This year Goshen College welcomed Philipp Gollner to its faculty as an assistant professor of U.S. history.Gollner is an Austrian native and a first-time professor. He has been enjoying his first year of teaching so far. Everything has been what he expected when it comes to how to teach. One thing that has been better than anticipated is the participation of students.
“In all classes,” Gollner said, “I have students that are very involved, talking plenty and sometimes over each other, and that’s a good thing.”
He is teaching a number of classes, two of which are smaller in size. The small class setting he described as “life-giving academically,” as it is a good place to get to know students and have discussions on everything from books to careers to values when writing history.
“My hope is that students in my classes get that this is not the memorization of dates and of names only,” said Gollner. “This is the department of great stories.”
Gollner has recognized that for first-year students on campus it can be a challenge at times to seek out the help that they need. The Academic Support Center has been something on campus he sees as a great asset to students. He also noted that with a campus this small it’s easier for professors to work with students.
“Once they realize we’re here to help them be successful in a class, have a good experience at Goshen and become good thinkers, good writers, that becomes easier,” Gollner said in regards to students asking professors for help.
Gollner has enjoyed most aspects of his job. His favorite part has been seeing the “aha” moments that students have when they see what they’ve been reading come together.
“The lights go on,” said Gollner, “to where we’re at a point where I see what the argument is, I see what is relevant and I see that there is a story here that the author wants to persuade me of. Once that moment is reached, you’re coasting.”
As this is Gollner’s first year working as a professor, he said he was not expecting to find a job so quickly and was prepared to do one year gigs. Working at a college where he feels he belongs has been something he considers a luxury.
Gollner didn’t know much about Goshen outside of a few visits, but what he did know was positive.
“I knew it was a place with tremendous potential,” said Gollner. “It’s less that I found my way to Goshen College. It’s the nature of the place that found me.”
Above all, Gollner hopes that his students start to cultivate an understanding for empathy and listening to other stories and that his students’ horizons are widened. He also hopes they learn that empathy gives validity and engagement in a meaningful way.
Gollner said in addition to learning empathy in his class, he wants his students “to leave with a better ability to efficiently analyze, break down and critique information and look at it from various sides, a crucial ability on today’s job market.”
Outside of working at GC, Gollner has two daughters, aged 7 and 2, with whom he spends a lot of his free time. He also enjoys singing, as well as playing soccer and hockey.
“I like encountering weird and eccentric stories all around me,” Gollner said. He also added that while he doesn’t vote, he does turn into a political nerd around election cycles.
Gollner has particularly enjoyed working with his colleagues and appreciates the atmosphere on the third floor of Wyse especially.
“The support for colleagues, the interest in what you do and your experiences here as a professor – to have that kind of environment,” said Gollner, “that’s really life giving.”