Author: Stephen Nemeth|Lucy Feickert
The newly established Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture (CSLC) department experienced several staffing changes in the first month of its existence. Following the departure of one professor two weeks into classes this semester, and the arrival and departure of a second, returning professor Pauline Ebert has been hired full time to teach German classes for rest the of the academic year, according to CSLC Department Chair Damian Stocking.
“We were delighted,” Stocking said. “It could have been bad, but actually now it looks great. And we’re interested in trying to build the position back up.”
Before the year began, tenured and full-time German professor Jürgen Pelzer announced that he would retire.
Part-time professor Kathie Von Ankum was scheduled to teach the offered German courses this fall, according to Stocking, but she took a job offer two weeks into the semester, leaving the college with little notification.
Stocking initially asked Ebert to replace Ankum. However, Ebert declined the offer because, as a part-time job, she did not feel it provided her enough security.
The department ended up hiring David Berry, a recent doctoral student.
Berry had little time to prepare for teaching the class and no teaching experience, which students in his class noticed.
“I don’t think he was very well equipped to be teaching a language, as opposed to the Nazi visual culture class,” Evan Bromberg (junior) said. “Because he wasn’t a fluent German speaker, he didn’t grow up speaking German or anything like that. It was probably pretty hard for him to teach a language he doesn’t have a mastery over.”
When a family emergency prompted Berry’s resignation last week, Stocking moved quickly to secure funding for a full-time position.
“The dean felt it was important to try to sustain the German program,” Stocking said. “So he kindly, and I think wisely, decided to fund a full-time professor.”
Stocking approached Ebert to fill the newly created position, and she accepted.
“I really like Occidental College as a campus and I love my colleagues and students, so I changed my mind and came back,” Ebert said. “And also because I think that the German program is not in good shape right now, and that is bad. I don’t want the German program to go away, because I think it is an important part of education.”
Ebert last taught at Occidental in the spring 2013 semester before moving out of Los Angeles to pursue a teaching position at Smith College in Massachusetts. While she enjoyed working at Smith College, she was not thrilled about living in the small town of North Hampton and experiencing its cold winters. She returned to LA in May to work at a non-profit during the summer.
With less than a day to prepare for her classes after accepting Stocking’s offer, Ebert quickly created syllabi for the classes she is teaching this semester. She said that the previous syllabi for the classes did not make much sense.
Thus far, Stocking has heard positive responses to Ebert from students.
Nisha Ramesh (junior) believes students in her class are now taking their studies seriously again, now that Ebert is leading the class in a productive direction.
“She seems to know what she is doing; she taught at Oxy before; she taught this class before,” Ramesh said. “I really like her a lot better. So I guess it turned out okay in the end, but hopefully I’m not speaking too soon.”
Although Ebert said that she discussed with students and agreed that they will start over in each subject, one student still expressed concern over her grades in her German 101 course.
Sage Juli (sophomore) was unsure as to whether the grades she has received for her work in the past month will count towards her final grade in the class under Ebert.
“I decided, together with the students, to start over and to do our own thing,” Ebert said. “But of course the grades the students have gotten before I arrived, they are not getting lost. I have those and they will count towards the final grade.”
German class offerings in the spring will be expanded to include a course on Holocaust literature, Ebert’s area of expertise, according to Stocking.
German, which previously was only offered as a minor under the German, Russian and Classical Studies department, will now be a major emphasis under the CSLC department, according to Stocking.
Moving forward, Stocking is happy to have a full-time professor for German and hopes that with Ebert’s hiring, along with the new major emphasis for German, more students will seek to study German at a higher level.
“We’re hoping to really build some sort of enthusiasm around German, especially as it relates to this new major, and with the new emphases brought in by [Ebert], we really hope to see a German boom,” Stocking said.
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