Classics

Mary Kelly ’10


I wasn’t positive that I wanted to study Classics when I came to Bowdoin; I had taken Latin for four years in high school but my first year I took classes in a variety of disciplines. I kept finding myself coming back to Classics – I loved Latin poetry in particular and eventually couldn’t see myself choosing anything but Classics as a major. The Classics department as a whole stood out to me because of its small size and its thoughtful, engaging and nurturing professors. Throughout my time at Bowdoin they were always a source of support for me, academically and personally. For example, I remember starting intermediate Greek (Plato) with Prof. Nerdahl and feeling so intimidated by the text, but he made time to meet with me each week just to read through part of the homework together and help me develop more effective strategies for decoding each sentence. I felt so accomplished when I finished that class – all my professors had a way of demanding my best while providing the encouragement that I needed. They put so much effort into their teaching and it drove me to put my best effort into my work in their classes. My senior year, when I undertook an honors project, I initially chose to do it because I wanted to push myself to try a new academic challenge. Under Prof. Boyd’s guidance, I came to have confidence in my own ideas and feel as though I was truly understanding the text (Horace’s Epistles and Ovid’s exile poetry) on my own terms. She made me write her a paper each week and hand it in, no matter how good or bad it was, and slowly the framework of my project started coming together. I had never conceived of ideas about a text on such a large scale and it was a rewarding experience both as an intellectual exercise and for the enduring relationship I forged with the poetry I was reading.

In the spring of my senior year, I was fortunate enough to be hired to teach 9-12 grade Latin and Greek at St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. Several of my professors had written me letters of recommendation and helped talk me through my upcoming interviews and sample lesson that I had to teach. I couldn’t have asked for a better job right out of college, and I taught there for four years. Throughout my time there I stayed in touch with my professors, occasionally visiting them when I stopped by Bowdoin, asking them their advice on how to teach certain texts and which resources to consult. Prof. Boyd even visited my school during my second year to sit in on classes and discuss our Classics curriculum with my colleagues and me. My coursework prepared me well to teach, but more importantly, the confidence and ability to articulate my ideas and ask worthwhile questions about Classical texts that I had gained during my time at Bowdoin enabled me to continue learning.

When I decided to apply for an M.A. program in Classics, I was again grateful for the support and guidance of my Classics professors. They wrote me recommendations, advised me on questions to ask about each program, and gave me feedback on my writing sample and personal statement. I’m now in my second year of a two-year program at the University of Georgia and am excited to apply to secondary school positions this winter. I’ve corresponded with every professor I had in the department over the past year to ask advice on everything from papers I’m writing to how to better manage my workload and maintain a balanced life. Any time I am feeling overwhelmed by work, my professors at Bowdoin remain a source of motivation and encouragement. They held me to a high standard and in doing so, taught me to do the same for myself.

A lot of people go back to their college reunions to hang out with old friends – and I did too. But I was equally excited to catch up with my professors when I returned for my five-year reunion. I think I spent about three hours in Bohemian Coffee House catching up with Prof. Boyd and asking her advice on a curricular project I will be completing this year for my M.A. Later that day I spent time with Prof. Kosak and another alum of the Classics department on the quad who teaches at Fordham University. I love the community of the Bowdoin Classics department and the environment it provides its students to grow as independent, confident, articulate thinkers and writers. I can’t imagine my college career as anything but a Classics major.

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