Dr. Mark Himmelein
Teaching Area(s): German
Title: Professor of German
Courses Taught: German
I guess I have always enjoyed being a part of a learning community, and teaching at the university level is a way for me to continue learning. Of course, I have a real love for my discipline – teaching German language, literature and culture, and when you have a real passion for something, teaching others about it just seems natural.
I’m not a slave to a particular methodology or approach. Instead, I try to gauge my students and find out where they are, and then try to move them forward. In my classes I tend to use humor as a way to relax students and to get them past the fear of speaking in another language. I try to help students relax, forget about every potential mistake and just learn to communicate. I always try to remember that I am teaching students, not just my discipline.
The German curriculum here is largely my doing and it continues to evolve from one year to the next. That is one of the great things about Mount Union—it is small enough and flexible enough to allow faculty to experiment with the courses and the curriculum in order to make it fit our students.
Best Part of the Job
The best part of my career is teaching, that is for certain. If I can engage students in a meaningful way, then I am in my element. While I appreciate the quiet time alone in my office to read and do some research, I welcome the opportunity to work with students outside of the classroom.
I really enjoy the Kolenbrander-Harter Information Center (KHIC), particularly the upper floors. There are such wonderful views of the campus and of the lakes. The best area is the third floor reading room overlooking the lakes. No matter what the season, it is a great place to just sit, relax, read and take in the view.
Mount Union gives students a well-rounded approach to their field. Presumably, anyone can learn simple business rules and transactions, but with a liberal arts education, you learn not only those practical things, but also the speaking, reading, writing and critical thinking skills that you need to advance in any career. I really feel that my colleagues and I work very hard to prepare students for the future, not just the first job they might get after graduating.
My research interests center around the teaching of German language and culture. Most recently I have been focusing on how instruction in a foreign language teaches one intercultural competence. Too many people assume that learning a foreign language is just about vocabulary, grammar rules and verb forms. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Effective language learning means understanding how language conveys culture. I’m also looking into how distance learning can be used effectively in the language classroom.
B.A., German and Business Administration, Baldwin-Wallace College
M.A., German and Educational Administration, University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., Foreign Language Education, University of Akron
That is one of the great things about Mount Union—it is small enough and flexible enough to allow faculty to experiment with the courses and the curriculum in order to make it fit our students.
- If You Could Teach Another Class
- Well, I don’t know. Perhaps a history class, since I really enjoy the subject. I can think of several academic areas I am interested in, but teaching at the university level really requires a thorough knowledge of the subject. I’d like to teach a course sometime on German-American immigration – maybe one of these days.
- Words from a Student
- It’s hard to say. If you have a very successful class, I think you learn more from your students than you actually teach. What is particularly interesting is when a student gives you a fresh perspective on a work of literature or a cultural topic that you have studied for years, but which you had never quite understood in that way.
- Favorite Quote or Motto
- I guess it kind of depends on the situation, because I have several favorites. Odds are it would probably be something by Teddy Roosevelt, Friedrich Schiller, a German writer, or Martin Luther. They were all fairly rebellious and challenged conventional wisdom, which is why I admire them. I try to remain and optimist, so if I had to pick a single quote, there is one I like from Teddy Roosevelt: “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there!”
- Surprising News
- I’ve been skydiving and paragliding—and would do them again! I’m not a real risk taker, but I just felt like I wanted to try both these activities and made up my mind to do them.
- If You Weren’t a Professor
- I think I would be in some sort of social work. I have to work with people, so perhaps I’d enjoy working as a counselor or as an advocate for those with special needs. If there would be some way to combine my work with international travel, that would be even better.
- Places to Visit or Things to Do
- My dream vacation is to take an arctic safari. It’s much like a safari in Africa, but this is done in winter above the Arctic Circle on dogsleds, sleighs and snowmobiles. I don’t exactly know why I want to do this, I just do. Perhaps because I have traveled to Norway and I think it is about the most beautiful place on earth. Seeing the Northern Lights across the vast arctic landscape has to be amazing, and I intend to see them soon!
- Favorite Movie
- Good Bye Lenin—it is a German film from 2003. It won many awards. It’s a great story on so many levels that I think anyone can enjoy it.
- Favorite Book
- Perhaps the German novella The Invention of Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm is my favorite. The title is odd, but it is a wonderful story. I met the author once and hear him read from the work, and from that time on I have been hooked.
- Hobbies and Interests
- I love to travel, and I have been fortunate to be able to do a lot of it. It gets to be an expensive hobby at times, but I’d pretty much go anywhere if I had the time and the money. I also enjoy listening to music—mostly classical works, but also music from the 50s through about the 90s. I’m starting to take photography a bit more seriously, but I think it will remain just a hobby.