University of Mary Washington sophomore Brooke Prevedel considered dozens of schools in her quest to study ancient Greece and Rome in college. What she learned about the classics program at UMW catapulted it to the top of her list and convinced her to move 2,000 miles across the country from Colorado.
“Now that I’m attending UMW and have gotten to meet my professors and peers, I can honestly say that I would make the same choice again and again,” Prevedel said.
Other students agree. Mary Washington has earned the top spot on a student ranking of classics programs, besting schools like University of Chicago, New York University and Yale on a recent list by College Magazine. The online publication, written by students for students, features rankings of U.S. colleges, academic advice, student health information and career tips.
In an article this month titled “I Came, I Saw, I Crushed This Major: Top 10 Best Classics Schools,” reporter Danielle Falco, a St. John’s University student, sang the praises of UMW’s classics major and the Department of Classics, Philosophy and Religious Studies (CPR). “Among the University of Mary Washington’s 60-plus major options, its classical program shines like the Golden Fleece,” Falco wrote.
“We’re humbled and honored to be mentioned with some of the great undergraduate programs in our discipline,” said Joseph Romero, professor of classics and CPR department chair. “Students who come to UMW for classics join a tight, supportive community of learners in the major.”
UMW junior Matthew Nelson, a double major in Latin and linguistics, agrees. Immersed in the discipline, he co-starred in a Latin play as a freshman and placed first in last year’s Classical Association of the Middle West and South Advanced Latin College Translation Contest.
The article cited extracurricular activities like these, along with contests and competitions, from quiz-bowls to essay-writing, which “spice up” students’ experience and, even during a pandemic, hold the classics community together virtually. The author also noted UMW provides students ample study abroad opportunities in Europe, as well as connections to the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
Mary Washington professors care about and emphasize useful skills, Falco wrote, such as the “learning of critical thinking, the necessity of being able to speak and write well and convincingly, and, in true classics fashion, how to go about tackling the ‘great questions’ of the world.”
UMW students have the chance to work closely with both faculty and other students, said Classics Professor Liane Houghtalin, developing core competencies that prepare them for life in college, the job market and beyond. “They are challenged to figure themselves out, to find answers to the big questions and – above all – to make a difference in their communities.”
The article also notes the value of UMW Libraries, which house an online selection of rare books, special resources and “interesting finds” like Simpson Library’s collection of volumes dating as early as the 16th century.
“Studying the challenges, successes and intricacies of the world’s first ‘democracy’ and ‘republic’ in Athens and Rome, respectively, is excellent preparation for engaged, informed, responsible civic participation in our own democratic Republic,” said Classics Professor Angela Pitts, noting the relevance of the major to what’s happening in society today.
Romero added, “We are only ever as good as our students, past and present. We have been very lucky in that regard.”