Dr. Richards-Wilson is the Director of Graduate Business Programs at Alverno College where she holds a tenure-track faculty position. She earned a doctorate in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego and a PhD in German literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been awarded several fellowships including two from DAAD. She participated in the Germany Today Program in 2008 and received a DAAD fellowship to present on Willi Graf at the Goethe Institute in Paris, France in 2011.
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We asked Stephani a few questions about her work and experience:
- What sparked your interest in German history?
My family is of German-American heritage and my grandfather was stationed in Germany during the Second World War. He served in the US army and often interpreted or translated German as part of his military assignments. I miss speaking German with him and will always be grateful to him for encouraging me to pursue German studies.
- What are you currently working on?
I am editing my second dissertation that focuses on Willi Graf of the White Rose. My dissertation was over 400 pages and is the only one in the English language about Graf. Once revised and shortened, I hope that my book will appeal to a wider audience. His story and how he decided to resist the Nazis deserves to be told.
- What was the most challenging experience in pursuing your research?
Willi Graf’s personal items and other primary sources were housed in various places in Germany. It was a challenge in terms of research but it was also gratifying to locate what I needed to piece together his story.
- What was the most 'German' experience you have had in the United States?
Numerous German-American organizations participate in "Germanfest" the last week of July. It is the largest German festival in the United States and is held on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. Their slogan is “Get your Deutsch on” and I do that there every summer!
- What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I landed my first professional job as an International Marketing Specialist at Nalge Company, manufacturer of NALGENE plastic water bottles. I was hired because of my German language skills as the company wanted to make inroads into the European market. My advice would be to learn another language to give yourself a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Building relationships through language learning and communication benefits individuals and organizations alike.
- What advice would you give to North American students who are thinking of studying abroad in Germany?
I strongly encourage North American students to study abroad in Germany and to make it a priority. I was an exchange student in high school and college and those experiences changed my worldview. They also helped me to obtain my first professional job because my study abroad demonstrated I was open to other cultures and ways of doing things. I learned so much and my positive experiences have stayed with me all these years. Germany is a great place to study, learn, and grow. I am very appreciative of the support I received from DAAD which allowed me to continue to study in Germany and to conduct research as a doctoral student.
- Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there in your office?
I have a copy of the poster I presented at a Holocaust conference held at the Goethe Institute in Paris, France in 2011. The poster includes images of Willi Graf and shows how he was perceived after the Second World War, from traitor, to hero, and then martyr. The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising recently opened a cause to examine sainthood. I’d like to think my work had something to do with that.
The other unusual object in my office is a ceramic white rose which the students at Oakton Community College in Illinois presented to me after I gave a talk about the White Rose. Both the poster and white rose afford me the opportunity to discuss my life’s work.
- Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
I have many German and German-American cookbooks and love German food! However, the only dish I can cook without a recipe is Spätzle. Flammkuchen comes in at a close second.
- Who has inspired you the most in your career and why?
My husband, parents, and grandparents inspired me the most and encouraged me to pursue my passion, which is everything German. I am also grateful to my Doktorvater, Marc Silberman, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was always so helpful, patient, and supportive which propelled me to finish my dissertation. I learned resilience from him which has allowed me to flourish in my career and life’s work.
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