Please enjoy reading about what a couple of our alumni from the Department of Classical Languages are doing since their graduation from Wake Forest University. You will find a wide variety of professional pursuits as we touch base with former students, and we hope this feature will aid your own thinking of the manifold possibilities that await you as you pursue this versatile and profound degree.
Laura M. Ware, Class of 2010, Archaeological Science
Question: What are you doing today (professionally) and how did studying Classics prepare you for this?
I am currently studying at University College London for my MSc in Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials (basically, archaeological science!). For my dissertation I will do compositional analyses on the stained glass window from the gothic cathedral, York Minster, and compare surface (non-destructive, non-invasive) analyses against more invasive methods for archaeological glass analysis.
While this degree is not strictly in Classical studies, my passion for Classics definitely led me here!
As an undergraduate at Wake, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, during which time I took a class for fun on the Etruscans. I had been a Latin student in high school, and remembered how much I loved it, so I declared a second major in Classical Studies – still “just for fun”. In the summer before my senior year, I was awarded a Richter Scholarship to excavate on a pre-Roman, Iron Age necropolis and settlement near Bologna, Italy. I then decided to write my Honors thesis on Etruscan women, and by the time I graduated, my major in Classical Studies was no longer “just for fun!”
After graduating, I held an internship at the British Museum in the Greece and Rome Department, where I helped the Museum prepare for the 2012 London Olympics and for a major exhibition about Pompeii and Herculaneum, which opens this month (March 2013). Now I walk around UCL’s Institute of Archaeology in a lab coat and use scanning electron microscopes! I plan to pursue a PhD someday, and eventually work in a museum in conservation and scientific research. While I am adding science to my skill set, my preference will always be for the Greco-Roman world.
Question: In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying Classics/Classical Languages?
Studying Classics is beneficial to you as a person and also for your education and career. A deep, broad understanding of Classical myth and literature has enriched my life in many ways; all culture and art forms are all the more accessible and interesting to a Classics student. From Renaissance paintings to Harry Potter, Classical themes have permeated human expression in obvious and in more subtle ways. (Actually, detecting that continuous thread through time is one reason why I love both Classics and archaeology: humans are essentially the same across the millennia, from Achilles’ grief to Ovid’s dirty jokes.) I don’t think I have ever met someone who has studied Classics – or even taken one course, or heard one myth – and hasn’t been at least a little bit giddy about it.
A Classics education also prepares you for your career, and I can’t say it better than Jon Bolton (’73) in his interview (link?), so I’ll paraphrase his words: From pedagogy, you gain the skill of thorough preparation; from philosophy, you gain the ability to think more creatively; and from philology, you learn the art of communication. I will only add that the buzz words “ transferable skills” refers to no subject more than it refers to Classical Studies. A Classics education is the best education, and has been since the time of the ancient Greeks themselves. Back then, the aim wasn’t to get a 3.0 GPA, but to better the self in mind, body and soul: how to be a better person in all ways, from hospitality to a clever wit.
Question: What advice do you have for current Classics students?
My first advice is to all students at Wake Forest: take advantage of opportunities like the Richter Scholarship. It changed my life, made me realise I wanted the path I have now taken, and that it was achievable. I’ve always considered myself to be a good student, but not necessarily an exceptional one; however, exceptional experiences are still within your capabilities, and they can lead you in directions you never considered. Be creative when you think about your future. Love what you do and what you learn, and give your life and future the energy and attention it deserves! It is scary these days, to pursue something like Classics that doesn’t seem as ‘practical’ as business or economics, but you need to do what you love, and the rest will take care of itself: Classics will give you the tools for any career or postgraduate degree you would like to pursue.
Jon Bolton, Class of 1973, Private Wealth Management
Question: What are you doing today and how did studying Classics prepare you for this?
For the last 32+ years I have had the privilege to work with clients and families in the financial services industry, advising them on life-planning issues as well as managing their portfolios. Prior to that I taught and coached high school students for 5 years.
After graduating from WFU, I pursued an MAT at UNC-CH in Classics with the intention to teach and coach. The study of Classics was a real door-opener. While demographics may have played a role in the process (Classics teachers are always dying off), many high school administrators were eager to give interviews. The principals gave great weight to Classics. And as a result of that respect that they had for the breadth of the subject matter, I am convinced that these administrators were willing to provide me with additional challenges of teaching AP courses outside my main discipline.
In regard to my current career the linkage between the study of Classics and portfolio management is less direct, yet that might be the unhidden beauty of the discipline. Here are several ancillary points to consider:
· Daily and thorough preparation (aspects of pedagogy)
· Willingness to think in an unconventional manner and challenge the status quo and look at the world differently ( training from the philosophers)
· Ability to read widely, listen, comprehend, respond, converse cogently, and speak publically (aspects of philology)
Question: What do you perceive are the benefits of studying Classics?
The benefits of studying Classics are multiple. Over the years due to the nature of my profession and personal “hard-wiring”, I have become intrigued by how complex systems are related and what we can learn about those systems from what we already know.
For example, Moneyball (Michael Lewis’ novel) was an absolutely fascinating study about how a team with one of the lowest payrolls in MLB was able to compete successfully against the wealthiest teams, such as the NY Yankees. It was a wonderful study of how out-of-the box thinking could identify “mispriced” talent (i.e., undervalued assets) and then put together a system that utilized those players in an innovative way. The application to portfolio management was not too big of a leap to make: classical investment masters such as Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Shelby and Chris Davis, Sir John Templeton, et al. have been doing this for years and years.
That is a long way of saying that the study of Classics have provided a “passport” that allows transference from one discipline to another.
Since my primary concentration was the study of Latin, I really developed an appreciation for the construction and richness of the language, which readily transferred to the understanding of English literature and was very helpful in the development of writing and thinking skills.
Latin’s etymology remains useful to me today; still a word “geek” who enjoys the Saturday and Sunday crossword puzzles.
Question: what advice do you have for current Classics students?
Some of the best advice I ever received came from a colleague of our former firm. He was pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and his advisor (who would later become Chancellor of UNC-CH) knew that this young man was intrigued by investing and encouraged him to pursue what he loved. The study of philosophy would serve as a foundation for his thought process and a “touchstone” for his future decision-making. The advisor and student also understood that (for him) the pursuit of “broad-based knowledge” was more energizing “than deep knowledge.” Some 20 or 25 years later the former Ph.D. student would be recognized by Morningstar as a mutual fund manager of the decade and by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top investors of the 20th century. In the meantime he helped found the Santa Fe Institute, getting back to his roots in philosophic studies. (For years he also employed a Ph.D. in Classics on his research team.)
- Pursue what you love.
- Utilize the tools and experiences to craft a rich life (e.g., study of Classics).
- Choose breadth of knowledge over depth of knowledge.
- Practice “sophrosyne”.
Question: how have other areas of your life been shaped by studying the Classics?
At present I am involved on the outside periphery (and if circumstances permit, may become more deeply involved later) with a project that takes “classical virtues” and applies them to business management. The lead movers have written several books on the subject, taught the subject in their graduate business school, and now are making application in corporate America.
Anne Glenn, class of 2006, Latin teacher:
Question: What are you doing today and how did studying Classics prepare you for this?
Anne: Since my graduation in 2006 from WFU, I have been a Latin teacher in various schools across North Carolina. I’m currently teaching levels I through AP at Mt. Tabor High School here in Winston-Salem because my husband and I loved Wake Forest and Winston-Salem so much as undergrads! I double majored in Greek and Latin with no intention of becoming a high school teacher until my senior year, but I simply couldn’t stop reading Latin and knew I had to continue in the field of Classics. Clearly, studying the Classics turned me into a Latin teacher because I found such joy in studying the ancient world.
Question: In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying Classics?
Anne: Studying the Classics is not just about the Romans and the Greeks. Studying the Classics is more like studying the human condition and what it means to be a human being. By learning Latin and Greek, we are able to have conversations with people who have been dead for thousands of years and to understand how they thought. Moreover, it is not possible to simply study the ancient languages; you must delve into their culture, history, philosophy, and every other facet of life in order to get a clear understanding of what these Greeks and Romans were trying to say. What I love about the Classics is that it is all-encompassing [interdisciplinary]. As a student, I came to understand more about myself and our modern world by reading Homer, debating Plato’s philosophy, and studying ancient tragedy. It is amazing how we can feel the same emotions and encounter the same problems as these people from so long ago.
Question: What advice do you have for current students of Classics/Classical Languages?
Anne: Take as many classes as you can and do all the extra readings! Seriously. I found that the more work I put into the class, the more I enjoyed it. You can do anything with a Classics degree, because a Classics degree will prepare you to be analytical, logical, observational, and appreciative of the whole picture. So don’t be shy to take the courses you love and make Classics your major.
Question: How have other areas of your life been shaped by studying the Classics?
Anne: I’m a bit of an anomaly since the Classics have totally shaped my entire profession. I have devoted my adult life to spreading the love of Classics and to teaching high-schoolers about the wonders of Latin. I did not always think that this would be the case, for I distinctly remember thinking in high school as a Latin I student that teaching Latin must be the most boring job ever. But take it from me, it’s worth pursuing. And it’s certainly not boring. The more you learn about the Classics, the more addicting it becomes.