Assistant Professor of Roman History, University of British Columbia
“Even if you don’t plan to continue in the field, classics will be more useful for your post-Middlebury future than you realize.”
What have been your key milestones since graduating from Middlebury?
After graduation I spent three years in foundations relations at a non-profit, the National Women’s Law Center in DC. I was happy to be doing research and writing but I soon realized that I was in the wrong setting and that I wanted to return to the academic world. I needed to strengthen my languages before applying for graduate school so I continued working part-time at the non-profit while I did a post-baccalaureate at Georgetown University. I started my PhD at Princeton in 2010 and I plan to complete my dissertation next year.
How has the classical studies major influenced your life after graduation?
To say that my major influenced my life would be an understatement since it is now my life! Being a classics major not only helped me to identify my particular academic interests (ancient history), but also the type of work that I would be happy doing every day (teaching and researching) in the type of setting that would inspire me (an institution of higher education).
How have the skills, knowledge or dispositions you learned as a classical studies major translated into your career?
It’s pretty obvious how being a classics major prepared me to get a PhD in Classics! But it actually also prepared me for my brief career in the non-profit world, which required that I be a strong writer and very careful reader and editor. I think that a degree in classics provides you with a well-rounded general education because it is such a multi-disciplinary field.
Did you know what career path you wanted to pursue after graduating?
I had my suspicions, but it took me awhile to come to a decision. I did not even consider graduate school in classics until I started working on my thesis my senior year. I had never done independent research until then and I loved it. By then it was too late to apply to graduate school, and I didn’t want to rush into such a major decision. The faculty in the classics department wisely advised me to see if there was anything else I would be happy doing first and then come back to them in a few years if I was still interested. I had always wanted to work on issues of gender inequality so I tried out the non-profit world for a few years but eventually I called them back up and said, “Nope, nothing else! “ The funny thing is that I am now writing my dissertation on sexual exploitation and Roman slavery so I have managed to incorporate those interests into my academic work, as well.
Finally, what advice or suggestions do you have for current classics majors as they consider their post-Middlebury futures?
If you are considering continuing on in the field, then you are probably considering a career in teaching. If you are interested in academia I would give the same advice that I received: take a year or two to make sure that is what you want to do. Doctoral programs are very long and the job market is very tight. That said, I have had a wonderful experience in graduate school. I have had the opportunity to teach in a variety of settings (at Princeton, back up at Middlebury, and most recently in the prison system), travel the Mediterranean, work on an archaeological excavation, translate previously unpublished papyri, and, most importantly, get paid to research, write, and read. What could be better?
Even if you do not want to continue on in the field of classics, the major might have been more useful for your post-Middlebury future than you realize. Classics is an amalgamation of many different fields: art history, archaeology, language, literature, history, law, political science, philosophy, religion, and the list goes on. Think back on what particular topics of study you liked and what type of thinking you excelled in. It might help you identify what you want to do.