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German department nationally recognized for excellence

November 3, 2017

Bowdoin’s Department of German will be honored on November 18 as a Center of Excellence by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG).

Birgit Tautz, George Taylor Files professor of modern languages, was notified of the department’s designation last month, after submitting an application on behalf of the department to AATG for this honor earlier this year, which included visits by faculty from other institutions to review the department.

Reviewers found the department “excellent in every category,” said Executive Director of AATG Keith Cothrun in an email to Tautz.

In particular, the jury of reviewers was impressed by the department’s support from the administration, parents and students, and by the exemplary faculty and the program’s curriculum. Cothrun also said that the department’s care for its students was evident, valuing student feedback and encouraging strong relationships between faculty and students.

In the past, institutions such as Middlebury College, Emory University and the University of Arizona have earned designations of German excellency. Bowdoin’s department stands out because there are only three professors teaching this year, compared to Middlebury’s seven, Emory’s seven, and Arizona’s 10.

“We do everything they do, but we do it with three people,” said Jill Smith, Osterweis associate professor of German and chair of the German department.

Smith added that the department’s emphasis on interdisciplinary curricula allows students taking German courses to learn more than just a language.

“We all show that German isn’t just about the language at its core. It’s also about German studies being an interdisciplinary endeavor, and we all embody that in our work and Bowdoin gives us the freedom to do that,” she said.

Students involved in the German department cited its emphasis on interdisciplinary, customizable curricula and passionate professors as important aspects that set it apart from other departments.

“There is something special about Bowdoin’s German department,” said Julia Binswanger ’16, a German major. “Perhaps it has to do with the fact that each professor is highly passionate about their work and each brings a unique perspective to the table.”

“I have been able to have a fairly customized path through my German education facilitated by the professors in the department.” said German major Brewster Taylor ’18.

The German department has been recognized in the past. Earlier this year, seven senior German majors received Fulbright Fellowships, comprising one-third of the 20 Fulbright Fellowships awarded to Bowdoin seniors.


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