Recent graduates of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies from Puget Sound work in diverse fields, from lawyers, doctors, and teachers, to the web director for the Honolulu Museum of Art to engineers for Pokemon Go and Google maps. Below are stories from some of our recent graduates describing how their Classics training at Puget Sound prepared them for the job they now hold.
For the last two years I have been serving in Indonesia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My main job here is as a secondary English teacher at a large vocational high school but I also work outside of school with local universities and non-profit organizations to fill my time. I'm no stranger to people being slightly confused or shocked when I tell them of my classics background; most other volunteers majored in communications or international studies. However, I honestly believe that my Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies degree prepared me better than some of the other, more obvious majors. Through my study of Latin and Greek, I gained a more intimate knowledge of English which has helped me in teaching it to my students here (especially since Bahasa Indonesia often doesn't have parallel structures to use as an example). My service in the Peace Corps serves as just another proof that Classics majors can find jobs in a wide variety of sectors.
ELENA CUSSLER, Class of ‘14
Currently I am the co-director of an after school program. We serve 200 students from 12 schools spread across three districts from a single facility. My job includes organizing pickup schedules, setting up fundraising events, bossing around employees, communicating with parents, liaising with schools, working with the Union, calling substitutes, and when all else fails, just doing someone else job. Sometimes I even get to work with the kids! When people find out that I have a degree in classics they tend to laugh and drop the same joke--I bet that Homer really prepared you for this! I swear I've heard this at least 50 times.
What people fail to realize is that I was not prepared to be co-director when I took on the responsibilities. I was shoulder tapped to be the interim co-director when our old one quit unexpectedly. I had to learn every facet of my job on the fly, but picking apart pickup schedules, Union contracts, and even insurance forms was menial when measured up against picking apart convoluted stanzas in from Daphnis and Chloe. Sure, contracts have their fair share of confusing language, but at least I never get blind sided by pirate attacks! I mean, come on. Pirates don't belong in pastoral poetry!
If there were any message I would give to potential Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies majors is that if you can succeed in the Classical studies, you will be able to succeed in the workforce because of your ability to learn. To study classics you have to dig and dig and dig. You have to sort through facts and interpretations that are undergoing rapid transformation as we gain access to texts we didn't even know existed. The facts you learn may not be applicable to your future career, but the process of learning them is vital. I shed my 'interim' title and got co-directorship in front of a slew of more qualified applicants because a week after my promotion I knew my job inside and out, and a week later I began making changes to make the program run more efficiently. I am next in line for directorship without a single ECL credit, and it's thanks to my classics degree.
STEVE MOSES, Class of ‘14
I graduated in May, 2017 with Juris Doctor from the University of Idaho College of Law. I'm planning on sitting for the Washington bar in July. I can honestly say that I can attribute my success in law school to my time with the Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies. The rule-based reasoning, memorization, and all the pages I wrote both for this department and the other humanities department have been absolutely invaluable during my three years of law school. While many of my classmates were struggling with the volume of reading, writing, memorizing and applying rules, I was already very comfortable with all of that. The Socratic method of many first-year classes didn't even bother me. My only complaint is that lawyers are terrible at pronouncing Latin, so that will drive me crazy for the rest of my career.
CHRISTINE MELLICK-MILLER, Class of ‘13
Currently I am at Oxford University in England using the famous Bodleian library to do research for my dissertation. After graduating from Puget Sound I went straight into my MA in Medieval Studies at Bristol University and since October 2017 I have been in the PhD in Spanish program at Durham University, with a focus of Medieval Spain and Visual Culture.
While current students in the Puget Sound Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies might wonder what a Classics degree has to do with a PhD in Spanish, I believe that my experience in Classics has continually made me one of the most qualified medievalists amongst my peers. On the language side of things my Spanish and Classics majors have helped me immensely. Because of my courses in Greek and Latin there are very few languages that I cannot teach myself to read now. Last year I discovered that because of my Latin background I can read French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan all to varying degrees. The focus and dedication we learn when taking Greek and Latin, especially Greek, allows me to be ahead of my fellow PhD students not only who are in the medieval field but in the humanities in general. Since I am able to read all of these languages just based off of my Spanish and Latin experience, courtesy of Puget Sound, I do not have to spend time or money on taking language classes for reading knowledge.
My Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies background is also helpful with my medieval subject matter. When I was taking classes during my MA and reading Don Quijote, I was the only one who caught and could understand the references to Roman myths scattered throughout the books. I do not think other medieval students realize how heavily that time period draws on art, culture, and literature from ancient Greece and Rome. My courses in Greek and Roman comedy, culture and architecture I took while at Puget Sound have also helped me immensely. My PhD is closely tied to the theatrical world and perception that I first learned about in Puget Sound. It gave me a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to my education that I am striving to continue in my PhD.
LAURA HOLLISTER, Class of ‘12
I’ve been with a small company called Buuteeq, based in Ballard and now a division of Booking.com and the Priceline Group, since January of 2012. My career path has been pretty interesting and incredibly rewarding: I started building websites for hotels using buuteeq's proprietary content management system and within six months I was learning about managing Google Adwords campaigns and search engine optimization for our b-to-b product. I led the company's Adwords program for a few years before the program was slated to be retired, at which point I moved into the account management team where I am now. Along the way I have hosted my own weekly webinar series, worked with hundreds of thousands of dollars of monthly media spends, supported major hotel customers, been to Amsterdam three times for the yearly company conference, and I've finally gotten rid of most of my fear of public speaking.
I use the analytical skills and writing skills that I got with my degree every single day, without question. I also think that an underestimated part of a classics degree is a higher understanding of grammar for any romance language, thanks to Latin. While I might be a bit rusty on my declensions, good grammar has been the basis for a lot of what makes me a strong communicator.
MATT MORGAN, Class of ‘11
Since I graduated 7 years ago, I have moved back to my home state, Hawaii, and received an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (2014). My thesis was focused on American literature, but actually infused some elements from the Classics realm—namely, how the pastoral tradition found footholds in early writings about Pacific spaces and contributed to the notion of the Pacific island as "paradise."
I went on to work as a lecturer in the American Studies department at U.H. for a year, before transitioning into a job in the communications department at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I've been at HoMA, as we call it, for a few years now, and I currently oversee the museum's website and online content, in addition to producing marketing materials and contributing stories to museum publications, like the blog. One of my favorite things to do at the museum is visit its antiquity gallery, which though small has a great range of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Hellenistic-era treasures. It has the largest Cycladic figurine I have ever seen, too.
I am also an active freelance writer for a few Honolulu-based publications. I've had a few longer features in Flux Hawaii magazine. Here's my author page.
As my days as a Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies student get further behind me, they feel more and more foundational to what I do in the present. The days spent struggling through Greek translations, puzzling out Aristophanes' puns or Sophocles' strophes—at Oppenheimer Café or in a Starbucks in Athens while studying abroad—stand out as some of the most serious problem-solving I've ever had to think through. That I passed those classes tells me that I can navigate life's complications, work through issues in writing, and communicate effectively with others. And in a literal sense, learning an ancient language and studying history helps me frame and contextualize the culture and politics of the present. I actually stumbled into Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies due to an interest in creative writing, through a class with David Lupher about the Classical Tradition. It sparked a curiosity that still prods me along today.
TRAVIS HANCOCK, Class of ‘10
I am currently working for the Port of Seattle, in their Finance and Budget Department as a Revenue Controls Analyst. It is my responsibility to audit documentation generated from the Sea-Tac Airport Parking Garage. While none of my responsibilities is overtly related to Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, attention to detail is one of the key skills I learned as a Classics major, both in taking Latin classes and in the more culture related subjects. Both the ability to identify key events or ideas and to understand and communicate their implications are invaluable in my current position because while I have to note the errors, I also have to figure out if there is an underlying problem causing a set or errors. Being able to make connections between things that are seemingly unrelated is a really important skill to have in the work place. It can help streamline processes and help resolve issues as they arise. Overall, I'm very happy with my choice to major in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies. I love that I didn't just major in business or accounting, even though it might have made my life a bit easier entering the workplace. I love knowing more about the world that just one thing, I love having an understanding about how we go to this place. I also love that my education has given me the skills to think critically about our world.
RANDEE AUTRAND, Class of ‘09
It’s hard to believe, but without the choice to major in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, I would not be where I am today. I’ve always been a complex thinker and have viewed the world through that lens. I saw Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies as home to express and explore those complex ideas; to see the world as multifaceted and worthy of inquiry. My courses in classics and the nurturing of inquiry brought me to a career in education, where I first was a public school teacher of History and English.
When I was preparing to enter the teaching profession, my curiosity for classics spilled into my curiosity for educational pedagogy. "Why do we learn? How do we learn? How can we learn better? How can I engage students?” This inquiry mindset led me to be successful as teacher and later a consultant. I currently serve as an Instructional Coach at a school in Shanghai, China, where I must constantly analyze and examine how we teach, how systems of education work, the challenge and potential for collaboration and the like, all in effort in improving educational outcomes for students. Because of my Classical education, I am able to do my job better in supporting teachers in becoming better, and I am more critical when reflecting upon my practice as an educator, consultant, and coach.
ANDREW MILLER, Class of ‘04
My Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies degree certainly helped me earn a Masters in International Studies at the University of Washington in Comparative Religion, with a focus on early Christianity and Manichaeism that involved research on the role of women in Manichaeism. I think that the most important thing I learned from my classics major was how to think critically and write clearly.
Currently I'm working at University Presbyterian Church developing multi-cultural communities for international and American students. It has been a priceless gift to learn how to research, digest and synthesize important information, put ideas together in new ways, and to produce clear written communication. Thanks to my Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies education at Puget Sound, I know how to think critically and to look at the present through the lens of our historical context.
I am incredibly grateful for the support from my professors along the way. You always encouraged me (even though, looking back, my papers were not nearly as good as I imagined at the time). You opened the doors to a wealth of information about the classical world that inspired a long journey of intellectual curiosity. It's funny to look back, but to this naive 18 year old, the classical world represented Knowledge-- if I could unlock the mysteries of classics, I would understand the universe. I'm more skeptical now of understanding the universe, but I couldn't be more grateful for all of the investment you made in me along the way.
POLLY YORIOKA, Class of ‘04