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During a semester-abroad experience at International University Bremen in Germany, Marquis Scholar Kari Mirkin’06 (Youngstown, Ohio) found a unique way to combine her fluency in German with her passion for history while researching German perspectives on the end of World War II.

A double major in German and history, Mirkin will share her findings at the 20th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April. She is among 40 Lafayette students whose research has been accepted for presentation there.

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, Mirkin is analyzing contemporary German perspectives on the conclusion of World War II in honors thesis research.

Mirkin first became interested in the topic last year while spending the semester studying in Germany with Pribic and 12 other Lafayette students. Germany’s 60th anniversary commemoration of the Third Reich’s unconditional surrender, which ended the war in Europe, took place during their time abroad. Mirkin also attended events at several concentration camps, where she spoke with Holocaust survivors and German citizens about whether they believed the war ended in liberation or defeat.

“It was an incredible opportunity for her to be there at that time,” says Pribic. “I didn’t have to give her books [on the topic]; she just read the newspaper and watched TV each day.”

After returning to Lafayette, Mirkin focused on a special edition of the widely-read German weekly newspaper Der Spiegel to gain more insight into what Germans today view as defeat 60 years ago. She translated 30 articles written by German scholars to gain cultural and historical understandings of the war’s end.

“She’s doing a very good job,” says Pribic. “There aren’t very many students who could handle this topic linguistically and also understand the historical context. She’s an ideal major there.”

Planning to pursue a graduate degree in history or museum studies, Mirkin believes her honors thesis work will be a tremendous benefit in the future.

“There’s a lot of scholarly research done in German on all history, not just German [history], so translating skills will be useful in gaining another perspective on a topic,” she says.

Pribic also points out that Mirkin’s personal experiences in Germany along with her ability to analyze and synthesize peer and scholarly material will be beneficial in graduate school.

“It’s a credit to Lafayette College that we could give her this opportunity and have faculty accessible to her,” he says.

“Lafayette has a variety of qualified Germany experts,” adds Mirkin. “I am very honored to be working with Professor Pribic. He challenges me to question everything I read, and he won’t let me get away with not giving 100 percent to this research.”

Mirkin conducted previous research with Paul Barclay, assistant professor of history, as part of the EXCEL Scholars program. She served an internship at the Cold War International History Project in Washington, D.C. and volunteered with Old Allentown Preservation Association. She was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa, America’s oldest and most distinguished honors organization, this spring. She is a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, German Club, Concert Choir, and Madrigal Singers. She is a graduate of Liberty High School.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars like Mirkin receive a special academic scholarship and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded course abroad or in the United States during January’s interim session between semesters or the summer break. Marquis Scholars also participate in mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty and cultural activities in major cities and on campus.

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