Whether in studies or a career or life, there are sign posts we pass that point us toward a direction we want to follow. We may not notice them until we’ve passed enough of them.
For senior Alison Geiger, a German literature and culture major, not that many slipped by in her experiences at Franklin & Marshall College before she realized her future.
“I started learning German in middle school and fell in love with the language there, but when I came here, I was planning on being a business and German joint major,” she says. “I ended up dropping the business side of things and just focused on German.”
The signs became evident early. Not only was there her middle school experience, there also was her name, Geiger, which is German for “violin player,” an instrument she plays.
Professor of German Jennifer Redmann explains the linguistics: “’Geige’ is the word for violin, but if you put an ‘r’ at the end, just like in English, it turns it into the person who does the thing.”
“That’s also kind of a weird happenstance,” Geiger says.
Her paternal grandfather, born in Germany in 1933, lived there through World War II, and immigrated to America with his family in the 1950s. She grew up listening to his experiences, one of the reasons she decided to start learning the language.
“German wasn’t spoken in my household, but when I would go see my grandparents, they would tell stories in German,” Geiger says.
Since learning the language, she converses with her grandfather in German, “which I think is more comfortable for him,” she says. “He seems to have more memories.”
Redmann and Meagan Tripp, assistant professor of German, recognized and encouraged Geiger’s teaching aptitude. Geiger is preceptor for German 202, a fourth-semester course that Redmann redesigned with the theme, "Stories of 20th-Century Germany and the African Diaspora," bringing the decolonization perspective to include Black Germans, people of African descent long invisible in the media.
“Knowing Alison's talent and the fact that she plans to become a teacher, I asked her to work with me on redesigning the course last summer,” Redmann says. “She was an enormously effective collaborator. She helped me identify new texts and to create materials to go with them, including a unit on music by Black German musicians.”
Geiger embraced the redesign project.
“It wasn’t something that I was expecting,” she says. “My dad was even saying, ‘This is really where your liberal arts college education shines,’ because he went to a state university.”
Geiger says her F&M experiences, which included a semester abroad in Berlin, confirmed her direction: “Teaching German is going to be my future goal.”
“My dad was even saying, ‘This is really where your liberal arts college education shines,’ because he went to a state university.”