Gerda is head of department and has responsibility for making sure the student experience is as exciting and intellectually stimulating as possible.
What’s the best bit of your job as the Head of Department of Modern Languages and Cultures?
The best bit of being Head of Department is being able to follow a student’s progress from the first day of orientation week all the way through to graduation. It is very special to share this moment when all the hard work is recognised and rewarded.
What’s the most exciting thing about teaching undergraduate students?
It is so great to see the enthusiasm of undergraduates, who embark on a journey of discovery – which is what studying a foreign language and culture ultimately amounts to. It is inspiring to observe the transformation that takes place in students, in particular when they return from a year abroad.
What was the highlight of the academic year in 2015/2016?
The highlight was the department’s significant rise in The Guardian’s university league table with the second highest possible score for ‘value added’. This score reflects how much difference our degree makes in our students lives, which to me is the most important measure. Education is about changing lives, and our score shows that we are changing our students’ lives for the better.
What do you hope to achieve in 2016/2017?
I hope to achieve a successful transition to our new curriculum, stimulating and inspiring our students to reflect upon major social, cultural and political issues in their foreign language. I hope to achieve further recognition for the department in a national environment that is often difficult for Languages, and I hope to celebrate many staff successes, both in terms of student appreciation and their research.
What’s been the biggest student success in your time working at the University of Westminster?
There are many different types of success, and they all differ depending on the individual. To me, the biggest success is to see a student’s transformation from a reticent and shy young person into a confident communicator in one or two foreign languages over the course of the degree. The biggest success to me is the changes in an individual’s prospects as a result of taking a degree in languages and seeing them make the most of these improved prospects.
What makes you passionate about the study of Languages?
Where do I even start? Studying a foreign language and its culture literally opens up new worlds to us. It opens doors that remain closed for the majority of people. It increases our understanding of humanity, its variety and diversity. Knowledge of foreign languages and culture make us excellent communicators and mediators who can build bridges of understanding in today’s global and often divided world.
What advice would you give to new students joining us in 2016/2017?
Study hard. Engage with your fellow students. Make the most of all the opportunities we offer you. And most importantly, talk to us! Let us know how we can help you. We are here for you both inside and outside the classroom to support you on this exciting journey.