Chair's Letter to Alumni

September 17, 2014

Dear Alumni,

I am writing to update you on a few important events in the German Department and to invite you to join some of our faculty at a small reception during the upcoming Reunion Weekend.

But first of all, let me thank those of you who participated in the alumni surveys the Department conducted over the past year. Among the main findings of the undergraduate alumni survey are that faculty quality and quality of study abroad experience are considered to be the two overwhelmingly important factors of learning success. A full report is posted on the departmental website at

[To our graduate student alumni: As part of a comprehensive discussion of the graduate program, the Department is currently looking at the results of the graduate alumni survey; a report will be forthcoming later this year.]


In terms of departmental news, in the past few months we had lots of reasons to celebrate faculty who received special awards and prizes:

After fifteen years of highly successful and innovative teaching in the German Department, Prof. Astrid Weigert was honored with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Faculty Convocation this past winter.

At the Graduate School commencement in May, Prof. Heidi Byrnes received the prestigious Career Research Achievement Award that honors the contributions of a scholar to her/his field over the course of a career. For everyone who knows Prof. Byrnes – her boundless energy, her enthusiasm for research and teaching, and the instrumental role she had in shaping every aspect of the German Department – it is difficult to believe that she plans to retire at the end of this academic year.

And, last but not least, Prof. Ronald Murphy won the Award from the Mythopoeic Society for the best book on mythology for his Tree of Salvation, Yggdrasil and the Cross in the North (Oxford Press, 2013). As Father Murphy pointed out, a book by Umberto Eco was in the competition too, “but the tree beat the rose”!

Regarding other faculty news, we are delighted that Dr. Joe Cunningham joined the German Department this fall semester as assistant professor in Applied Linguistics. He received his PhD from the University of Kansas earlier this year (see his faculty profile at

I would like to conclude by inviting you to a German Department Reception on Friday, October 24, 4-5pm during Homecoming Weekend. Please do let us know via email ( if you plan to attend, so we can plan accordingly! If there is interest, we would be happy to give you a quick summary of the undergraduate survey results at the reception. But most of all, we would be delighted to catch up with you over a glass of wine!


Mit ganz herzlichen Grüssen vom Hilltop,

Friederike Eigler
Professor of German and Chair,
Department of German

P.S. Starting later this fall, a bi-annual German Department Newsletter (with news on faculty, students, events – and lots of photos) will be posted at

And, if you are interested, please consider connecting to our departmental Facebook page!