A photo of Magdalena Tarnawska Senel

Magdalena Tarnawska Senel

Lecturer, Director of the German Language Program

E-mail: mtarnawska@humnet.ucla.edu Office: Royce Hall 334D

Office Hours: Mon/Wed, 12:30pm-1:30pm & Zoom by appointment

Fields of interest: Inclusive Pedagogy, Social Justice Framework for Teaching Languages, Travel Literature, Cultural Studies

The Director of the German Language Program and Lecturer at the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at UCLA, Dr. Magda Tarnawska Senel has researched and taught many aspects of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century German culture, literature, social history, and gender studies. Throughout her two decades as an academic, Dr. Tarnawska Senel has also taught at the University of California, Irvine; University of Colorado, Boulder; DePauw University in Indiana; University of Wyoming in Laramie; and Oklahoma University, Norman.

In her capacity as the Language Program Director, Dr. Tarnawska Senel designs the curriculum for beginning and intermediate German language courses, provides pedagogical training for graduate students, and supervises their teaching. In addition to the graduate “Teaching Methods Seminar,” she teaches German language courses at all levels, including literature, film, culture, and business German.

She has taught numerous undergraduate courses including “Fantasies of Femininity and Masculinity in German and Austrian Literature and Culture,” “Intercultural Germany: Literature, Politics, and Migration,” “Crossing Borders: Contemporary German Cinema,” “Voices of the 20th Century,” and “The Syrian Refugee Crises” – effectively showcasing many forms of discrimination and helping students cultivate passionate desire for upholding human dignity and co-creating a just society.

As her most enriching experiences derive from interacting and engaging with different cultures in a critical, analytical, and also casual way; Dr. Tarnawska Senel is very passionate about encouraging her students to learn German language, explore German literature and culture, and travel to German-speaking countries.


Magdalena Tarnawska Senel received a Magister of German Philology degree at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland; an M.A. in German and a Ph.D. in German at the University of California, Irvine. She also studied German literature and linguistics at the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Technischen Hochschule in Aachen, Germany.


By conducting research and teaching at UCLA, Dr. Tarnawska Senel currently pursues her three academic passions: (1) language teaching methodology and pedagogy; (2) intersections of literature, politics, migration, and pop-culture in contemporary Germany; and (3) teaching languages and humanities for social justice. She presented papers at several national and international conferences on teaching languages for social justice and teaching the Syrian refugee crises.

Featured Works

Selected Publications


  • Magdalena Tarnawska Senel. “Europe, the Middle East, and Identities in Transition: Navid Kermani’s Einbruch der Wirklichkeit. Auf dem Flüchtlingstreck durch Europa.Contemporary German Travel Writing. Monika Shafi and Karin Baumgartner. Camden House. 2018. 
  • Magdalena Tarnawska. “The First Generation of German Female Students: Autobiographical Perspectives on the Contested Space of Gender and Knowledge.” Dominant Culture and the Education of Women. Ed. Julia Paulk. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2008.
  • Magdalena Tarnawska. “…und Medea war eine Ärztin”: Constructions of Femininity in Public Debates about Medical Education for Women in Germany and Austria between 1870 and 1910. Berliner Beiträge zur Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte. Ed. Irmela von der Lühe and Gail K. Hart. Peter Lang Publishing Group. 2007.
  • R. Lupton, T. McNulty, K. Herklotz, M. Tarnawska. Cinderella Around the World. Upper Elementary Readings and Exercises. H.O.T. World Mythology, vol. 3. The Regents of the University of California, Irvine. 2000.

Honors and Awards

Dr. Tarnawska Senel received numerous awards, including UCI Teaching Excellence Award and UCLA Non-Senate Faculty Professional Development Award, several DAAD scholarships for research in Germany, as well as grants for innovative language teaching and assessment, such as UCLA Language Alliance Grant.

Teaching Philosophy and Community Involvement

Dr. Tarnawska Senel’s approach to teaching is informed by cultural studies (interdisciplinary focus, social critique, pressing political issues, analysis of popular culture and daily practices) and critical pedagogy (education as a means to a just society and to the emancipation of underprivileged/oppressed social groups). Her teaching philosophy and practice align with bell hooks’ approach to education as “teaching to transgress” against racial, sexual, and class boundaries. She strives to help students understand the cultural, political, and historical forces that have shaped lives of different individuals and communities – ultimately encouraging them to become agents of change for, instead of conformists to, systems that do not work.

Cultivating the desire to reach beyond the confines of compartmental thinking and to bring various perspectives and audiences together, Dr. Tarnawska Senel not only engages in a variety of university-wide programs and initiatives for students such as Humanities Students Dialogues, World Languages Day, and Common Book Program, but also utilizes her knowledge and skills beyond academia. To this end, she has worked as an interpreter for hospitals, law enforcement, and social services, counselor for victims of sexual assault, and expert witness for the Office of the Alternate Public Defender in Los Angeles. She also published a book of poems for children and a book of reflections on parenting.