Annka Liepold came to KU to study environmental history at the place the discipline began. The visiting international scholar is the first person in the exchange program between KU’s Department of History and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the University of Munich, Germany. She researched corn in the Midwest since January, examining books and data that she cannot access in Germany. Liepold chose her dissertation topic because she wanted to focus on an American food subject and was fascinated that the corn system impacts so many levels of food production, even though it’s mainly grown as a non-food crop.
She immersed herself in the activities of the Department of History by auditing two classes to see how environmental history is taught in the United States and attending weekly department brownbags. The active engagement between faculty and graduate students has been a great source of feedback and has helped narrowed the focus of her research, Liepold said. Establishing a writing routine was a breakthrough for her. She found a process that worked based on William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and writing has become easier.
Learning about the science of corn breeding, specifically soil structure analysis from people in the Environmental Studies program, has been a benefit of her time at KU.
After Liepold’s return to Germany, she wants to encourage closer interaction between professors and graduate students and maintain her writing routine as she gets back to her part-time job.