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Silvia Rode, Ph.D.

Chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and
Associate Professor of German

Dr. Silvia RodeI grew up in a small town in southwestern Germany, not far from the French border. As teenagers, my friends and I often complained about the tranquility of the region and the lack of urban sophistication. Now when I travel back, I take long walks through the deep calming forests with a smile on my face and I indulge in some of the best regional cuisine that Germany has to offer.

At age 22, I moved to the US to study at Rollins College, a small private liberal arts college in Winter Park, Florida. Even though I loved Florida with its exotic fauna and flora, sunshine and water-ways, I wanted to experience the environment only a major US university could offer. For these reasons, I applied two years later to the University of California, Los Angeles where I received my Ph.D. in Germanic Studies in 1993. Moving to California turned out to be a great choice. I gained valuable classroom experiences, teaching part-time in the UC system, at Santa Monica College, and for the Goethe-Institute. Most of all, however, it opened intellectual opportunities for me that I had never envisioned. Listening to Steven Greenblatt’s talks on New Historicism provided the theoretical framework for my dissertation; Richard Meier’s lecture on the new Getty Museum sharpened my awareness of contemporary architecture; and listening to Saul Friedländer’s sessions on the Holocaust left a permanent mark on my political views.

After graduation I accepted a teaching position at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Despite my reservations about country music, I enjoyed living and teaching in Nashville tremendously. In 1994, I was offered the Vanderbilt overseas directorship at the University of Regensburg in Germany. I spent two years at the University of Regensburg before returning to the US for a tenure track position at Central College in Pella, Iowa. At Central I taught German and I worked closely with the division of cross-cultural studies, the various tracks of the International Studies major, and the Office of International Education/Study Abroad. (Central is a study abroad provider with sites in nine countries in Europe, Latin America, China and Kenya). There I also had the good fortune to combine my passion for travel with my professional interests, especially when I was given a teaching assignment in International Studies at Central’s study abroad site in Mérida, Mexico.

As a result of my exposure to various cultures my research interests have shifted over the years from utopian concepts in the Weimar Republic to interdisciplinary projects including historical concepts of water management and urban planning.

So how do I see my future at USI and as a resident in Evansville? Without a doubt, USI is an institution that offers many opportunities to students, faculty and the community alike. As a member of the department of modern and classical languages I want to promote the understanding that language learning is not just an integral part of a liberal arts education, but that it is the basic tool needed to grasp global systems, to understand the dynamics of how things are interrelated and interconnected in the world and how society can best address these issues. I want to open new worlds for students and I want our community to reflect on the valuable educational tools at our finger tips, including study abroad and international internship opportunities. I am also excited about the possibilities for engagement in service learning projects here in the community such as language immersion in after-school programs at the elementary school level. Learning language is not the icing on the cake; it is the basis for our students to succeed and to compete in the global workforce of the 21st century. Moreover, it prepares them for responsible citizenship in the world.

And…it goes without saying that I feel welcome here in Evansville when I am surrounded by street names such as Weinbach [vainbax] and Boeke [bœk∂] and the town’s major is named Weinzapfel [vaintsapf:l].


Robert Millard-Mendez

Assistant Professor of Art

Robert Millard-MendezI was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, a city with an incredible industrial past. From a young age I was surrounded by mechanics, carpenters, and machinists. My interactions with these practically-minded folks affected me profoundly. I was the first person in my family to receive a college degree, and I am appreciative of the opportunities I have been given. It is unlikely that I would have attended college had I not received a full scholarship to my hometown school, the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. My scholarship was one of several generously given by Dr. An Wang (an innovator in computer technology) to Lowell High School students.

I actually began my college career as a biology major, with hopes of attending medical school. Art, however, had been my second calling, and by sophomore year, I became unable to resist its call.  At UMASS Lowell, I had a studio right next to the shop. Students with questions came to me because I was the closest person who might be able to help them. One night I spent a few hours teaching a student how to use an ARC welder. She had almost no experience with tools, but by the end of the night she was making respectable welds. Her enthusiasm and growth in that evening were exhilarating. She was so proud of her accomplishment, she even welded up some small metal forms to show to her grandchildren. Experiences like this one have shaped the way I teach. In my classes, I aim to teach my students some of the intellectual skills they will need to develop their ideas along with the technical skills they will need to actually create their work. Students who are equipped with technical and intellectual abilities are truly empowered to become successful artists.

I began teaching art foundations courses in 1996 during my first year of graduate school at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. Since then, I have taught a wide array of art courses in many different media. Despite the variety of courses I have taught, my primary teaching interest is in the three-dimensional media. Here at USI, I teach Design in Materials (three-dimensional design) and Woodworking. It is immensely satisfying to see my students overcome the challenges that the three-dimensional arts present. In our increasingly virtual world, I think it is important for my students to have experiences with real materials in actual space.

My own work is three-dimensional. I create sculptural objects that reflect the sensibilities of someone who grew up on The Simpsons and Tex Avery cartoons but ended up learning about things like deconstruction and postmodernism. My work is tragicomic and it is layered with allusions. I am fascinated with mythology, and I enjoy reinterpreting myths in updated ways.

I have worked hard at getting my art out of the studio and into the public realm. I have been in over 150 shows in 30 states. My work has been placed in several public collections, and I have been the recipient of over 30 awards for my teaching and artwork. At present, I am preparing work for two solo exhibitions in 2008. In the spring of 2008, I will have two of my chairs in the Lark Books publication 500 Chairs.

In addition to my own creative work, I have curated a handful of exhibitions. I am currently assembling an exhibition called Jumping Off of Cliff. It is a tribute to the American artist H.C. Westermann, whose art has only recently begun to be properly recognized as seminal to much work currently being created in the realms of art and fine craft.

My wife, Nancy Raen-Mendez, is my best friend and an amazing artist. She has been my most incisive critic and my most ardent supporter. She is one of the most generous people I have ever met. It is because of her that I am able to get done all the things I need to get done. The community here at USI has been incredibly welcoming. The Art Department, especially, has been warm and supportive of Nancy and me. I look forward to coming to work every day.