One of the best-kept secrets in the liberal arts scene at UConn is the classics department, neatly tucked away on the second floor of Arjona. It is composed of a small group of intellectuals devoted to material which may appear boring on the surface but is, on the contrary, quite engaging and fun to work with.
Though one studies dead languages and the ramblings of old men, being a classics and Mediterranean studies (CAMS) major or enthusiast is beneficial and enlightening. When a new student begins learning a second (modern) language, the beginning translations are excruciatingly boring. "I want to go to the store to buy milk," and "Your hair is brown," are not even half as exciting as "Achilles split his head at the brow with hilted sword," or "The Cyclops smashed their heads like puppies." In addition, the works you translate in CAMS are famous works. Plato's "Trial of Socrates," "The Odyssey" and even the Bible are just a few of the works you'll likely translate in only your second year of Greek.
For those of you who do not wish to learn Greek or Latin, fear not. You can still be a classics major. There are classes that concentrate on the analysis of Plato's writings, Roman satires and Roman history, as well as a number of ancient art classes. To make it more exciting, Dr. Roger Travis is known to compare and contrast the classics with modern mediums, including "Star Wars," "The Matrix," "Star Trek" and "Lord of the Rings." We really did sit in class and discuss the philosophy of "The Maker" and Neo's choice in The Matrix Reloaded, comparing it with the decisions of Socrates in Plato's dialogues.
I wish to commend the professors for their dedication to teaching. They really want you, the student, to learn as well as enjoy the material. In professor Sara Johnson's Beginning Greek Classes, if you get below an 80 on any of the quizzes, you fail. However, the other side of this is you can retake any quiz any number of times until you get above an 80. This is something I have rarely heard of other teachers doing, not because they don't care for the well being of their students, but because they don't wish to continually make different quizzes on the same material, despite the fact this method definitely encourages the learning of the material. Having tried and tested this system, I can personally attest to the benefits, advantages and personal enjoyment of the student. I encourage all teachers to try it.
For those English majors out there, how many times have you read Romantic poetry or Shakespeare and had to glance continuously down to the footnotes to understand the background of some obscure mythological reference? Not only will classics improve your scholarly knowledge, but it will also save you time on your other homework. As one of two English/classics majors on campus (the other also writes for The Daily Campus), I know I can speak for both of us in saying classics compliments an English major very well.
A final advantage to joining the classics department is the loyalty and camaraderie of the students within it. A recent search on Facebook displayed a mere 42 students (including alumni) who are classics majors. When four or five of your classmates share two or three of your weekly classes, it is almost impossible not to become friends with them. A few of the more ambitious CAMS majors formed the Classics Club, which meets on Thursday nights in the Student Union. The club organizes trips to museums as well as miniature war game demonstrations and various other classical academic pursuits.
In addition, we're a real friendly bunch of people. Give it a shot, try some classics courses and open yourself up to a small, sharp academic community that looks to the future by studying the past.