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Academics

Frequently Asked Questions

The study of Classics includes every aspect of the ancient world of Greece and Rome, ranging from the Aegean Bronze Age to Medieval Europe. Depending on students’ own interests, they may tailor a Classics major at UMass to include more or less of any of the following subjects: Latin and Greek language and literature, linguistics, ancient history, archaeology and art history, philosophy, ancient religion, and the continuation of Classical civilization and literature into the Middle Ages, Renaissance, early modern, and modern historical periods.

The study of Classics at UMass, with its emphasis on close reading and analysis, critical thinking and careful writing, is excellent training not only for graduate work in Classics, but also for many professional programs. Students acquire transferable abilities useful in any endeavor: critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication skills, and language acquisition strategies. For more information, see this essay.

Classics is widely recognized as a rigorous and dynamic discipline that attracts highly capable, intellectually curious students and provides them with significant training in the arts of analysis and communication. Thus, a Classics degree can distinguish students applying to competitive positions or professional schools. This report from the Association of American Colleges & Universities on Liberal Arts degrees and their value in the employment market makes a strong case for the qualifications that majors such as Classics will yield.

In short, Classics provides a diversity of perspectives and a wide range of opportunities for developing intellectual rigor, imaginative thinking, and personal initiative: the very traits that prepare students to succeed in whatever path they choose in life.


I didn't study Latin in high school. Can I still be a Classics major or minor?

Yes. The department offers courses in both Greek and Latin for beginners. A number of intensive summer programs offered at other institutions around the country may prepare highly motivated students to enter intermediate Latin or Greek at UMass. The Undergraduate Program Director can offer advice. Many classes are also taught in translation.


What options are available within the Classics major?

All Classics majors complete one of three sub-plans: Greek and Latin Languages, Classical Civilization, or Classical Archaeology.


Do I need to take Latin or Greek to study Classics?

All Classics majors must achieve proficiency in either Latin or Greek, or both. Classics minors have the option to specialize just one language (either Greek or Latin Language and Literature). Classics minors may also complete a Classical Civilization minor with no language requirement.


Which level language course is right for me?

For students who have previously studied Latin, a placement exam is offered through the New Students Orientation program. Students who score a 4 or 5 on the AP Latin exam are normally ready to enroll in a 400–level course. All students are encouraged to discuss their previous experiences and placement exam results with a representative of the department before choosing a course to enroll in.


What is the average size of Classics courses?

The Department offers courses at a wide range of enrollment levels to provide a balance of access to courses of general interest and close supervision in more advanced courses. Beginning and intermediate language courses are typically limited to 25 students. Advanced courses in ancient Greek and Latin are usually capped at 15. The size of Classical Civilization courses varies greatly. Specialized courses like Classical Echoes are limited to 30. Courses like Greek and Roman Civilization and Mythology often enroll as many as 250.


How many students major in Classics?

At any one time there are typically about 70 Classics majors. Every year between 10 and 15 students graduate with degrees in Classics.


What is the size of the faculty of the Classics Department?

The Department has 10 full-time faculty members. In addition there are a number of faculty in the Departments of History, Philosophy, Anthropology, and Art History who teach courses on subjects related to ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Additionally, UMass students have access to courses taught by Classics faculty on the campuses of the other members of the Five Colleges Consortium (Amherst, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges).


Do graduate students teach Classics courses?

Most courses in the Department are taught by the Classics faculty. Under the supervision of the faculty, graduate students in our Latin and Classical Humanities MAT program serve as instructors for beginning and intermediate Latin courses and as graders for large Classical Civilization courses. The Master of Arts in Teaching Latin and Classical Humanities is the equivalent of an M.A. degree in Classics with supplementary graduate-level work in Education. Knowledgeable, dedicated, and energetic, these aspiring educators are an asset to the department and they share the faculty’s goal of excellence in pedagogy.


Are there opportunities for undergraduates to work on research projects with faculty?

Students are encouraged to pursue their own research projects under the supervision of individual faculty members. Many opportunities are available to perform essential research and digital programming for the department’s ongoing archaeological projects. Classics majors also have the option of writing a senior thesis.


Can I combine a major in Classics with another major?

Yes. Some students choose to complete the separate requirements of two closely related majors, such as Classical Civilization and History, or Classical Languages and Linguistics, while others find it rewarding to study Classics alongside a science or technology-based major. Students who have completed the prerequisites of both programs and begin completing program requirements by the end of the freshman year will find it easier to complete two majors than those who begin later. Students who plan on completing two majors should keep in mind that this will limit their opportunities to take elective courses in other fields, and studying abroad may also be difficult to schedule.


How does advising in the department work? 


The Undergraduate Program Director assigns advisors to each declared Classics major. If you have declared a Classics major but have not yet been assigned an advisor, or if your advisor is not available in a given semester, you can go to the UPD. Please e-mail for an appointment.

Ideally, you should see your advisor at least once a semester, normally on Advising Night prior to the next semester’s registration period. Don’t be shy about approaching faculty. Advising is part of their job and something that they are happy to do. If you are not able to come to Advising Night, it is up to you to schedule an appointment for advising; either e-mail faculty members to schedule an appointment or to go to their office hours.


What study abroad opportunities exist for Classics majors?

Most students complete all of their required coursework at UMass. The Department encourages Classics majors who want to study abroad to do so at one of the excellent programs focused on Classics, such as the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, the College Year in Athens, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The curricula of these programs include numerous visits to museums and archaeological sites, as well as courses in classical languages. They are generally for students prepared for advanced coursework in Greek and/or Latin. Admissions are selective. UMass students are frequently awarded scholarships to help cover the costs of studying at these programs.

In the summer, many students also choose to participate in travel programs or archaeological digs and field schools, particularly the department-sponsored program at Poggio Civitate in Italy.


Does the department provide funding for summer study?

The David Grose endowment enables the Department to provide small contributions to the cost of summer study and travel for Classics majors. Funds are awarded on the basis of an application. From time to time, additional funds are also available related to specific programs. Contact the Undergraduate Program Director for more information.


How can I get involved with Classics outside of the classroom?

Students who have demonstrated excellence in the study of Greek or Latin are invited to join Eta Sigma Phi, the national undergraduate honor society for students of Classics. At UMass, Eta Sigma Phi is an active student group that sponsors intellectual and social events, trips to theaters and museums, and free film screenings on campus. They also provide free tutoring to students in lower levels of Latin and Greek. For more information see the Eta Sigma Phi website: http://www.etasigmaphi.org . You can also find the local chapter on Facebook.


What other resources and features of the Classics Department should I know about?

Each year the Department offers a number of prizes and scholarships for outstanding work in Classics. The Davis Room on the thirteenth floor of Du Bois Library houses a collection of texts and room for studying in a space accessible only to Classics majors. Classics departments of UMass and the other 5 College institutions sponsor public lectures and colloquia on Classics topics throughout the year, which students are encouraged to attend. For more information on all of these, opportunities, look for announcements posted in the department and on the website.


What do UMass Classics majors do after graduating from college?

Our Classics majors well prepared to succeed after college and enter a variety of professions. Recent graduates with degrees in Classics have enrolled in graduate programs in Classics and related fields, and have taught in primary, middle, and high schools. There is considerable demand now for Latin teaching and tutoring, and many of our students, even those who do not intend to pursue teaching as a permanent career, spend some time teaching. Other Classics majors have gone to library school, law school and medical school, have worked in banking and investment, and have pursued careers in the creative arts.


What Should Prospective Students Know?

Although the Department takes no part in the admissions process, we welcome visits from prospective applicants. Interested students should contact the Undergraduate Program Director for more information or to arrange a meeting. For all admissions questions, see Undergraduate Admissions.


How do I declare a Classics major?

Complete a Change of Major form (available from the Registrar’s Office or the department office), have it signed by a department representative (the Undergraduate Program Director or another faculty member), and turn it in to the Registrar (213 Whitmore Administration Building).