Alumna Emily Goodling prunes grapevines by the Rhine River. Emily Goodling | Courtesy

As a freshman, Emily Goodling approached Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of German Fred Yaniga at the freshman dessert to tell him that she, not sat­isfied with the English trans­lation, wanted to read Thomas Mann in the original German.

“It’s kind of that sense of never being com­pletely sat­isfied that really describes Emily,” Yaniga said. “She always wanted more, she always wanted to learn more. Wanting to learn German for that purpose was just the first indi­cation I had about her nature — her inquis­itive nature — and her aca­demic fire.”

After two years of living in Germany, Goodling ’14 has just moved back to the U.S. to pursue her doc­torate in German studies at Stanford Uni­versity, hoping ulti­mately to teach at a school like Hillsdale.

After just two years of studying the lan­guage at Hillsdale, Goodling learned to speak German at the level of an edu­cated native speaker. Her German is now “indis­tin­guishable” from that of a native speaker, Pro­fessor of German Eberhard Geyer said.

After expe­ri­encing Germany during Hillsdale’s summer pro­grams, Goodling said she “fell in love with Germany.” She said knew she would have to spend time there to gain more knowledge of the lan­guage and lit­er­ature.

She grad­uated from Hillsdale as salu­ta­torian, and was offered both the Ful­bright and Deutscher Akademischer Aus­tausch­dienst German Aca­demic Exchange Service schol­ar­ships, both highly com­pet­itive. She turned down the Ful­bright and moved to the town of Mainz to pursue her master’s degree in com­par­ative lit­er­ature. Mainz sits on the border of wine country. There, she met the man she would marry, a wine­maker.

She also dis­covered German theater, which plays a crucial role in the country’s culture. Even in Mainz, a com­par­a­tively small city, the theater put on per­for­mances every night. Sub­si­dized by the gov­ernment, theater com­panies can afford to take artistic liberty and explore dif­ficult ques­tions.

“German theater has a level of political awareness and involvement that you don’t see in America,” Goodling said.

Plays and operas often explore social and political hot topics in “hard-hitting” ways.

“Those things were very exciting to me, to see this con­nection between some­thing in the arts and human­ities like theater, and then the real world of political policy,” she said.

When Geyer remembers Goodling, he said that in a letter of rec­om­men­dation he wrote for his past student, “My first line was, ‘Emily Goodling is the best student I ever taught in 36 years at Hillsdale College and nine years at State Uni­versity of New York.’”

Geyer noted Goodling’s aptitude to seeing con­nec­tions across dis­ci­plines.

“When she looked at a lit­erary text, she looked at it from a musical, logical point of view,” he said. “So when we studied a certain author, she noticed that there was almost a sym­phonic structure in the text, a thing I’ve never seen.”

She said having a grounding in the Western her­itage from her courses at Hillsdale “was really helpful as I went to Europe where in many places — and espe­cially in the theater — that European Western her­itage is being cri­tiqued and is subject to ques­tioning.”

Goodling said Germany changed and broadened her per­spective on culture, and she hopes to to pass on this knowledge through teaching.

“I think that America, unfor­tu­nately, has in many areas a sort of insular or iso­lated per­spective on things that are hap­pening in the world, espe­cially because it’s such a big country,” she said. “That expe­rience of living abroad really gave me per­spective that I wouldn’t have been able to gain oth­erwise.”