The University Record, March 26, 1996

German language department takes honors for imaginative redesign of programs

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The College of Literature, Science and the Arts has awarded the 1996 Departmental Award for Contributions to the Undergraduate Initiative to the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures.

The $25,000 award "is richly deserved," according to LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg, and shows that "even relatively small departments can achieve great things, exercise leadership out of all proportion to their numbers and offer examples that much larger departments might follow."

The Germanic languages department has revised virtually every aspect of its language program, beginning with a redesign of their first-year language courses, most of which are taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty, including Frederick R. Amri ne, chair of the department.

The department also has launched an outreach program to the state's high school German teachers to enhance German instruction and to acquaint the teachers with the University's expectations and placement process.

In addition, the department developed a new and imaginative series of fourth-semester courses that take students beyond "communicative competence" (enough to comfortably tour German-speaking countries) to a greater degree of intellectual competence within a particular discipline.

For instance, fourth-semester students could take classes this winter that focused on mathematical and scientific German, German crime stories, the politics and society of the post-War Germanies, Mozart and the Magic Flute, Albrecht Durer's Nuremberg, or literary interpretation.

"The mathematical and scientific German sections are heavily enrolled," Amrine says. "We are obviously meeting a real need that has not been addressed heretofore."

The scientific German class is taught by Hartmut Rastalsky, an award-winning doctoral student in comparative literature who holds a degree in mathematics from Princeton.

"Associate Professor Rosina Lippi-Green's course on Durer is one I would like to take myself," Amrine adds. "She has not only made 16th-century Nuremberg the focus of her linguistic research but also has written a superb novel on the topic."

Amrine also extolls the department's course on The Magic Flute, taught by graduate student Joseph F. Bailey, a former music school student who is married to an opera singer. His wife comes to class regularly to perform and help the students sing.

"Bailey also has brought in a parade of luminaries from the Music School, the conductor of the Ann Arbor Symphony and a music critic from the Ann Arbor News ," Amrine says.

Additionally, members of the Germanic languages faculty have been very active in the Language Across the Curriculum program, the new Summer Language Institute and in development of long-distance learning technology.