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Catching up with Classicists

Catching up with Classicists page banner, image of ancient gravestone featuring two people talking

On the Blog:

August 27, 2021 - Andrew Dryden

August 13, 2021 - Kylee Bailey

July 9, 2021 - Cindy Titus

June 25, 2021 - Dr. Pauline Ripat

June 11, 2021 - Laura Garand

May 28, 2021 - Colin Shelton

May 14, 2021 - Dr. Melissa Funke

April 30, 2021 - Joseph Gerbasi

April 16, 2021 - Jesse Hill

April 1, 2021 - Dr. Conor Whately

March 19, 2021 - Maureen Babb

March 5, 2021 - Daniel Russell

February 18, 2021 - Dr. Michael MacKinnon

February 9, 2021 - Special Double Issue: Rémi Fontaine and Amy Mack

February 5, 2021 - Jazz Demetrioff

January 22, 2021 - Simone Obendoerfer

January 8, 2021 - Dr. Melanie Racette-Campbell

December 18, 2020 - Dr. Christopher Lougheed

December 4, 2020 - Caitlin Mostoway Parker

November 13, 2020 - Dr. Jonathan Vickers

October 23, 2020 - Heva Olfman

October 2, 2020 - Dr. Warren Huard

September 11, 2020 - Brittany Bauer

August 21, 2020 - Dr. Victoria Austen

Andrew Dryden

August 27, 2021

Andrew Dryden didn't enter university knowing that he wanted to study Classics, but once he took his first Intro to Greek Society course he was hooked. While he quickly learned to love the field, he also credits some incredible instructors in our department as having a major role in his decision to major. Now, he's applied his experience in Classics to another field - Education.

How did you decide to major in Classics?

Funnily enough, Classics was not initially what I thought I would pursue studying and came about by chance. I had a wayward university career lasting from 2005 to 2015 that involved 4 different majors and even saw me drop out for a couple of years to investigate other options.

I always had an interest in social studies, specifically history. So When I returned to university after a year hiatus in 2008, I signed up for a CLAS/HIST cross-listed class, Intro to Greek Society. A friend of mine was also taking that class, but in a different section of it and whenever we would chat she could not stop raving about the prof that was teaching her. He was this outlandish Welshman with a strange accent, a penchant for pushing the boundaries of traditional faculty decorum, and a sincerity that was oddly endearing. To those who have taken his classes, there should be no doubt I am describing the peculiarly charming Dr. Matt Gibbs.

I could write all day about Dr. Gibbs but the important take away is that he used his position as a teacher to challenge me while also expressing a belief in me as a student. To say meeting him was a watershed moment in my life would be an understatement. While there were other members of the faculty who were very important to me both personally and professionally, like Dr. Whately and Dr. Cahill, without Dr. Gibbs I doubt I would have pursued Classical studies.

What did you like about the major and/or honours program?

Studying ancient cultures, in my opinion, is about more than just learning about bygone eras. To me, it transcends this because biologically human beings have not changed significantly in tens of thousands of years. By learning about them, we can learn about ourselves. In addition to that, I have always had an appreciation and interest in languages. Put them together? Boom! University Eutopia (one of my favourite Greek root words).

What was your favourite class?

This is a difficult question as the two contenders are so vastly different from each other.

The first class that comes to mind was in the summer of 2013 when we were given the chance to go to Greece and work on an archaeological dig for 6 weeks for university credit. While it was A LOT of work, it was also an adventure and experience I will never forget.

Another class that was special to me was “Ancient Epic in Translation” taught by Dr. Mark Golden. Before taking that class I had never read more than mere excerpts from important classical epics like the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Argonautica, and Metamorphoses. Having a greater understanding for the content and context of these works deepened the meaning of artistic, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence that was used throughout every other classical course I had taken. I found myself walking out of that class and regularly reflecting on classes from previous years with an increased appreciation. Not taking that class earlier in my career is one of my few academic regrets. In addition to that, Dr. Golden was a fantastic lecturer and storyteller second only to Dr. Jane Cahill.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

I floated between declaring four different majors during my time in university, including sciences, which is why I also took what many feel is one of the harder classes the university offers, Organic Chemistry. While this is true, Organic Chem is definitely difficult, what people do not say enough is that Greek and Latin language are even harder (in my opinion).

Language classes move at a pace where they force you to be a better and more organized student. To the point where you sometimes actually lose track of how much you might be learning and improving. If you feel this way and are feeling discouraged, I would recommend going back two or three chapters and look at some of the practice questions. I suspect you will be shocked at how far you have come and how much you have learned.

During my studies I often felt like Sisyphus, but don’t just look at what lies ahead, also give time to all the ground you’ve already covered.

What are you up to now? What’s next for you?

After exploring options in opening a business and applying for law school, I pursued my Bachelor of Education at the University of Manitoba (after being at the U of W from 2005-2015 I decided I needed a change of scenery), graduating in 2020.

I wholeheartedly believe my experience in Classics prepared me for success in my B.Ed because of the research, reading, and flexibility Classics requires. In Education, you often need to learn about topics you have limited or no background in *and then* be able to communicate what you have learned in a way that your audience can understand it too. Just like in Classics, context and language are key.

Kylee Bailey

August 13, 2021

After a brief summer hiatus, we're back with Kylee Bailey who shares a wonderful look at her journey as a classicist. Thanks, Kylee!

How did you decide to major in Classics?

It took me a few years to settle on Classics! My initial plan was to study creative writing and philosophy, which I did for the first few years of my degree. Then in one of my philosophy courses, during a lecture about Plato, the professor spoke so fondly of ancient Greek that I felt obligated to learn it. Soon after, I was mesmerized by Greek, then Latin, and very quickly I found myself majoring in Classics and never looking back. 

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

Throughout my degree, I was introduced to many texts that captured my imagination. I was always keenly excited to hear what we would be reading, but what affected me as much as the material itself was the passion with which the faculty taught it. The enthusiasm was infectious. I will always consider UWinnipeg Classics not only the place where I received excellent practical instruction, but where I learned how to appreciate and respect ancient material through the example of very knowledgeable, invested professors.

What’s your favourite memory of your time at UWinnipeg Classics?

What stands out for me about my time at UWinnipeg Classics is the incredible sense of comradery and encouragement. I constantly witnessed positive interactions that created a welcoming environment. Whether it was in my classes, private meetings, the common room, or the tutorials for which I was a TA, positivity permeated the whole department.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Surely one of the more daunting aspects of majoring in Classics is tackling Greek and/or Latin. When I enrolled for my first ancient Greek course, I heard so many horror stories that I nearly dropped it before the first class! My advice here is to believe in your ability. It is certainly a challenging process, but with consistency and patience, your effort will pay off. In my journey as a classicist, my most cherished point of reflection is how learning Greek and Latin has illuminated avenues of thinking that couldn’t have occurred to me otherwise. I think this is true of Classics in general! What a major in Classics looks like is full of possibility, but it’s certain that you’ll end up building enriching skills and new ways of thinking that you may not have anticipated, but from which you will benefit.

What have you been up to since graduating?

Since graduating, I have completed my master’s degree at the University of Toronto, and I am currently in my first year of the PhD program there.

Cindy Titus

July 9, 2021

A UW Classics alumna who emphasizes a few times how fun Classics is, Cindy Titus now works at Winnipeg's Main Street Project. Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, Cindy!

Cindy TitusHow did you decide to major in Classics?
I initially intended on majoring in psychology. I decided to change course and pursue Classics after I took an intro philosophy class in my first year. I was so fascinated by what I learned through Plato’s Symposium and I wanted to know more about the world Plato lived in.

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?
I just had so much fun learning about so many fascinating subjects.

What was your favourite class?
My favourite class was Magic and Divination with Dr. Pauline Ripat and of course I have to mention Classical Mythology with Dr. Jane Cahill. So fun!

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?
You are going to have so much fun learning! Dive in and enjoy it.

What are you up to now?  
I am work doing communications and fundraising at Main Street Project, a community health centre in Winnipeg that provides services to individuals experiencing mental health issues, substance use issues and homelessness.

Dr. Pauline Ripat

June 25, 2021

Did you know that Dr. Pauline Ripat got her start in Classics right here at the University of Winnipeg? Now, we’re taking a chance to chat with her a bit about where and what she studied after graduating from UW, and what she’s up to now.

It didn’t come up in our Q&A, but it's certainly worth noting that Dr. Ripat and her collaborator, Dr. Christina Vester (University of Waterloo), were recently awarded the Elaine Fantham Award in Public Engagement at the Classical Association of Canada (CAC) conference for their apps Vice Verba and Hoi Polloi Logoi. Congratulations Dr. Ripat!

Dr. Pauline RipatWhere did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I went to the University of Washington (Seattle) for my PhD. My general area of interest is Roman social history. This is generally the study of Roman social and cultural systems rather than political narratives, though the two aren't entirely separable. My general investigative approach has been through the study of religion and magic, though my current research focuses instead on folk concepts of health.

What do you like most about Winnipeg? 

I grew up in Winnipeg (and did my undergraduate degree in our Department!), so I have probably spent more time than many thinking about this, even breaking the question into seven subquestions, each with the stress on a different individual word. My answer always comes out to about the same, though: I'm really lucky to be where my family is and where my husband's family is. A lot of my colleagues are not able to be close to their parents as they age, and it was a real privilege for me to be able to be able to spend a lot of time with my mother. 

What have you enjoyed most with remote teaching?      

In hindsight, I enjoyed the necessity of revisiting how I deliver material to students, the kinds of assignments I give, and what topics should be focused on. I think the remote environment also encouraged some of the students who might not have spoken up in a traditional classroom setting to be more in touch with me and some of their classmates. I thought that was great.

What have you missed the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

I miss the ability to get immediate feedback from students when speaking! It can be strange talking into what feels like a void because I can hear only myself.

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

Enjoy what there is to be enjoyed. For me, this was learning how many birds, squirrels, and rabbits travel through our yard every day (my desk is in our living room). It's surprisingly relaxing to be able to contemplate the wildlife.

Laura Garand

June 11, 2021

Though she was originally a Psychology major, it didn't take much to get Laura hooked on Classics! Laura graduated with a 4-year Classics degree in 2020, and was the recipient of the 2020-21 John Dee Maurer Prize.

Laura GarandHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I actually graduated with a 3-year BA in Psychology in 2016, and my transcript was just 3 credit hours short of a minor in Classics. I returned to the U of W in 2019 as an honours Psych student, which lasted about 4 hours. I had popped into Dr. Gibbs' office to say hello on my first day back, and after chatting with him and Dr. Miller about potential grad programs and career options, I left campus that day a Classics major. The switch made a lot of sense as I had been feeling like I was still in psychology only because I started there and should just keep going, not because I wanted to pursue it. Even as a psych student, I had a love for the Classics courses I took, and all the relationships I had cultivated with teachers and profs were through Classics, so the switch felt very natural for me, like I should have been there all along anyways.

What did you like about the Major program?

Besides the content, I really valued the relationships I came out of the program with. I had no shame in being that student that sent emails or set up appointments with the professors to clarify a singular instruction, or seek help finding an ancient source, and they were always happy to explain and offer help in any way they could. And the before/after/between class conversations with other Classics students were always great as well because there aren't many other people in my life who can laugh at a Classics joke or understand why I hate the movie Gladiator with such a fiery passion.

What was your favourite class?

Though I'd be hard pressed to name a course I didn't enjoy, I'd say that Ancient Sexuality with Dr. Funke and Ancient Epics in Translation: The Iliad with Dr. Miller were my favourite courses for lectures and content, but I took a directed readings course and a tutorial course, both with Dr. Gibbs that had no lectures or pre-determined content and both courses were purely research and writing papers (including one thesis length paper) and not only did my writing skills improve what seemed like a million levels, I also discovered how much I am in love with research and libraries, and ultimately what helped me decide I wanted to pursue a career in Library Studies.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Well, if you're like SO MANY of the other Classics students I have ever talked to, you'll just end up transferring into the program at some point down the line anyways, so you might as well just jump in and get a head start on your languages! (From someone who came to the department super late, and regrets not having any language courses!) Also, no matter what faculty you end up in, learn how to use the library, and then actually check books out for research, I promise it's worth it!

What are you up to now?

Currently I work full time as a Member Service Rep for Access Credit Union, however I'll be on maternity leave starting in April as my husband and I are expecting our second baby. In the meantime, I'm waiting to hear from the University of Alberta, and very much hoping for acceptance into their Master of Library and Information Studies program for September 2021.

Colin Shelton

May 28, 2021

Connections, community, and an eclectic mix of classes – these are just three of the things that stood out for Colin during his time as a Classics student at UW. We caught up with Colin to reminisce about his time in UW Classics and find out what he’s up to now.

Colin SheltonHow did you decide to major in Classics?

When I was at U of W, I took a deliberately eclectic mix of classes. I wanted to figure out how different disciplines saw the world, and I wanted to get beyond the divisions of study I had encountered in high school. When it came time to pick a major, Classics seemed like a way I could tie together a wide variety of interests, from Darwinism to Daoism. Even if my Classics courses were all about Ancient Greece and Rome, what I learned there brought me something to take to the table in all the other disciplines I dabbled in. And at that time, at least, doing the Classics Honours program gave me the most flexibility to pick up courses across the university.

What did you like about the Honours Program?

I liked the tight-knit community of students and professors. Classes were small, and I felt like I really got to know people. As I mentioned above, I also loved how my work in Classics enhanced the work I did in other disciplines, and the way the program itself allowed me to gain a breadth of intellectual experiences.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

For me, the real joy of Classics has always come when I've noticed a connection between what I learned about Greece and Rome and some other aspect of life. Making those connections beyond Greece and Rome has also helped Classics majors get into a huge range of careers. So, do Classics, and do something else too. When I was in university, I didn't really appreciate that there were opportunities available to me then that wouldn't be there once I graduated. For instance, I could have taken a summer Inuktitut immersion course, and I should have! Find out what's available. One place to look is the Archaeological Institute of America, which lists all kinds of opportunities connected with the ancient world, in the Mediterranean and beyond.

What are you up to now?

I'm the Language Program Coordinator for the Department of Classics at the University of Chicago. I teach novice through intermediate courses in Latin and Ancient Greek, and I train graduate students so they can teach these courses in the most innovative and student-centered way they can. One of my favourite parts of the job is co-teaching a seminar every year on how language teaching works. I work with a colleague who's a German teacher, and together we work with students from across the university, who are getting ready to teach languages as varied as Old Kannada and modern Korean.

Dr. Melissa Funke

May 14, 2021

A big thank you to Dr. Funke for taking the time to catch up with us, between research, teaching, and her exciting initiatives including Peopling the Past and The Lux Project! (Side note: if you’re homeschooling and looking for some interesting Classical content, The Lux Project has great worksheets available!)

Dr. Melissa Funke

Where did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I did my master's at University of British Columbia and my PhD at University of Washington. I wrote my dissertation on gender in Euripides' fragmentary plays (i.e. the ones that only survive in quotations in other authors or on scraps of papyrus from the Egyptian desert), but lately I've been working on gender and sexuality in Greek literature more broadly as well as dramatic performance in antiquity and the present day.

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

It's home! I grew up in Manitoba and did my undergrad here at University of Winnipeg. It's a city with a lot of accessible culture, great food, and friendly people, so I'm thrilled to have ended up here.

What have you enjoyed most with remote teaching? 

While I desperately miss being in the classroom with my students, remote teaching has created some opportunities I may not have had access to otherwise. For example, I've been able to bring in guest speakers, including the authors of some of our readings in my class on ancient women and theatre professionals into my Staging Greek and Roman Drama class. That group is currently working on creating Zoom performances from ancient plays and I'm excited to see the creativity that being online fosters. And I can't complain about spending every day with my dog, Raspy, who has made a few of his own guest appearances in class!

What have you missed the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

I've worked hard to connect to new students this year. In the classroom I typically use a lot of group discussion and activities to foster community. I always enjoy watching my students learn from each other and engage with the material this way. But it turns out that in quite a few classes, students took their own initiative to set up group chats and message boards to connect with each other. I hope that the students I taught this year will come introduce themselves in person when we return to campus.

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

We should all take a few moments to reflect on what we've accomplished during a time when there has been so much uncertainty. I saw my colleagues not only pivot to online instruction, but use it to innovate and introduce exciting new activities in their classes. My students have been doing really great work this year, despite having changing work and home environments. When we look back on this time, we'll see how resilient we were and that we managed to come together to grow and learn despite being physically separated by a pandemic.

On a more practical level for students, make sure to stay in good contact with your profs. We want to do our best for you and you're not just a Zoom square to us. The more we're in contact, the more we can help you succeed while we're doing remote learning.

Joseph Gerbasi

April 30, 2021

Now a doctoral candidate in the Department of Classics at the University of Toronto and a member of the U of T's Collaborative Program in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Joseph got his start studying Classics at UW! Thanks to Joseph for taking the time to catch up with us and reflect on his time at UW.

Joseph GerbasiHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I wanted to study a lot of areas in the humanities and figured I should begin at the beginning. It was a pretty substantial beginning, so before I was done with Classics I had majored in it.

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

The program encouraged learning languages and reading masterpieces of literature, philosophy, and history – which is exactly what I wanted to do!

What was your favourite class?

I don’t know if this counts as a class, but writing my Honours thesis under the supervision of the late, great Mark Golden comes to mind. Mark divined that I would like Horace’s poetry and recommended that I take it as my thesis subject. He also noted, with characteristic irreverence, that he himself didn’t like it. This made for an interesting dynamic.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

What Apuleius said: lector intende, laetaberis! (Reader, pay attention, you’ll delight in it!)

What are you up to now?  

At the moment, I’m finishing up my PhD in Classics at the University of Toronto, where I’ve also been teaching since 2017.

Jesse Hill

April 16, 2021

While Jesse is incredibly busy with teaching and academic work, we are grateful that he could take the time to chat with us. He had plenty of nice things to say about UW Classics, and it's great to hear what he's been up to since graduating!

Jesse HillHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I was an English major in my first two years at the U of W and ended up taking a couple cross-listed English/Classics courses with Mark Golden at the recommendation of a friend (who, Winnipeg being Winnipeg, had been Mark’s neighbour). I eventually realized that I liked those courses more than anything else I was doing, gave Latin a try in my third year, and fell very, very hard for the language and its literature. So, Mark Golden and Latin converted me. 

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

Beyond the content of the courses, I liked the small class sizes, the exceptionally friendly and caring teachers, the sense of community cultivated by both (I still have good friends from that community), and, as is particularly clear in hindsight, the quality of instruction: U of W’s Honours program really did prepare me well for graduate study.

What was your favourite class?

First-year Latin with Jane Cahill, a course that was, for all sorts of reasons (the pedagogy high among them!) genuinely life changing. But I had lots of other great courses, and I am particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to write an honours thesis in my last year.  

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Well, majoring in Classics made my life more interesting and all around better; it might do the same for you. Also, if you feel drawn to Greek and/or Latin, don’t be intimidated – give them a try! They’re a lot of work but entirely worth it.

What are you up to now?  

I have my hands pretty full here in Toronto at the moment. I’m teaching two classes at UofT (second-semester Latin and “Spectacle in the Roman World”); I’ve just submitted the final edits for two articles that I have coming out this spring in TAPA and Classical Quarterly (one of them is on Catullus’ last poem, the other, co-written with Jarrett Welsh, is about the textual transmission of “Placidus”); I’m working on a couple new papers and a book review; I’ve been doing a bit of copy editing for Phoenix; I’m sending out job applications to every academic position I’m qualified for; and, finally, I’m defended my dissertation, The Latin Past and the Poetry of Catullus, at the end of February.

Dr. Conor Whately

April 1, 2021

Thanks to Dr. Whately for taking some time to catch up with us, between a busy teaching (and marking!) schedule and promoting his latest book about the lives of three Roman soldiers (check out his New Directions in Classics talk to learn more). 

Dr. Conor WhatelyWhere did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I did my MA at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and my PhD at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK. My areas of expertise include war and warfare in the ancient and late antique Mediterranean world, late antique and Byzantine historiography, Roman frontiers, and the Roman Near East.

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

There are a few things: the summers, the variety and quality of restaurants, its proximity to some beautiful natural environments, and the Winnipeg Jets. When I was younger, I’d always wanted to live somewhere with an NHL team, and I was fortunate the Jets moved in at the end of my second year here.

What have you enjoyed most with remote teaching?      

The commutes are pretty good. How polite students are at the end of classes. Otherwise, it’s been a bit of a slog, to be honest.

What have you missed the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

Being in the classroom, speaking in front of classes, answering questions to the queue of students at the end (I had no idea I’d miss this!), and especially getting to meet everyone in person. Collectively, then, the in-person interactions in all their varieties. 

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

Don’t worry about the little things, have patience, and be kind to one another. 

Maureen Babb

March 19, 2021

Between keeping busy with her work at the University of Manitoba, continuing to engage in academic scholarship, and working on research and creative projects, Maureen took some time to catch up with us. Fun fact: Maureen is a graduate of the Honours program whose thesis included some original artwork – a comic, to be exact!

Maureen BabbHow did you decide to major in Classics?

It's all Mark Golden's fault (and I remain very saddened at his passing). I entered undergrad knowing I was going to major in Anthropology, and in my first semester I took the second year Ancient Greek History class with Dr. Golden, just for fun. It ended up being such a fascinating and engaging class, and of course with such a dynamic and knowledgeable lecturer, that by the end of it I knew I was going to double major in Anthropology AND Classics. 

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

Practically every single course in the Classics was incredibly interesting, and the department had at the time, as it still has, really top-notch faculty that have very diverse research interests, many of which align with my own interests in the classical world. Also, of course, the program worked well with my other major of Anthropology and I was able to focus on classical archaeology in a big way. The professors were very supportive and encouraging, and open to non-traditional modes of scholarship – for instance, I created a comic for the undergraduate thesis I did with Dr. Golden. 

What was your favourite class?

I had to pull up my transcript to answer this question; there was so much overlap between my Classics courses and my Anthropology ones that I had to double check which ones belonged to which department – or maybe which ones I took as Classics courses, because I think a number of them are cross-listed with Anthropology. Of course I really enjoyed the opportunity to do a thesis with Dr. Golden, so that one ranks highly. So too does "Magic and Divination" with Dr. Ripat, but unsurprisingly, my favourite Classics course was probably "Sites of the Ancient World" which involved travelling to Greece for three weeks and looking at archaeological sites and museums all over the country with fellow University of Winnipeg students, as well as students from the University of Waterloo. I'm also going to give a shout out to one of the archaeological field schools I did, even though that course is listed as an Anthropology class, because it was in Greece, at the Bronze Age site of Mitrou. I got to work on the osteological team there, and it was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life. 

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

If you find it interesting, you should just do it. You will have a number of annoying people tell you that the degree will be useless, but you can just tell those people to be quiet. Their opinions don't really matter. It's your life. Studying Classics allows you to explore fascinating subjects while developing critical thinking skills, learning how to consider things from different cultural contexts, and gaining a sense of historical perspective. These skills will benefit you no matter where you choose to go in life.

What are you up to now? What’s next for you?

I've recently accepted a position as a Science Librarian at the University of Manitoba, and I'm wrapping up a few papers which I will be submitting to journals soon. In terms of what's next, now that I'm in a position that's a little more secure, I'm hoping to be able to start on some more large-scale research projects and a few creative projects as well. I'm also hoping that once this pandemic is over that I'll be able to travel a bit – maybe even go on another archaeological dig. 

Daniel Russell

March 5, 2021

This week, Daniel Russell shares how studying the fall of Rome, enrolling in Latin and Greek, and the wonderful support of UW Classics faculty led him to his current path: studying Classics at the graduate level.

Daniel RussellHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I was enrolled in Dr. Whately's course on the fall of Rome when I was introduced to late antiquity as a subdiscipline of Classics. Shortly afterward, I converted from dabbling in Canadian and American history with a view to grad school or education to studying Classics exclusively. Latin and Greek were also fundamental in pushing me to take the route of Classics. There is nothing quite like learning another language for understanding the world view of another society. I felt that I could understand the ancients like never before, that I had the ability to see the world through their eyes, something rarely experienced in other disciplines. 

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

The faculty does a wonderful job of supporting their students in whatever path you decide to take. I felt very nurtured in the close-knit environment of the department, and they were always there for me with ready career advice and reference letters whenever I needed them. Moreover, they provide their students with tangible experience in the field whenever they can, the lux project being a perfect example. I got to wear Roman armour and participate in an excavation in Greece - not at the same time sadly - so never say never! 

What was your favourite class?

There is certainly more than one: Dr. Whatley's Fall of Rome introduced me to the field that I would like to specialize in, and Dr. Miller's Archaic Greek Poetry was a fascinating introduction to the cultural milieu of Homer and the world of the Greek lyric poets. Also, Dr. Ripat's love of Latin and late republican Rome was contagious! 

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Do it! You will certainly find your niche in the field as any aspect of Greco-Roman society and culture can be studied, from history, philosophy, and literature, to art, architecture, and archaeology. Even if grad school is not your ultimate goal, Classics contextualizes modern society in ways you never would have thought. The Bank of Montreal on Main Street is a perfect example of Greco-Roman architectural influences on the designs of public buildings in the early 20th century. A course in mythology offers a contextual basis for the Freudian Oedipus/Electra complexes or the analysis of the Dionysian and Apollonian dichotomy in the writings of Nietzsche. With Classics, you will never stop learning, discovering, and rediscovering. 

What are you up to now? What’s next for you?

I am in my second year of an MA in Classical Studies at the University of Ottawa. I am enjoying my studies immensely, as the program specializes in late antiquity. I hope to pursue my studies at the PhD level in the near future and eventually share my enthusiasm for Classics with others as a professor. 

Dr. Michael MacKinnon

February 18, 2021

Professor Michael MacKinnon joined the Department of Classics after beginning his career at UWinnipeg in Anthropology, though his research interests still cross both disciplines. He studies how animals contribute to the world in Greek and Roman antiquity and will soon be delivering a New Directions in Classics talk about reconstructing the role of dogs and cats in classical antiquity from archaeological remains.

To learn more about Dr. MacKinnon, read his interview below or his PROFile in the Uniter!

Dr. Michael MacKinnon

Where did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I graduated from University of Alberta; my expertise is Classical Archaeology.

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

Winnipeg it is a city that can transform itself seasonally (and do so with such dramatic shifts in temperature and scenery).  Of course, all that is well and good, until the cold becomes too cold, and the hot, too hot...with the former occurring more often!

What have you enjoyed most with remote teaching?      

The challenge of turning in-class lab assignments (which are a component within some of my courses) into on-line virtual experiences has been rewarding, if not frustrating at times as well.  Nevertheless, remote teaching has taught me that computers can accomplish far more than the basic tasks I tend to use them for.

What have you missed the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

Like many, the face-to-face interaction with students in a 3-D (as opposed to 2-D) environment is missed.  That third dimension certainly brings with it a greater level of spontaneity, reflection, and dynamism that just can't be captured on-line. 

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

My advice is probably echoed by many others -- "hang in there". When reflecting back, the 'new normal' that we've experienced seems to be rushing along faster and faster each day, even if it seems like a marathon in retrospect.  Living in the moment helps bring a wider, optimistic perspective to that long haul.

Special Double Issue

February 9, 2021

Leading up to the annual Open House on February 10, we've got a special double issue of Catching up with Classicists! Today, we hear from Classics grads Rémi Fontaine and Amy Mack, both of whom have graduated with UW Classics degrees and have pursued careers in totally different fields.

Rémi Fontaine

Thanks to Rémi for sharing his experiences and showing how a Classics degree can be valuable in a non-Classics career.

Rémi Fontaine

How did you decide to major in Classics?

Before starting any university course, I had a drive to learn more about ancient Greek and Roman society, thinking it would help me understand better the political and cultural institutions of today (without really appreciating the ~2000 year in between). What really sold me to pursue the major, and the Honours program, was my first year of Ancient Greek. I simply fell in love with the language: its elegance, style, and even its grammar. From there, I felt compelled to learn about the people who wrote in Ancient Greek and Latin, their thoughts, culture, history, and way of life.

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

The attention the faculty gave its students. I felt pushed, challenged and encouraged to pursue topics I found interesting and made to see the value of some of the topics I found to be less so. Whether it was a particular paper I wanted to dive into for a specific class, or an independent study course I wanted to pursue, I had the impression the Honours program was tailored to my specific interests.

What’s your favourite memory of your time at UWinnipeg Classics?

There isn't just one, but generally taking study breaks in the common room and inevitably having our discussions go back to whatever we were studying. With such a large variety of courses, and never having enough time to take them all, I would always learn something from my fellow classmates about a course I had unfortunately missed out on. 

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Don't hesitate. A major in Classics allows you to practice foundational skills that open so many doors after graduating; whether it's researching, critical thinking, writing or presenting, the skills you learned will never be wasted. Plus you will get the chance to practice them in various subdisciplines (e.g. literature, archeology, philology, art history)!

What have you been up to since graduating?

Right after graduating I started working full time with the Winnipeg Public Library performing children's story time and later working the reference desk, until 2016 when took a year leave of absence to complete a Master in Library and Information Science at Western University. I've since become Virtual Services Librarian (still at the Winnipeg Public Library) working with our online collection, catalogue and website. I've also perfected my sourdough game, competed in a few local fencing tournaments, and started a family during a pandemic.

Amy Mack

Thanks again to Amy for sharing her experience as a Classics student and letting us know what she's up to now! If you’d like to chat with Amy yourself, feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn profile.

Amy Mack

How did you decide to major in Classics?

I knew I wanted to major in Classics before I even enrolled in courses. Becoming an archaeologist or university professor were my dream jobs back when I was a teenager. I spent countless hours learning about classical history and daydreaming about becoming a scholar and academic. Admittedly, I likely romanticized the role of an archaeologist, as I did watch "The Mummy" far too often as a teen.

I applied for advanced admission at the University of Winnipeg and enrolled in a few Classics courses right away, very eager to learn. Within my first year of studies I had received feedback from a Classics professor that I showed aptitude and talent in this field and should consider it as my major. I declared Classics as my major, however throughout the rest of my university career I began to discover that my true purpose was to study and work in numerous fields instead of one. I learned very quickly that I'm someone who is energized by frequently trying and learning new areas of study and new tasks, which is compounded by being curious, an ambitious learner and a high achiever. I graduated with a major in Classics however I chose to change my career path and not pursue a Master's and Doctorate like many other alumni had done. I wanted to keep my options open as I wasn't ready to commit to one field of study and its career paths without trying many other new pursuits.

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

I enjoyed the challenge that each course presented. The courses and activities in Classics always provided an added level of challenge compared to the other courses I had taken. I was also always very interested in the learning process and structure of courses and spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how to thoroughly complete assignments, combing through the professors' detailed instructions in the syllabus. Since I had a knack for often biting off more than I can chew, as someone who is ambitious, sometimes I tackled too many challenging courses at once, but I still had fun.

I loved the community. I met some of my closest friends in Classics courses – friends that I still speak to seven years post-graduation. My life would not be the same if it hadn't been for making all of those connections with like-minded people in Classics. The professors were supportive, knowledgeable, and showed great dedication to their students. The classes were small which meant that you could ask questions in class and receive the answer without getting lost in the crowd. The student body was similar to small town life - you knew almost everyone.

What was your favourite class?

There are so many to choose from and it is difficult to pick only one, so I will list my top three:

  1. Sites of the Ancient World was likely my absolute favourite as it provided an immersive learning experience (we travelled to Greece and stayed for nearly a month).
  2. Pompeii and Herculaneum with Dr. Ripat. The activities and assignments were incredibly fun and helped reinforce knowledge and learning for years to come. Some of my friends and I still reminisce fondly over the wonderful learning experience and Dr. Ripat's expert guidance. I've been using some learning activity ideas from that course with my own students.
  3. Intro to Roman Society, a course I took in my first year, is very dear to my heart as that was the first course I took about Rome. I remember acing many of the assignments and coming to realize that I had a talent for that type of work.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Although I didn't continue pursuing a career in Classics, I can tell you one thing: majoring in Classics substantially contributed to the person I am today and my many successes in unrelated fields of work and study. 

I can thank my undergraduate degree in Classics for my stellar abilities to:

  • Thoroughly document what I've seen, experienced, and what I know
  • Write effectively and make my arguments clear
  • Solve problems creativity, pulling sources from many areas to find the right solution
  • Analyze information
  • Present in front of a group
  • Manage my time effectively and learn self-management
  • Think critically by digging to uncover truths and knowledge, including being untrusting of information that seems suspicious or biased
  • Capture and review every detail
  • Be resourceful when conducting research and trying to find answers

All of these skills greatly helped me in every job I held post-graduation, whether it was in an entry-level position or a senior-level position. These are soft skills that can otherwise take years to develop should they not be learned in post-secondary.

What are you up to now? What’s next for you?

After graduating from the University of Winnipeg, I began building a career in the expansive field of administration, working in various roles and fields and taking online courses on the side. I developed strong knowledge and expertise which led me to my current role as an Instructor teaching the Business Administrative Assistant program at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT). My love of learning new areas of study, growing professionally, trying new things, and achieving high pursuits are flourishing in this role. I've realized that I was meant to work in adult education and will continue to pursue teaching, program development, and instructional design, with hopes of eventually pursuing a Master's Degree in adult or post-secondary education.

Jazz Demetrioff

February 5, 2021

Join us in catching up with Classics alumna, Brock University masters student and future University of Buffalo PhD student Jazz Demetrioff. Alongside her undergraduate publications, strong scholarly work, and numerous archaeological excavations, Jazz was a leader in our Department, who organized countless events and initiatives for the UW Classics Student Association. We loved her Classics origin story ("yelled at" by Dr. Gibbs), and agree with her that Classics at UW is a supportive and vibrant community of scholars, teachers, and students.

Jazz DemetrioffHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I guess you could say it is a funny story now, but when I first decided to major in Classics it was actually a hard decision. During my first and second year of my undergraduate at the university I was in the Faculty of Education. I registered for CLAS-1001-Roman Society for credit towards my elective, and it did sound interesting; it did help that I already found ancient Rome fascinating. Taught by Dr. Matt Gibbs, formerly University of Winnipeg, now McEwan University, the course was upbeat, fun and enlightening (besides the good grade). This led me to take another Classics course, Roman Egypt, with the same professor. Being only a second-year and taking a third-year course was nerve racking, but I was confident that I would succeed. Half-way through the term I sat in Dr. Gibbs’ office and was “lectured” (more like “yelled” at) why I was a good student and fit for their department. Formalities aside, I was asked to make a decision, ‘what did I want to do, Education or Classics?’. It was a tricky decision but knowing that I was more interested in learning about the ancient world than practical theory and practicum, I switched over to the department of Classics. Soon after, I was accepted into the Honours program and every term, every class and every day was gratifying.

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

One of the most influential and inspiring things about the Honours program was that the faculty was always willing to go the extra mile for you. Whether it was an extension, books to borrow for research papers, discussing an assignment, or even just to talk and catch-up; everyone was friendly, welcoming and open to what you had to say. I thought to myself, ‘this is the faculty meant for you, this is who you may be one day’. Even if you weren’t taking a course with a specific professor, their door was always (unless they weren’t on the department floor) open so that students could come by to chat. Some days in the program were harder than others and my professors were there to lend a hand. Building a close relationship with your professors, especially in your chosen faculty, is essential to your success because the help is there; all you have to do is ask. Even after you graduate, like in my case, you still have those relationships and stay connected through your chosen specialty. I never once was let down or tossed aside by a professor, maybe told to come back later, instead like other Majors/Honours in the program we had all the help and encouragement we could needed to be successful. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, so thank you to all the professors in the department.

What was your favourite class?

My first thought reading this question was, ‘really, you’re going to make me choose?’. It is a tough call, to say the least, and if I were to choose a ‘favourite class’ I couldn’t just pick one. My focus in the Honours program was Roman socio-cultural history and archaeology, therein every course I took was my favourite. I’m personally more a fan of the Latin language than Greek, so I guess you could say there were classes I liked more than others, but again, a difficult choice to make. If I had to choose one it would have to be CLAS-3060 Health in Antiquity. With such an upbeat professor, interesting material and lab time, I was always in haste to learn more on the topic. Even selecting this one course feels wrong, as there were many favourites during the program, and if I could list every single one, I would. I was just grateful to learn about the ancient world.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

For those of your considering majoring in Classics, I say good for you and take the time to decide. It may take you your first year at the university to see that you want to enroll in the program. I would suggest starting your languages, Latin and Ancient Greek, early but not at the same time (lots of memorization). The languages are essential for you to complete the program, but also if you want to attend graduate school. Some of you may choose to specialize in the languages while others in civilization, either way keep up with your languages and complete as many years as you can. I’ve heard others suggest completing the required courses prior to electives, but I would suggest taking an elective each year (or term) so that you have a course that interests you and may be more ‘fun’ than others. That being said, any course that you do take that requires you to write assignments/research papers, do start them early. Why, you may ask; to be perfectly honest, this helps you with your time management skills and ability to complete your research without panicking at the last minute for ancient sources or archaeological data. I was constantly told to start my research early, and from practice, it’s second nature for me, as it will be for you too.

I would also suggest that you apply to be a Teaching Assistant, come your third/fourth year, as this job helps you practice your skills as an academic in Classics courses. This will give you experience that you may need in the future, and extra cash for books on antiquity, of course. Now, the most important, I find, is that if you do decide to Major in Classics (or not), is that you join the UWCSA (University of Winnipeg’s Classics Student Association). This core group (non-profit) is definitely a helpful way for you to get to know fellow Classics or Majors of other programs. You get to spend your time volunteering for a good cause and with a great team. I would say the UWCSA was a getaway from the classroom, even though you may have classes with some of the members. Even more, it was a way to promote Classics to the rest of the university with fun events, bake sales and teamwork. Both the Teaching Assistantship and the UWCSA look great on CVs and resumes, so be sure to keep these in mind when you work through the program.

What are you up to now? What’s next for you?

Currently, I’m in my second year of the Masters of Arts program at Brock University (St. Catharines, Ontario), specializing in Art and Archaeology. This year, with COVID-19, has been a tricky one, for everyone, but my department has taken every step to make sure that we still get a similar learning experience and can interact, face-to-face, during scheduled classes. I specialize in health in antiquity, with emphasis on Roman society, Roman socio-cultural history and archaeology, with interest in Roman oil lamps. I’ve been on three excavations in Italy, both land and marine, but unfortunately with the pandemic, it is unclear when I will be able to return. My current research pertains to snakes in the medical realm and how they were utilized as bio-medical objects, determined by their typology, in medicaments used in the Roman world. This year, alone, I’ve been published in two academic journals (Past Imperfect Vol.22 and Electra Vol.5), and will be giving a paper at the CAMWS Annual Meeting come April 2021. As for my graduate studies, I hope to attend a PhD program in Fall 2021 to further my academic career in my specialities (currently waiting for admittance letters) and plan to continue on as a post-secondary educator and archaeologist. *I would like to thank Dr. Peter Miller for asking me to take part in the department’s ‘Catching Up with Classicists’, and to the faculty for all your support during my undergraduate program and the influence you’ve had on my current endeavours.

Stay safe and stay “Classy”!

Simone Obendoerfer

January 22, 2021

Simone graduated with a Classics Honours degree in 2017, and now we're happy to have the chance to hear what drew her to Classics in the first place and learn what's she's been up to since then!

Simone ObendoerferHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I had spent my first year or two in University taking random courses, unsure of what I wanted to choose as a major. Nothing really piqued my interest, and I wasn’t exactly flourishing. I was a little lost at the time and I thought I would just take enough random classes to get a general 3 year BA. The first Classics course I took was Murder and Intrigue in Imperial Rome, taught by Dr. Matthew Gibbs, and it was the first class I really enjoyed. However, I wasn’t sure what I could do with a Classics degree, and I had never pictured myself in graduate school. After taking a few more courses, learning a lot more about the avenues that I could pursue, and realizing that I truly loved the content and the challenges, I decided to major.

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

I was always in awe of the faculty: The way they loved what they did, wanted to share it with as many people as possible, and really drew students in to the program with their passion for their subject. I really enjoyed being part of that environment. 

What was your favourite class?

I loved them all. I really enjoyed my third and fourth year courses and tutorials, because of the depth of the material and the small class sizes, we were able to use a Socratic seminar style of discussion between classmates as a way of learning from one another. I also really enjoyed Latin and Greek, they were very challenging and I felt very accomplished when I did well. 

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Start Latin and Greek early and keep on top of your homework! 

What are you up to now? What’s next for you?

I am currently working as a Collections Management Assistant at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I plan to continue my education full-time once the world gets back to normal. In the meantime, I started taking a course for fun with Dr. Melissa Funke in January!

Dr. Melanie Racette-Campbell

January 9, 2021

Once again, we’re not just catching up with but introducing a new face in the department! Dr. Melanie Racette-Campbell joined us as of January 1, 2021, as Assistant Professor in Latin literature. She’ll be teaching CLAS-3123/4123, Augustan Epic Poetry this term, where students will read Ovid in the original Latin.

Dr. Melanie Racette-CampbellWhere did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I did my MA at the University of Saskatchewan and my PhD at the University of Toronto.

My major area of expertise is gender and sexuality in Roman literature of the late Republic and Augustan periods. I also am interested in the use of Latin poetry by women writing in the Renaissance and Early Modern periods and in Classics in modern popular culture. And I’m just starting to get into the way that the physical space of the city of Rome changes through time and how it relates to writing about Rome.

Since you’re just moving to Winnipeg, what are you looking forward to?

Is it weird to say perogies? I’m from Moose Jaw but have lived away from the prairies for 13 years and it’s nearly impossible to get good perogies in central and eastern Canada.

What have you enjoyed most with remote teaching?

I really appreciate how it has forced me to reconsider every aspect of my teaching, from lecture planning to slide layouts to assessments to office hours. In assessments especially, I have been moving away from high-stakes exams for some time but had a radical break-up with them in the fall term. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back together.

What have you missed the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

Human interaction! It is much harder figure out when I need to try a different approach for a concept or to react quickly to feedback and expand on a point or bring in new information. I can get some of this from text-based interactions or from faces on a screen, but so much less than the reactions and questions and expressions on people’s faces in person. I’ve also found teaching remotely far more tiring. I think that when I teach in person I’m getting back energy from the interactions and the feedback as I give it out, but when teaching remotely energy is leaving me but most of what is coming back gets stuck in the tubes.

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

For students: Whatever you can do is enough, but you are the one who knows what your “enough” is: figure out what you want to achieve and what you are okay with letting slide for now. Set reasonable goals and be comfortable with adjusting them. Work at managing your time: it’s always important but now more than ever and having a plan will make it less catastrophic if something goes awry near a due date. But also if you want an extra challenge or have time that you want to fill, ask your professors what you can do! I’ve got all sorts of fun and/or interesting materials and activities if you need a distraction. And last of all, communicate with your professors: we can’t help you if we don’t know there’s something wrong!

For colleagues: Be kind. Be flexible. Be clear about expectations and requirements so that students can make informed choices about how much effort they want/need to put in to get the result they want. Check in if you notice someone is struggling: students who need help won’t always ask for it. And be kind to yourself and your colleagues. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume the best.

Dr. Christopher Lougheed

December 18, 2020

Dr. Lougheed joined the Classics department in Spring of 2019, when he taught all three of our Spring course offerings! He's now taught a wide range of courses from our first-year introductions to Greek and Roman society to upper-year classes on topics such as the Ancient Social Network and Letter-Writing in Antiquity - two of his areas of expertise. As our term winds down, we're happy to have a chance to catch up with Dr. Lougheed.

Dr. Christopher LougheedWhere did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I went to grad school at the University of Montreal and the University of Alberta. My area of expertise is networking, conflict avoidance, letter-writing and self-presentation in elite Roman culture in the 400s and 500s CE. 

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

I find Winnipeg friendly and I like the culture. I had often travelled through Winnipeg by train and I already knew people in the city when I arrived here. As a result, this was probably the easiest of my moves so far. Also, the terrain makes for good biking.

What are you enjoying most about remote teaching?

I'm enjoying the chance to experiment with new technologies and new types of assignments. 

What do you miss the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

I miss in-person interaction and browsing the library shelves.

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

Follow public health rules, but stay connected virtually and explore a new hobby.

Caitlin Mostoway Parker

December 4, 2020

This week, we're catching up with Caitlin, one of our former Classics Honours students who is now pursuing a graduate degree at Trinity College Dublin. Caitlin has always been enthusiastic about her Classics studies and was featured in the University's Education with Impact series. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Caitlin!

Caitlin Mostoway ParkerHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I decided to major in Classics after taking Roman Society in my first year. I had come to university already wanting to pursue studies in ancient history, but I wasn't aware that there was a whole department for it!

What did you like about the major and/or Honours program?

I really liked that we have such a diverse group of professors who are ready to help students with anything they might be interested in. The size of the department is excellent, and it allows for a more inclusive learning experience. 

What was your favourite class?

I have a few, but I would say Roman Egypt with Dr. Gibbs, or Slavery in the Ancient World with Dr. Ripat.

There are too many great courses to choose from!

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Do it! You won't regret it. 

What’s next for you?

I'll be starting an M.Phil. in Classics at Trinity College Dublin this September. 

Dr. Jonathan Vickers

Dr. Jonathan Vickers

November 13, 2020

This week we're not just catching up with but also introducing our newest faculty member in the department! Dr. Jonathan Vickers joins us remotely from London, Ontario, and brings to us his expertise in ancient sport - and a fondness for our chilly capital.

Where did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I did my Masters and my PhD at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. My dissertation was on ancient Greek acrobatics in several different contexts, including sport, dance, and spectacle. Sport and spectacle remain my prime area of interest, but I'm also a sucker for Aristophanes - my sense of humor is remarkably like a 10-year-old's. 

After doing your Bachelor of Arts at the University of Manitoba, you left Winnipeg to study at the University of Western Ontario. What do you miss most about Winnipeg?

You may not believe it, but honestly it's the winter! I know I'm in the minority here, but I absolutely love winter. The colder and snowier it is, the happier I am. I have a vivid memory of going for a walk when it was -48 (-52 with the wind) and the snow was whipping across my face. I'd call it breathtaking, but it was so cold that the air seemed to freeze in my lungs. That's my kind of winter!

What are you most looking forward to with remote teaching?

I'm excited to see students rise to the occasion. This is new territory for many of us, and I'm already impressed with how my students are proving themselves. I'm also pretty happy that I can teach remotely from Ontario. The commute from London to Winnipeg is killer. 

What are you going to miss the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

Without a doubt, what I'll miss most is being in a lecture hall with the class and working in real time with everyone as we discuss interesting topics, or analyze a text or vase painting as a group, or take a question and turn it into a conversation to which everyone can contribute. 

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

The best advice I can give is to be kind to yourself. I don't mean that to sound as if I'm recommending selfishness (be kind to others too!). But it's important to recognize that there will be unusual challenges this year, and we all need enjoyments to balance our work life. "Nothing in excess" as the ancient Greeks would say, and that includes taking a break from work and giving yourself time to do something that gives you joy. 

Heva Olfman

October 23, 2020

Join us in catching up with Classics Honours grad Heva Olfman. Heva graduated in 2019 and since then has been working hard in graduate school at McMaster University. We appreciate her taking the time to chat with us!

Heva Olfman, former Classics Honours studentHow did you decide to major in Classics?

I have always loved stories and I was interested in history, but I did not know what I could do with those interests. I was in my second year of university, taking a random assortment of classes and I decided to see what first year Latin would be like. At the end of each chapter there were these small selections of paragraphs taken from ancient poems and prose. I was always excited to read the story or excerpt in each chapter. From those excerpts I realized that I could spend my time both reading stories and learning about history. I decided to take Roman Society the next term before fully committing to Classics. I found I was becoming more interested the more classes I took and by the next year all my classes were in the Classics department.         

What did you like about the Honours program?

I liked how open and available the faculty always was. I always felt comfortable to go for help or to reach out when it came to my academic interests. Going through a demanding Honours program it was nice to have the support of professors when I needed it.  

What was your favourite class?

I don’t necessarily have one all time favourite class that I took, I more have three classes that stick out in my mind as favourites or milestones in my degree. In my third year of university I took a class on Alexander the Great, and I just remember always having a lot of fun in that class. The next year was my first Honours Latin class, where we read Amphitryon and Catullus’ works, it was difficult, but by the end of the year I felt really accomplished. The third class that stands out in my mind was my intermediate Greek class. I did not go into that class overly confident in my abilities, but by the end of the year just as with Latin in the previous year, I was really happy and felt proud of my accomplishments.   

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

I think anyone interested in Classics should go for it! There is so much in this field for everyone, you can focus on literature, art, history and that is just naming a few. More specifically my advice for anyone entering the language classes would be, yes, it is hard and it will take up so much more time than you can imagine it should, but being able to read something so old and maybe even connect intellectually or emotionally with a character in a story from thousands of years ago in my opinion is well worth the work. Even if your interests are not in literature I think taking Latin and Greek is an important and beneficial aspect to all areas of Classics.  

What’s next for you?

Currently I am completing my MA at McMaster University; my project is focused on Women and their laments in Latin poetry. This year I will be applying for PhD programs starting fall 2021. I hope to one day work in Academia as a professor studying Latin Literature, Women, and Gender in Ancient Literature.   

Dr. Warren Huard

October 2, 2020

This week, we're pleased to have the chance to catch up with Dr. Warren Huard.

Dr. Huard joined the Classics Department in 2019 and since then has taught a wide array of courses including Intro Latin, Religion in Greece and Rome, and Medical Terminology. This fall he's teaching History of Archaic Greece and is looking forward to delving into one of his major research interests in his Topics course on the Ancient Greek Hero. He's also teaching the Fall/Winter Intermediate Latin course and will be teaching Medical Terminology again in the Winter.

Dr. Warren Huard posing next to black-figure pottery featuring an image of HeraklesWhere did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?

I did my PhD at The Ohio State University, graduating in 2018. My general area of expertise is in ancient Greek religion, and most of my research is centred on the figure of Herakles. For instance, in my doctoral dissertation I examined Herakles’ association with the god Dionysos in archaic Greek epic poetry and black-figure pottery. In a somewhat roundabout way, that project grew out of the MA thesis which I did at McGill University, on the cults of heroes as documented by the 2nd-century Greek travel-writer Pausanias.

I also did a little Latin palaeography in graduate school, and I’m interested in the reception of Herakles (in the Roman form of Hercules) in the Middle Ages.

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

Not how flat it is! I’m originally from Newfoundland, and I find the level terrain here a bit surreal. That said, my grandmother is originally from Neepawa, and she lived in Winnipeg as a young woman. I now live and work in the same place as she once did, which is neat.

What are you most looking forward to with remote teaching?

Remote teaching should give me a unique opportunity to bring my cat with me to lessons, since we’ll both be at home. The cat’s name is Hilde, and like her namesake Brünnhilde she can be quite vocal: my students may well be hearing from her in the months ahead.

What are you going to miss the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?

The lack of face-to-face interaction with students and colleagues feels weird. I think that’s what I’ll miss most.

What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?

I don’t have much advice to give, but I think we’ll all have to be patient with each other as we try to figure things out this coming year. 

Brittany Bauer

September 11, 2020

In our second interview, we're catching up with recent Classics Honours graduate, Brittany Bauer. We recently featured Brittany's work on Roman dining practices in our news feed, and were pleased to be able to virtually sit down and chat with her again!

Brittany BauerHow did you decide to major in Classics?

While taking Dr. Gibbs' Roman Egypt course many years ago for my humanities requirement in a previous degree, the subject matter, passion of my instructor, and small class size were some of the reasons I decided to pursue this Classics degree.

What did you like about the Honours program?

My professors have all been exceptional, and the small class sizes allow students to engage in meaningful discussions with both professors and peers. The language requirement for the honours stream has been valuable to my studies, and is essential for further education in this field. I have been able to explore a wide array of subjects in the papers I have written during my time here, and have gained teaching experience by working as a TA for Dr. MacKinnon in the Anthropology lab for the last few years. This degree has given me great foundational knowledge in critical and cultural theory, which I believe was imperative for me to be accepted into the Cultural Studies MA program. The professors in this department are eager to make us better writers and researchers, and overall, want us to succeed.

What was your favourite class?

Classical Archaeology with Dr. MacKinnon! It was in his class(es) that I found my perfect niche: classics combined with science. Getting to be in the lab and having that hands-on experience is so essential for this degree, and Dr. MacKinnon makes it ever more enjoyable by being incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter.

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of majoring in Classics?

Go for it! There is so much to explore in this field, whether it be politics, sexuality, archaeology, warfare, language, or any other aspect of everyday life in the ancient world. You will end up finding your speciality, and your professors will be happy to help you expand your knowledge, and become an excellent researcher and writer. I ended up publishing two articles before I graduated! It is really so fulfilling.

What’s next for you?

I will be working on my MA in Cultural Studies here at the U of W in 2020/2021. After that, I have been entertaining the idea of getting my PhD in Ancient History/Archaeology, Classics, or something similar. Ultimately, I would love to be a curator at a museum, or maybe even a professor.

Dr. Victoria Austen

August 21, 2020

Thank you to Dr. Victoria Austen for being our inaugural interviewee for Catching up with Classicists! Dr. Austen joined the Classics Department in 2019, and has taught courses including History of the Roman Republic, Classical Mythology, Roman Society, and a special topics course on race and ethnicity in the ancient world.

Now without further ado, let's catch up with Dr. Austen!

Dr. Victoria Austen sitting in orange circular sculpture

Where did you go to graduate school and what is your area of expertise?
I received my PhD from King's College London in the UK. My doctoral research focused on the depiction of landscapes and gardens in Latin literature and Roman art; but my broader interests include mythological narratives and their reception in modern media, and the topic of race and ethnicity in the ancient world.

What do you like most about Winnipeg?

Does Oh Doughnuts count as a valid answer?! More seriously, when I'm not teaching, I spend a lot of time running - and I love that Winnipeg has a thriving 'free fitness' community. I have found everyone incredibly welcoming, which made moving to a new city much easier. 

What are you most looking forward to with remote teaching?
As we move into the winter months, I'm sure I will feel pretty happy about not having to walk to campus in the cold! I'm also looking forward to connecting/reconnecting with students and (although it is undoubtedly different) I think a return to the virtual classroom will help us all by providing a sense of stability and routine.
What are you going to miss the most with the move to remote teaching and learning?
I will definitely miss that sense of real-time classroom connection that comes from more informal and spontaneous conversations and comments. I will also miss just being in the department, and having students drop in to my office to say hello or tell me a funny story about their weekend! I hope to be able to create a similar space for these types of conversations through class discussion boards so that we do not miss out on these elements entirely.
What advice do you have for students and colleagues coping with the “new normal” this year?
Having taught remotely during the Spring semester, I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is to remember that you are not alone in this adaptation. Don't be afraid to reach out to your class mates or your instructor about issues that are troubling you. We are here to help, and we are also all in this together!

In 2020-21, Dr. Austen will be teaching Roman Art & Architecture, Ancient World Through Film, Plebs & Politics in the Late Republic, Classical Mythology, Roman Britain, and Augustan Rome. Visit WebAdvisor to register for her courses!