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Magazine On-line [fall 2008]
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Transylvania adds German Studies major

After years of helping students create a German special major pattern, German and French professor Rick Weber now takes pleasure in knowing that it’s official—the University approved a German Studies major effective with the current academic year.

The major’s title includes the word “studies” because its curriculum goes beyond the traditional German major that focuses primarily on language and literature. As Weber has shaped it, Transylvania’s major includes those elements, but also encompasses German culture, history, politics, philosophy, geography, and current events.

“The movement in German throughout academia has been toward including a much broader range of topics in the major,” Weber said.

Transy students taking German have an advantage in that regard with Weber, who visits Germany every summer with the support of the David and Betty Jones Faculty Development Fund and the Kenan Fund for Faculty and Student Enrichment. Over the years, he has acquired firsthand knowledge of the German culture, including many different cities, which is supported by a large collection of his photos he uses to supplement his classroom presentations.

“German texts tend to have a city in each chapter around which the material is organized,” Weber said. “I personalize that with my own photos and knowledge gained from having been there.”

Supporting that notion of learning about the country itself is a requirement that each Transy German Studies major complete a study abroad experience in the country. This is facilitated financially by the University’s decision to allow students to use their scholarship funds for study abroad expenses.

Rounding out the major’s content is a new May term offering that features German cinema, with historical films (up to about 1980) being offered one year and contemporary cinema (mainly 1990s post-reunification films) the next.

Weber is in the national forefront of academia’s reshaping of the German curriculum to offer a more robust major and attract more students. He authored a well received paper titled "Re(de)fining the College German Curriculum: A Program Proposal" that was published in the spring 2000 edition of the scholarly journal Die Unterrichtspraxis in which he discussed the ideas he has implemented in Transy’s curriculum.

Weber also feels the timing is right for more emphasis on German studies at Transylvania because of the role a reunified Germany is playing in Europe and the world.

“With reunification, Germany moved geographically from the eastern edge of the Western world, or Europe, to the center,” he said. “It’s occupying that space in an economic and cultural sense as well. Germany is playing a central role in the redevelopment of all the former Soviet countries.”

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