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Image by Taylor Brandon
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Who is Gretchen?

Here are six interesting facts about me to help you get to know me better as an educator, a coach, and as a human being.

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Mind the gap.

I have always lived on a bridge between two cultures. For me, this bridge has been both spatial and mental. Although my father was born in Germany, I did not grow up speaking German, but first got to know the language and the culture in my early twenties. Since then, I have spent most of my adult life living and working in Germany.

 

I still notice cultural differences and think it’s entertaining to identify situations as being uniquely »German«. I often find myself assessing my reactions to the experiences that I have on the basis of language or cultural nuances. This keeps life very exciting, and even after nearly two decades in Germany, I still learn something new nearly every single day.

Teaching is my true calling, but not my only calling.

I have spent the last twelve years of my life teaching in higher education. My students, many of whom are working adults, have been my greatest source of learning. Their anecdotes about their work lives, their leadership experiences, and their interpersonal and career challenges has been invaluable to me. What they have shared with me over the years has helped me to become a better teacher, a better listener, and a better coach.

Image by Tim Stief

Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.

[Marian Wright Edelman]

Consider a different perspective.

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When I started working
for Volkswagen, I could not drive.

Well, ok: I could drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission, but nothing that required manually shifting gears! When I went to pick up my first car from the factory, I couldn’t even drive it home alone. The whole thing was a major debacle, and I felt like I was learning to drive all over again. The process was a true encounter with cultural differences. Who knew the Germans had made an art out of driving? Of course, I can drive now. Luckily for anyone in my rearview mirror, Volkswagen now builds vehicles that cannot roll backwards when you are stopped on a hill. So, there goes that risk taking.

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday's logic.

[Peter Drucker]

Never
stop learning.

Know thyself, and life gets easier.

I would consider myself a risk taker, but I will never go bungee jumping, skydiving, scuba diving… and for no amount of gold in the world would I ever do that cliff walk of terror in China. I can accept all of that now, but it took me a while to get here – to this point where I know myself well enough to admit that those things would terrify more than they could ever lead me to feel any other emotion. Knowing yourself and your limitations can be very sobering, but it can also be very liberating.

Getting to know myself better led me to change my college major from the life sciences and go on to get my MBA. It led me to leave my job at Volkswagen and get my Phd in Organizational Behavior. But that was just the beginning. Now, I want to help others get to know themselves better because I have learned that we always try to navigate, however slowly, towards work that allows us to use our innate strengths.

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As of 2020, I have walked through of the Earth …

… according to the distance captured by my Fitbit. I am an avid walker, and while I will sometimes spend my walks listening to my favorite podcasts discussing my two favorite hobby subjects (personal finance and weight loss), I also use the time to process my own thoughts. I think walking offers a great opportunity to reflect and work through problems that we are dealing with. I even offer »walk and talk« sessions to my coaching clients, and I totally agree with the saying: »Food is the most abused anxiety drug. Exercise is the most potent and underutilized antidepressant.« – Bill Phillip

It is a sign of strength, not of weakness, to admit that you
don´t know all answers.

[John P. Loughrane]

Pursue progress, not perfection.

Right here waiting for you … with jet lag.

Sometimes the things that end up being our greatest accomplishments are things we don’t even plan for. When I left Germany in 2007 to pursue my doctoral degree in Virginia, my (now) husband and I did not expect to be separated by the Atlantic Ocean for five years. But that is exactly what happened. I am proud that we had it in us to take the steps needed to keep our relationship going and not let our love drown in all of that salt water. It was not easy, but we got married a month after I defended my dissertation. We even chose to have our wedding ceremony on the day of my graduation ceremony. That was an especially difficult decision since Michelle Obama gave the graduation speech that day!

Image by Taylor Brandon

Right here waiting for you … with jet lag.

Sometimes the things that end up being our greatest accomplishments are things we don’t even plan for. When I left Germany in 2007 to pursue my doctoral degree in Virginia, my (now) husband and I did not expect to be separated by the Atlantic Ocean for five years. But that is exactly what happened. I am proud that we had it in us to take the steps needed to keep our relationship going and not let our love drown in all of that salt water. It was not easy, but we got married a month after I defended my dissertation. We even chose to have our wedding ceremony on the day of my graduation ceremony. That was an especially difficult decision since Michelle Obama gave the graduation speech that day!

Image by Taylor Brandon