Julia Goetze, PhD
Georgetown University German Department graduation year/degree conferred: 2015/MA, 2018/PhD
Current position and institution: Assistant Teaching Professor and German Language Coordinator, Pennsylvania State University
What career path did you take to get to where you are today?
After graduating from Georgetown in August 2018, I immediately transitioned into a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, where I was tasked with undergraduate teaching, the coordination of the beginning language courses in the undergraduate curriculum, and the pedagogical training of novice German language instructors. Upon completion of my one-year Postdoctoral Fellowship appointment, I was hired into my current position as Assistant Teaching Professor and German Language Coordinator at Penn State.
Did you consider other career paths, and if so, what were the crucial factors that influenced your decision?
Yes, I have given thought to non-academic career paths and spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on transferable skills I have acquired during my time at GUGD. During these reflections, I have identified my desire to remain in (higher) education and narrowed my preferred career paths down to either (higher) education administration or a professorship in German Studies with a focus on second language acquisition.
Ultimately, my desire to be engaged in research and the personal, professional, and emotional rewards of teaching have swayed me repeatedly to enter the academic job market and to apply for different types of academic positions in both German Studies and Applied Linguistics.
What are the pros and cons of a career in your current field?
The academic job market is incredibly competitive and, depending on a given year, tenure-track positions, multiple-year, or even renewable appointments can be scarce. I currently hold a three-year renewable position at a large research institution, which I highly value as it provides me with a degree of stability and an array of professional development opportunities that I was aiming for after graduation as an early career academic.
I absolutely love my work as language coordinator because I have the opportunity to work closely with fellow faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. At the same time, I am able to advance my knowledge and practice in curriculum development, undergraduate and graduate teaching, while also working on my research, which involves both foreign language teachers and learners.
How did obtaining a graduate degree from the German Department at Georgetown University prepare you for your current position and/or positions that you held in the past?
Both positions I have held since graduation have been teaching-focused and pedagogy-heavy. Therefore, earning a PhD from the GUGD, where I received a stellar education in second language acquisition, foreign language pedagogy, and curriculum construction is an invaluable asset. I continuously draw on my training when designing my own courses or revising existing ones in new instructional and institutional contexts.
Additionally, the opportunity to independently teach German language classes across the entire curriculum as a graduate student has equipped me with a solid foundation of practical teaching experience. The fostered and critical reflection on the interrelationship of theory and practice in foreign language teaching and learning inform my teaching philosophy, my pedagogical practice, and research to this day.
In terms of research, my dissertation advisor, Dr. Marianna Ryshina-Pankova, has engaged me in her own research projects early on and provided me with opportunities to gain hands-on experience in empirical study design, linguistic data collection, and data analysis. These experiences helped me to shape my research interests and broadened my skill set at a crucial time in my graduate career. Throughout my studies and during the dissertation writing process, Dr. Pankova has provided me with valuable feedback and always supported me to become the scholar I am today. She continues to be my role model and I am very grateful for her dedication to excellence in research, teaching, and mentorship, which is what I strive after in my own professional practice today.
What skills should current graduate students of the German Department acquire before completing their degree, if they want to pursue a career path in your field?
In my opinion, there are three crucial skill sets that students should build during their time at Georgetown.
First, time management. Working as a professor or lecturer in academia will require students to teach multiple, often unrelated courses per semester, while also advancing their scholarship and engaging in service activities on campus. In my experience, balancing these demands and maintaining a healthy work-life balance requires both discipline and top time management, as well as organizational skills.
Second, language and graduate course design. I recommend students actively engage in curriculum and course development throughout their entire time at Georgetown. The Fundamentals course offers a prime introduction to curriculum constructions and language course development and the level meetings throughout each semester, as well as additional workshops that are regularly offered, engage students in an ongoing conversation about curriculum design throughout their graduate studies. However, entering departments with different curricular frameworks and being asked to design one or multiple courses at the graduate and undergraduate level can be quite challenging and may seem overwhelming. I cannot stress enough that (advanced) graduate students should make use of the incredible departmental culture at GUGD. I would encourage them to collaborate with professors or to seek feedback on the development of their own undergraduate courses. Additionally, I highly recommend engaging in conversations about developing, teaching, and assessing graduate seminars in one’s area of interest or survey courses with a chosen advisor or mentor.
Third, reflection and adaptation. When preparing for an academic position, students should keep in mind that each department will have a different culture, which will depend on both the profile of the department and the institution. Students might work in German Departments, in World Language Departments, or combined Language and Linguistics Departments. They will be employed at small liberal arts colleges, private universities, or big state schools. They might teach online or face-to-face courses or both. Class size might range from 10 students to 30 students per classroom. During their time at GUGD, students should actively build their reflective practice skills that allow them to identify the skills they have or need and to understand how these skills might have to be adapted to serve them at other institutions and in various instructional contexts.
How did you experience the transition from graduate school to a professional career? What surprised you the most about your work when you first started?
Transitioning from graduate school into being an early career academic was not as easy as I anticipated. While I felt well prepared for my new position professionally and my new colleagues gave me a strong sense of belonging, I found it challenging to establish my new identity as a supervisor of graduate students immediately after graduation. That is, I started working with and supervising graduate students in the same month that I graduated from Georgetown and navigating this new responsibility and adjusting to this role was a new and demanding experience. Additionally, designing and teaching a graduate seminar was more challenging than expected, but I was fortunate to receive continuous feedback from my mentors and students.
While both experiences were challenging, I was able to utilize them as opportunities for personal and professional growth, and I believe they prepared me well for career path ahead and for my role as mentor to current graduate students who prepare for academic positions.
What were the resources that you found helpful in your search for (non-) academic jobs?
I find it helpful to monitor the job market, even in years when I am not on the market. Keeping an eye on the developments and identifying desired skills on the job market gives students the opportunity to work on their skill set while they are still in graduate school.
Additionally, I found it incredibly helpful to speak with GUGD colleagues, advisors, and mentors and to receive feedback on my application documents, such as my CV, teaching philosophy, or diversity statement.
I would also encourage students to attend job talks either in their own department or in neighboring foreign language departments on campus, if applicable. Understanding the structure of the academic interview process and to see models for successful job interviews are a great preparation for one’s own interviews. If no job search is conducted during the students’ time at Georgetown, I would recommend that they participate in a mock job interview with their own professors and main advisor.
The GUGD has compiled a repository of resources for the (non-) academic job search in the area of German Studies in the DMV region. This is a great resource, if students aim to complete an internship during their graduate studies or aim to remain in the DC area after graduation.
Lastly, I would also highly recommend attending any professional development workshops that the department offers, as well as reaching out to alumni and using networking opportunities at conferences that students attend during their graduate career.
What other advice would you give to students wanting to break into or establish themselves in your field?
When you enter the academic job market, you have to be aware that the experience can be tough. It doesn’t have to be, but it might. The application process is lengthy and preparing application documents is a demanding task. In addition, the decision-making process can oftentimes seem non-transparent and feel very personal. This is especially true when you finish your dissertation and apply to jobs at the same time. Working towards a major professional accomplishment while simultaneously receiving rejections can be emotionally challenging. In these situations, it is advisable to ask the hiring institution for feedback and to use their input to improve one’s performance at any stage of the interview process. Additionally, I found talking about these experiences with my GUGD advisors and mentors incredibly helpful. The department has a very supportive environment and greatly assists students through the job application process, both academic and non-academic.
Lastly, if you want to be in academia, I would like to tell you to not let any negative experiences discourage you. If your personal life allows it, I recommend staying on the job market for at least a few years, especially since the market is very dynamic. During my time in graduate school, very few tenure-track positions were advertised, but during my last two years on the market, a considerable amount of early career academics were hired into tenure-line positions. Nevertheless, being hired into tenure-track positions right after graduation is currently considered an exception. However, based on my own experience, I would say that gaining professional experiences in multiple contexts before deciding whether an institution and department are a good fit for a tenure-track commitment can be a valuable and rewarding option for new graduates!