By Presley Daggett || Contributing Writer
My CXN course- Self in Life and Literature- was the first class I attended at Franklin and Marshall. I was pleasantly surprised when my professor stood up in front of the classroom and, quite literally, told us his life story. He had us intrigued from the beginning, and I wanted to know more, so I interviewed him.
Professor Curtis Bentzel, Associate Professor of German here at F&M, is originally from York, Pennsylvania. He received his undergraduate education at George Washington University, earned his PhD in German at Princeton University, and spent two years studying at the University of Freiburg. He is fluent in English, German, Norwegian, and “somewhat” in French.
Bentzel noted that his family grew up poor. His father said to him, “Get as much education as you can as long as someone else pays for it.” Because of this, he was able to study what he was truly passionate about.
These choices (kind of) led him to become a professor. Bentzel had not put much thought into what he wanted to do in the future when he was nearing the end of his education, so he attended a session at Princeton entitled “What You Can Do With a PhD in German.”
He wasn’t interested in going into the Intelligence or Translation fields like many of his peers. Instead, he settled on becoming a professor because it allowed him to continue to learn and keep learning for the rest of his life.
He was quite blunt when I asked him why he decided to teach at F&M: “This was the only job I got offered, and I was the second choice!” However, when discussing what kept him here, he noted that he enjoyed the small class size and the fact that he has been able to teach and participate in a variety of different programs.
In his free time, Professor Bentzel likes to lift and dance, specifically at clubs.
His favorite memory as a teacher happened just last week, when “students took over the classroom!” He stated that he has taught Hegel’s dialectic for over 35 years, hoping for students to realize the power they have in the classroom. After assigning the students in his CNX class to simply, ‘Do something bada** this week’, it finally happened: two students taught the class for the day.
Professor Bentzel aspires to make a change in this world by educating his students on what privilege they have. “In the hope that they will work later to get rid of structures that allow some people to have privilege and keep other people from having privilege.”
But closer to home, Professor Bentzel was very adamant about the changes he wished to make at F&M. “Right now at F&M, students are gripped by anxiety, and it’s very concerning to me because it was not this way when I started teaching.” He attributes active shooter drills and COVID to the anxiety that many students currently feel about school.
Bentzel also notes that students today are much more worried about their future than they were when he first started teaching. But what is he going to do about it?
“Teach students how to be a bada**,” he stated confidently. He believes this self-confidence will reduce anxiety and, in turn, cause students to worry less about the future.
In his final piece of advice to me, Professor Bentzel cited a statistical analysis conducted on the graduates of F&M. The study showed that receiving an F&M education pays off in the long run “NO MATTER WHAT YOU MAJOR IN” (I was instructed to put that part in capital letters).
He told me the most important thing you can do here is to follow your passion. He believes you should not study something to please your parents or to get a better job or a high salary later in life, because statistics say it will all work out in the end.
Presley Daggett is a freshman and contributing writer for The College Reporter. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.