Two FSU students receive scholarship to study German culture

Bergische Universität Wuppertal – FSU Exchange campus aerial view in Germany. (Adobe stock image)

Two Florida State University students have been awarded the Maura Binkley scholarship, honoring the legacy of Maura Binkley, a former German and English major who was killed in 2018 when a gunman opened fire at a Tallahassee yoga studio.

The scholarship provides an opportunity for students to broaden their horizons and further their studies by studying abroad in Germany.

Jane Achenbach, music and linguistics double major, and Bailey Shine, a German major, are spending a semester on the Bergische Universität Wuppertal – FSU Exchange immersing themselves in the German language and culture.

“Jane and Bailey are exceptional students, and we are confident that they will make the most of this opportunity to study abroad and honor Maura’s legacy,” said Jesse Wieland, associate director of the Office of National Fellowships at Florida State University.

Achenbach felt a personal connection to the German language and culture that motivated her to study in Wuppertal, Germany.

“Firstly, I’m a music and linguistics double major, and German, is, of course, a very important language in music history,” Achenbach said. “We have a lot of famous composers and music theorists from Germany. Secondly, my last name is Achenbach. I have a family connection in the way back past to Germany, and Austria. My dad speaks German, my younger brother is learning German, and so I wanted to learn the language and the culture because it felt important to my family and me.”

On Nov. 2, 2018, FSU senior Maura, 21, and College of Medicine faculty member Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, lost their lives in a mass shooting at a Tallahassee yoga studio. Five others — all with FSU connections — were injured before the gunman took his own life.


The Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics established the Maura Binkley Scholarship with support from the Office of National Fellowships, the Office of the President, the John and Ursula Simons foundation, and the Bergische Universität in Wuppertal. The scholarship provides an opportunity for FSU students to emulate Maura’s spirit related to German lifestyle, language and culture.

“The idea for this scholarship was part of the healing process after losing Maura,” said Alina Dana Weber, associate professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics who worked with Binkley when she was an undergraduate at FSU. “The fact that now we can support students as they pursue this opportunity is something wonderful that came out of something absolutely awful.”

In summer 2018, Maura studied for a semester at Wuppertal University, a period that offered her a rewarding academic experience and a unique opportunity to explore Germany and Europe. Back on campus and close to graduation, she was considering additional fellowships to explore her career interests in diplomacy and governance in Germany. Maura was guided by an interest in using her German language and culture skills to improve the lives of others.

“Although I have been a student of German since age seven, it was not until university that I realized the impact German studies had on shaping the rest of my life,” Maura wrote in her 2018 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship application. “My goal is to establish genuine cultural, professional, and personal connections between Germany and the United States, and to inform my students that by recognizing these connections between our cultures and others, we can build a stronger future.”

Margaret and Jeff Binkley, Maura’s parents, also created the Maura’s Voice initiative, a foundation that supports research and advocacy on the causes and prevention of violence against women and girls.

“Maura’s parents started the foundation to support research on gun violence and violence against women,” Weber said. “Together with the scholarship in Maura’s name, these are initiatives that impact the whole campus. Maura passed through our university, and these are her traces that are still beneficial to the whole campus community.”

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