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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"No woman, according to New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, was ever ruined by a book. But Christopher B. Krebs, a classics professor at Harvard, makes a strong case that an early ethnological monograph, written in the first century in Latin by the Roman historian Tacitus, may have warped the cultural identity of an entire nation. In my old Penguin translation, 'Germania'—'On Germany'— runs fewer than 40 pages, but, like other comparably short documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and 'The Communist Manifesto,' its influence has been earthshaking. As the Penguin translator, H. Mattingly, frankly writes in his 1947 introduction, the book is 'a detailed account of a great people that had already begun to be a European problem in the first century of our era.'"

Read more of the review of A Most Dangerous Book at The Washington Post online.

 
View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 4:54pm by Information Architect.

The APA Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) seeks participants for its performance at the APA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  This year’s play is the premiere of The Jurymen, an Aristophanic take on the last days of Socrates, written by Katherine Janson, and directed by Amy R. Cohen.  We need actors, musicians, stage crew, and helpers for our limited-rehearsal staged reading.  Rehearsals will begin on Wednesday, January 4 and the performance will take place on the evening of Friday, January 6.  Send an e-mail describing your interests and talents to acohen@randolphcollege.edu, by September 1, 2011.  Read the script at apollonejournal.org.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 3:16pm by Adam Blistein.

The Joint Committee on Placement and APA Staff are developing a system that will bring greater automation to the process of registering candidates and institutions for the Service and of scheduling interviews at the 2012 Joint Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  We hope to have this system in place by the beginning of September.  While this new system is being developed, the Service will operate in the following manner:

For candidates:  Placement Director Renie Plonski will send an e-mail to all candidates registered for last year’s Service (2010-2011) stating that, unless they wish to discontinue their subscriptions, they will continue to receive e-mails around the 1st and 15th of each month containing all position listings recently submitted to the Service.  Any new candidate who wishes to receive the semi-monthly e-mails may be added to the e-mail list at no charge by submitting that request to Renie (plonskii@sas.upenn.edu).  Note:  Once the new automated system is implemented, we will no longer use this interim e-mail list.  All candidates wishing to participate in the 2011-2012 Service will need to register for it and pay the required fee. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 2:37pm by Adam Blistein.

"Two years ago, an archivist at Tufts University was sifting through manuscripts in the library's special collections when he came across a lone, unlabeled folder. To his surprise, it contained a stack of documents that no one then at the library had ever seen, some of them dating back to the 12th century. The Tisch Library Miscellany Collection was born. Now, Marie-Claire A. Beaulieu, an assistant professor of classics, has a novel way of identifying the documents and translating them from Latin to English—she's having her students do it. The 15 undergraduates and graduates she enlisted became historical sleuths, opening the cold case of the centuries-old texts; their work has been published online in the project's digital archive." Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education online.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 12:51pm by Information Architect.

From the website of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford:

Everyone at LMH was deeply saddened by the death of Dr Simon Price on 14 June 2011. Simon was a distinguished scholar, and a much appreciated teacher to generations of students in Ancient History and in Classical Archaeology. He continued researching and writing after he had taken early retirement in 2008. He was able to complete The Birth of Classical Europe, written in collaboration with Peter Thonemann, which has recently been published in paperback by Penguin.

Simon’s funeral will be on Thursday 23 June at 2.45pm in St Margaret’s Church, 19 St Margaret’s Road, Oxford, OX2 6RX. All are welcome.  

The family has asked people not to send flowers for the funeral but if anyone would like to make a donation in Simon’s memory to do so for the Ancient History Fellowship at LMH. This was Simon's wish.

Cheques, made payable to ‘LMH Development Fund’ and marked ‘Simon Price’ should be sent to the Development Office, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, OX2 6QA.  Donations may also be made online.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 07/06/2011 - 3:52pm by .

"When the name Cleopatra is mentioned, images of a powerful, exotic seductress may come to mind. While that may not necessarily be false, a Miami University professor is looking to flesh out the infamous femme fatale in a presentation working in conjunction with the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal’s exhibit of the Egyptian queen. Associate professor of classics Denise McCoskey’s presentation, “Cleopatra, a fatale monstrum? Encountering the Egyptian Queen in Roman Literature and Propaganda,” examines Cleopatra’s entire person, both as an able, multicultural ruler of a powerful state as well as how the Augustan propagandists presented her in the midst of Rome’s civil war — an image McCoskey said endures to this day."

Read more at http://beingcleopatra.blogspot.com.es/2011/08/cincinnati-lecture-encountering.html

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:48pm by Information Architect.

"Trojan Women (after Euripides), a new version of one of the greatest anti-war dramas of all time, will be the sixth annual outdoor theatrical production in the Getty Villa's Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater. New York-based Siti Company, one of America's leading ensemble theater companies, will perform an original retelling of Euripides' ancient Greek tragedy, in the world premiere of a Getty-commissioned production. These performances will mark one of Siti Company's rare appearances on the west coast. Directed by the company's artistic director Anne Bogart, the play features original music composed by Christian Frederickson and a text adapted by playwright Jocelyn Clarke."

Read more at losangeles.broadwayworld.com…

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:44pm by Information Architect.

"On Friday, July 1, 2011, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) opens a suite of new permanent galleries, reintroducing its visitors to the ancient civilizations of Rome, Byzantium and Nubia. Several never-before-seen objects are featured while others have been unseen by the public since previous galleries were closed in 2004 during the Renaissance ROM expansion project. To showcase these remarkable empires as never before, extensive new videos, shot on location, are featured alongside impressive artifacts in this new, dynamic space." Read more at artdaily.org…

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:33pm by Information Architect.

"Some time in the 1920s, the Conservative statesman F. E. Smith — Lord Birkenhead — gave a copy of the “Nicomachean Ethics” to his close friend Winston Churchill. He did so saying there were those who thought this was the greatest book of all time. Churchill returned it some weeks later, saying it was all very interesting, but he had already thought most of it out for himself. But it is the very genius of Aristotle — as it is of every great teacher — to make you think he is uncovering your own thought in his. In Churchill’s case, it is also probable that the classical tradition informed more of his upbringing, at home and at school, than he realized." 

Read more of Harry Jaffa's review of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins, trans.) at the New York Times online…

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:31pm by Information Architect.

Mary Beard regrets that an elegant history of Rome is marred by howlers. Read the review at The Guardian online.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Wed, 06/29/2011 - 1:13pm by Information Architect.

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