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MASNEWS 2/2010: Of New Honors and New Students

Welcome to the MAS – Evan Cacali
Life After the MAS – Justin Schwerling
A New Program at the HCA: The Bachelor of Arts in American Studies (BAS)
Welcome to the HCA – Patrick Roberts
Ph.D. Graduation Ceremony 2010 & Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Prize
Prof. Junker Receives German Federal Cross of Merit
Upcoming Events at the HCA

Dear All,

Detlef JunkerWelcome to the Heidelberg Center for American StudiesMAS newsletter!
This edition covers some of the highlights of the incipient new academic year at the HCA. We welcome our new students as well as the new Ghaemian scholar-in-residence,  Dr. Patrick Roberts, who joined us this September. In addition, we take a look back at the festivities celebrating our first four Ph.D. graduates, Raluca-Lucia Cimpean, Christian Maul, Anthony Santoro and Karsten Senkbeil as well as the first award ceremony for the Rolf-Kentner-Dissertation-Prize.

Please feel free to forward our newsletter to anyone interested in American Studies. Of course, we appreciate any feedback you would like to share with us.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Detlef Junker
HCA Founding Director


Welcome to the MAS

On October 5, Prof. Junker and the staff of the HCA officially welcomed the new MAS Class of 2012. The 17 new students from 11 nations including Albania, Brazil, China, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Palestine, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the US are the seventh MAS Class since the program was established in 2004. One of the new students arriving in Heidelberg is Evan Cacali. He gives us a peek into his hopes, aspirations and expectations for his time in Heidelberg:

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I ever so slightly feared the prospect of my eventual institutionalization in Heidelberg. Would they insidiously reinforce my foolish consistency and make me bland? Would they tolerate an honest, yet ironic anti-theist with a penchant for the absurd? Maybe they would set my imagination ablaze and leave me howling from the rooftops the injustices reaped upon Hester Prynne and the Ludlow Miners? Alas, they have done close approximations of all this and more since my arrival in Heidelberg.

Like any institute of learning, the initiative to learn rests squarely on the shoulders of the students here. Our guides can gently nudge us in certain directions and whisper sagacious utterances in our ears but the bits of information that we cling to once we encounter them ultimately construct our chosen realities. You can give someone directions to the Philosopher’s Way along the Neckar but that doesn’t mean they are going to contemplate the nature of existence once they get there. So is the life of the American Scholar.

And now let me get to how Heidelberg and the HCA shine in relation to what I have stated above, specifically in regards to those “bits of information” that shape our lives and our precarious grasp on “reality.” The quantity and variety of information that one receives correlates to the spectrum of possible paths in which an individual can develop; and the cornucopia of possibilities available here is truly spectacular. The nature of the program puts us in daily contact with professors from multiple disciplines, renowned speakers from the field of American Studies, voices that shaped American life through the ages, and fellow students from around the world. It also provides unfettered access to incredible research libraries, various lecture series, and the option of sitting in on classes in other faculties that may interest us. As foreign students, the emersion into German culture serves as a continuous classroom throughout the day. Furthermore, the experience of the city itself titillates our senses in ways we may not be used to in our home countries. Whether it be the ringing of church bells, the shapes of the city skyline at sunset, the aroma wafting out of a falafel shop, or the first sip of glühwein, these experiences leave an indelible mark upon the breadth of our understanding. Experience. Even the maze of bureaucracy that we have to navigate while trying to establish ourselves here is riddled with lessons if you can see them through the frustration.

In short, my institutionalization here has proved to contain considerable unforeseen benefits, as it would for any self-reliant student. The torrents of information available allows me to be as foolishly consistent as I need in order to maintain my “self,” while providing incalculable opportunity to intellectually explore the glorious and absurd aspects of both American culture and other ways of knowing.


Life After the MAS – Justin Schwerling

Justin Picture New SmallJustin Schwerling, a graduate of the MAS 2006 class, returned to the US after graduating. He reports on his current professional and academic activities.

Immediately following graduation from the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (actually two months prior) I began a new adventure in law school. I graduated from Florida International University College of Law in May of 2009. Moving to Miami so soon after Heidelberg proved to be a bit of a shock. South Florida seems to demonstrate its laidback ways in every aspect of society including law and order (three consecutive years awarded “Worst City for Aggressive Driving”). I enjoy returning to Germany every year and worrying less (for example, when I ride my bike down the street). 

I chose FIU because of its wide selection of international classes and renowned international faculty. Having such a positive experience at the HCA I knew I wanted to parlay that experience with whatever future career path I chose. Concentrating in international law allowed me to do just that. In fact, during my studies at FIU I was lucky enough to return to Germany via a summer internship with Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Winter, Ohr, Bock & Sylvester in Frankenthal, Germany. Currently I am looking for jobs overseas that allow me to utilize the education I gained through the HCA and FIU.

After graduating from law school I passed the July 2009 Florida bar and began practicing law in Miami. The firm I work for specializes in commercial and civil litigation. I recently was involved in a case concerning copyright infringement at Hed Kandi, a club in South Beach. It was an interesting experience because it involved actors from all over the world with arbitration in London but legal jurisdiction in Miami. I have also volunteered for a couple non profits along the way as well. 

While graduating with a Masters in American Studies and a Juris Doctor rank high on my list of accomplishments, I am most happy about my two little girls (both deutschicans, i.e. my wife’s German) that have come into the world since graduating from the HCA. Currently the family and I are looking for jobs back in Germany and can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Further News from the HCA

A New Program at the HCA:  
The Bachelor of Arts in American Studies (BAS)

With the start of this fall semester the HCA has completed its portfolio of programs of study by introducing a new Bachelor of Arts in American Studies (BAS). In vintage HCA fashion the BAS is unique in its broad range of subjects. The program is offered in cooperation with the English Department, the Department of Geography, the History Department, the Institute for Political Science (IPW), the Law Faculty, and the Faculty of Theology (WTS) and its Research Center for International and Interdisciplinary Theology (FIIT). The option to concentrate on geography or religious studies, as well as to obtain an additional legal certification, makes this program unique Germany, Europe and beyond.

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The B.A. in American Studies supports a small group of well-qualified and highly motivated students. This year, the program admitted 20 students from all over Germany. Most of them have already had some “American experience”, be it a year abroad during school or an extensive language class. The new students have been welcomed at the HCA at the beginning of October during a two-day orientation session and have now started with their course work.


Welcome to the HCA – Patrick Roberts

Roberts SmallDr. Patrick Roberts, assistant professor with the Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP) in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech University, is the Ghaemian Scholar-in-Residence  at the HCA for the academic year 2010-11. Dr. Roberts is teaching a lecture in the winter semester entitled, “Making Public Policy in the United States.” Here, he offers a brief look into his academic background and his plans at the HCA.

Americans are more suspicious of government power and more trusting of markets than citizens of other countries. The United States never had a strong socialist movement or a workers’ party. Its welfare state is weak. Although all true, these broad statements reveal little about the complexities of the American system of government, or about whether the United States is in some sense exceptional or merely unusual.

I am the Ghaemian Scholar-in-Residence for 2010-2011, and these are some of the broad claims that led me to scholarly inquiry into the nature of American life and politics. While at the HCA, I will teach a course, “Making Public Policy in the United States,” in order to develop a perspective on big questions about the nature of the United States through an examination of the traditions and assumptions of the public policy process. Topics include the historical context of policy making, both as an arena of practice and as a field of inquiry; the political, partisan, ideological, and institutional context of the policy process; the roles of official and unofficial policy actors; agenda-setting; the roles of power and interest groups in policy making; policy tools; policy implementation; policy failure; and ideas for improving the policy process. This class, like the policy process literature, is primarily concerned with the contemporary United States national government, but we will also consider states, localities, and other countries, as well as historical examples.

I come to the HCA after a varied academic background. I am now an assistant professor in the Center for Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. I hold a Ph.D. in government from the University of Virginia, an M.A. in political philosophy from Claremont Graduate University, and a B.A. from the University of Dallas. While at Virginia Tech, I have been on leave as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and at the Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University. I have published in scholarly as well as popular journals, and I worked for a year as a journalist for the Associated Press.

While at the HCA, I hope to complete a book manuscript, titled Disasters and the Democratic State: How Bureaucrats, Politicians, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected. The manuscript is a history of the ratcheting up of expectations of the United States national government’s role in disaster, from the American founding to the present. The aim is to provide a lens on both the changing meaning of disaster and the changing role of the national government in American life. 

I hope to engage German scholars with similar interests in disaster and political institutions, a topic in which Germany’s well-known reinsurance industry takes an interest. I will also begin a new project on the history of the International Atomic Energy Agency, located in Vienna. I am interested in German debates about nuclear power, and the role of German claims about nuclear power and international authority in the agency’s work. I look forward to engaging with the diverse interests of students and faculty in Heidelberg. People drawn to the HCA hail from different parts of the world but share an interest in scholarly inquiry into American topics and a commitment to the life of the mind.


Ph.D. Graduation Ceremony 2010 & Awarding of the Rolf Kentner Prize

Since 2006, when the HCA established its Ph.D. in American Studies Program, nearly two dozen aspiring scholars from 10 different countries have decided to pursue their doctorate in this field at Germany’s oldest university. On October 21, in a dignified ceremony in the new atrium, the HCA proudly presented to the academic community its first four successful Ph.D. candidates – Raluca-Lucia Cimpean, Christian Maul, Anthony Santoro, and Karsten Senkbeil – and bestowed upon them their hard-earned certificates.

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The ceremony began with a flourish: The four graduates, dressed in traditional academic gowns, descended from the top floor by elevator to the sound of classic rock and took their seats in the front row. After that, Prof. Dr. Detlef Junker mounted the podium for his welcome remarks. He provided a brief sketch of how the Ph.D. in American Studies had evolved from a small group of ambitious young scholars in 2006 to one of Germany’s most international and interdisciplinary doctoral programs that attracted students worldwide. The four graduates who had crossed the threshold to full academic maturity, Prof. Junker stressed, were shining examples of the excellent scholarship stimulated and encouraged by the Ph.D. in American Studies program. Prof. Junker then proceeded to present the Ph.D. certificates to Raluca-Lucia Cimpean for her dissertation “John F. Kennedy Through the Looking Glass: Docudramatic Representations of the JFK Image;” to Christian Maul for his study “From Self-Culture to Militancy, From Conscience to Intervention: Henry David Thoreau Between Liberalism and Communitarianism;” to Anthony Santoro for his dissertation “Exile or Embrace: The Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty in the Contemporary Era”; and to Karsten Senkbeil for his work on “The Language of American Sports: A Corpus-Assisted Discourse Study.”

Following a musical interlude in which Eva Mayerhofer and Christian Eckert performed songs by Jazz icon Louis Armstrong, Prof. Junker commenced the second part of the ceremony, which was set aside for the awarding of the Rolf Kentner Prize. Sponsored by one of the HCA’s most active benefactors, Rolf Kentner, chairman of the Schurman Society for American History, the award recognizes an outstanding and yet unpublished dissertation in the field of American Studies completed at a German university. Its first recipient was Daniel Stein from the University of Göttingen. After a short introduction by Prof. Dr. Günter Leypoldt, chairman of the Kentner Prize committee, Daniel Stein ascended the stage to deliver his keynote address “My Life Has Always Been an Open Book: Louis Armstrong, American Autobiographer.”


Prof. Junker Receives German Federal Cross of Merit

Almost one year to the day after the new HCA Annex was opened, the center had another reason to celebrate: On behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science and Research, Prof. Dr. Peter Frankenberg, bestowed the Federal Cross of Merit on the HCA’s Founding Director. Prof. Dr. Detlef Junker received this honor for his exceptional support of American Studies as a discipline, his academic teaching and his creative administrative abilities.

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After the president of the Schurman association, Rolf Kentner, had greeted the audience, it was addressed by the rector of the Ruperto Carola, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel. In the succeeding lecture, Prof. Dr. Philipp Gassert (University of Augsburg) sketched the themes and the institutional development of American Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany. Institutes for American Studies were founded in Munich (1949), Berlin (1964), and Frankfurt (1979). The establishment of the HCA in 2004 meant a new departure for the discipline: The HCA was founded as the first public private partnership, offering a unique range of expertise and cross disciplinary cooperation. “The Heidelberg Way,” concluded Philipp Gassert, quickly became a success and the HCA turned into “one of the finest institutions for American Studies in Europe.”


Upcoming Events at the HCA


    December 2, 2010, HCA – 6.15 pm
    MAS Colloqium – Erik Redling: “Jazz Poetry”

    December 7, 2010, Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach – 8 pm
    Baden-Württemberg Seminar – Susan Neimann: “Moralische Klarheit”

    December 9, 2010, HCA – 6.15 pm
    Baden-Württemberg Seminar / MAS Colloqium – Darrell Bock: „The Da Vinci Code and History“


Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA)
Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais
Hauptstraße 120
69117 Heidelberg

Tel.: + 49 (0)6221 543710
E-Mail: hca@uni-hd.de

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Latest Revision: 2010-11-26