Silke Graefnitz: Bringing Research into Action

Silke Graefnitz is a fifth year PhD candidate in LCL’s German section, specializing in human rights, intercultural studies, and German literature. Silke completed her BA and MA at the University of Tübingen, not far from where she was born in Southern Germany. Her university

studies sprang from her passion for literature and learning languages: she has studied French, English, and Japanese in addition to her native German. In her mind, learning a language is beneficial in working towards intercultural competence. As her studies advanced at the University of Tübingen, she focused on comparative approaches to topics including human rights, fascist ideologies and women in theater and literature.

Between 2010 and 2013, Silke supplemented her studies by working part-time in international departments at Mercedes-Benz and Bosch. Her positions at Bosch and Mercedes reflected her academic research interests and allowed her to apply these interests to professional contexts. Silke was responsible for leading intercultural training sessions which provided an overview of cultural differences as well as techniques for communicating and collaborating so that the companies’ intercultural projects could flourish. She says that providing intercultural training and working with colleagues across the globe was one of her “favorite things to do”.

Since arriving at UConn in 2013, Silke has continued research in cross-cultural studies and intercultural competence. She collaborated with a group of colleagues on a project under the supervision of Professor Manuela Wagner in which they redesigned foreign language curriculum. Silke contributed to a book about the process and the findings of this project, titled Teaching Intercultural Competence Across Age Range, which was published in November, 2017. After her first two years at UConn, Silke took on an assistantship with Community Outreach, the Human Rights Institute and First Year Programs. During this time, she worked with the Human Rights and Action Learning Community which promotes student engagement and leadership as well as community outreach. She has taught undergraduate courses on these subjects and has co-organized events such as workshops around the Implicit Bias Exhibition and the Race and Revolution Art Exhibition on multiple UConn campuses.

Her current literary scolarship focuses on war, self-writing and female agency. This work involves analyzing texts in which women, especially those from marginalized cultural groups, bring their life stories to a broader context by writing. She is in the final stages of writing her dissertation Writing the Self, War Studies and Human Rights in German Literature. Silke is dedicated to translating her research into action, not only by way of teaching, but also by volunteering, engaging with community and listening to the community’s voices. She points out

that it is one thing to analyze and write about how women seize their voices, but another to actually listen to them. “That’s what I love about my research,” she says. “my dissertation is very specific, but I live it every day”.

By Claire Boers