by Debayudh Chatterjee, Graduate Assistant, HPRC
Meet Lauren Karplus. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and German from UIUC in 2010 and went on to get a masters degree in Political Science at Illinois State University. Currently, she works as an Academic Advisor and Experiential Learning Coordinator in ACES at the University of Illinois.
Lauren was born in Champaign and she grew up in Bloomington-Normal. Her mother taught German and her father descended from Jewish German legacy; she took up German right in her childhood. She spent a year in Germany as a part of an exchange program in her high school. The visit gave her an opportunity to familiarize herself with German literature. The time she spent outside the US prompted her interest in International Studies as a career choice. She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Eswatini in southern Africa for two years while completing her master’s degree.
Interdisciplinary in her approach, Lauren took courses in many different departments during her undergraduate studies, with a special focus on the Enlightenment. Her knowledge of German allowed her to access a lot of texts in the original language. She took classes in South Asian studies and spent a few weeks in India learning about diversity in Delhi. The multicultural milieu in UIUC introduced her to people from various ethnicities and nationalities; college for her was a rich ethnographic experience that prepared her for her professional life. In her student life, she rejuvenated the German club in campus. Her love of German folk tales made her think to elicit hitherto unexplored Swazi folk tales from her community.
Lauren’s grounding in German and liberal arts helps her in her current profession by enabling her with a well-rounded perspective of the situation at hand. She emphasizes the necessity of writing and communicating well, the lack of which she identifies as a perennial problem among current students across disciplinary boundaries. Having obtained her own bachelor’s degree at UIUC, she can identify more closely with the students she works with. Lauren identifies herself as a generalist; she is currently teaching a course pertaining to economics and food security.
Although international travel has been severely affected by the pandemic, Lauren emphasizes on the importance of going abroad of exposing oneself to cultures other than one’s own. An avid sports lover, Lauren also works as a coach in Champaign-Urbana Women’s Boxing club.