Getting students involved with German history

Partnership with Germany Embassy to bring events, exhibits and a piece of the Berlin Wall to campus

January 27, 2022

Arizona State University has partnered with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany over the last two years to bring events, exhibits and a piece of the Berlin Wall to campus, all for students to interact with and help them better understand German history.

The initiative, which is titled “Germany in USA,” began in 2020 through a partnership with the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, School of Politics and Global Studies and School of International Letters and Cultures at ASU. It started as a virtual lecture series around Germany’s reckoning with its Nazi and socialist dicatorship. Image of Henry Thomson, Volker Benkert and Richard Amesbury speaking in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall at it's unveiling event in October. Speakers say a few words at the unveiling of the Berlin Wall on ASU's Tempe campus. Download Full Image

“With the support of the German Embassy, we invited world-leading scholars to speak to (students) about the history of democracy in Germany and the relevance of that history for American democracy today,” said Henry Thomson, assistant professor of political science and a member of the organizing team for the initiative. 

Thomson, along with German Lecturer Christiane Reves and Assistant Professor of history Volker Benkert, chose three themes for the initiative to revolve around in 2021: German elections, the future of memory for young Germans and Jewish life in Germany.

“Although focused on Germany, many of the questions we hope to explore around dictatorial oppression, the power of popular protest and the belief in representative democracy are relevant beyond Germany and … also speak to the stories that our colleagues tell,” Benkert said.

A piece of the Berlin Wall was acquired as part of the initiative in spring 2021 as a long-term loan from the German Honorary Consul Carolin Gey and the German cultural center and restaurant Treffpunkt. With their help, and the help of ASU staff and facilities management, the wall was delivered to the Tempe campus in October. 

At an unveiling event during Humanities Week, students from the three ASU schools, as Thomson stated, “got a unique, direct perspective of repression in communist East Germany by viewing a real piece of the Berlin Wall.”

Benkert is organizing a research opportunity for students to build out an exhibit for the wall this semester.

“A group of undergraduate and graduate students will develop a small exhibition around the Berlin Wall fragment on display at the fourth floor of the Lattie F. Coor Hall building,” Benkert said. “Our main goal is to present the fall of the Berlin Wall as a result of the mass demonstrations in East Germany in 1989 in the context of the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe, especially Poland.”

As a new year for this initiative begins, there are many more events to come. 

“I would like people to take away from the lectures and the exhibition that Germany's way to come to terms with the two dictatorships on its soil in the 20th century is far from complete,” Benkert said. “It is an ongoing process with constant new challenges on how our history shapes us today.”

To stay up to date on the initiative, see upcoming events and exhibitions and view recorded lectures, visit the Germany in USA website.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU student's musical journey to Miss America 2022

January 27, 2022

Music has been a part of Emma Broyles’ life as far back as she can remember. 

Broyles, a music minor in ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, was crowned Miss America 2022 at the 100th anniversary competition on Dec. 16, 2021. Representing her home state of Alaska, she was awarded a record $100,000 in scholarship assistance. Portrait of ASU student and Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles. Emma Broyles, Miss America 2022. Download Full Image

More: ASU honors student Emma Broyles crowned Miss America 2022

“Music was always a really big part of my life growing up,” Broyles said. “My parents put me and my brothers in voice lessons, piano lessons, violin lessons, flute lessons, even ukulele lessons — any type of music lesson we could possibly want.”

Broyles said when she was 4 or 5 years old, she participated in her first music-related activity with a mini-music machine at a small singing and dancing camp in Anchorage. She took private voice lessons in elementary school and continued until she joined two choirs in middle school. In high school, she sang in choirs and school musicals.

Broyles said she became serious about competing for scholarships when she was a sophomore and entered her first competition, the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition.

Working with her high school voice teacher Jenna Hensley, Broyles said she competed in local competitions, classical and musical theater competitions and NATS every year because she loved to sing.

She progressed to the national student auditions for NATS in Las Vegas and placed second in the upper high school musical theater category. It was the first time anyone from Alaska had ever made the finals.

Broyles said she met Carole FitzPatrick, associate professor of voice in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and her future voice teacher, at NATS when she was a junior in high school. FitzPatrick told her if she ever wanted to have a trial lesson when she came to Arizona to let her know. So Broyles and her family drove to Arizona from Las Vegas to tour ASU. Broyles said she liked ASU so much, she knew immediately it was where she wanted to attend school.

“When I came back to ASU for the music auditions in February of my senior year of high school, I had a trial lesson with Professor FitzPatrick,” Broyles said. “I really liked her and knew I wanted to study with her. I intended to pursue a double major in biomedical sciences and voice performance.”

Broyles was admitted as a voice major on a scholarship from the then School of Music and planned to add a biomedical sciences major when she was eligible.      

“When Emma began studying with me, she did not have a lot of classical repertoire," FitzPatrick said. “Instead of relying on her exceptional talent and intelligence, Emma always pursued improvement, always wanted to learn a new song, always wanted to just keep getting better."  

After consulting with advisers, Broyles realized it would take six years to earn both degrees, which was not feasible at the time. Knowing she wanted to attend medical school and pursue dermatology, she changed her major to biomedical sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and her voice major to a minor after her first year.

“When I was a voice major and took a lot of voice classes, it was so much fun, but once I changed my major, there was so much science,” Broyles said. “I needed music in my life.”

Broyles has sung in two ASU choirs since she was a freshman. First, Sol Singers (a soprano-alto choir) and the Barrett Choir, since she was a Barrett, The Honors College student, and later, in the Concert Choir and the Barrett Choir. She continued singing in both until she won the title.

“I love singing in a choir,” Broyles said. “There's something special about making music with a group of people that you've been with for a while and that you like. It takes a lot of teamwork and cooperation and learning how to cooperate and be part of a team is a good skill to have in everyday life.”

David Schildkret, director of choral activities, founder of the Barrett Choir and professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, said there are very few students who sing in two choirs due to the time commitment.

“Emma fit in with the groups immediately,” Schildkret said. “She was always willing to sing in the section I needed her to sing with, soprano or alto. Not many students have that versatility with their voice. She is, in the absolute best sense of the word, a team player.”

Broyles said before studying music, she would sing whatever style of music she wanted. From a Puccini aria to a piece from “The Pirates of Penzance,” Broyles was comfortable with every style and level of singing.

She sang a mix of classical and musical theater in high school but preferred musical theater, and said she even considered musical theater as her major over classical voice performance.

“As a voice performance major, your focus is mostly classical music, although at ASU we allow and encourage crossover to musical theater all the time,” FitzPatrick said. “Music theater is the type of singing Emma really loves to do, and since she changed to the minor, we've been focusing on that repertoire almost exclusively.”

Broyles said she started working with FitzPatrick on her song for the talent portion of the Miss America competition at her first lesson in the fall semester. She sang “Let Me Be Your Star” from the NBC television show “Smash.”

“She’s a natural performer in the sense that she makes a listener feel immediately comfortable,” Schildkret said. “Emma has the ability to connect in a very human way. She's very genuine, she's very down to earth, she's very sincere and she's very hardworking.”

Talent has historically been a large percentage of each contestant’s preliminary score in the Miss America competition and in the Miss America organization. The total score is 50% talent, 20% private interviews with judges, 15% on-stage interview and 15% social impact pitch.

Emma Broyles

Broyles is crowned Miss America 2022 on stage.

Though being a full-time student is not possible during Broyles’ year of service due to traveling as much as 20,000 miles a month around the country and oftentimes the world, she plans to take a few online classes for her major. She also hopes to sing with one of the choirs when she is in Arizona.

According to the Miss America Organization, Miss America serves as an advocate and role model for young women while sharing her passion and life story, as well as the legacy of the Miss America Organization.

“My advice to young women who have a dream that’s bigger than life is to not be too hard on themselves and to pursue every experience and every dream that they have and not put too much pressure on themselves,” Broyles said.

Broyles said she learned to approach new challenges with a relaxed and positive attitude when, after winning both of her first pageants, the Anchorage and Alaska Outstanding Teen, she did not place or win any awards at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition. Not winning was devastating, she said, because her expectations were so high. She soon realized that having the opportunity to work on her interviews and polish her talent were as valuable as winning.

After a hiatus from competing, Broyles won the title of Miss Alaska in June 2021, singing "Show Off" from “The Drowsy Chaperone” for her talent.

Broyles said she arrived at Miss America week looking to make lifelong friendships, feel good about how she performed, try not to compare herself to any of the other candidates and make the most that she possibly could out of the experience.

It was an incredible week, she said, and she knew she would return home happy.

She didn’t expect to win. She didn’t expect to even place.

“What's going to make you go far in life is to be very flexible and to be happy with the way things work out because you were able to have the experience, good and bad,” Broyles said. “Even if things don't work out in your favor, take it as a learning experience, regardless of the outcome.”

Broyles also received the social impact pitch award for her social impact initiative, “Building Community Through Special Olympics,” and was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. She has an older brother with Down syndrome and has been involved with Special Olympics for over 12 years.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre