Dear Prospective Grad Students
On behalf of the Graduate Association for Germanic-Language Students (GAGLS) and the Germanic Studies graduate students at large we would like to thank you for your interest in studying with us in Austin. We would also like to take this opportunity to briefly introduce you to our unique department in the hope of finding like minds.
The Department of Germanic Studies at UT Austin is one of the largest and most historied departments in the field this side of the Atlantic. Situated in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, the Austin area has a strong German heritage that has long supported thriving German language programs and offered an unexpected range of German cultural events. To this day there are small German-speaking communities in some of the outlying towns like Fredericksburg and Serbin. This leads to relatively large enrollment in German, as well as Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian, at the undergraduate level – some four hundred lower-level language students in a given semester – and a vibrant graduate community.
The Department of Germanic Studies here at UT Austin was founded on and continues to support a balanced approach to the field, combining strong research in linguistics, pedagogy, and cultural and literary studies. This generalist approach is reflected in both the curriculum of the department and the demographics of its graduate students. While every student brings his or her unique interests and background to the department, we are all expected to take courses in, and become proficient scholars in, all aspects of Germanistik. We also take courses in other departments such as anthropology, linguistics, history and comparative literature. This makes UT PhDs unilateral interdisciplinarians who are able to make connections between their own specialized research and broader trends in the social sciences that would normally be addressed strictly in history, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, or various other departments. Additionally, this generalist approach has led to an impressive placement rate in what is generally considered a gradually shrinking professional community where the trend is to develop highly specialized niche-academics. See our graduate job Placement List.
In addition to our coursework, research and teaching, graduate students in Germanic Studies have diverse opportunities for professional development. These include a biennial graduate student conference, grant application writing workshops, alumni career discussions, and open mock MLA interviews for students preparing to go on the academic job market. Graduate students are encouraged to propose other professional development opportunities, which GAGLS will help to arrange. Additionally, the Germanic Studies Graduate Association at UT-Austin (GSGA-UT) was founded to supplement the other student-run opportunities for professional development. Each spring, GSGA-UT hosts a graduate research series giving students from all sub-disciplines of Germanic Studies the chance to present their original research to peers and faculty.
Graduate students in the department have also run three free film series, giving students in the department and members of the UT community an opportunity to see German and Scandinavian films, respectively. On the theme of acting as ambassadors of Germanic culture in the university community, the department also organizes an annual German Immersion Weekend retreat in McKinney Falls State Park that gives students from UT-Austin and nearby colleges an opportunity to use their new language skills outside a classroom setting. And, for those who prefer indoor games, graduate students host a Spielenachmittag for all German language learners three times per semester. Graduate students participate in the undergraduate German Club activities like Kegelabend and the weekly Stammtisch. Finally, the department cooperates with high school German teachers all over Texas each February to host the Texas State German Contest, where approximately a thousand high-school students come to UT to compete in different German language and culture events. Both graduate students and faculty are involved in this event as planners and judges.
Our department offers Teaching Assistant and Assistant Instructor (TA/AI) assistantships. If you receive either position, you will be working for the department 20 hours a week on average. Usually, you start out as a TA/AI for the beginning German courses and then work through the normal progression of courses, eventually teaching first through fourth semester German. Graduate students who do not hold an MA begin as TAs working with an AI as they develop their teaching techniques and become familiar with the materials. Once they have earned their Master’s degree they become eligible for an AI position where they will be responsible for their own sections. Aside from the financial support these positions offer, entering the job market with four to five years of teaching experience at a variety of levels and spanning both language and content courses is a significant advantage. For more information, please contact Dr. Cori Crane.
A little about Austin...
Life in Austin is also worth mentioning. Between the large university community and the proliferation of high-tech business in the area, Austin is a young town that more than lives up to its nickname “The Live Music Capital of the World.” Aside from the larger South By Southwest and the Austin City Limits festivals, there is always something going on downtown on 6th Street or in the Warehouse District. Shopping and dining in the area are also influenced by the motto “Keep Austin Weird,” which roughly translates into an eclectic mixture and fusion of restaurants and boutiques around campus and downtown that go far beyond the cowboy kitsch and barbecue one would expect (though we have that, too). Find out more about Austin.
Finding an apartment in Austin generally isn't difficult, given the high turnover of the student population, but it is important to do a little research to find the right area of town. Where one person would feel at home in trendy but expensive Hyde Park just north of campus or the short walk to class from West Campus, another might prefer the quieter Far West neighborhood or less expensive South Austin… even if it means taking the free university shuttle bus in the morning. Cap Metro (www.capmetro.org) will give you a good idea of the public transportation options. Being a university town, Austin is also bike-friendly, with lanes on most major streets and trails stretching far out into the surrounding Hill Country. The easiest way to get oriented in the city is to ask current residents! We are always happy to help you and answer your questions as well as we can so please don't hesitate to contact us anytime by emailing the Graduate Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for choosing UT and the Germanic Studies Department. We look forward to meeting you!