When war refugees from Syria and Iraq arrived in Munich in 2015, they were met by hundreds of volunteers, many of whom had never given their time before to humanitarian aid efforts. During the fall of that year, Munich came to symbolize Germany’s Willkommenskultur, its efforts to welcome large numbers of war refugees and migrants in need of asylum. Based on her experience as a volunteer in Munich in the summer of 2016, German major Mary Boyd studied the intricate relationship between city administration and volunteerism to better understand how volunteerism can be encouraged and sustained.
Mary was one of five students to graduate with honors this past year. Like Mary, her peers spent countless hours of research and writing to investigate contemporary and historical issues in German culture and society: Andrew Westphal gained an understanding of sport culture as a tool towards social and cultural integration; Kristen Datta studied the history and phonology of loanwords coming into the German language from English; Cosima Neumann traced the invention of social medicine in the nineteenth century and its relevance for today; and Michelle Helner the power of images as documents of catastrophic history.
As in previous years, the honors students were celebrated in this year’s graduation ceremony. The Martin Haller Prize, the distinction of best honors thesis in German Studies, was awarded to Andrew Westphal’s thesis Integration durch Sport (?): The Influence of History and Policy on Inclusive Sports Development in Berlin, a longitudinal study of sport development programs that includes a new assessment tool for city planners to ensure that sports facility developments make a positive difference for social integration in their local neighborhoods.
In their theses our honors students have combined their studies of the German language and cultural history with training in adjacent disciplines such as international studies, political science, linguistics, business and public health. Drawing from their interdisciplinary expertise, they have enriched their thesis work and crafted highly original studies which exemplify the breadth of the field of German Studies for which this department is known. This coming year, they will go on to begin their careers in diverse fields such as communication and real estate, teaching and medicine. We wish them all the best for these next steps and hope that they will stay in touch.