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University of Virginia UVA Arts & Sciences Default

German Faculty Host Open House for Students From Elite Magnet High School

Apr 29, 2016 |

The Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures hosted a visit to the University of Virginia last month by students from one of the top high schools in the United States. The April 11 tour aimed to provide the 47 students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, which features a STEM-focused curriculum, a deeper appreciation for the continued study of German at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Students from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology listen to faculty of the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures.
Zach Wheat

“The open house program served to expose students from one of the best high schools in the country to the opportunities afforded by the study of the German language and culture,” said Manuela Achilles, director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and associate director of the University’s Center for German Studies. “It was both a practical example and hopefully also a catalyst of the idea that a STEM-oriented curriculum is greatly strengthened by the study of foreign languages, literatures, and cultures.”

A magnet school located in Northern Virginia, Thomas Jefferson High School ranked fifth nationally in the most recent “Best High Schools” rankings by U.S. News & World Report. 

The Thomas Jefferson students’ visit to Grounds included the opportunity to sit in on undergraduate German seminars taught by Alexis Radisoglou, Kathryn Schröder, Svenja Zimmerman and Stefanie Parker, as well as presentations by Arts & Sciences faculty discussing the various arts and humanities disciplines covered under the umbrella of the German department. Students also learned about study abroad programs in Germany and heard from faculty and UVA students about the professional career opportunities available to fluent speakers of German. Dana M. Elzey, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, also participated in a panel discussion to offer perspective on how studying German would benefit students considering pursuing STEM-related careers overseas.

“Our visit could not have gone better,” said German teacher Szilvia Oszko, one of two Thomas Jefferson HS teachers who accompanied the students to UVA. “The program that Dr. Manuela Achilles organized for our group exceeded everyone’s expectations. “Our students found the wide range of German-related courses and study fields remarkable, and they pointed out that the professors were very enthusiastic and approachable. They were particularly grateful that Dr. Achilles invited Prof. Dana Elzey from the School of Engineering to talk to them about the opportunities that the combination of German and engineering/applied sciences could give them to expand their future career options.”

Oszko said she believes the open house program organized by Achilles and her University colleagues will encourage and attract Thomas Jefferson High School  students to pursue German studies at UVA, whether as a major or a minor combined with a STEM field, or at least to pursue a few language courses to enrich whatever their chosen field of study. 

“Looking ahead,” she said. “I hope that we will be able to strengthen the ties between the German departments at UVA and TJ in order to promote this promising career path to our students.”