2021 SCS Award for Excellence in Teaching Classics at the College and University Level: Award Citations

Congratulations to our 2021 award winners again! You can view the full award citations by clicking on the links below:

Deborah Beck

Richard Ellis

Wilfred Major

Brett Rogers 


Deborah Beck, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin

The sound of a recorder introduces a student created podcast, Sophocles’ Antigone, in 2019. The host deftly introduces herself, credits the composer and musician, and then goes on to recap what has already happened in the Sophocles’ tragedy. The host gracefully alternates between delivering the Greek and a running translation and interpretation. Along the way, she references Bertolt Brecht’s 1948 Nazi-inspired Creon, reflects on her initial reading of Creon’s speech as “Teacher of the Day,” and offers a new more complex and nuanced reading of the speech.

This podcast project is just one example of Professor Deborah Beck’s creativity in designing engaging assignments with authentic audiences and issues. As part of the same course, each student is assigned to lead the class as “Teacher of the Day,” in which they choose what to focus on, lead the class in translating the text, and devise discussion questions and classroom activities. Her Classical Mythology course focuses on ethics and leadership, and she uses discussion boards, iClickers, and response papers to ask students to apply the ethics concepts from class to a modern or personal problem.

The podcast project also reveals her care in constructing each assignment so that students have a clear framework and model how to produce an elegant podcast. Her syllabus for upper-level Greek also organizes a series of papers—a close reading of a passage, a response to a scholarly article—that prepare her students to produce a final research paper.

Besides the creativity, engagement, and scaffolding that are so evident in her syllabi and in student comments, Professor Beck is known for her “laser focus on self-reflection in her teaching.” When a colleague was asked to teach the graduate level Greek survey for the first time, Professor Beck not only shared her syllabus, assignments, glossed passages, and in-class activities, but she also shared the notes she had left for herself how to revise each aspect of the course the next time she taught it. Similarly, she asks students to give feedback to the professor and to articulate goals for themselves. And after her grad students have presented a scholarly article to the class, she asks them “what can you learn from this for your own work?”

Finally, it is clear that Professor Beck cares about the big picture, how to be comfortable with shades of gray, how to have dialogue with those whose opinions differ from yours, how to change your mind in light of new information, and how to admit you are wrong without being defensive. Her August op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman reminds us that we may experience a “rush of feelings” as we return to school during a pandemic and the importance of relying on each other to understand the material we are studying together. One student comment sums up Professor Beck’s impact: “I appreciate the space you’ve created for discussions but also the manner that you place your reasoning and [show your] understanding for everyone’s point of view, and really what it means to be human.

We are honored to recognize Deborah Beck for her outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College and University Level.

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Richard Ellis, Continuing Lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles

What sets Richard Ellis apart is his ability to care for his students, whether first generation or students of color, and to recruit students into Classics – not just as a major or minor, but as a way to enhance and integrate into other fields the student cares about. Professor Ellis connects with his students through comparative material, such as Walcott’s Omeros or The Warriors (1979) (paired with the Anabasis). He reaches out to his students. He will prepare his classroom with images of athletes on the walls for the first day of “Ancient Athletics”, throw a pizza party for a Xenophon class, take students to a Greek play, or meet for a weekly Sunday “Zoom brunch” during lockdown. When he knew that lockdown alienation was keenly felt, he designed collaborative assignments that required students to meet online. He is the kind of person who remembers every student’s sports team. One alumna, a first-generation college student, remembers his unstinting support: “People judge me based on looks, and when I speak Spanish, they automatically assume that I was not ‘good enough’ to be a student at UCLA. Professor Ellis helped me squash that fear of mine because he believed in me…He told me that I have no reason to be afraid of failure because I am successful. It is rare for a professor to make an effort to get to know their students and ensure that they are thriving.”

Professor Ellis works hard to help his students thrive. He is known for his engaging classes. His lectures have been described as “transfixing, hypnotic, and captivating”. One student remembers “his courses [made] me feel like I was 12 years old again, pouring over a family tree of the Greek gods and wishing I could sink fully into that world. All of a sudden, Greek was not an incomprehensible wall that barred that world, but an opening.” One of Professor Ellis’s many innovative assignments asks to write a Pindaric ode to a modern athlete: “hymn their victories and triumphs over fate with poetic grandeur! But don’t invite phthonos!” Students receive a list of Pindaric elements to mimic, from personification to “gnomic, proverbial statements about the nature of existence” and even a modest sample ode composed by Professor Ellis himself, in honor of David Beckham (“curler of balls, feigner of injuries…never was your hair out of place. May the withering/nemesis of the boastful, Alopecia, stay far away”). Not only was this assignment fun and engaging, it also had a high impact on student learning, as he notes: “Their creative ventriloquizing of Pindar played as important a part in preparing the sophistication of their final papers.” It is no surprise that students frequently comment that his classes drew them towards Classics.

We are honored to recognize Richard Ellis for his outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College and University Level.

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Wilfred Major, Associate Professor at Louisiana State University

Three simple goals define Professor Wilfred Major’s teaching and pedagogy: digital materials, accessibility, a willingness not just to tinker with his courses, but a full-throated openness to revision to expand the canon to the entire history of the Greek speaking world. Professor Major engages students where they are at, including texts that appeal to the entire range of human experience, giving them space to articulate their ideas, and regularly asking them to tackle research topics that have not been covered in the course. Two pedagogical projects are especially noteworthy, each inspired by a simple question.

The first question was by a student: “What happened to the Greeks? Did they become extinct?” We may laugh at such a question, or cry, but our profession frequently discontinues the story of Greek history and culture after the rise of Alexander, or at best with the Second Sophistic. Professor Major decided to take this student’s question seriously and rebuilt his Greek Civilization course in a brilliant and daring fashion. He extended the chronological parameters of the course into late antiquity and the Byzantine world to the Ottoman empire and independence. He expanded the topics covered to include texts that would appeal to doctors, engineers, filmmakers, scientists, and theologians. By opening up the chronological and generic parameters of the course, he reaches students with many varied interests and majors. As a result, his Greek Civ course surpasses Classical Mythology in enrollment.

The second question we have all heard, “Why is Greek so hard?” In response to this question, Professor Major has written an online Open Educational Resource, Ancient Greek for Everyone, that introduces Greek for a 21st century audience and makes it affordable and accessible for everyone. Beginning with the most frequently encountered vocabulary and grammar (e.g., -mi verbs and 3rd declension nouns), he has crafted an online textbook with an easy-to-read format, lucid explanations, illustrative examples, straightforward exercises, and readings from classical and biblical texts, with plans to add readings from other eras and genres as well. He has published a series of articles outlining the pedagogical principles of his approach to beginning Greek. And he has organized countless workshops at both national and regional classics conferences, opening up the conversation for many others to consider new ways to teach Greek.

 Professor Major’s students regularly praise his openness to listen to their ideas, his commitment to ask “impossible questions” (questions that have no answer), his skill at prompting small group discussion to let students to work out their position prior to full class discussion, and his willingness to guide student research on an immense range of topics—from the divine liturgy of John Chrysostom and Aristotle’s Categories and Prior Analytics to military manuals and Dante’s idea of allegory. As one student explains, “Dr. Major’s personality is open and lively which contributes to the fun and [the] relaxed classroom environment, but the biggest factor is his respect and empathy for students.”

We are honored to recognize Wilfred Major for his outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College and University Level.

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Brett Rogers, Professor at the University of Puget Sound

Brett Rogers believes that Plato’s Academy sought to accomplish something fundamental that we still value in the university today: to help students cultivate the critical tools for becoming responsible members of their community. His style of teaching encourages students not to opt out of the world, but to live more intensely in it, as he challenges them to become a better version of themselves. He actively seeks out relevant personal experiences, knowledge from other disciplines, and connections to students’ daily lives. Students remark on his masterly discussion leading. “He often pushed discussions,” notes an alumnus, “to more meaningful places with succinct Socratic questions, involved students by connecting the current topic to their own major and asked us to consider how the ancient text might apply to contemporary concerns”. Professor Rogers provides a safe space to discuss complex and challenging issues, treating sensitive topics with care and concern, and showing, as another student writes, that he “cared about our mental and emotional needs as students.”

One of Professor Rogers’ high impact techniques is to ask students to imagine themselves back in antiquity and think about course themes like “freedom,” timê, kleos or parrhesia. The essay prompts for his first-year seminar “Athens: Freedom and the Liberal Arts” include taking the role of a fictional Athenian woman and responding to Pericles’ exhortation to women in Thucydides 2.45 or reflecting on whether Plato’s Republic could be both free and just. Students role play as they perform their own Dionysia as a class, act out books 9-12 of the Odyssey, or create their own version of a Greek tragedy. Many comment on the two weeks they spend playing “Athens in 403,” a Reacting to the Past game. One writes about what he noticed as a writing advisor in the university writing center: “I watched [his students] write and deliver speeches, conspire with each other to effect in-game political change, and think critically about the role and power of rhetoric”. Another notes simply, “I learned how to write at the college level” from Professor Rogers.

Professor Rogers is dedicated to his students. At the start of his courses, he makes it clear that he will work as hard as he asks them to, and students notice. “The more energy you put into class the more energy he puts into you.” “Never have I met a professor more invested in student growth!” “He was intentional about connecting me to resources, validating my experiences as a first-generation student, and encouraging me to pursue my own research interests”. These efforts extend far beyond the classroom. Professor Rogers has directed several dozen senior theses and half a dozen summer projects, led a study abroad trip to Greece (described by a student as “one of the most impactful and challenging experiences of my time as an undergrad”) and served as advisor for board game clubs and role-playing clubs focused on Classical Reception. And everything is done with good humor, including his famous “fun outfits” on Fridays.

We are honored to recognize Brett Rogers or his outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the College and University Level.

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Candidates wishing to use the APA/AIA Placement Service may register at the reduced early rate ($20 for e-mail service) until December 1, 2011.  Candidates must be members of either APA or AIA.  If the new online system does not recognize you as a member, and if you paid your dues recently, you will be permitted to register more quickly if you can forward a verification of your recent payment to Renie Plonski, the Placement Director (info@classicalstudies.org).

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 9:36pm by Adam Blistein.

From Gibbon to "Gladiator," it might seem like we know a lot about Ancient Rome, but our view of this civilization is a skewed one. The Romans lived in one of the most stratified societies in history. Around 1.5% of the population controlled the government, military, economy and religion. Through the writings and possessions they left behind, these rich, upper-class men are also responsible for most of our information about Roman life.

The remaining people – commoners, slaves and others – are largely silent. They could not afford tombstones to record their names, and they were buried with little in the way of fancy pottery or jewellery. Their lives were documented by the elites, but they left few documents of their own.

Now, Kristina Killgrove, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt University, wants to tell their story by sequencing their DNA, and she is raising donations to do it. “Their DNA will tell me where these people, who aren’t in histories, were coming from,” she says. “They were quite literally the 99% of Rome.”

Read more on the Light Years blog at http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/11/who-were-the-99-of-ancient-rome/

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 1:16am by Information Architect.

At its meeting in September 2011, the Board of Directors voted to recommend to the members that they change the By-Laws to combine the existing divisions of Publications and Research, effective January 6, 2013.  Members will be asked to vote on this change at the Annual Meeting of Members on January 8, 2012, in Philadelphia.

Current By-Law language with proposed deletions struck through and proposed additions [in brackets].

OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS

13.  The Board of Directors shall consist of the President, President-Elect, six[five] Vice Presidents, two Financial Trustees, six additional Directors, and Immediate Past President.  In addition, the Executive Director shall be a member of the Board of Directors with voice but without vote.  Except as may be provided otherwise by law, any Director or the entire Board of Directors may be removed, with or without cause, by a majority of the members then entitled to vote in an election duly called for that purpose.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 12:45am by Adam Blistein.

Daniel Mendelsohn reviews Stephen Mitchell's new translation of the Iliad in the November 7th edition of The New Yorker. Read an abstract of the review online here.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 6:09pm by Information Architect.

It has now been decided that no reduction in staff numbers in Classics at Royal Holloway will take place until the end of the academic year 2013-14.  Moreover if we recruit good numbers of students with AAB or above at A-level for 2012 and our plans to increase our numbers of Master’s students, both for our MA programmes and for our new MRes programmes, are successful, the proposal for a reduction in staff numbers is likely to be reviewed.  Validation of our two new MRes degrees, one in Rhetoric and one in Classical Reception, is in train.  For more details, see the Department’s blog at http://supportclassicsatrhul.wordpress.com and the Departmental website at www.rhul.ac.uk/ClassicsandPhilosophy.
 
We will be very pleased to receive good applications for Master’s and PhD degrees as well as for all our undergraduate programmes for September 2012.
 
Prof. Anne Sheppard
Head of Classics and Philosophy Department
Royal Holloway
University of London
Egham, Surrey  TW20 0EX

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 1:29pm by Information Architect.

The new Placement Service web site is now available at placement.apaclassics.org.  We appreciate the patience that both candidates and hiring institutions have shown as we develop this new service.  The web site will permit both candidates and institutions to register and to submit scheduling information online and to see their schedules filled out as specific interview times are assigned.  Registered candidates will also be able to see new position listings as soon as texts of those listings are received and reviewed.  Please note that this new web site for registered candidates will only supplement – it will not replace – the traditional monthly listings of new positions that appear on the APA and AIA web sites.  The traditional listings perform a number of valuable functions for the field, but we look forward to giving active job candidates the earliest possible access to new listings. 

Candidates should be aware that we have a considerable backlog of positions already advertised that we need to enter into the new system.  The new job listing web site will therefore probably not be complete and up-to-date until the second week in November.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 10/27/2011 - 1:21pm by Adam Blistein.

"Wrestling announcer Ed Aliverti often spiced up the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament by yelling that wrestling was 'the world's oldest and greatest sport.' Prints sold at wrestling events depict biblical figure Jacob wrestling an angel, and Abraham Lincoln engaged in his own wrestling match before becoming president. The sport has always been proud of the ancient origins of the sport.

"Now, wrestling has proof of its long history, as researchers at Columbia University found an instructional manual on wrestling that dates back to 200 A.D."

Read more at Yahoo Sports…

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 10/20/2011 - 7:41pm by Information Architect.

Martha Abbott, a Latin teacher with whom many APA members have collaborated, has become Executive Director of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), a society of over 12,000 language teachers and administrators. 

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 10/19/2011 - 6:22pm by Adam Blistein.

The Aquila Theatre's Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives project has been invited to perform a staged reading of scenes from ancient Greek literature for members of the administration and Congress at the White House on November 16, 2011. Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives:  Poetry-Drama-Dialogue is a major new national public program by the Aquila Theatre of New York, supported by a prestigious Chairman's Special Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  The goal of the project is to bring the veteran community and public together around performances of several ancient  works.  This fascinating free public program of staged readings, lectures, reading groups, and workshops is visiting 100 libraries, arts centers, museums, theatres and galleries across America from May 2010 to April 2013.  The APA is participating in this program by helping to recruit and train the scholars who will lead the events before and after Aquila performances.  The staged reading at the White House will include scenes from Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Sophocles' Ajax, Euripides' Herakles, and Homer's Odyssey performed by a combination of actors from Aquila and combat veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The reading will be followed by a "town-hall" style discussion moderated by APA member, Peter Meineck, Aquila's Artistic Director.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 10/18/2011 - 6:58pm by Adam Blistein.

We expect the new automated APA-AIA Placement Service registration web site to be available to candidates during the week of October 17.  At that time candidates will need to register for the 2011-2012 Placement Year if they wish to continue to receive Positions for Classicists and Archaeologists, get access to a web site in which new job listings will be posted as soon as their advertisements are approved, and schedule interviews at the upcoming annual meeting.  Candidates must be either an APA member for 2011 or an AIA member in good standing and will need to enter a member number to complete the registration process. 

If you are not yet a member, you can join the APA at

http://apaclassics.org/index.php/membership

or you can join the AIA at

http://www.archaeological.org/membership/join

If you have already joined one of the societies, please visit this web site to obtain an APA member number,

http://apa.press.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/member_number_lookup.cgi

AIA member numbers appear on the membership card and can be obtained from Membership@aia.bu.edu

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 10/12/2011 - 6:25pm by Adam Blistein.

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