Celebrating 10 years of the Cecilia and the late George Piller Graduate Research Award

We are celebrating 10 years of the Cecilia and the late George Piller Graduate Research Award. Made possible by a donation from Cecilia Piller in 2013, two awards valued at $4,000 each are presented annually to support excellent graduate students in the Faculty of Arts doing research into any aspect of German Studies. This contribution means so much to both the University and to the students who are pursuing their educational goals.

We reached out to past recipients of the award and asked how the Piller Award supported their academic experience. Read their responses below.

To see a list of all our past recipients, click here.

Learning another language and comprehending the intricacies of cultural differences deepened my understanding of the world and shaped me into a more open-minded individual. 

Studying at the UW German Department greatly influenced my way of thinking and fostered my academic interests as well. Many of the courses I took still resonate with me today, and my dissertation project would not have been possible to realize without my years in Waterloo. 

Mario Hirstein, 2018 recipient

I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to explore Canada and in particular the city of Waterloo. I learned a lot about the Canadian university system and the seminars I attended during that year were very diverse and interesting.

After I returned from Canada, I did an internship at the German Foreign Ministry (Auswärtiges Amt) in Berlin. I am currently doing another internship at the German TV network ZDF. Afterwards I will finish my MA studies in Mannheim by submitting my MA thesis until November 2023. 

Annemarie Hezel, 2022 recipient

Receiving the Cecilia and the Late George Piller Graduate Research Award in 2013 was a great honour which not only helped me to complete my dissertation research but also enabled me to document my accomplishments as a budding scholar.  

Since that time, I have continued to publish original research on contemporary German literature as well as curriculum design and teaching at the post-secondary level.

Alec Cattell, 2013 recipient

My university experience as a graduate student has been pleasant but stressful. The Piller 2019 Award has helped to ease some of that stress for me. Cecilia Piller’s contribution has meant a great deal to me. Thanks to this donation among others, I’m on track of finishing my PhD in German Studies next year! Grad school has been a decision I’ve never regretted. 

Jana Koepcke, 2019 recipient

I graduated with my Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of Waterloo in 2013, and the Piller Award helped me to transition from being a student to teaching and researching in academia professionallyMy experience in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo was outstanding.

I am in the meantime an Associate Professor of German in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures at Texas Tech University, where I am engaged in research, teaching, and peer mentoring.

Belinda Kleinhans, 2013 recipient

My PhD experience has been wonderful. I have a great advisor, Dr. Gary Bruce, who has been very supportive, and kind, and I have also been very lucky to benefit from various fellowships and research awards, such as the Piller Award, which have helped me reach the completion of my degree.

After I complete my PhD... I hope to work towards publishing my dissertation as a book and want to find a post-doctoral position at a university outside of Canada.

Jennifer McKay, 2021 recipient

I really liked working closely with the professors at the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies. Receiving the Piller Award in 2014 was definitely crucial for me in that phase of my degree as I was able to attend conferences, focus on my dissertation project and prepare for the next milestones in my degree.

Since September 2021 have a 3-year limited term appointment at the rank of Assistant Professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Daniela Roth, 2014 recipient

At the moment, I am pursuing a PhD at the DFG research training group Modell Romantik at the University of Jena. I am currently doing an internship at the Hochstift/Romantik-Museum in Frankfurt My dissertation project investigates the place of comedy in the romantic project. I reconstruct how the unleashing of the “comic genius” preoccupies romantic literature.  

Jakob-Michael Stephan Sigmund, 2020 recipient