Josephine Ockrassa graduated from SSU in 2019 with a BA in German Cultural Studies, and a minor in Music. She is currently completing her Master’s Degree at SSU in History. Here are her responses to Professor Grobbel’s questions:
While you were an undergraduate at SSU, did you have any idea of what you wanted to do after graduation?
When I enrolled at SSU, I was confident I knew where my education path would take me. I wanted to pursue a degree in music performance with the goal of completing an M.A. in music history. Little did I expect that eight years later I would be defending my thesis for my M.A. in History at SSU. During my second year in the music program, I was encouraged by an exchange student from Germany to late enroll in my first German language course and attend a study abroad info night. I was fortunate that my fee waiver applied to a study abroad program in Germany. I fell in love with German culture and history during my year abroad and decided to switch my major to German Cultural Studies. The classes I took abroad applied directly to the program at SSU. I was able to complete my BA in 4.5 years, despite changing majors in my fourth year. I was still able to apply my previous credits to a minor in music and was encouraged to combine my passions for my senior project. My dual interest in German history and music culminated in a bachelor’s thesis on political resistance and the censorship of music under the Third Reich that I published in the Sonoma State History Journal.
How did your studies and activities in the German Program influence your graduate academic and/or professional choices?
During my time in the German Cultural Studies Program, I took advantage of the interdisciplinary studies element. It afforded me the freedom to explore different academic interests while ultimately providing structure. The program encouraged my exploration of various aspects of German culture and history. It was because of German Cultural Studies that I decided to pursue an advanced degree and career in History. Many of my peers in the program took up a minor or second major in Environmental Studies, Political Science, Global Studies, Art, and Music, and combined them with German Studies.
You lived and studied abroad: how did that experience impact your academic studies?
In 2016 I left for a "Learn German" immersion program at the University of Tübingen through CSU International Programs. The courses I took abroad transferred directly to the German Program at SSU. I fell in love with studying the culture and transferred from the Music Performance program to the German Cultural Studies Program. Studying abroad opened my mind to opportunities that I never thought I could pursue! My year abroad was challenging, but I’m grateful that it pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to follow a more fulfilling career path.
How did you find your internship? What did you do?
I discovered internship opportunities through my peers in the German Program. I interned for a year as the Hospitality Manager with the German School of Marin. My internship afforded me the opportunity to network with professionals involved in the international community in Northern California. I built lasting professional connections and I was encouraged to ask questions and explore career choices where I could apply my German language and culture knowledge.
Tell us about your trajectory after SSU. How did you decide on the graduate program?
During my undergrad, I was encouraged by a professor to apply to the History MA program at SSU. I am currently studying 20th-century German history and writing my thesis on the German government’s handling of Nazi-looted art. I’ve spent my post-grad interning at the Northwestern Information Center, the Healdsburg Historical Society, and the UC Davis Museum of Anthropology, where I’ve studied museum handling and archival practices. After the completion of my M.A. I intend to pursue a career in museum sciences.
Did your particular major in German Cultural Studies help you in moving toward your career goals?
Yes, it was through the German Cultural Studies program that I found a community of peers and advisors that encouraged me to pursue my academic passions. This BA program pushed my exploration of myself and my capabilities. Before joining the German Cultural Studies, I had a lot of self-doubt about my abilities. The program provided the structure I was missing to achieve my academic and career goals. The foreign language teaching assistants inspired a lot of my interest in the program. Through foreign film nights and German cultural experiences, I formed close friendships with my peers and FLTAs.
What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
I see myself completing an M.A. in Museum Studies and working as a museum curator!
What advice do you have for current students?
I encourage current students to focus on an academic path that will lead them to a fulfilling career. It’s tough to pursue an academic degree these days, and it’s crucial that you’re investing in a program that encourages and supports your growth. SSU can be a great place to explore your academic passions. Take advantage of your professor’s knowledge and seek out mentorships that will help you grow. Don’t be afraid to change your focus. You’re never too old to change paths and explore something fulfilling!
Anything else you want to add?
It took a bunch of little decisions for me to realize my true academic and career goals. When I reflect on the past seven years at SSU, I realize that 18 was a young age to try and figure out my entire future. Now is the time to explore everything that interests you and find the programs that will encourage your growth!
Please reach out to me if you have any questions regarding the German Cultural Studies Program, study abroad, or the History M.A. program! You may also find other useful resources to see how I've applied my experiences in the special major program to pursue a career: https://www.linkedin.com/in/josephineockrassa/