College of Arts and Sciences
It is an honor to be here today, to be nominated, selected and elected by the UNF faculty. It means a lot to me to have the support of my fellow faculty and to share this award with DP runner up Adel El Safty, with all the outstanding faculty here today who were honored, and to celebrate with all other UNF faculty, staff, and administrators who work ever so tirelessly. I am also grateful to the UNF Foundation which generously funds this award. The best part about this speech is that I received the award already, so now I can say whatever I want. Slide: Castle Neuschwanstein I am Christoph Dominik Güss and I was born in Augsburg in the south of Germany in Bavaria, the most beautiful part of Germany, where the Alp Mountains are and where people still wear Lederhosen. Slide: Leather pants Slide: G U E S S Originally my last name has an Umlaut “ü”, a “u” with two points on it pronounced as oooo and a sharp “s”. They both do not exist in English, so on my US passport and social security card my name becomes “Guess”. With this strange name I have had many strange experiences. One day we went to a restaurant and there was a long waiting line. The receptionist wrote down guests’ names so that people could be seated in order of arrival. She asked me for my last name. “Guess”. Already stressed and irritated, she looked at me sternly and said, “That’s not funny!” “I’m not joking, it is really G u e s s.” I replied. Slide: Guess Watch Here in the US there exists a famous “Guess” company. Unfortunately, I am not the CEO, but I once bought a watch and brought it back to Germany. The Guess company is not well known there, so when a friend saw my watch he asked, “Wow, how did you do this? How did you put your name inside the watch?” I said, “This is a very expensive, made-to-order watch!” I would not be here today, having such adventures with my new US name without the support and help of many people along the way – though time allows me to mention only a few of them. First my parents. Slide: Destroyed houses WWII They were children when WWII ended in 1945. They grew up in hardship, often with so little food to eat that they were happy for a bread crust that was several weeks old and hard as stone. They still remember American soldiers giving them chocolate bars and chewing gum. It felt like Christmas to them. Though neither went to college, they supported and encouraged all of their four children to get a college education. Slide: Mami My mother, Barbara, as a typical German, instilled discipline, hard-work, and dedication in me. Now, with two boys of my own, I realize that having children is the most wonderful, and the hardest thing anyone can do. I wonder what she is doing with me in this photo. Hypnosis? Perhaps that is why I went into psychology. Just two weeks ago, when my mother called me on my birthday, she said: “I wish you were here in Germany. I hope when you retire you retire in Germany, and I am still alive then.” Then she started to cry and put the phone down. The distance from loved ones is one of the main difficulties faced by migrating families. Slide: Papi My father, Helmut, keeps me down to earth and always shows me what the non-academic world thinks of university life, which also helps me connect to students who are first-generation college students. My father said when I was working on my PhD, “You are not really working, you are just sitting at the computer.” When I showed him, with great pride, one of my first published articles, he asked, “How much money are you paid for this?” When I replied, “Nothing,” he just shook his head. He is right, financially I am not so savy, in fact out of all 90 full professors at UNF, I am ranked the 85th near the bottom with regard to salary. Slide: Tes, Lorenz, Johannes I especially would like to thank my wife, Tes. She is also an outstanding professor at UNF and we often spend our evenings together working on our laptops. Without her, I probably would not have come to the United States and could not have done my many research projects. Her thoughtful critique on my research and her love for her students is admirable, inspiring, and contagious. More importantly, she helps me every day to become a better person! And that is a lot of work! I am also thankful to our boys Lorenz and Johannes who bring me back to reality when my mind is deep into theories and research. We are a family from three continents, I am German, my wife Filipina, and my boys Americans. Culture clash every day! Slide: Bamberg Next to my family, I am thankful to my mentor, Prof. Dörner. While I was studying at the University of Bamberg, I worked in a wine and tea store in another city. The owner wanted to sell the store and asked me to take over. I almost did quit my studies, but I had Prof. Dörner who I looked up to, who deeply impressed me because of his work, character, passion, and knowledge. He is the smartest person I have ever met. Slide Dietrich Doerner Because of him, I pursued psychology. He is my model in my career. As a student, when I went to his office, he offered a cup of tea and to sit down and talk. Later on, I learned that he won the highest scientific award in Germany worth over a Million Deutsche Mark at that time! Yet, I did not see any of the numerous awards he had won on the walls in his office and he did not even talk about them. Such humility is rare in academia! He did not have authority because of being a “professor” or having a certain position or many awards. He earned respect through who he was. Slide: Department I want to thank my many colleagues at UNF, for example the people at CIRT and in the psychology department – what a talented group of young faculty! – who supported me over the years, especially Iver, (Slide: Iver) who served as a model of an outstanding researcher for me. Iver nominated me for this award. He has always believed in me, mentored me, and always encouraged me to focus on research. He encourages me to think big - only the sky is the limit! Slide: UNF 1 Night entrance I also would like to thank UNF as an institution. I have worked at universities in several countries and I am thankful for the many opportunities the American University system and UNF in particular, offers for its faculty. The opportunity to teach study abroad programs is just one of them. I am also thankful that members of the administration remained steadfast in their resolve to not let a single person be laid off during the difficult time of the recession. I am also thankful for working on such a beautiful campus. Slide: UNF 2 Students There are many things we take for granted in our daily work lives, yet, they are so precious. Academic freedom for example. Recently I contacted a friend in another country and asked if he would be interested in collaborating on a cross-cultural research project. He said, “usually yes,” but he and the other faculty there had been advised not to conduct research in three areas: Sex, religion and politics. What else is left?! How fortunate we are to have the freedom to pursue our intellectual passions. I am thankful that I was welcomed here as a foreigner – not something to take for granted nowadays. In 15 years of teaching in the United States, never did a student complain about my accent and mistakes in English. Initially, I always told students “You should” or “You have to…” before I learned a little bit about American kindness and now I say, “You might want to consider…”. Thank you students for your kindness and thank you for allowing me to learn from you!