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Elise Sobotka '15

German

In my first semester as UDR for the German Studies program, not only was I just a sophomore who actually hadn’t quite figured out college yet, but I was also the sole UDR. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. In fact, my very first UDR event was a complete failure. I planned a Meet the Majors event and only five people showed up, most of whom were my friends. I hadn’t done any advertising, had waited too long to schedule
our normal event room, and just generally had no idea how to plan an event. So the next semester, the other UDRs and I reserved a space well in advance, visited every course in the program, made flyers, and spammed our list serve with emails. That fall our Meet the Majors event had such high attendance that our program head took a picture just so we had proof that it actually had happened. Since then, in my over two years as a UDR, I have helped organize eight events for the program and represented German Studies in seven other events organized by other departments and groups on campus.

I honestly think my success, or rather my efficacy, as a UDR has not come about due to any amazing organizing skills or an ability to avoid procrastination (those still remain struggles of mine to this day). Instead, I think I am up here because of my ability to work on a team and, frankly, because of the team with which I had to work.

German Studies is a small program. At most events for prospective or admitted students, we rarely get any interest. I am often asked more about other departments than I am about the one I actually represent. However, there has really been something special about working with and for a group of people that are as passionate about German studies as I am. I definitely have made up for the limited resources and funding that come
with being a small program by tapping into the vast wealth of interests, experience, and knowledge students and faculty in the program provide. Rather than strength coming in numbers, I think it grows from investment in a shared interest. Cultivating and nurturing that interest was how I connected with students and got them to maybe consider taking that one extra German class and then maybe thinking about turning that one extra class into a minor. So representing a small program has its challenges, but they don’t have to be inhibiting.

If anything, my greatest challenge has been just to remember that not everyone actually loves the German Studies program as much as I do.