PhD German

Meet our PhD German alumni

Friederike Schlein, PhD 2020

Where and what did you study before you came to Germanic and Slavic Studies at University of Waterloo?

I successfully completed my 'Erstes und Zweites Staatsexamen für das Lehramt an Grund- und Hauptschulen‘ in Lower Saxony in Germany in the early 2000s. It has always been my passion to help others to excel at what they are trying to achieve. That is why I enthusiastically worked as a teacher and instructor on the Kindergarten, Primary & Secondary School and University level in Germany for more than ten years.

What are your interests in German Studies?

My primary interest lies in literary studies, because it mirrors the relation between literature and culture which in turn impact society and our every day lives.

Why did you choose University of Waterloo?

University of Waterloo has an excellent reputation and is broadly known as the most innovative university in Canada. While still studying in Germany I had heard of the wide range of international exchange programs that are available at Waterloo. These factors played a very important role in my decision to enrol in the PhD program of Department for the Germanic and Slavic Studies.

Why did you choose this program?

The structure of the program allowed me to obtain a state-of-the-art Graduate level education that embraces linguistics, literary, cinematic and cultural studies as well as many other aspects of the field. At the same time the path to the PhD is flexible enough to pursue my own research interests in a well mentored and supported environment. These factors made it very easy for me to select the program.

Do you already know what you want to write your thesis on?

Yes, I have been carving out the details of my thesis subject with the help of my supervisor Dr. Skidmore, who has supported me with his extensive expertise in the field of contemporary German literature and culture.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Looking back at my childhood and youth, I can say that they were filled with confidence and positivity towards the future. I agree with one of my favourite authors Franz Kafka who once said: `Wege, die in die Zukunft führen, liegen nie als Weg vor uns. Sie werden zu Wegen erst dadurch, dass man sie geht.`

What is a fun-fact about you?

I had the opportunity to visit Canada as part of a student group in 1997. During this trip, we also spent two days in Waterloo visiting the University and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies. At the time, I had never thought having the chance to enroll in the PhD program 15 years later.

Katharina Schroeder, PhD 2019

Where and what did you study before you came to Germanic and Slavic Studies at University of Waterloo?

I studied Psychology at FU Berlin and JLU Gießen in Germany.

What are your interests in German Studies?

My main interests are related to multilingualism, heritage language learning, and the intergenerational transmission of heritage languages. Further interests include (first and second) language acquisition, foreign language teaching, early childhood language education, and evolutionary aspects of human communication.

Why did you choose this program?

I graduated in Psychology in 2005, but it wasn't until I started a family and moved to Canada that I developed a deep interest in issues related to multilingual upbringing and communication. I decided to return to academia to extend my expertise to the field of linguistics and examine questions related to multilingualism from an interdisciplinary perspective. The program provided ideal opportunities to follow through with my plan, since it allowed me to focus my dissertation on the topics of my interest within applied linguistics.

Do you already know what you want to write your thesis on?

My dissertation explores subjective perspectives on learning and living with German as a 'heritage' language in Canada. I target questions such as: What connections do individual learners of German as a 'heritage' language experience between the development of their language(s) and different realms of their lives, such as their sense of self? What meanings do they attach to their 'German background' and to living with more than one language? Informed by recent theories of multilingualism, language learning, and the self, the thesis problematizes 'traditional' perspectives from the field of heritage language education. The study aims to derive implications for the teaching of heritage languages, as well as for language education in general.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a child I didn't really think about that. But I have always loved asking people questions, and as soon as I could write, I began to document and analyze my 'findings', so I guess I must have had an intuitive idea of the direction I was heading...

What is a fun fact about you?

Without UW, I would not exist. Though I grew up in Germany, it turns out the spot where my parents met for the first time is a chemistry lab just a few steps away from the Modern Languages building - so I figured it would be a fun place to obtain a PhD... and I was right!

Christine Kampen Robinson, PhD 2017, MA 2011

Christine Kampen Robinson is a Ph.D. candidate in German in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo. She came to Waterloo from Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2008 to begin her MA, which examined the code-switching tendencies of sixth graders in a German-English bilingual program. Her research interests are related primarily to linguistics—including bi- and multilingualism, mixed codes and how identity is constructed in interaction—but she is also interested in Mennonite and Austrian studies, as well as issues related to language education. Her dissertation project will examine the intersection between space and identity constructions of Paraguayan Mennonite migrants in Canada. She frequently teaches introductory and intermediate German language courses and participates in online course design.

Daniela Roth, PhD 2017, MA 2011

Where and what did you study before you came to Germanic and Slavic Studies at University of Waterloo?

I studied Diplom-Germanistik at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität in Bamberg focusing on contemporary German literature and Literaturvermittlung (e.g. literature mediation in publishing houses, theatres, cultural institutions and so on). I also got a Master’s degree in German studies from the University of Waterloo during my exchange year there.

What are your interests in German Studies?

I am mainly interested in contemporary literature and cultural studies. My main research areas are transnational literature and disease in literature. However, I am also interested in language teaching, second language acquisition and German as a second language.

Why did you choose University of Waterloo?

The Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg had an exchange program with UW, and when a friend of mine got accepted to the Master’s program, I got interested in it as well. I then went to an information session held by Dr. Barbara Schmenk and realized that I really wanted to go to Canada. Unfortunately I had just started university so I had to wait for a few more terms but eventually ended up going to UW – and liked it so much that I came back for a Ph.D.

Why did you choose this program?

I really enjoyed my time at UW and the atmosphere in the department that is why I decided to come back to do a Ph.D. I am in a cotutelle program which allows me to study at UW and the University of Mannheim – this gives me the opportunity to study in both systems. I also like that Ph.D. students at UW have to teach German language and culture courses. Through this we gain both teaching experience and an awareness of our own language and culture.

Do you already know what you want to write your thesis on?

The working title of my thesis is “Subversion or (Re-)affirmation: The Portrayal of Immigrants and Migration Experience in the contemporary transnational Adoleszenzroman”. I am looking at novels that show adolescent protagonists that attempt to achieve a certain kind of agency in transnational contexts but are defined by discourses of nation, ethnicity, gender and institutional power.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be an author, but then I started to realize that I am better at writing about literature than actually writing literature.

What is something people wouldn’t guess about you?

I have played the trombone for 18 years and played in various bands and orchestras.

Kyle Scholz, PhD 2016, MA 2010

Kyle W. Scholz was a PhD candidate in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo. His research interests are in applied linguistics, focusing primarily on computer-assisted and digital game-based language learning. His dissertation project examined second language development while playing online computer games in contexts external to the classroom, theorizing digital game-based language learning through complexity theory and sociocultural activity theory.

Kyle has worked as a graduate instructional developer with the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo where he aids graduate students in improving their teaching through workshop facilitation and classroom observations, and has had the opportunity to teach German language, art and culture courses in both in-class and online settings. Since May 2013 Kyle has become employed full-time at the centre working as a Liaison to the Faculty of Arts.  In this role, Kyle can be called upon by any instructor for assistance with pedagogy or the use of learning technology.

Gerlinde Weimer-Stuckmann, PhD 2015

Gerlinde Weimer-Stuckmann was a PhD student in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo. Her research interests are teacher education in foreign language teaching, vocabulary learning and teaching, attrition in bilingual speakers and the use of gestures in language teaching.

She has completed her first degree at the University of Bielefeld (Educational Psychology) with a thesis on Second Language Acquisition of Immigrant Workers, followed by a BEd at Concordia University, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), a German Speech and Language Pathology Degree and an MA from the University of Victoria. Her MA thesis was titled Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition: Spacing and Frequency of Rehearsals.

She has co-authored two articles on vocabulary acquisition. She has been a foreign language teacher both in Canada and Germany for many years and now enjoys the research side of things.

In 2015, Gerlinde completed her PhD program. Her thesis "Teachers' Subjective Perspectives on Foreign Language Vocabulary Learning and Teaching" was supervised by Barbara Schmenk.

Allison G. Cattell, PhD 2014, MA 2009

Allison G. Cattell has been a PhD candidate in German in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo since 2009.

Her MA thesis outlined a postmethod conceptualization of Communicative Language Teaching using concepts from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophische Untersuchungen. She has co-published on student engagement and language awareness (Waterloo: Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, 2011) and her g book chapter is on postmethod curriculum construction. She also worked in literary and cultural studies, and her project investigated the contributions of literary representations of disability to discourses on the body in early twentieth-century Germany.

Belinda Kleinhans, PhD 2013, MA 2007

Belinda Kleinhans joined the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies as a Master’s student in 2006 and returned as a PhD candidate in 2008.

Her research focused on the intersection of philosophy, literature and film within a posthumanist and poststructuralist framework. The main areas of her research were Cultural and Literary Animal Studies, film studies with a focus on the construction of gendered identities, national myth creation, and 20th-century German literature.

She held a Magister Artium in German Studies and Philosophy from the Universität Mannheim (2008) and a MA in German from the University of Waterloo (2007). The title of her Master Thesis is Geworfen in Welt, Gesellschaft und Sprache. Existentialismus und Identität in Ingeborg Bachmanns Erzählband Das dreißigste Jahr.

Her PhD research project analysed the representation of animals in German literature after 1945, seeking a deeper understanding of the connection between language, representation, and power. In this context, she has published an article in Orbis Litterarum 66.5 (2011) entitled Jenseits der Grenze zwischen Mensch und Tier. Becoming in Günter Eichs Hörspiel Sabeth. Reading postwar texts by Ilse Aichinger, Günter Eich, and Wolfdietrich Schnurre as part of a crisis of language and representation and an acknowledged failure of certain humanist principles, she analyzes how postwar German writers negotiate anthropocentric and speciesist discourses via animal figures, drawing on such posthumanist thinkers as Derrida, Agamben, and Deleuze & Guattari. By focusing on the posthumanist critique which is articulated through the animal in the literary texts, she develops a concept of an animal poetology in her dissertation.

Belinda defended her dissertation in July 2013.

Sara Ghaffarian, PhD 2006

Sara Ghaffarian was a Ph.D. student in German in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo. She came to Canada from Iran, where she received her BA degree in English Literature from the University of Isfahan and her MA in German Language Education from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.

Before starting her PhD studies, Sara worked in the Commercial and Economic Section of the German Embassy in Tehran for several years. She also taught German language courses from beginner up to advanced levels at different language institutes. Besides expanding her teaching experience at the University of Waterloo by teaching students at the university level, Sara has coordinated and worked on different research projects such as the Oral History Project or Developing language learners’ communication and transcultural skills. Her research interests lie at the intersection of globalization, multilingualism and language education. She completed her dissertation on examining practical ways of fostering “Symbolic Competence” (Kramsch, 2006) in university language classrooms in order to make pedagogical approaches more relevant to our interests of living in a global multilingual world.

Michael Zimmermann, PhD 1997, BA 1984

Dr. Michael Zimmermann BA ’84 (German), MA ’86 (from Queens) and PhD ’97, went on to become an assistant professor at the University of Regina in the Department of International Languages. He didn’t always know that he wanted to pursue a career in academia, but it was the program and his mentors here at the Germanic and Slavic Studies department that really got him excited about his studies.

As an assistant professor of German at the University of Regina, Michael taught a wide variety of courses at the undergraduate level while maintaining his research interests. His courses included courses in German language and culture, German for Business, German Film, and Faust I. He had also developed a new course in European Studies, one of the concentrations of the International Studies program at the University of Regina. His current research interests are focused in the areas of German Film, language pedagogy, 20th-Century literature, and German as a heritage language.

Michael cites his interest in his German heritage, uWaterloo’s proximity to his hometown, and the opportunity for study abroad as important considerations in choosing uWaterloo for his BA degree. He returned to uWaterloo’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies for his PhD because of the Department’s comprehensive program and strong academic reputation.

While an undergraduate student at uWaterloo, Michael was fortunate enough to participate in both the Werkstudentenprogram and the Waterloo in Germany exchange program. He remembers the nervousness of traveling to Germany and the thrill of actually being able to use the language to communicate. The experiences abroad enabled Michael to put his language skills into a context and increase his motivation for learning.

“Ask questions”, “become involved”, “go on exchange” and “read as much as possible” were some of the  words of advice Michael would like to pass on to current students, both in the undergraduate and graduate programs. “A degree from uWaterloo’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies can provide you with wonderful opportunities.”