Adviser Profile: Meet Dr. Sandra Looft

What is your academic field? How did you get in interested in it? (what did you write your dissertation about?)

My background is in German and Comparative Literature. As an undergraduate, I studied abroad for an entire year in Salzburg, Austria. I fell in love with German and Austrian literature and decided to pursue that in graduate school. I returned to Salzburg for another year during my Masters and then completed a PhD at Washington University in St. Louis. My research focuses on nineteenth-century women’s writings and writings geared at women. While working on my dissertation, I spent a year in the archives of the state library in Munich digging up and going through hundred-year-old women’s fashion magazines to learn how women’s roles at that time were portrayed in the popular press. I got to learn all about the corset, the crinoline, women’s footwear, riding habits, and many more accouterments of fashion that literally and figuratively shaped a women’s access to public spaces and mobility. I haven’t been able to look at clothing and shoes in the same way since.

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Where did you grow up and go to school? How did your childhood experience traveling through many countries impact the choice of your career / education?

I was born in the former communist Romania and immigrated with my family to Germany at the age of seven (immediately after the political revolution that killed Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator of that time). We spent three years in Germany and then moved to Canada before finally settling in the US. My experiences of moving often and getting to know different countries and cultures has made me extremely aware of how diverse our world is and how much beauty there is to discover. I love learning different languages and traveling to parts of the world that challenge me to move outside of my comfort zone. I feel fortunate that I was exposed to so many cultures and diverse ways of thinking from an early age, something that definitely has influenced my career choice. It also informs my role as adviser in World Languages and Cultures – I love working with students who are learning a second or third language and am always happy to talk to them about studying or working abroad. Our world is becoming increasingly global and our students can benefit immensely from learning another language and studying different cultures.

What do you like about being an academic advisor in WLC?

I love that I get to work closely with students, helping them plan not just for their time at Iowa State but also for their future after graduation. Most of our students study abroad and I love getting to talk to them about their plans and hearing all about the places and cultures they’re going to encounter. I’m currently helping one of my advisees plan his year abroad in Salzburg, Austria with the same program I once attended, which is a lot of fun for me. Overall, it is extremely rewarding to see so many students come to our department because they love learning another language, they’re curious about the world outside of the US, and they’re eager to explore the world from a global perspective.

What has been your most interesting international travel experience?

Probably the most interesting (and definitely the most challenging!) was a trip my husband and I took to celebrate finishing graduate school. We visited five countries over the course of seven weeks with our then ten-month-old baby in tow. We only packed what we could physically carry and we used public transport to get around. Train travel in Europe is amazing and you can easily and safely travel from country to country that way. There were a lot of sleepless nights with a baby but we also shared some of our most amazing memories as a new family of three. Sometimes I miss how easy it was to travel when I was in college and only responsible for myself (which is why I think everyone should study abroad!) but I’m also very excited to introduce my children to a life of international travel and discovery.