Q&A With Prof. Mark Rectanus

CATEGORIES: October 2014

How did you decide to become a University professor?

It was by no means a straightforward career path. As an undergraduate, I was also interested in political science and history and I considered attending law school after graduation. My study abroad experience at the University of Tübingen, Germany transformed my outlook on life and intensified my interest in German language, life, and culture. While attending graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and understanding of German literature and culture. After completing my M.A. in German, I worked part-time in the publishing industry in both the U.S. and Germany. While on a Fulbright in Germany, I was fortunate to be able to meet some of the leading publishers who shaped contemporary German literature in the latter half of the 20th century.  That experience enabled me to see many connections between publishing and literature. I returned to Washington University to complete my doctoral dissertation dealing with paperback series in Germany. Although I considered a career in publishing, I was attracted by the opportunity to continue my research on print culture and share my interest in “all things German” with students, including my professional experience in publishing.

What do you consider to be your most notable professional achievement?

I was the founding director of the Languages and Cultures for Professions (LCP) program here at ISU. The LCP program has been a great collaboration with many colleagues in WLC including our current department chair Chad Gasta, with whom I co-direct the program, as well as with colleagues in other colleges. I certainly couldn’t have done it without these partnerships. It is gratifying to see increasing numbers of LCP alumni who are living and working globally. I also consider my book on the globalization of museums and corporate sponsorships (Culture Incorporated:  Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships) to be a notable achievement. It received attention in many different disciplines and in the media (e.g., on NPR and CBS Radio).

What has been your most memorable international experience?

My time in Munich, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar and later as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow remain memorable. Both experiences shaped my scholarship and allowed me to spend an extended period of time in Germany. For many years I also spent summers in Germany and Europe. Among the many conferences at which I’ve presented papers over the years, I particularly remember a fascinating conference in Copenhagen, Denmark that included leading international artists and museum curators. The opportunity to interact with the artists and curators was stimulating and motivated me to continue some new directions in my research, e.g., on museums and globalization.

What is the last foreign country you visited? Is there a place in that country that you recommend anyone to visit?

Not surprisingly, my last visit was to Germany, but I also regularly spend time in Amsterdam. In Germany, I frequently visit Munich, as well as relatives and friends in Frankfurt/Main and Heidelberg. I enjoy returning to the places I know, but also like exploring a few new places. For example, I visited Kassel, Germany for the “documenta” (an international exhibition of contemporary art) in 2012.  In general, I encourage students to get a rail pass and visit many different cities in Germany and Europe and then return to their favorite places for a longer stay if they have the opportunity.

What has been the most interesting or unusual course you taught at ISU?

It is hard to identify one course. I enjoy the variety and challenge of teaching a wide range of courses. Certainly one of the most innovative courses has been “Technology, Globalization, and Culture” – a course that I have co-taught with two colleagues in the College of Engineering, first Prof. Jim Bernard (who had the initial idea for the course) and now Prof. Jim Oliver. I also enjoy teaching “German for Business and Professions”, “German Film and Media Studies”, and “Germany Today”. I always learn a lot when I teach these courses and I enjoy seeing how students approach some of the issues that we explore in class. I’m also interested in how their views shift over time. For example, in my German Film class, many of the films that students found interesting five years ago are not the same ones that they find engaging today.