2022 RGSLL Department Newsletter

Department of Romance, German and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences seal - a student sitting in a square in Madrid.

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Alumni Class Notes
Faculty Kudos
In Memoriam

Message From the Chair

Masha Belenky

Dear Romance, German, and Slavic Languages and Literatures Alumni,

This year has been challenging like no other, with the pandemic continuing to upend the way we go about teaching and conducting research. Yet RGSLL continues to be a vibrant community of scholars, teachers and students deeply committed to a better understanding of French and Francophone, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Latin American languages, literatures and cultures. Whether in-person or virtually, RGSLL faculty have been actively engaged in a wide variety of scholarly activities: publishing books and articles; hosting conferences, events and workshops; and, of course, teaching and mentoring students. RGSLL faculty continue to create a rigorous and nurturing learning environment for our students. We are very pleased to share with you some of the highlights in this newsletter.

In the past year, our department organized several highly successful workshops for students and faculty. In April 2021, we invited RGSLL alumni for a Virtual Career Panel. In the fall, we hosted both Career Pathways Through Languages, a workshop on how to market skills acquired through our majors and minors, and a separate workshop on how to successfully write a resumé. For the third year in a row, we also hosted an exciting virtual faculty seminar series, Literature@GW, featuring work in progress or recent publications of literature faculty from across GW.

Thank you for your continued support and engagement. We are so grateful to all of you who made donations to the department, participated in workshops, gave guest lectures and stayed involved in a myriad of ways. We would love to hear from you! Please stay connected and share your news with our RGSLL community.

With warm wishes,

Masha Belenky
Department Chair

Back to top

Department Spotlights

Lynn Westwater




Pandemic Lit: Can Classics Teach COVID Lessons?

For her Pandemics in Italian Literature class, Director of Italian Language and Literature Lynn Westwater scoured classic novels and centuries-old chronicles about disease outbreaks for stories that reflect today’s struggles. Her class was featured in CCAS Spotlight.


CCAS researchers share how the riots at the Capitol connect to different areas of study. (Courtesy photo)




In Wake of Capitol Riots, is Democracy Under Siege?

A panel of Columbian College professors hosted by the GW Humanities Center analyzed how the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection was seeded by factors such as white supremacy, truth distortion, anti-Semitism and antagonism to immigrants and people of color. The virtual event was covered by GWToday.

 Back to top

Alumni Class Notes

  • Cathy Alsop, BA ’71, lives in Connecticut after retiring from many years in the international investment world. She remarried this summer and spends her time gardening and keeping up with her grandchildren. 
  • C. Joel Block, BA ’68, sells exotic high-end watches. He is proud to say that his daughter, Marcelline Block, has a PhD from Princeton and teaches at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. 
  • Yvonne Durbin, BA ’13, returned to D.C. after working for One Acre Fund in Rwanda for three years. She runs the Strategic Investments Capital Innovation Lab at Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a community development finance institution.
  • Andrew Hesbacher, BA ’20 won the Fulbright ETAs and is studying in Germany for the year.
  • Jesse Juarez, BA ’05, taught ESL in Japan for four years, worked for the Institute of International Education for seven years in Washington, D.C., and now lives in San Francisco. He is grateful for all of his French language and literature training. 
  • Sarah Moga, BA ’13, continues her fundraising career at Saint Peter's Church, a 150-year-old German Lutheran church located in Manhattan. She is also working towards her C1 diploma from the NYC Goethe Institute.
  • Jake Neuberger, BA ’22 published a bilingual interview with Mexican author Fernanda Melchor in Latin American Literature Today, a project that originated in Professor Cuellar's Queer Latin America class as a creative assignment, addressing issues of violence, disability, gender and sexuality among other topics.
  • Nancy Rogers, MA ’70, PhD ’74, is happily retired from the National Endowment for the Humanities, where she was the director of the division of public programs. She is currently translating a novel by French writer George Sand, on whose work she wrote her doctoral dissertation.
  • Simon Saliby, BA ‘22 was awarded a Luther-Rice Undergraduate Research Award and is currently completing the research project for his honors thesis “Examining the Culture of Citizen Activism and Renewable Energy Cooperatives in Germany’s Energy Transition” with faculty mentor Dr. Gonglewski.
  • Mikeala Sparks, BA ‘17 won the Fulbright ETAs and is studying in Germany for the year.
  • Jennifer Vitek, BA ’13, resides in the Denver-metro area and is the director of conferences and events for the Kidney Cancer Association.

 Back to top

Faculty Kudos





  • In fall 2021, Margaret Gonglewski taught her new CCAS Dean’s Seminar titled Green Germany: Sustainability Meister or Myth? She also published the chapter "Cross-Disciplinarily at the Core: Teaching Sustainability in a Business German Course" with GW School of Business Professor Anna Helm in the volume Education for Sustainable Development in Foreign Language Learning
  • Pauline Goul organized the student workshop “Careers Pathway through Languages” with Professor Ashley Voeks from Texas Tech University.   
  • Sarah-Kay Hurst received a 2021 Bender award. 
  • Peter Rollberg published The Cinema of Soviet Kazakhstan 1925–1991, a monograph tracing the history of Kazakh filmmaking from its conception as a Soviet cultural construction project to its peak as fully-fledged national cinema to its eventual re-imagining as an art-house phenomenon.
  • Abdourahman Waberi received the French Academy’s Grand Médaille de la Francophonie (the Grand Medal of Francophonie), which is awarded to the current top francophone writer. 
  • Lynn Westwater continues to co-direct the GW Humanities Center with American Studies Professor Jamie Cohen-Cole. The center was featured in CCAS Spotlight.

 Back to top

In Memoriam


It is with deep sadness that we share the passing of Dr. Richard Rogan, professional lecturer in German literature, who worked in RGSLL’s German Literature program since 2008. Dr. Rogan held a PhD from UCLA in Germanic languages and literatures with a specialization in German literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. He previously taught German languages and literatures at Concordia College, Northern Illinois University, Gettysburg College, Georgetown University and Gonzaga College High School. Beginning in 1980, Dr. Rogan was a member of the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies, where he taught German to American classical singers and instrumentalists in Graz, Austria. For several years, he also served on the Examination Development Committee for the AP Exam in German.

Back to top