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Alumnus Focus: German Major Rubs Elbows with Top Scholars

by Bill Giduz

Nick EvansAn academic conference during the spring semester provided Nick Evans '14 with an opportunity to witness scholarship in action, and he liked what he saw.

The occasion was the seventh Southeast German Studies Consortium (SEGS) workshops, co-hosted by faculty from UNC Charlotte and Davidson College. The gathering focused on topics of war, language, and borders, and included a keynote talk by Professor Omer Bartov, one of the world's leading genocide scholars.

Four Davidson students had the opportunity to serve as undergraduate panelists at the assembly, including Evans. He presented a three-page summation of his German thesis, titled Vom Atom zum Windrad: Martin Heidegger, Hans Jonas und die deutsche Energiewende, which concerns the philosophical underpinnings of Germany's ambitious and progressive transition to renewable energy.

Writing about the conference experience later, Evans said, "I was pleased to be among the ranks of some of the nation's top scholars on all things German. What struck me most was the vast array of different academic backgrounds represented. And, although many participants seemed to trace universal similarities in each contributor's position paper, everyone brought a unique perspective to the table.

"The subject matter was interesting, and the rigorous academic discourse was thought-provoking and exciting to observe. I was able on many occasions to chime in, and felt that the other panelists took my comments seriously.

"Both during the formal discussion and afterwards talking with faculty members from different institutions, I received criticism, guidance, and advice on bolstering my thesis argument, and ended up changing its direction because of their input. I also was honored to receive compliments about the depth and relevance of my work.

Evans concluded, "I urge students studying German culture, history, or thought to submit position papers for the next SEGS conference. I cannot stress enough the value of such an experience, especially for an undergraduate student. The SEGS workshop provided me with the opportunity to take part in professional academic discussion, and take advantage of a platform for bouncing my own ideas off of some of the brightest, most distinguished minds in the field."

Evans was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated magna cum laude with a double major in German Studies and psychology. His thesis earned him honors in German, and his overall achievements were honored with the department's annual Bremer Award. Additionally, his research in psychology earned him that department's Sigma Xi research award.

Evans has received a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to fund research on sustainable behavior and behavioral change. This fall, he will be in Berlin working as a research assistant at Ecologic, a think tank that specializes in environmental policy both in Germany and the European Union.