The View from Here

Department of Germanic Languages and Literature

Upcoming events

  • Rethinking Philology: 25 Years after the ‘New Philology’

    8–9 Nov 2013
    Keynotes: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, (Stanford University) & Stephen Nichols (Johns Hopkins University)
    Jackman Humanities Bldg., Rm. 100
    Sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, the Centre for Medieval Studies & the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies

  • 6 Feb 2014 | 4:00-6:00 pm

    Jochen Hoerisch, Universität Mannheim
    German Department Library, 323 Odette Hall

  • Spectres of the Other Germany: 25 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

    11–12 Apr 2014

Portrait of Markus Stock in his office

Professor Markus Stock in his office. Photo by V. Shanmuganathan.

Dear Friends of the German Department,

It is a pleasure and an honour to be settling into my new duties and responsibilities as Chair of Germanic Languages and Literatures in the wake of the various initiatives launched during the energetic leadership of Professor John Zilcosky, whom I thank for his work and dedication. We have brought our professors to a wider undergraduate audience by converting some of our English-language seminars into lectures and our cross-listed courses attract students throughout the university. We also recently established Yiddish as a field within our MA program, the only such program in Canada, and are thrilled to welcome our first students this Fall. And we have forged new bonds between our students and our alumni through events such as the interdepartmental b2B backpack to Briefcase series.

Our faculty continue to excel in research and scholarship. Professor Willi Goetschel has been named editor of one of the most respected scholarly journals in our field, Germanic Review, and both Professors John Noyes and John Zilcosky have achieved outstanding successes in external grant competitions, with both securing coveted SSHRC Insight Grants. Zilcosky was also honoured with an extremely competitive NEH fellowship. Our Annual German Studies Symposium, by now well-established in its sixth year, brought together an international cortege of scholars, and faculty and students alike have been active across campus in interdisciplinary working groups as well as presenting at national and international conferences and workshops.

We hope this year‘s newsletter, again produced by faculty editor Professor Angelica Fenner together with doctoral candidate Vasuki Shanmuganathan, will pique your interest in “things German” at the University of Toronto. As you will read in the following pages, thrilling new ventures are in progress for learning beyond the classroom, undergraduate research, and the international experience. With support from the Faculty of Arts and Science Germany/Europe Research and Study Fund, our undergraduate majors have participated in a bi-national student conference in Germany and also had the rare opportunity to examine original artefacts and manuscripts in German libraries and museums. They have excelled as prize-winning emerging researchers, and have honed their German skills and dramatic talents in a successful production by the German Drama Club. With Curriculum Renewal Initiative funds secured from the Faculty of Arts and Science by our tireless Undergraduate Chair, Professor Christine Lehleiter, we have remodelled our Business German minor to include a stimulating new course, “Money and Economy in German Literature and Culture.”

Both external financial support and the personal participation of alumni, emiriti, and community members remain vital to our program, particularly in the face of constrained resources within the University of Toronto, as across the province. You will find profiled in this newsletter one of our active supporters, alumna Joan Andersen, former Assistant Vice-President of Human Resources with Honda Canada, whose leadership and initiative were crucial to the success of both b2B (backpack to Briefcase) events launched last year. We are also grateful for the generosity of a donor who recently stepped forward to establish an undergraduate scholarship fund that will help us to draw the best and brightest to our department. Please continue to keep these and other forms of support in mind. I also invite you to come to our many events in the coming year and to connect in this and other ways with the Department.

Signature of Markus Stock

Markus Stock
Associate Professor of German & Medieval Studies

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Focus On Students

Enhancing Mentoring & Professional Development for Undergraduates

Christine Lehleiter, Undergraduate Coordinator & Assistant Professor of German

Our department strives to provide an environment where students gain skills and knowledge, connect with the wider world through study abroad, and develop meaningful contacts for advancing their professional life. Towards this end, last November we collaborated with other Modern Languages & Literatures departments and the Dean’s office to host our first backpack to Briefcase (b2B) event. For students and faculty alike, it was fascinating to hear our alumna, Joan Andersen, speak with enthusiasm about her studies in German and their impact on her professional career. The success of this event inspired a second b2B in Spring 2013. Such events are critical in helping students grasp the myriad options available to them with a degree from a language and literature program. I recall one undergraduate, Robert Muff, gathering information last November at the first b2B event about living and studying in Germany. Recently, I received an e-mail announcing his acceptance into a program beginning this Fall at Humboldt Universität in Berlin!

Like many students, Robert initially contacted me about how to earn formal credit for future coursework abroad. Even highly motivated students are sometimes discouraged by the complexity of course choices and fear they will lose time and money if their coursework is not transferable to the University of Toronto. This year, we are adopting the internationally recognized Common European Frame of Reference (CEFR). It will facilitate student study abroad by providing a common framework for course comparison, making it much easier for us to advise students on their course of study.

Introducing a new textbook series is no small feat and can only be achieved through team effort. We are fortunate to have an engaged group of instructors and to be able to cooperate with the Goethe Institut (GI), with whom we will host a workshop for teachers on using the new material. Language coordinator Martina Kumanatasan has been instrumental in facilitating such collaborations, as she also belongs to GI’s Multiplikatoren network, through which teachers of German exchange ideas on effective language teaching.

In preparation for our external review in 2013/14, we have been reviewing our undergraduate enrolment numbers, which reveal substantial growth over the last five years: a 46% increase in overall enrolment and a 30% increase in Majors or Specialists in our program. We attribute this development to our ongoing efforts to provide an innovative environment for learning and conducting research. In smaller class settings, we get to know our students and follow their development more closely, which proves very helpful when formulating letters of support for their post-graduate study or search for gainful employment. One of our majors and a work-study student for Professor Markus Stock, Vanessa Pfeiffer, won a prestigious 2013 University of Toronto Excellence Award (UTEA) for performing original research under his supervision. Professor Stock, in turn, won a $14,000 grant from the Germany/Europe Research and Study Fund of FAS, for launching the bilingual Bamberg-Toronto Medieval Studies Student Conference at the Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg, Germany in June 2013. With additional support from our department, the Centre of Medieval Studies, and St. Michael’s College, Professor Stock accompanied a group of U of T students on this bilingual collaboration, during which they also gained access to medieval manuscripts at the State Library of Bamberg and toured the medieval architecture of this World Heritage city.

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Vanessa Pfeiffer

Back to My Roots

Vanessa Pfeiffer, MA Student

Vanessa Pfeiffer As an undergraduate, my studies combined German and Linguistics. Enrolling in German courses was a natural development after high school, to rediscover my German heritage, and Linguistics offered a theoretical approach to language that sounded new and interesting. I used summers to get ahead on Linguistics, and catch up on Psychology. Early on, a Linguistics field trip to the Canadian Hearing Society piqued my interest in audiology or speech pathology as a career. Those MA prerequisites, plus a few language-relevant courses, lead to a Psychology minor. Following my second year of study, I participated in an international summer course at the University of Bonn and found a noticeable improvement in my language abilities upon returning. It was a great opportunity to build contacts abroad, and I was lucky U of T had funding available to cover the lodging. In my senior year, the work-study program became more inclusive, enabling me to assist on a research project on medieval German manuscripts. I was honoured when the work led to a University of Toronto Excellence Award to continue that project in summer 2013. This involved transcribing text from digitized images of original manuscripts, whose contents include German exegeses primarily relating to a particular book of the Bible. I am excited to have also been accepted into the MA Program in German Studies. A Katie Keeler entrance scholarship is helping fund my program this fall, as guaranteed funding is only available for PhD students. If all goes well, I will continue researching and teach a language course to support myself.

During my undergraduate studies, I found that smaller class sizes enhanced our learning, and promoted a sense of community with the German faculty, who are highly accessible to students. I most enjoyed courses that included a practical aspect, for example, theatre or knowledge of German business culture. For graduate study, the faculty offer a wide range of specialties. Writing an MA thesis will enable me to pursue my interest in Medieval German literature and test out if academia is the right occupation for me.

In the future, I see myself working in North America or abroad, perhaps teaching German, or even English in Germany. But who knows; I could still study to become an audiologist, practicing in Germany!

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Medieval Texts, Franconian Culture & a New Transatlantic Generation

Arathana K.F. Bowes, PhD Candidate

I arrived in Bamberg on a late Thursday afternoon amidst pouring rain and having naturally forgotten my umbrella in Toronto. Nonetheless, this UNESCO world heritage city where the joint University of Toronto–Universität Bamberg Colloquium 2013 was scheduled to take place, made an immediate, beautiful, and lasting impression. The taxi driver explained en route to the hostel that Bambergers speak a very difficult dialect, Fränkisch, and complimented my ability to follow his own idiosyncratic speech. But the dialect, though certainly distinct from standard High German, was not as challenging as the deliberate lack of a knife when later trying to consume traditional Klöße, or Fränkisch potato dumplings—a delicacy featured at the evening supper that inaugurated our now-famous Middle High German “Boot Camp.”

The day of the conference, as tired as we all must have felt (judging by the amount of coffee consumed) members of our group apparently displayed such confidence and professionalism that the German students were surprised to learn this was the first time some of us (including myself!) were presenting a paper in such a formal manner.

Thankfully, Professor Markus Stock had arranged for us to practice presenting to each other in Toronto before departure for Bamberg. Compatriot Emily Blakelock became my new heroine after responding with such finesse to the many questions posed by one Bamberg professor who—and so early in the morning!— seemed very intrigued by the topic of her presentation, Reading About Adolescence in Medieval Schools. Both the Bambergers and the Torontonians did an impressive job, and some of us, including Anna-Maria Castro-Catrain and myself, presented our papers in German, which surprised some of the Bambergers, as the majority of theirs were in English.

At day’s end, we celebrated our success together by enjoying a wonderful and well-deserved Mexican supper at a locale selected by the German students (la Fiesta and das Fest are cognates, after all!). The Germans met up with us frequently over the course of our stay—going book shopping with us and visiting the Altenburg castle—and though they asked us repeatedly, we would never tell: what exactly happened at Professor Stock’s Boot Camp to enable you Canadians to do such a good job at our conference?

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Actors from the Drama Club

Actors Julia Norkus, Rami Khalifa, Robby Muff, Rachel Trode

Students Bubbling with Enthusiasim for Curt Goetz’s Seifenblasen

Anna Stainton, PhD Candidate

In three evening performances this past April, a cast of 18 students performed Curt Goetz’s Seifenblasen, a collection of two short plays with prologue and epilogue in the Debates Room at Hart House. The event was staged by the U of T German Drama Club, a dynamic organization comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students, native and non-native speakers alike, which has been running for three years following its revival in 2010.

This year’s production was a particular success, as measured by the audience’s enthusiasm and the performers’ engagement. Students of first year German took on lead roles and learned extensive dialogue from memory. The cast arranged additional rehearsals in their spare time to perfect their scenes, and several who first joined the Drama Club back in 2010 were able to perform with the cast in one last production before heading to Germany on exchange for a year.

Fellow PhD students Yasmin Aly, Christin Bohnke, and Nicola Vöhringer, with whom I co-directed this year’s production, agree that the most gratifying aspect of the rehearsal process was witnessing the actors get into character while also improving their German. Every cast member brought creative ideas to the production, making the final performance a truly collaborative effort.

Over the past three years, the Drama Club as an institution has also helped bring visibility to “things German.” One participant from the 2011 production of Die Nibelungen went on to major in German, many others have participated for three years, and performances open to the general public have facilitated interactions with the GTA’s German-speaking community. We intend to continue tapping into student enthusiasm and energy for a fourth year with a possible poetry reading and short skits in December 2013!

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Research Diaries

Building on Success, Looking to the Future

Stefan Soldovieri, Graduate Coordinator and Associate Professor of German

This past year was another success for the Graduate Program. What could be more exciting than to see young scholars excelling in their courses, pushing ahead with promising research, winning prestigious awards, honing their teachings skills, and participating in scholarly meetings from Beijing to Vancouver!

PhD theses were successfully defended by Stephanie Desmond (Cheating and Cheaters in German Romance and Epic ) and John Koster (Goethe and the Sublime). Meaghan Hepburn is nearing completion of her study on the cultural memory of the Nazi’s T4 Euthanasia Programme and is currently Assistant Professor of German at the University of New Brunswick. Anna Stainton continues her multi-year Jackman Humanities Graduate Fellowship and represented the Department at an interdisciplinary conference organized by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) at Peking University (Beijing). PhD candidate Marlo Burks won a highly coveted International Ontario Graduate Fellowship, and incoming MA Elise Polkinghorne has been recognized with an Agnes M. Ireland Award—one of only five recipients university-wide.

Our students were also successful in securing Ontario Graduate Fellowships, research funding from the Joint Initiative in German and European Studies, and a number of other organizations. We are also very pleased to see our alumni succeeding in the next stage of their careers with positions at the University of Vienna, Trent University, Sheridan College, University of British Columbia, and the University of Calgary, to name a few.

In 2013/14 we once again look forward to welcoming a strong and promising group of new graduate students, whose intellectual interests reflect the research strengths of our distinguished faculty at the interfaces of literature, philosophy, cinema studies, and postcolonial/ colonial studies.

We are also pleased to be welcoming our first students into the newly introduced Yiddish field within our MA program. Spearheaded by Professors Anna Shternshis and Markus Stock and supported by the Centre for Jewish Studies, this is the only program of its kind in Canada and a model for North American Yiddish Studies in its dedication to exploring questions of diaspora, transnationalism, and the politics of “minor literatures.” It is truly a pleasure for me to take on the role of Graduate Coordinator for the next two years with the future looking so bright.

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Advancing Yiddish Graduate Studies

Anna Shternshis, Associate Director of Jewish Studies and Ann & Malka Green Associate Professor of Yiddish

I arrived at the University of Toronto in 2001, after completing my DPhil in Yiddish language and literature at Oxford University. My research interests come as no surprise since I was born into an urban Jewish family in Moscow, lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, and left Russia in 1997 to pursue an education. Although I never returned to live in Russia, my academic interests have remained anchored in various aspects of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet Yiddish culture of the 20th and the 21st centuries.

My first book, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923- 1939 (Indiana University Press, 2006) explored the Soviet government’s exploitation of the Yiddish language to “Sovieticize” Russian Jews. Over the past ten years, I have conducted 474 in-depth interviews in the United States, Canada, Germany, Russia, Latvia, and Italy, as part of a larger research project on Jewish social history in Stalin’s Russia. This research will result in the first monograph to trace the transformation of the ethnic, religious and cultural identities of the first generation of Soviet educated Jews born in the 1920s. The first part analyzes family and gender relations and how Jewish men and women negotiated their personal lives in an atmosphere of popular anti-Semitism.

I argue that they managed to create an internal circle of friends and family where the word “Jewish” became synonymous with “a good person.” Such understanding developed as a response to a society that generally perceived being Jewish in negative terms. In the second part, I discuss how my respondents pursued their professional lives in a context where they fully associated the word “Jewish” with negativity and misfortune. Faced with both official and unwritten limitations within existing educational institutions, they chose professions such as medicine and engineering that enabled greater social mobility. All in all, the events of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were formative of a new Soviet Jewish identity that has long outlasted the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Following a maternity leave in Fall 2012, I returned to teaching and worked with then Graduate Coordinator, Professor Markus Stock to establish Yiddish as a field within the graduate program in German Literature, Culture, and Theory. We have already enrolled our first students, whose studies will commence in Fall 2013. With my recent graduate course on Soviet Yiddish culture (GER 1400) filled to capacity, and having just joined two dissertation committees, I trust the study of Yiddish will continue to expand. There is still much work and outreach to do: this past year kept me busy with invited lectures at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, the Moscow School of Economics, and twice at the U of T. I also delivered the keynote for U of T’s graduate student conference in Canadian Jewish Studies, as well as local public presentations, including for the Holocaust Education week, Bridges Program, and Treasure of Jewish Literature series.

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The Joy of Good Conversation

Marlo Alexandra Burks, PhD Candidate

I joined the PhD program at the University of Toronto first and foremost because few other German departments so effectively wed together literature and philosophy. It is this dialogue between disciplines and the opportunity for rigorous intellectual exchange that has kept me in the university setting.

My educational background is eclectic. I first moved to New Brunswick from Dallas, Texas to study in the Great Ideas program at St. Thomas University. There, my interest in German literature and philosophy began to take shape. Alongside this, I became fascinated with medieval literature and went on to earn an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds, where I worked on John Gower and Boethius. My interest in things German never left me, however, so I pursued a second MA, this time in German at Dalhousie. It is there and on an exchange in Heidelberg that I began to explore the works of Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929) and the questions that never leave me: why do we need art in our lives, and how is aesthetics more than a programmatic commentary on what is supposedly ‘beautiful’?

Now, in Toronto I have found a faculty accommodating and supportive of my current doctoral research on art and philosophy in Hofmannsthal’s work. I have just presented a paper in London, England on his Augenblicke in Griechenland (Moments in Greece)&mdsh;an experience that, for me, reinforced the irreplaceability of that intellectual exchange I so value.

With financial support from JIGES and SGS, I will be travelling to Germany this year for archival research in Marbach and Frankfurt. I am also collaborating with Professor Hans-Günther Schwarz (Dalhousie/ Heidelberg) on a translation of Hofmannsthal’s prose piece Die Briefe des Zurückgekehrten (The Letters of the Man who Returned) with hopes of rendering this fascinating investigation into notions of subjectivity, foreignness, and art accessible to those who do not (yet) read German. My research interests further include Georg Büchner, on whose notion of beauty, death and purposiveness I will be presenting at the international conference “Büchner Today/Buüchner Heute” later this Fall. I also enjoy working as assistant to the Book Reviews Editor (Markus Stock) for Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies.

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General campus shot

7th Annual Toronto German Studies Symposium

Spectres of the Other Germany: 25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Organized by Stefan Soldovieri 11–12 April, 2014.

For more information about this, and other events please visit


In Memorium: Charles Genno

Emeritus professor Charles Genno, who taught for 40 years in Victoria College at the University of Toronto, passed away peacefully on May 10, 2012 at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre at age 77. A funeral service took place May 15 with family and friends.

“Chuck” received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in German from the University of Toronto, writing a Master’s thesis on Franz Kafka and earning his PhD with a thesis on Robert Musil in 1962. He went on to devote his entire academic career to the department, retiring at the level of Associate Professor in 1996. Among his noted publications are the monograph The First World War in German Narrative Prose (University of Toronto Press, 1980), two language textbooks, and several articles on authors Peter Weiss, Robert Musil, Johann von Goethe, and Elias Canetti. He will be especially remembered by the many students whose theses he supervised, as well as those who participated in the seven full-length campus productions of German theatre he mounted and directed by dramatists including Horvath, Nestroy, Brecht, and Frisch. Chuck Genno is survived by his spouse of 50 years, Marianne, and son Ian, both of whom miss his passion for travel, tennis, trivia, and long walks.

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Expanding the Community


Annual Toronto German Studies Symposium

Angelica Fenner, Associate Professor of German and Cinema Studies

Poster for Education of Auma Obama

Poster for Education of Auma Obama On April 19–20, 2013, ten scholars convened at the Munk Centre for Global Studies to present research in progress at this year’s symposium entitled Contemporary Remediations of Race and Ethnicity in German Visual Cultures. Staging interdisciplinary negotiations between germanists and anthropologists, the event also involved cross-border collaboration between organizers Angelica Fenner and Uli Linke, Professor of Anthropology at Rochester Institute of Technology. Funding was provided by Germanic Languages and Literatures, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Joint Initiative in German and European Studies, the DAAD, and the Cinema Studies Institute.

In the first panel, Geographies of In/Visibility, anthropologist Bettina Stoetzer discussed a recent experimental documentary exploring the post-socialist landscape of the March Oder Park outside Berlin, where eco-tourists share space with asylum seekers and unemployed local residents. Doctoral candidate Vasuki Shanmuganathan applied a diasporic optic to Italian-German artist Armin Linke’s documentary Alpi (2011) that illuminates the uncanny racialization of the Alpine landscape. Prior to Katrin Sieg’s talk on blackface in the work of Singaporean installation artist Ming Wong, audiences enjoyed a screening of his Fassbinder remediation, Angst Essen (2008). A panel on identification and attachment in the Black diaspora featured Tina Campt on early 20th-century Afro-German family photos and Damani Partridge on new forms of mobility shaped by American notions of ‘Blackness.’ In turn, Claudia Breger explored tropes of Turkish masculinity in the German TV series Tatort, and Barbara Mennel, the role of accent and authenticity in performing Germanness among women working in overseas call centers that target German citizens.

Reinhild Steingroever discussed the First Nation reception in upstate New York of the East German ‘Indianer’ film Blauvogel (1979), director Ulrich Weiss’s intended critique of both the socialist state and western clichés of Native cultures. Anthropologist Barbara Wolbert closed this stimulating program with an ethnographic reading of dOCUMENTA (13).

Poster for the SymposiumThe event was crowned by a public screening of The Education of Auma Obama (2011), Branwen Okpako’s portrait of the Kenyan social activist and half-sister of U.S. President Barack Obama, who lived in Germany while earning a PhD in Linguistics from Bayreuth and also studied filmmaking at Berlin’s German Film and Television Academy (DFFB). Local faculty Marième Lo (Women and Gender Studies) and Pablo Idahosa (International Development Studies, York University) provided ensuing thoughtful commentary. A reception rounded out the day amidst delectable Moroccan cuisine and select Gewürztraminer. Lengthier versions of the symposium papers, co-edited by Professors Fenner and Linke, will be forthcoming in the online journal Transit: A Journal of Travel, Migration, and Multiculturalism in the German-speaking World in Spring 2014.

Poster for the Symposium

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German Alumna
Joan Andersen
Mentor & Donor

Joan’s family history displays many traits considered typical of Canadian immigrants. Her father, Holger Andersen, emigrated from Denmark in 1950. Gerda Federspiel-Jensen, who would become his wife, joined him a year later after tending to her own dying mother. In his native country, Mr. Andersen had trained as a mechanic and aspired to work on large ships and airplanes, but couldn’t get the requisite advanced training. One of his aspirations in emigrating was to gain greater social mobility for himself and ensure the same for his future children through their access to higher education.

Their daughter Joan, who spoke primarily Danish the first 5 years of her life in Toronto, grew up to become the first family member to earn a university education and, no less, to hold several scholarships, first as an Ontario scholar in high school and later entering Victoria College at the University of Toronto, as recipient of the Irwin Hilliard Scholarship. Back in the 1970s, Joan hesitated whether to major in Mathematics or French and German, but was soon swayed by her affinity for languages: German with its cognates to Danish, and French, familiar as the language of the Danish Royal Courts. Ultimately she chose German studies because of the strong sense of community she found among the majors and the personal interest faculty such as Professors Charles Genno, Alan Latta, Hartwig Mayer, and Fred Seliger displayed in mentoring students. Following her B.A. she also pursued her Masters’ in German. When presented with a special opportunity that arose at the School of Music—to cover a German language course primarily for opera students learning their librettos—she discovered she loved teaching.

Her father assured her that the valuable skills she had gained with her liberal arts degrees—writing proposals, pursuing research, offering public presentations, problem-solving, and analyzing data—would have a multitude of other applications. Upon joining the business world, specifically The Oshawa Group, she maintains, she “grew up,” advancing through six different positions to senior director during her 23 years with the company. She then left to become Human Resources Executive at Honda Canada, where her skills in communication, teaching, and policy development all blended with her sensitivity to cultural change enabling her to make significant contributions. With her seemingly limitless energies, one would never guess that Joan retired in June 2013 from her final post as Honda’s Assistant Vice President of Human Resources and Administration. But she hasn’t retired from teaching; having covered courses in Business Management and Human Resources Management at Humber College since 1985, she is scheduled to teach several more this coming Fall.

Throughout her career, Joan was a “passive” supporter of the University of Toronto, but as she approached retirement, she decided it was time to channel her cumulative wisdom and professional knowledge in new directions that include philanthropy and support of future generations of Canadians. Students certainly benefited from her involvement in the wildly successful b2B (backpack to Briefcase) workshop in Fall of 2012, and she thereupon sponsored a second b2B event, hosting a dinner banquet in spring 2013 for 18 guests comprised of German alumna, undergraduates, and graduate students. Participants exchanged personal stories and gained counsel on charting career choices that honor their personal values and talents. Joan encourages students not to be afraid to pursue what they really enjoy: “The things you enjoy doing may not precisely correlate with the career that you originally had in mind, so you may have to think outside the box.”

— Angelica Fenner

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Matters of Note

Monika Lang

In December 2013 I will be retiring from my position as Administrative and Graduate Assistant. I can still recall as if it were only yesterday my job interview with Professors A.P. Dierick, Alan Latta, and Fred Seliger on a very hot day in July 1997. I had previously worked in the publishing business, as Associate Editor of Toronto’s German language paper, Kanada Kurier, and had no prior knowledge of University procedures. Despite that fact, I was hired within a day. Thank you, Gus, Fred and Alan!

When I started working in what seemed in those first summer weeks like a rather quiet department, my initial impression was that this new job would probably be boring. Which of course didn’t turn out to be the case at all. The best thing has been the variety of tasks, the independence, the opportunity to work with faculty and students, and to learn something new every day. There is never a dull moment! Over the years, my duties and skills within the administrative resort expanded considerably. Initially, I looked after undergraduate affairs, but later switched to the Graduate office, and also became the Chair’s Assistant. I tried always to maintain a sense of humour and never lost it, even when matters would get extremely hectic.

I still remember my very first computer in the department: black and white, of course, with a small screen, and very plain compared to today’s endless features (that one does not need at all!). Email was just in its beginnings and receiving even a handful seemed quite a sensation! In my early years, we still kept a typewriter (and even used it on rare occasions!). Over the years, members of the department became like extended family. New faculty were hired (I administered multiple searches and promotions) and wonderful new academics came on board. It was always rewarding to watch a professor rise within the department and in academia. There were also several retirements; most Emeriti have stayed in touch and attend occasional social functions sponsored by the department. Needless to say, those reunions have always been a pleasure. I also became very fond of the graduate students; when they had academic worries, they would come sit in my office and I offered them counsel.

I will miss the department, including my colourful office, whose walls are decorated with creative drawings and paintings produced by children of various professors. Of course, I’ll take those home with me. Thank you to all members of the department including my colleagues and Chairs, Professors Dierick, Retallack, Noyes, Zilcosky and Stock. You have contributed to making these 16 years unforgettable.

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