Writer-in-Residence Program brings students new experiences

For over 20 years the Max Kade Foundation has funded the Writer-in-Residence Program at Allegheny College. The program funds a professional and often renowned German writer to live on campus and teach a two-credit, seven week long, 300 level creative writing German class.

The writers are hand-picked by the two German professors: Professor Peter Ensberg and Professor Jochen Richter, both with the modern and classical languages department. This year, the writer was Ulrich Schlotmann.

Schlotmann is an award winning writer who has been writing professionally since 1986. This was his first time teaching but he said he found it quite easy. He was relieved to be able to teach in German and said he did a lot of preparation for each class.

Matthew Turner, ’15, took Schlotmann’s German 370 class and said it went really well. Despite Schlotmann not being a teacher, Turner said Schlotmann knew what he was talking about and although the German was a bit advanced at times, Turner found it a nice challenge.

Ensberg said that the program is a great opportunity for the students. They are able to have an accomplished writer of fiction who can teach students creative writing in a way that regular faculty cannot. The faculty hold doctorate and can teach scholarly writing, he said. However they are unable to teach a creative writing class to the standard a professional writer can.

“It adds an aspect of creativity to the program,” Ensberg said. “It’s very enjoyable for students to have a real writer from a real German speaking country to learn from.”

Emily Kluck, ’15, said she took the class in the hopes that it would be different from the other upper level German classes.

“It was nice. You got to see a different perspective on stuff. It was taught so differently. It opened our eyes to what else there was,” she said.

Allegheny College is one of three colleges in America that benefits from the Writer-in-Residence program. The college has to formally re-apply every year but they never have a problem getting the application renewed.

“All sides participating are happy and so Max Kade are happy as well,” Ensberg said.

The Max Kade Foundation was established in 1944 and, according to its mission statement, it takes a leading role in promoting Germanic studies and transatlantic exchange through the support of existing programs and new initiatives related to German studies which encourage a positive relationship between German speaking countries and the United States.

As well as funding the Writer-in-Residence Program, the Foundation also gave the College a grant of $500000 to build the international wing of North Village. This building allows for all the international houses to come together and establish a certain coherence between them, said Ensberg. This is where the writer-in-residence lives during his or her seven weeks at Allegheny.

Both Schlotmann and his students said that having him live in the same building was definitely helpful in developing relationships. Schlotmann said that living in North Village C with the students worked out well.

“I am much older of course, but I was prepared with ear buds for parties on the weekend,” Schlotmann said. “Yes, it was beneficial to live with the students. You see them every day; it builds a relationship.”

Schlotmann said he had a great time and would like to come back and do a similar program. Turner said he would definitely take the class again as well.

“I would definitely recommend it,” Turner said. “It’s hard to say because each year it’s a totally different person…it might be harder, not as interesting, but it’s a good idea to at least try it.”