Earning a Master’s Degree or Doctorate in graduate school is famously challenging: demanding seminars, tens of thousands of pages of reading, exams, and a final 200-page term paper (The Dissertation),, which is expected to be an “original contribution to knowledge.” These challenges inspire our incredible graduate students.We asked them, “ What was your most inspiring moment in 2016-17?” Their responses are amazing. They are filled with “Aha” moments, realizations, personal growth, increasing intellectual confidence, achievement, teamwork, and original contributions to knowledge. Our department becomes a second home for graduate students, undergraduates, and faculty alike.
It's hard to answer which was the most inspiring moment of the academic year, because there were so many, but if I have to choose one, it would be the moment in Old Icelandic while we were plowing through Völuspá, when I suddenly realized that it could be read as an initiation ritual/ritual drama. I had this realization in part because of the thought provoking lecture I heard Professor Anatoly Lieberman deliver as the keynote address at the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies conference in Minneapolis in May 2017. Professor LIeberman pointed out the possibility of ritual theater elements in the sagas, and there I saw it. Exciting!
I had many inspiring moments during the year 2016-2017, but I think if I had to choose one moment it would be the graduation ceremony in June. It became evident then what a wealth of knowledge, experience and energy the faculty and students at the UW Scandinavian Institution possess. I am very grateful to be part of this group. I am excited for the upcoming academic year.
The academic year 2016-17 offered many inspiring moments, but something that really stands out to me is a process rather than a moment. From the end of the fall quarter through the winter and spring quarters, I worked together with multiple UW departments and centers as well as non-UW organizations to bring a group of Sámi scholars from Sweden and Norway to UW in June. This process was an amazing experience of academia at its best: the learning opportunities and extraordinary encounters and resulting collaborations produced before, during and after the events in June. From beginning to end, this will continue to inspire me throughout my dissertation research in Sweden."
This summer my family took a vacation to Iceland. Members of our family had emigrated in the 1870’s from Northeastern Iceland, so we decided it was time to go see some of the old farmsteads and churches that my great-great-grandfathers left behind when they were only slightly older than I. My entire family came along, all 17 of us packed into three Toyota Landcruisers. Taking in the sights as we moved clockwise around the island, we found natural beauty and rich history along the way.
On the first day, we stopped outside of the town of Reykholt at the museum dedicated to Snorri Sturluson. It was a wonderfully put together museum that showcased the care and monumental effort Icelanders and Scandinavianists have put into researching and preserving history and culture. A walk through the bookstore housed in the museum gift shop revealed the role our department plays in that process as several of the titles in the reference section cited UW professors, thanked UW professors for their assistance, or were authored by past and present members of the department! The experience was a fantastic reminder of what can be accomplished we work together, and how how others value our contribution.
It's difficult for me to settle on just one inspiring moment. I feel that my experience of the 2016-2017 year was a collection of many inspiring moments, each as poignant as the next. These were "aha" moments in seminars and lectures when I suddenly came to understand an important angle or argument that I hadn't grasped before. These were also wonderful moments of camaraderie with others in the department at events, our weekly Fika, or down in the graduate student offices. To pick just one moment hardly seems possible, but collectively these moments make up a year of horizon-expansion and multifaceted learning that I am truly grateful for.
Jan Krogh Nielsen
My most inspiring moment was probably the whole year of 2016-17. I embarked on the journey towards an old dream of mine: Writing a Ph.D. dissertation. As a part of that journey, I had many remarkable experiences during my studies at the UW: My coursework was inspiring, and I thoroughly enjoyed the academic work. I was also lucky. For example, I took a class from Professor, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, who, it turned out, was a direct student of the eminent French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. The writings of Levinas are central to my dissertation. Levinas writes about ethics, how we treat each other. I use his writings to raise the question, “How does 20th-century Scandinavian literature want us to treat each other?” Professor Borch-Jacobsen joined my PhD committee along with Professor Lotta Gavel Adams and my advisor, Professor Marianne T. Stecher. Overall, 2016-17 was a very productive and inspiring academic year, and I look forward to continuing the work towards the PhD degree.
Moving to a new city where you have to get to know people, get to know new teachers, a new program, and new ideas is hard. It takes some time to feel comfortable and at home. One of the most important things for me this year was having a place that I could return to over and over again, where I could feel calm, process ideas and experiences and get some perspective. For me that place was Green Lake. I would say I put some roots down there, worked through ideas by walking, noticed and enjoyed the different seasons of the year, and even developed stronger relationships with people by going to that place. And now that Seattle feels more like home, I'm excited to continue the program this coming year.
In addition to working on my dissertation, I was trying to build a stronger professional network during 2016-2017. Part of my research focuses on topics in Baltic cinema, and I decided to organize a panel on depictions of everyday life in Soviet and Post-Soviet Baltic films at the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) 2017 conference. It was really inspiring to receive so many enthusiastic replies from film scholars in all three Baltic countries and in the U.S. We ended up with two full panels on Baltic films -- something that has not happened before at the ASEEES conference.
My most inspiring moment of this past year was when I attended the Sixth Biennial Graduate Translation Conference. Being able to take my translation work from the classroom into a community of fellow graduate literary translators was not only beneficial for my work, but also inspiring. I connected with other students working on similar projects and issues.
Last school year was my first at UW, once again far away from home, and that means it was naturally both exciting and scary. I can remember the feeling when I had conversations in each of my five languages (Estonian, English, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish) in one day at our department for the first time – it was both inspiring and reassuring. There are not many places where one could randomly do that. And I thought maybe I was not that far away from home after all.