Like so many German majors before and after me, I clearly remember leaving Kalli Federhofer’s office feeling somewhat dazed and holding a piece of paper indicating I had just declared a major in German. Also, I had made tentative plans to study at the Goethe Institut in Berlin over an upcoming summer. I had originally scheduled the appointment to discuss the possibility—possibility—of declaring a German minor. Kalli made a major and a trip to Germany seem so logical and reasonable! Although I experienced some initial shock, I am so glad and grateful that Kalli made me see how wonderful completing my B.A. in German (in addition to my second major, Residential College Social Science) would be. My major in German served me well as a student and later throughout my career as an academic librarian.

The small classes and engaged faculty made my experience as a German student wonderful. In addition to my coursework, I worked for Andy Markovits as a research assistant, learning a lot about the scholarly research process. Writing my honors thesis under the guidance of Kerstin Barndt and with Andy Markovits as my advisor in the department allowed me to develop my research skills further and also gain experience working on my first long-term project. Language learning in general provides an opportunity to develop lots of transferrable skills, including, but not limited to: cultural sensitivity, time management, and self-confidence. The German department provides the perfect environment to develop these skills which will be an asset no matter where your future takes you.

Mara Blake printing an owl at the Gutenberg Museum booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Mara Blake giving a workshop to Professor Kira Thurman's GER 396 class (photo credit: Gregory Parker)

After completing my B.A. at the University of Michigan, I went on to obtain an M.S. in Information Science at the University of Illinois. Since 2009, I have served as a librarian at a couple of colleges and universities. I currently serve the University of Michigan as a Spatial and Numeric Data Librarian, as well as the Librarian for the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. The research skills I gained as a German student, particularly as an honors thesis writer, prepared me well for my current role instructing others how to use tools available from the library to conduct their own research. I enjoy working with researchers on their topics in German because I always get to learn new things as I learn about their research topics. I particularly have fun working with the cohorts of German honors students as they work on the research for their thesis projects.

The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, along with the Library and History Department, also supported my attendance at the Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair) in 2015. The Frankfurter Buchmesse is the oldest book fair still running. Going allowed me to continue to build the excellent collection of materials in the University of Michigan Library available for German students and scholars.