Graduate Student Spotlights

Meet our Graduate Students







Thanks to our committed faculty and excellent funding, research and teaching opportunities, we attract an engaged international graduate student community to our MA and PhD programs.

For a full list of current graduate students, please visit our Graduate Student Profiles. You can also view our Graduate Alumni Spotlights.

people_students_anja-nowak_2013Anja Nowak
Killam Doctoral Scholarship 2013 ($60,000), Four-Year Doctoral Fellowship

Original Hometown: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Degree & Program: PhD in Germanic Studies
Co-Editor of Volume 9 of the new Critical Walter Benjamin Edition and Author of: Elemente einer Ästhetik des Theatralen in Adornos Ästhetischer Theorie. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012. [Read the Review by Jonas Leonhard Tinius]

Research Topic: Issues of Spatiality in the Context of the Holocaust
Began UBC Graduate Program in the year: 2012

Research description: My dissertation project will approach the Holocaust from a spatial perspective. In Ghettos, as well as in Concentration and Death Camps, the Nazis created very extreme spatial configurations, that impacted the lives of millions of people. Their spatial policies affected the living conditions and the allocation of space in cities, towns and rural communities, as well as the population structure of entire countries. It shifted people, created voids, as well as enormous densities. All of these phenomena will be carefully analyzed; the main focus will lie on the question, how victims experienced the spatial conditions that were imposed on them.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree? Intensively working with literary and philosophical texts gives me great pleasure. My studies and the following work at the Goethe University Frankfurt led to the realization that my love for theoretical work would be best placed in an academic context. Besides, I am convinced that the studies of Humanities hold a fundamental value for every society and that critical thought, creativity, as well as cultural and artistic productivity are indispensable.

Why did you decide to study at UBC? My decision to study at UBC was mostly influenced by its open-mindedness and its incredibly welcoming atmosphere. Also, my Department is amazingly versatile and dedicated. It allows diverse research focuses and the pursuit of creative and also less conventional questions. Overall, it offers a supportive and inspiring environment and the input of excellent scholars. Last but not least, the beautiful city of Vancouver added a great deal to my decision.

For you, what was the best surprise about Graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver? I was amazed by the friendliness, the tolerance and the diversity of the city. It was also great to see how much appreciation and support is to be found at UBC.

What advice do you have for new graduate students coming to UBC/Vancouver? Enjoy the beautiful city and the stunning nature around you. Don’t let the rain scare you. Buy waterproof clothes and rubber boots. Enjoy the fantastic food. Make use of the offered support and don’t worry too much if you feel lost at times – that’s normal and it’ll pass. Enjoy your work.

What has winning a major award meant to you? Winning this major award is very motivating. I’m grateful for the support, the recognition and the encouragement this means. The award will open up great possibilities and will make my studies even more enjoyable and prolific. It facilitates the contact to other research institutions and allows the essential study at archives all over the world (such as the Walter Benjamin Archive in Berlin or the German Radio Archive in Frankfurt). Also the contact to the academic community will become much easier.


Stephanie Dreier
Original Hometown
: Bern, Switzerlandcropped-Stephanie-Dreier.jpg
Degree & Program: PhD in Germanic Studies (transfer from MA program)
Research Topic: Fantasy as Escapism, Migration and Bildung: Images of Alterity in Fantasy Fiction
Research Supervisor: Dr. Steven Taubeneck
Research Location: CENES department
Began UBC Graduate Program in the year: 2013

Research description:
My project explores the intersections of fantasy literature, intercultural exchange and interpersonal conflicts. I claim that escapism is a form of mental migration that confronts readers with images of alterity by introducing them to other cultures, traditions and gender-relations. Thereby readers are forced to reconsider their own identities that lead to personal development in form of rethinking one's perception of otherness. As a result, I argue that reading fantasy literature, or, in other words, escapism through fantasy fiction has its unrecognized benefits.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research? By comparing and contrasting works of fantasy fiction, I aim to explore how these narratives are underwritten by different attitudes towards migration and alterity within each particular culture. I argue that while escaping through fantasy fiction the reader is compelled to reimagine her or his perception of otherness: by migrating and coming to understand cultural disparity, characters in fantasy fiction are forced to reflect on their personalities and grow and so are the readers. In other words, in my project I offer a novel approach to escapism as a pathway to self-development rather than as a fall into degradation.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree? I have always loved literature and been interested in it from the scientific point of view. My goal is to get a PhD degree and subsequently become a researcher and professor of German studies. I think that in the future my work on German literature of the 20th century will contribute to the scholarly community.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?
The department I wanted to study at had a MA program which fit me very well, and I was interested in the research the professors of the CENES department were doing. I also fell in love with the campus of University of British Columbia since the very first time I saw its pictures.

For you, what was the best surprise about Graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver? Living in a graduate student residence (Green College) turned out to be a great experience with many surprises.

What advice do you have for new graduate students coming to UBC/Vancouver?
It’s one of the best places to be – enjoy it!

Award or Scholarship Held: Four-Year Fellowship

What has winning an award meant to you? At first, I could not believe it. It meant the world, and encouraged me to do my very best.

Laura Isakovcropped-Laura.jpg
Original Hometown:
Maple Grove, Minnesota
Degree & Program: MA in Germanic Studies
Research Topic: TBA
Research Location: CENES department
Began UBC Graduate Program in the year: 2014

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?
I hope that my research will contribute to the scholarly community in addition to facilitating a deeper understanding of the complex social narratives underlying German history and literature. I want to inform about the past and inspire an appreciation of the culture and language.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I decided to pursue a graduate degree after finally acknowledging my passion for higher learning and that German language and culture is personally important to me. After volunteering in schools and working as a college tutor, I knew that I wanted to teach at the university level and participate in research.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?
Fortunately, I was already living in Vancouver, because UBC has one of the leading Germanic Studies programs in Canada.

What advice do you have for new graduate students coming to UBC/Vancouver?
For new graduate students coming to UBC, I would advise that they get involved right away. This has given me a deeper understanding of the university, provided networking opportunities, and made me feel like I truly belong to UBC as a whole. The GSA, the union, and other groups on campus are always in need of volunteers, and these experiences are both useful and rewarding!

For you, what was the best surprise about Graduate life, about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The best surprise is the extent to which I can truly make my graduate experience my own. At the same time, many of the opportunities I’ve jumped into have demonstrated that it is up to me to determine the path of my learning. The double meaning of the UBC slogan, Tuum Est, has been not only apparent, but also the best surprise for me as a new graduate student.

What are your personal interests or hobbies?
My hobbies include community service, violin, creative writing, and sewing. I enjoy creating things with my hands.

What are your future career goals?
I am very excited to have received a position as a research assistant with the SSHRC Charlotte Schiller project. It is a goal of mine to combine my love of history and literature. I thoroughly enjoy both research and teaching.