2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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But Seriously, Folks

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Franziska Stutz

Franziska Stutz

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Franziska Stutz is following a plan – but not too carefully
 

“Even when I was really young, I wanted to do something with psychology,” says Franziska Stutz. “I just got sidetracked a lot.”

With Stutz, that’s more of a manifesto than a confession. At 33, she has been an au pair, managed a business, and worked in the film industry in her native Germany. (She was part of dozens of production teams for movies that included “Ripley’s Game,” “Resident Evil,” “Enemy at the Gates and “Around the World in Eighty Days,” and rose to the role of set manager before she burned out on the 17-hour workdays.) During the past two years, not content with merely earning a master’s degree in human development, Stutz has also served as research coordinator for TC’s Student Press Initiative, helped manage a project to create an oral history of the College, worked as a teaching assistant and, just for good measure, taken a course in stand-up comedy at a nightclub downtown.

The common thread is an interest in human behavior that grows out of Stutz’s own family experiences.

“We’re very touchy-feely,” she says. “We always liked to talk about our problems. It’s kind of funny. The women in my family are just very good at getting people to talk. My grandma is a hairdresser, and she’s passed on those skills. People get in her chair and she’ll get everything out of them – and they don’t even notice. They think they’ve just had a haircut.”

Perhaps Stutz has been channeling her grandmother in working with SPI. Through the project,  high school students – including those at the Rikers Island prison school – write, revise and publish their stories. As research coordinator, Stutz compared written pieces by SPI students with those of control groups, measuring improvement and changes in students’ attitudes and writing skills. This past May, at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society in Montreal, she presented her research findings to scholars from around the world.

In June, Stutz will return home to Germany to start a Ph.D. program in developmental psychology at the University of Potsdam. She’ll be working on a longitudinal project that looks at risk factors in adolescent development.  Still, you get the feeling there could be some unexpected twists and turns before she’s through.

“Here’s what I’ve learned in life: it almost never goes the way you plan it,” she says. I know I can’t anticipate the direction my life will take. I’ll go with the flow – and that’s the fun part, because if I knew what would happen to me in 10 or 20 years, it would be really boring.” 


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