Modern Languages

Holly H. Liu

Holly Liu, associate professor of modern language (German and Chinese), taught at colleges and universities around the world before coming to Alma College in 2006. As an Alma faculty member, she says her students continue to motivate her to be the best professor she can be. 

“I appreciate that the students at Alma are so enthusiastic about learning,” she says. “It is the most rewarding moment to me to see a student who has no previous knowledge of German, but takes my course and starts speaking and writing German.” 

Liu’s own education has an international theme. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Peking University in Beijing, as well as a master’s degree from Texas Tech University and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University. She also studied for two years at the Free University of Berlin. 

“Berlin is amazing!” she says. “That is the kind of city one would die for. Its history and diversity not only opened my eyes, but also it changed me in many positive ways. I would have never become who I am if I had not studied and lived there.” In May, 2014, Dr. Liu successfully taught her Spring Term course Holocaust and the Cold War in Europe while she lead 21 students to Berlin, Auschwitz and Krakow.    

A recent recipient of a Fulbright summer grant, Liu went back to Germany to attend an academic seminar for American professors and learned more about the European testing/grading system under Bologna Declaration, and how the German language is taught to international students at German universities. The experience was helpful, she says. 

“I am always curious to learn from other colleagues in the field, for example, how to work with media (such as a video clip) in a foreign language so that students can benefit the most from learning both the language and the content at the same time. The Fulbright Seminar offered many opportunities to discuss these issues and to exchange information. I want to adopt these new ideas in my film and culture courses whenever possible,” she says. “I also found some great programs that will allow Alma students to study abroad more cost-effectively. Thanks to my extensive travels to places like France, Poland, Greece, Turkey and the Czech Republic, I know how important it is to obtain firsthand cultural information.” “There is no doubt to say that to study a foreign language will eventually help us to understand our own language and culture better,” she adds. 

A frequent presenter at international conferences, Liu’s research and publications include postwar and contemporary German literature (East and West) and German films since the 1990s. Through her efforts and collaborations with Goethe-Institutes across the United States, she has brought prominent German writers, journalists and film directors to American campuses. 

“As a Chinese-Germanist in the United States, I have decided to dedicate my multicultural education to understanding different cultures and the academic achievements between continents,” she says. This is one of the reasons she accepted the offer from Fischer Verlag to translate Animal triste by Monika Maron from German into Chinese. The book will be published by Yilin (译林) in September 2014. 

Liu also enjoys working with a wide variety of colleagues across the disciplines.

In addition, in her spare time, she enjoys watching German films, surfing the web, baking, jogging, cycling, listening to classical and pop music, and dancing – in Berlin, of course!

 Students in HUM 180 really enjoyed the historical site of Krakow!


Associate Professor of Modern Language


German and Chinese

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., German Language and Literature, Vanderbilt University
  • M.A., German Language and Literature, Texas Tech University; Peking University
  • B.A., German Language and Literature, Peking University


Associate Professor

My career at Alma began in