Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

During a semester-abroad experience at International University Bremen in Germany, Kristin Rhebergen ’06 (Hopewell, N.J.) became fascinated with the life of a concentration camp survivor who later became a leader in the German pacifist movement.

A double major in international affairs and German, Rhebergen will share her honors thesis, “Pastor Martin Niemoeller: The Pacifist,” at the 20th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in April. She is among 40 Lafayette students whose research has been accepted for presentation there.

“I’m excited about presenting,” she says. “There are so many different people there, and I think it’s really neat that Lafayette supports so many of its students by sending them to NCUR. Lafayette students’ research is very well-accepted at that conference.”

Under the guidance of Rado Pribic, Oliver Edwin Williams Professor of Languages and chair of the international affairs and Russian and East European studies programs, Rhebergen has examined Niemoeller’s work using German and English texts.

“I’m looking at the pacifist movement after World War II and also at the trends in Niemoeller’s work,” explains Rhebergen. “He was very anti-military and very anti-rearmament, but he also fought for the reunification of East and West Germany.”

She discovered Niemoeller last year while spending the semester studying in Germany with Pribic and 12 other Lafayette students. Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp located outside Berlin that operated from 1938 until it was liberated in 1945, features an exhibit about Niemoeller in the former inmate’s cell.

One of the founders of the Confessing Church, Niemoeller became a leader in the German pacifist movement. Although he opposed West Germany’s decision to rearm, he supported German reunification.

“To me, that was interesting,” says Rhebergen. “I’ve always been interested in international relations and the way religion is integrated into societies.”

Her research on Niemoeller has provided her with the opportunity to explore multiple interests, including international affairs, German language and culture, and religion.

“What’s impressive is that she’s not looking at theory only,” observes Pribic. “She can speak German, and she was in Germany when she became interested in Niemoeller. Her knowledge of German and studying abroad opened another degree in her research.”

Pribic points out that Rhebergen’s parents, Rev. Paul Rhebergen ’73 and Rev. Dr. Marianne Okkema Rhebergen ’75, are Presbyterian ministers. (Her aunt Julie Okkema ’76 and sister Debbie Rhebergen ’03also attended Lafayette.)

“It’s a unique thing about Kristin that this thesis connects her to her family commitment to religion,” he notes.

Pribic speaks highly of Rhebergen’s academic abilities and commitment to intensive research.

“She’s very conscientious and very enthusiastic about her subject,” he says. “It is always a pleasure to have a student who is motivated about both her majors.”

He is pleased that she will present her research at the April conference.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students,” he says. “It has to be high-quality research in order to be accepted, and it makes them aware of the significance of their research. It also prepares them for graduate school, where they will have to be articulate in their presentations and in-depth in their research.”

Rhebergen hopes that her thesis research will help her pursue a career in foreign policy and a graduate degree in international affairs. She also has learned a great deal from working with Pribic, who is her academic adviser as well as thesis adviser.

“He’s such an incredibly smart man, and he’s been so many places,” she says. “It’s interesting to get his perspective on things.”

Rhebergen is a member of Alpha Phi sorority, the Sigma Iota Rho international affairs honor society, and German honor society Delta Phi Alpha. She is a tour guide for the admissions office. She also joined 15 classmates in representing Poland at the annual Mid-Atlantic European Union Simulation in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of Hopewell Valley Central High School.

Honors theses are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year.

Categorized in: Academic News