The Department sponsors a wide array of extracurricular programming, including both special events and regularly recurring events. These events: (1) give students more opportunities to practice their German skills; (2) expose students to diverse aspects of German culture; (3) foster a sense of community among learners of German (not limited to German majors and minors); and (4) connect students in Germanic Studies to people and institutions outside the University.
The regularly recurring events include CoffeeKlatsch, Yiddish Tisch, and Kinotag. CoffeeKlatsch is an opportunity for students to get together, drink coffee, eat snacks, and speak German informally for an hour or so. With many students unable to return to campus in Autumn 2020, CoffeeKlatsch has moved online - and expanded! CoffeeKlatsch is now a collaborative social event, held every two weeks with a different partner institution, including Harvard, Penn State, Purdue, Loyola, and Michigan State. For more information, contact Shiva Rahmani at firstname.lastname@example.org. The German Club’s Stammtisch (see below) meets in the alternating weeks so that students have an opportunity every week to practice speaking outside of class. Students at all levels are encouraged to attend. Yiddish Tisch is a similar event that takes place for the University’s small but very active community of Yiddish speakers. Kinotag is a German-language film screening that usually takes place three times per quarter (currently postponed indefinitely due to pandemic restrictions). Films are screened in German with English subtitles to encourage students at all levels to attend. Discussions are held after the screening, either in English or in German, depending on the group.
The Department also organizes a number of special events on and off campus. We always draw students’ attention to relevant cultural events and resources on campus and often organize special events around them. For the 2015 German Expressionism exhibit at the Smart Museum, for example, a special tour was arranged for students of German. In Spring 2017, Christine Mehring in the Department of Art History conducted a German-language tour of the Concrete Traffic exhibit she co-curated at the Smart Museum. Working together with the German Club, the Department has also organized several cultural outings in Chicago. For three years, the Department has co-sponsored student trips to the Lyric Opera to see German-language productions, with an introduction to the opera provided by Colin Benert before each performance. Other events included: a German-language architectural tour of downtown Chicago, with a special focus on German architects; attendance at the German Immersion Day, an event sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of German, held each year on a nearby campus. At this event, students from colleges and universities all over Chicagoland meet for a series of German-only workshops with a common theme.
The Department also connects students with other institutions by inviting representatives of those institutions to campus. In the spring of 2015 and in May 2017, the department invited Corinna Jess, a representative of the German-American Chamber of Commerce, to give a talk in German about the German Energiewende (energy transition). The German Consul General in Chicago, Herbert Quelle, also gave two talks on campus—one in English, to a general audience, and one in German. Along with the German-American Chamber of Commerce, we are working with other local institutions such as the Goethe Institute to invite a variety of guests—writers, artists, political and business leaders—to meet with UChicago students.
The German Club, a vital campus institution for students of German, was established as a Recognized Student Organization (RSO) in 2014. Every two weeks they hold a Stammtisch, where students at all levels are invited for dinner and German conversation, as well as games, screenings, etc. The Club also organizes a number of special events over the course of the year in addition to those mentioned above: annual events such as Oktoberfest, the trip to the Christkindlmarket, and viewing the Eurovision finals, as well as other events, such as quarterly cooking classes. In the Club’s Speaker Series, University faculty members from German-speaking countries are invited to speak about their lives and their research.
A chapter of the German Honors Society (Delta Phi Alpha) was established at UChicago in 2017. The stated aims of this organization are “to recognize excellence in the study of German and to provide an incentive for higher scholarship.” Membership provides a further credential of students’ interest and proficiency in German as well as scholarship opportunities.
Finally, the Department also encourages students to take advantage of external academic opportunities. In the past, some of our graduating majors attended a two-day German Studies workshop at the University of Michigan or at Ohio State—a workshop designed to prepare students for graduate school in German Studies. Other undergraduate German majors attended the German Undergraduate Research Conference at Illinois-Wesleyan University.