Magdalena Tarnawska Senel, Ph.D.
Director of the Language Program
Magdalena Tarnawska Senel received a Magister of German Philology degree at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland; an M.A. in German and a Ph.D. in German at the University of California, Irvine. She also studied German literature and linguistics at the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Technischen Hochschule in Aachen, Germany.
She has researched and taught many aspects of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century German culture, literature, social history, and gender studies at the University of California, Irvine; University of Colorado, Boulder; DePauw University in Indiana; University of Wyoming in Laramie; Oklahoma University, Norman; and University of California, Los Angeles.
Her research culminated in two publications, a book, ‘…und Medea war eine Ärztin’: Constructions of Femininity in Public Debates about Medical Education for Women in Germany and Austria between 1870 and 1910 (2007), and a book chapter, “The First Generation of German Female Students: Autobiographical Perspectives on the Contested Space of Gender and Knowledge” in Dominant Culture and the Education of Women (2008).
By conducting research and teaching at UCLA, she currently pursues her three academic passions: (1) language teaching methodology and pedagogy; (2) intersections of literature, politics, migration, and pop-culture in contemporary Germany; and (3) teaching languages and humanities for social justice. She presented papers at several national and international conferences on teaching languages for social justice and teaching the Syrian refugee crises.
At UCLA, she teaches German language courses at all levels, including literature, film, culture, and business German. Her approach to teaching is informed by cultural studies (interdisciplinary focus, social critique, pressing political issues, analysis of popular culture and daily practices) and critical pedagogy (education as a means to a just society and to the emancipation of underprivileged/oppressed social groups). Her teaching philosophy and practice align with bell hooks’ approach to education as “teaching to transgress” against racial, sexual, and class boundaries.
As her most enriching experiences derive from interacting and engaging with different cultures in a critical, analytical, and also casual way; she is very passionate about encouraging her students to learn German language, explore German literature and culture, and travel to German-speaking countries.