German Professor

Education and Qualifications:

Ph.D, Germanic Languages and Literatures
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

M.A., Germanic Languages and Literatures
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.A., German, summa cum laude,
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Graduate and undergraduate coursework at the University of Vienna, Austria and the University of Regensburg, Germany

Describe a typical day on your job.

The nice thing about my job is that there is no typical day. On any given day, I might be doing the following: teaching an undergraduate or graduate class, advising students about which classes to take and their job options after graduation, discussing study abroad or processing credit for returning students, holding office hours, reading a book or article, research in the library, writing an article or speech, giving a speech at a conference, writing a report or grant proposal, grading certification exams, translating, answering e-mails, screening a new film to use in class, arranging a film or lecture series, conducting a review session, tutoring a student, consulting with a graduate student on how to teach a specific lesson, writing letters of recommendation, reading trade publications or keeping up with German news on-line, etc.

How do you use German?

Not surprisingly, I use German in every aspect of my job every day. I teach primarily in German, and since my students write quizzes, tests, and papers in German, I also grade in German. I use German for correspondence with European colleagues. Frequently, I am called upon to translate for colleagues in other disciplines who were told that “the whole world speaks English,” only to learn that this is not necessarily true.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of your job?

One advantage of my job is that I have an extremely flexible schedule. I get to work with amazingly talented students who energize me every day. I travel to Europe every few years for seminars. Every day is something new, and I’m not stuck in a cubicle for hours at a time.

A disadvantage of my job is that I work all the time. The public perception is that teachers and professors don’t work in the summer, but they don’t realize that we only aren’t being paid in the summer. I work in the evenings and every weekend and am in my office or the library all summer long.

Do you have any advice for someone who would like to enter your field?

You have to be able to set goals and work independently as a professor. Often, I have several months to complete projects, but at any given time, I have twenty different small projects going on at once. This has only gotten worse as administrators have decided to replace tenure-track professors with lecturers, who have large teaching loads but do not have administrative duties. As a result, there is the same amount of work that has to be accomplished but fewer individuals to do it. Because the trend in all of American academia now is to hire adjuncts (or faculty with part-time or short-term contracts who can be fired easily if the budget is down), it is extremely difficult to get a tenure-track job with a Ph.D. in German. Usually, there are 150 to 250 well-qualified applicants for each position.

When looking at doctoral programs, ask your professors which programs they would recommend, and then compare lists. Go to the campuses of universities you are considering to meet the professors and students, as ask them 1) how long it takes on average for students to finish (5 or max 6 years is the answer you should hear, from BA to Ph.D.) and 2) how many of their doctoral students finish the degree (many wind up ABD, or all but dissertation—finishing the exams but not the dissertation) and 3) how many of their finishing students land tenure-track jobs.

To prepare yourself to apply for graduate school, you must study abroad for at least one year and then an additional year while in graduate school. If money is an issue, apply for a teaching Fulbright position for the year after your undergraduate degree is over. Read Emily Toth’s books to be sure that you want to sign up for this endeavor.

While in graduate school, it is important to do well in your studies and to be a good academic citizen. Participate in every seminar and workshop that you can and network. Be active in your local professional organization (AATG—American Association of Teachers of German). Go to conferences, present, and talk to faculty members from other institutions. Always have an up-to-date resume finished that can be sent out. Be nice to everyone and don’t burn any bridges. Read the trades: and Above all, FINISH YOUR DISSERTATION. You cannot land a tenure-track job until you do so.