A season of change at JYM

JYM Munich Team with Students in July 2023:
Left from front: Patrizia Thill, Christina Weiler, Nicole Coleman
Right from front: Imke Gloth, M.A. and instructor of “Kunst in München,” Barbara Reis, Sommer Forschner, M.A., former academic coordinator and instructor of the JYM Praktikumskurs.

At JYM, a new semester and a new academic year have rolled around. After two years getting to know our program on the ground in Munich, I am back in the Detroit Office of JYM at Wayne State University. Happily, the Munich side of our operations is in wonderful hands, and I would like you to please join me in welcoming three new staff members and thanking a fourth.

The new head of our operations in Munich is our Administrative Director in Residence, Dr. Christina Weiler. One thing I knew long before becoming JYM Program Director, and which became clearer to me while getting to know JYM and other U.S.-based education-abroad programs in Germany, is that the best on-site directors are bicultural and bilingual, know what it means to study abroad, and have spent extensive time working in the U.S. with a diverse group of students. Christina’s educational and work experiences beautifully combine the local and the global! She grew up on a farm in the southernmost village of Bavaria, Oberstdorf. She studied at the University of Freiburg, the University of Valencia, and Purdue University. She taught in Ireland and the US before deciding to move back to Germany to be closer to her family and join the JYM team in Munich.  She not only has administrative experience running a language program and a professional organization, but she also likes administrative work (yes, I almost fell out of my chair when she said this, unprompted, at her interview!). She is an award-winning teacher and a published scholar of Romanticism. She is dedicated to ensuring that all JYMers, regardless of background, feel at home at our institute and in Munich.  In her position, Christina will oversee legal, financial, and staffing matters, she will further develop JYM contacts in Munich and especially the JYM internship program, she will continue the work of updating JYM processes to align with best practices in study abroad, and she will teach. In the Winter Semester, she will be teaching the culture course that we developed last year. Herzlich Willkommen, Christina!

Dr. Nicole Coleman will be working side-by-side with Dr. Weiler this year as Visiting Professor and Academic Director in Residence. I’ve known Nicole since she joined the Wayne State University faculty in 2015, and I say proudly and repeatedly that I chaired the committee that hired her. She, too, is an award-winning teacher and pedagogue who has taught courses at all levels, from beginning language to graduate seminars, in both German and English. Nicole’s teaching approach could be summed up by the title of the 2-volume textbook that she coauthored: Impulse Deutsch: Intercultural-Interdisciplinary-Interactive.  She has also designed and taught a course on intercultural competence for the Global Studies Program at Wayne State University. Nicole has published a book on literature and human rights with the prestigious University of Michigan Press, and she is actively dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion for all students. JYMers got to know Nicole last year when she taught the unit of our culture course on Kafka and joined us on our trip to Prague. She was also a member of the committee that hired Christina. This year in Munich, she will be working to ensure that the language instruction that JYMers receive is cohesive and appropriate to the level of each individual student and that it adequately prepares students for German language exams such as the B-2 and DSH tests. She will also be helping the instructors of the range of courses at the JYM institute to develop teaching strategies that meet the needs of students at various language levels. This winter semester, she will teach a new version of our writing course that is focused on German media.  Herzlich Willkommen, Nicole!

Our program in Munich cannot function without the tireless work of our academic coordinators. They are the first people that JYMers and visitors encounter when they come into our building. They ensure that our students are enrolled at the LMU, and that they have dorm rooms and residency permits and transcripts. They oversee our calendar and organize class schedules, parties, and trips. They serve as confidants and advisors. They teach for us.

The senior member of the JYM staff is Patrizia Thill, M.A.  She started organizing cultural activities for JYMers in 2005 and became a full-time academic coordinator in 2010. Before coming to JYM, she worked in theater in Vienna, and JYM has benefitted from her expertise through the course on German theater that she has taught many times. I have learned a great deal from Patrizia over the past two years and continue to be amazed by her patience when she wrangles with the Kreisverwaltsungsreferat to help students obtain their residency permits. She introduced me—and our students--to the work of Münchner Volkstheater director Christian Stückl, ranging from the Oberammergauer Passionsspiele, to a nativity play staged entirely in Bavarian dialect and acted by children who speak that dialect, to a stage adaptation of Julie Zeh’s Covid novel, Über Menschen. Last year, I had the pleasure of teaching the JYM culture course together with Patrizia; the units she designed and taught often involved theater and performance, and again, thanks to her, the students and I got to know the Munich theater scene better.  Vielen herzlichen Dank, Patrizia!

In July, Barbara Reis, M.A., joined the Munich team as our second Academic Coordinator, but Barbara is no stranger to the Junior Year in Munich. Like Christina, she is a dyed-in-the wool Bavarian. She is also a waschechte Münchnerin with degrees in Bavarian history and art history. In addition to leading various tours and seminars in Munich for the past 30 years, she has been teaching the JYM course on Munich and National Socialism since 2014.  Her passion as a teacher and the importance of the subject matter explain why this is the only JYM course so popular that we offer it both semesters. Before I arrived in Munich, I had heard stories of Barbara’s baking talents and the gatherings she held at her home to teach JYMers how to bake holiday cookies. I can now confirm that her talents are most impressive.  Barbara will continue to teach for JYM, and will now also be a presence in our front office. Vielen herzlichen Dank und herzlich Willkommen, Barbara!

JYM turned 70 this year, an anniversary that we will celebrate quietly as we prepare for our diamond jubilee in 2028. We are excited to see where this new team takes JYM as it begins its eighth decade. If you are ever in Munich, we hope you will stop by to see them in person.

Mit herzlichen Grüßen

Dr. Lisabeth (Lisa) Hock

Program Director, Junior Year in Munich

Associate Professor of German, Wayne State University

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