Professor helps open German Studies pipeline

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jan 20, 2021

There are a couple of reasons German Studies looms large for Kennesaw State University students majoring in foreign languages and fields as diverse as engineering, the sciences, music and the arts, criminal justice and international business.

Sabine Smith’s determination to make KSU’s program as comprehensive, rigorous, relevant and inclusive as possible is one of them. As German Studies program coordinator and professor in the Department of Foreign Languages in Kennesaw State’s Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences, her efforts have generated more than $1.25 million to support the study of German language and culture at KSU. 

Sabine Smith

Her work has also contributed to the designation of KSU’s German Studies program as metro Atlanta’s largest and Georgia’s second largest, as well as its recognition as a “National Center of Excellence” by the American Association of Teachers of German.    

Smith’s latest contribution is garnering a $310,000 grant from The Halle Foundation that will help open a pipeline for high school students who may ultimately pursue German Studies at Kennesaw State University. It will also provide extensive financial support for KSU students interested in study or work abroad. Targeting first-year, STEAM and German Studies students, the grant will provide a variety of opportunities ranging from short-term domestic experiences to career-related internships abroad.

Smith said the thriving German Studies program at KSU is especially relevant to students in today’s world and economy.

“We’re in a region that is considered the automotive rectangle where premier companies like Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Siemens have chosen to locate, and even second- and third-tier German suppliers have based their operations,” Smith said. “The region is buzzing with career prospects for KSU students with German language skills and cultural understanding. Our students don’t have to leave Kennesaw, Atlanta or Georgia to learn how to tackle and solve problems from diverse perspectives, which is what these companies are looking for.”

That’s why she believes the newest funding from The Halle Foundation is a “game changer.”

Previous funding from The Halle Foundation from 2012 to 2019 and that of other funders like the Joachim Herz Foundation have helped KSU establish local and international partnerships that are the foundation for everything the program has achieved to date, Smith said. “But we’ve been doing programs ‘here and there.’ Now we’re able to bring everything together sequentially in one package,” she added.

For example, funding under the grant provides registration and transportation stipends for 60 competing high school students and teachers to attend the annual statewide German convention. For students recruited to attend KSU, the grant will fund 20 students, regardless of major, with $2,000 stipends for  participation in a Maymester program in Germany. Ten students will be sponsored with $1,500 to complete a month-long summer language/culture course, and eight participants will receive $2,500 stipends for completing the semester-long exchange program with Paderborn University. The grant provides a matching $1,900 stipend (added to $1,900 provided by the Herz Foundation) to six students annually to participate in summer internships in Germany. For each of the grant’s three funded years, the program hopes to reach 550 student participants, up to 35 high school and university instructors and 164 grant-funded participants. 

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, Smith is confident that the program can move forward, starting in spring 2021 with a virtual information and recruitment campaign among feeder schools in Metro Atlanta. Students and teachers from those schools will participate in virtual, thematically focused competitions in the annual state German convention. During Maymester 2021, some 30 KSU students will have a chance to attend a virtual seminar alongside global participants from Germany’s European Academy, the University of Paderborn, the Prague University of Economics and Business (Czechia), and the Berg Institute of the Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio in Madrid (Spain). Smith expects 20 competitively selected participants to study abroad during a two-week seminar with field experiences and community engagement in May 2022.

“Providing students with these repeated and progressively intensive opportunities will help them develop the stamina, confidence and skills that are necessary to succeed in the world. This will make them more marketable in a variety of fields,” Smith said.

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