally review each other’s syllabi and exams, and sometimes team-teach a course. They attend teaching conferences and read the leading pedagogical journals with regularity. Similarly, members seek to integrate current literary and cultural research into their teaching and remain active in the profession. Advances in information technology, esp. internet technologies, have also led to improved teaching. The Department maintains a strong web presence and makes available a rich media archive for pedagogical use. It offers a comprehensive multimedia language course online, deploys its courses in Blackboard (Davidson’s course management program), and uses the web regularly in almost all its courses. A member of the Department is currently working on an intermediate textbook that is to appear in print as well as online.
Members of the Department are actively involved in AATG and AATSEEL, collaborating with secondary teachers, attending conferences, and providing leadership to their state chapter. Members of the Department are currently serving on the executive council of NC-AATG as President-Elect, state testing chair, and webmaster. To promote further the collaboration with teachers on the secondary level, the Department offered in 2004 a German Summer Institute for recertification credit. The success of that Institute (documented by participant evaluations) led to an oversubscribed second offering in 2005. Since 1981 the Department has been administering standardized language exams for the German Federal Government, an opportunity often seized by teachers and other individuals outside the College.
Members of the Department have served, and continue to serve, on committees and advisory councils in virtually all areas of College business, including College governance, finance/ strategic planning, admissions, educational policy, student life, grants and scholarships, teacher education, information technology, etc.
The Chair of the Department serves as liaison, frequently through the VPAA’s Office, to virtually all administrative constituencies on campus. The Chair and his colleagues have in the past worked closely with those offices whenever cooperation was sought or needed, e.g., on internal review committees or with regard to particular events, tasks, or individual students. Among the regular support functions are academic advising and continuous collaboration with the Library to keep its holdings in German, Russian, and related fields up to date. A record of most of those activities can be obtained from the VPAA’s Office.
Realizing that scholarship is an important part of the teaching process, members of the Department have been very successful in securing grant money and have become productive scholars. Recent publications include numerous articles, book reviews, and the following books.
Members regularly attend conferences, present scholarly papers, and are invited to give talks at other institutions. They are members in good standing with numerous professional associations, such as the AATG, the AATSEEL, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Goethe Society of North America, the Kafka Society, the Modern Language Association, the German Studies Association, and Women in German, among others. Some members serve on the boards of professional societies or on committees of national organizations, while others review manuscripts for professional journals, review programs at other institutions, or review tenure cases elsewhere. All members serve not only the College and the professional community but also the local community here in the Greater Charlotte area. The activities range from volunteer work in local schools and churches to presentations at the Rotary Club and elsewhere to consulting work for the Charlotte Symphony. A complete listing of professional activities is available from the VPAA’s Office upon request.
The external Department review of April 2002 by Susan Rachel May of Macalester College and Jens Kruse of Wellesley College yielded a highly complimentary report underscoring the Department’s “exemplary commitment to the teaching of language, literature, and culture, and to nurturing student interest and success outside of the classroom.”