Student Spotlight: Andrea Zach Defends her Dissertation

Student Spotlight: Andrea Zach Defends her Dissertation

Andrea Zach successfully defended her dissertation entitled "The Cultural Production of Heimat: Citizenship, Immigration and the Political Economy of Shared Frontiers in Europe" and worked with Prof. Paul Smith, Prof. Peter Mandaville and Prof. Marion Deshmukh. Esma Celebioglu conducted a short exchange with Andrea in which she reflects on her time at Mason.


How have your research interests changed from the time you began the PhD program to now, and in which direction do you envision your work moving upon graduating?

I have a M.A. in Sociology from GMU and received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Sociology in 2012 for my thesis entitled “National Cultural Memory: Political Discourse on German Leitkultur.” For my dissertation, I continued my research on German culture, but my focus shifted. I became interested in the ‘German’ idea of heimat and how the political and cultural discourse changed after German reunification.

What kinds of professional development did you pursue while a student and which do you think will best position you to get the job you want: publishing, presenting, teaching, service in the department, engagement in non-university service projects, acquiring particular research skills?

I consider myself very fortunate and also feel well-prepared to move on with my career in teaching and research. While I was a student at Mason, I have taught different level language and culture courses in German at MLC, a variety of undergraduate courses in different departments (BIS, NCC, Global Affairs, Cultural Studies department) and undergraduate and graduate courses at INTO-Mason. I also acquired administrative experience when I worked as the interim graduate program coordinator at Global Affairs and gained significant experience in conducting quantitative and qualitative research as both the lab supervisor at CSSR and as a researcher at IIR. In the summer of 2013, I was accepted as a fellow at the Trans-Atlantic Summer Institute in European Studies at the University of Minnesota. I also received a scholarship award from the Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative and teaching fellowships from the German department at GMU. I was presented papers at multiple conferences, which provided valuable research feedback and public speaking experience. Thanks to one of the conferences, I won an award and published the article.

What is one of your best memories from your time in the PhD program in Cultural Studies?

I don’t have one particular memory, but some of my best memories are the camaraderie with colleagues, getting new insights from conversations with professors and during classroom discussions, and the friendships I made.