The Gerlind Institute for Cultural Studies (GICS)
is a progressive community-based and community-supported
educational organization, founded in 2006, and directed by Marion Gerlind, Ph.D.


Click here to learn more about our Institute’s symbol, the Linden Tree.


Marion Gerlind, Ph.D.
  • Founder and Executive Director
  • Teacher and Scholar (Curriculum Vitæ)
  • Facilitator and Writer
Dr. Marion Gerlind, photo by Kerry KehoeI am passionate about my mother tongue, German: its sound, complexity, and precision. Working with students makes me happy because I enjoy communicating and learning across languages, cultures, and differences. Coming from a metro city like Hamburg, I have always been curious to read and dialogue about meaningful experiences in life. For nearly 20 years I have taught German language, literature, and culture at college and community settings in Germany and the United States. After receiving my M.A. in German at San Francisco State University, I achieved a Ph.D. in German, with a Minor in Feminist Studies, at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

My dissertation interpreted oral histories of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Germany and Poland, focusing on women who came from working-class and rural poor families whose voices were “off the record.” Integrating my scholarly and creative writing with teaching, I use language as a tool to express thoughts and emotions, to connect with others, and to contribute to healing in the world.

I am especially interested in German cultural studies of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the Weimar Republic, Third Reich, Holocaust, Eastern Europe and post-World War II literature. Of all these subjects, I am particularly interested in women’s and other underrepresented populations’ writing, oral history, popular culture, and film. However, I love teaching every period of German literature and history as well as all levels of German language classes. I support students in meeting their educational goals, be it fluency in speaking and reading, mastering grammar and writing, translating, passing exams…you name it! I am dedicated to making your studies fun and as easy as they can be while leading to your success!

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  • Web design
  • Technical Director
  • Co-sponsor of Filmnacht

JB is the owner of DRAGA design, a computer consulting and design company, in Oakland, CA. She has been involved in the computer industry for over 20 years, and a German student for nearly as long! Her B.A. in Theatre (minor in English Literature), from Fordham University prepared her for a lifelong love of the arts, language, and literature.

In her role as technical director, her responsibilities include design and maintenance of the GICS web presence, promotional materials and marketing, as well as documenting events through photography and video-recordings.

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Birgit Hafermann
  • Translations

Birgit HafermannBorn in Trier and raised in Lower Saxony, I went on to study Social Work and found both joy and challenges in the mental health field. Even though I am still fascinated by the human psyche, I have been working with dogs for the past 16 years.

I have translated the book Art as Resistance by Bernd Langer (published by LBC books in Berkeley, 2014), the descriptions of the science experiments of the Exploratorium in San Francisco for the German version of the museum in Wolfsburg and various correspondence by and about Holocaust survivors and their families.

I've been living in California for around 25 years and am grateful for the opportunity to keep up with my German language skills at the Gerlind Institute Klönschnack.
The Gerlind Institute is such a unique organisation in that it does not only further students' skills of the German language, but connects people from all walks of life in the spirit of open mindedness, curiosity and mutual respect and learning for life!

Brigitte Schulze Pilibosian
  • Teacher

Brigitte Schulze Pilibosian I love languages as a medium for communication. When we are able to express ourselves through the use of language we have a chance of mutual understanding. With this in mind, I like to teach students German even though my degree is in Russian. As a German native speaker, I taught students in the Ukraine both German language and journalism.

My work as a journalist, book author, and radio presenter made me realize my love for the German language as a bridge of communication. Since 2016, I’ve lived in the Bay Area, where I pursue my passion of educating people about Eastern Europe and teaching German.

I am happy to join the Gerlind Institute team.

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Leticia Andreas
  • Teacher
Leticia AndreasBorn in Dresden, I had to leave my native East Germany in 1975 as a young child with my parents, due to their “political differences” with the regime. It took me 32 years to emotionally return, realize, and rediscover my true roots to my homeland. In West Germany, I lived in Braunschweig and Wunstorf, finishing high school. Immediately after graduating, I attended high school for one year in Pennsylvania, USA, as part of an exchange program. Upon returning to Germany, I studied at a 2-year business college in Hannover, and received a certificate of "Economics Assistant of Foreign Languages and Correspondence." Subsequently, I worked in various corporate positions.

In 1991, I immigrated to the United States, majoring in Music and fulfilling general education requirements at Los Angeles City College. From 1998 to 2000 I attended the University of California at Los Angeles, and received my Bachelor's Degree in Ethnomusicology. At that point, I had achieved one of my biggest dreams: to study music! In 2005, I moved to Northern California and settled in the East Bay. Since January 2007 I have been teaching German on Saturdays at the German School of Fremont. I suddenly realized my love of my native tongue: its delicacies and intricacies, its poetic intelligence and grammatical challenges. Now I even spread “Germanisms” daily throughout my community and the internet, to make English speakers aware of the fact that German and English once were the same language and have much in common, while having developed such different structures over time. I also began to study Old German/English/Norse, and am continuously amazed by their similarities and development. Being born in the state of Sachsen (Saxony), and tracing my family line back for hundreds of years there, where a strong accent presides, I began to buy books and research the internet of this, my true native, local accent, with much amusement and passion. Because of my East German background, I am especially interested in the history and culture of that area, and now spend a few days in Dresden every time I return for family visits.

To me, the Gerlind Institute provides an engaging, personal, and family-like atmosphere to study German on cultural and humanities levels, with much focus on current issues. I am happy to be part of German studies in such a supportive and academic environment.

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Jennifer Hilfer
  • Teacher
Jennifer Hilfer

I was born and raised in the southwest of Germany and recently graduated from Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany. From January 2009 to August 2010, I studied Linguistics/TESL and taught German at Indiana State University (ISU) in Terre Haute, IN. At ISU, I received my first master degree and then completed my second master degree (Erstes Staatsexamen) in German, English, and Pedagogy at Johannes Gutenberg-University. I am especially interested in teaching languages and Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, and Feminist Linguistics. During my time in the United States, I joined the Gerlind Institute for my internship in June 2009.

For me, learning and teaching languages and cultural studies, or, in other words, everything that the Gerlind Institute stands for, enables us to broaden our cultural and personal horizons. The Gerlind Institute offers us all an opportunity to build a strong, visionary, supportive, creative, caring, and diverse community.

Read Jennifer's Bericht here.

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Antonio Ooka
  • Filmnacht co-moderator
  • Former Milpitas Südbucht facilitator
Tony Ooka

My parents are Chamorros, natives of Guam, who moved to California in the 1950s. I was born in San Jose and attended primary and secondary schools run by the Jesuit order. I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. I entered the realm of German language at university, reading Kafka, Max Frisch and much later, Thomas Mann and Hans Fallada. To my ear, classic Standarddeutsch has an elegant sound and rhythmic phrasing; witness the acting performances of Wolfgang Preiss.

Why study German? A knowledge of German has opened up a whole new world to me. German Unity Day 1992: I attended an anti-fascist rock concert in Brandenburg, outside Berlin. It was a politically tense week. Right-wing and left-wing groups were clashing. Foreigners were being attacked, even killed, on the S-Bahn. My friend Jens, other Stadtguerillas and I braved the night, traveling from the relative safety of Berlin-Reinickendorf to the dark suburbs of Brandenburg. That evening at the concert I met young Germans who had never spoken to a foreigner. At the Gerlind Institute I hope to build community and understanding through language.

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Aaron Woeste
  • Capacity Building Coordinator

Aaron WoesteAaron was first exposed to German by studying music of German composers as a young adult. He subsequently enrolled in his first language class at a local junior college and later continued his studies as an exchange student in Leipzig. After earning his bachelor's degree in German, Aaron served at AYUSA Global Youth Exchange as Coordinator for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program, a cultural immersion program for high school students.

Aaron then served as Development Associate at Berkeley Symphony, where he oversaw grant operations and managed the application and reporting process. He was a student at the Gerlind Institute from 2013 to 2015.

In 2016, he completed his Master’s degree in Linguistics and Literary Studies at Middlebury College. He now lives and works in Berlin. Drawing on his extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, Aaron was responsible for building capacity for the Oral History Series by expanding its financial resources, establishing partnerships with other entities and developing fundraising strategies.

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Loren Norman
  • Administrative Assistant

Loren NormanLoren started with the Gerlind Institute in 2012 as a student seeking affordable German language lessons and came to find friends and mentors who share her commitment to community, diversity, and accessibility. She’s a self-described Lebensstudentin with a BA from Mills College in Philosophy with emphases on Feminism and Religious Studies. Her education, in combination with her extensive experience in program assistance and good old fashioned gumption, brings a helping hand guided by sensitivity and collaboration.

As Administrative Assistant, Loren liaisons with community businesses, solicits co-sponsors for the OH-Series, and assists with program development efforts. In addition, she supports the director, Marion Gerlind, with course research and preparation, web site resources and OH-Series events. In short, she’s a Loren-of-All-Trades!

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