German studies faculty (l-r) Morgan Koerner, Sarah Koellner, Stephen Della Lana and Nancy Nenno at the American Association of Teachers of German event in Boston on Nov. 19, 2022.

The American Association of Teachers of German has designated the College of Charleston German studies program a German Center of Excellence, recognizing and celebrating the program’s innovation and focus on students via Zoom on Nov. 13, 2022, and then in person on Nov. 19. The jurors found the program excellent in every category in the application and admired how well-established the program is, the high caliber of faculty and curriculum, and that the program is growing.

“I am elated about the Center of Excellence designation,” says Morgan Koerner, chair of the Department of German and Russian Studies. “It places CofC’s German program alongside a number of elite German programs in the United States, and it recognizes my colleagues’ creativity and vision for the program and their excellence in teaching, going back 20+ years.”

Koerner explains that, in the late 1990s – a time when most foreign language majors were teaching only the literary canon – German professors emeriti Carla Lowry, Thomas Baginski and Earl “Rick” Rickerson, together with German faculty members Nancy Nenno and Stephen Della Lana, transformed the program’s curriculum into a theme-oriented, proficiency-focused paradigm.

“Their work and the dynamic teaching of many of the program’s colleagues over the years – and our most recent hire Dr. Sarah Koellner – created fertile ground for further innovation and growth of our major over the past five years,” says Koerner, adding that the Cultural Vistas summer internship program to Germany, which Della Lana launched in the early 1990s and has since placed more than 134 students, also boosted the program’s growth in experiential learning. “This past spring the German studies major boasted more majors than any other foreign language at CofC.”

Some of the forward-thinking theme courses German studies has offered and continues to offer include the African diaspora in German-speaking Europe (Nenno, 2006), a performance-oriented theatre course (Koerner, 2007), a course on sports culture in Germany (Baginski, 2010), a course on the crime genre in German literature and culture (Nenno, 2010), Surveillance (Koellner, 2018), Artistic Scandals (Koellner, 2019), German international business (Della Lana, 2000) and Borders, Art and Migration (Koellner, 2021).

The German faculty also collaborates across disciplines, including with information management, philosophy, history, African American studies, African studies, international studies, political science and theatre. To provide students with study abroad options, the German program has partnered with the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen and the Otto-Friedrich Universität Bamberg.

Koerner also created the German American Business Summit (GABS), which will celebrate its seventh year in 2023. GABS serves as a forum for students, businesspeople and members of the community to come together to learn more about German operations in South Carolina and the Southeast. The number of participants has grown each year and now includes scholarships for students to study abroad at one of the College’s German partner institutions.

At the sixth GABS conference and career fair, Cooper Jay ’22 landed a job with P3, a company headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany – thus achieving his dream to work for an international automotive company.

“Without the support and guidance of the German department, I would not be here today,” says Jay, who took full advantage of the German program and studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, as a student. “I was able to take German classes that gave me a greater worldview and helped me become a better global citizen. I am extremely grateful to the many wonderful teachers in the German department at the College of Charleston. They all went above and beyond to give me and my classmates the best possible experience.”

It’s praise like this that make the College’s program a German Center of Excellence.

“This award serves as a wonderful testament to my colleagues, our engaged alumni and our students,” says Koerner.