Major Profile: Classics

by Rachel Burns
Staff Writer

Colleges such as Transylvania University stress the connections between seemingly opposing fields, such as math and literature or natural science and fine arts, as part of their liberal arts education. One field of study offered by Transy has an especially extensive nature that fully deserves the descriptor “interdisciplinary”: classics.

Students who declare a major or minor in classics will be exposed to such varying topics as foreign languages, art history and ancient methods of diplomacy. Among the classes they can take are Introduction to Greek and Roman Mythology, Women in Antiquity, Ancient Drama and The Twelve Caesars.

“For better and worse, the classical tradition has shaped western thinking,” said Dr. John Svarlien, professor of classics.

Studying ancient Greek and Latin is another facet of the program. Svarlien called the major requirements “flexible enough to allow students to customize their course work to fit their interests.” He adds that some choose to double major, frequently in a natural science field.

In terms of career prospects, Svarlien points out “the skills, abilities, intellectual capital and learning habits, and capabilities in college graduates” are treasured by employers, and that the demanding classics major fosters such vital traits.

Proficiency in language, the power to analyze details and place them in a larger context, and again, the ability to see connections among differing subjects are what students will gain from studying classics and what employers will look for on résumés.

By joining Sodalitas, the classics club, or Theta Eta, Transy’s chapter of the national classics honorary, students can become involved outside the classroom.

According to Transy’s website, Sodalitas “holds regular meetings, sponsors conferences on campus, attends public lectures in the area (and) gets together to work on projects (e.g. cleaning and attributing ancient coins, battle reenactments), and to enjoy social occasions.”

Theta Eta, known nationally as Eta Sigma Phi, has the goal “to stimulate interest in classical study and in the history, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome,” according to its website.

Another excellent opportunity provided by the program is studying abroad. This year’s May term will see the classics and Spanish programs traveling together to Rome and Spain.

Svarlien’s commitment to the discipline is apparent when asked the best reason to study it.

“For the sheer love of it,” said Svarlien. “Classics gives you the opportunity to explore a wide variety of really interesting topics, texts, art, ideas and the physical evidence of archaeology. If you give this subject the attention it deserves, you’ll find that you are getting in the bargain useful knowledge and skills that can be applied (to) a wide variety of career paths. Just as importantly, you’ll find a whole world that will continue to reward your interests for a lifetime.”

Recent graduates of Transy’s classics program are currently studying at Florida State University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Chicago. Possibilities for students include law or medical school, pursuing a career as a Latin teacher and much more.

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