Catching up with Classicists


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

On the Blog:

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

Dr. Jonathan Vickers

Dr. Jonathan VickersThis 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!