A Flexible Classical Studies Major: An Effective Expedient for Rescuing a Classics Program in Crisis

Daniel N. Erickson

University of North Dakota

Since 1885, my university has offered instruction in classics.  Students once had three majors from which to choose: Greek, Latin, and Classical Languages.  Eventually the Greek and Classical Languages majors were eliminated, leaving only the one in Latin.  By the mid 1990s, even the Latin major was in serious peril, endangering the very existence of classics at the university.  This dire situation required a creative solution and the assistance of other departments.

A task force consisting of faculty from art, classics, English, history, and philosophy & religion was formed to study the problem and arrive at some answers.  After many discussions, the members of the task force concluded that a flexible classical studies major was the solution for which they were looking.  The new major would require 36 semester hours of coursework, including 16 hours of Latin or Greek, or eight hours of both languages, and twenty additional hours selected from approved offerings in art, classics, history, philosophy & religion, and political science.  A twenty-eight credit minor would also be offered with the same language requirement as the major but would require only twelve additional credits.  For students interested in a traditional classics degree, upper-division courses in both Greek and Latin would continue to be taught.

The Classical Studies Program was implemented in the fall of 1999.  A comprehensive evaluation thereof was completed in July 2005, much of which compares statistics for the last six years of the Latin major and minor with those for first six of the Classical Studies major and minor.  One of the remarkable findings is that 350% more Classical Studies majors and 300% more minors were graduated than Latin majors and minors.  Furthermore, although the total enrollment in courses taught by Classical Studies was nine percent less than that in classes offered by its predecessor due to the elimination of a half-time faculty position, it has risen 150% since the program's inception.  Most important of all, program graduates have been quite successful, with one earning teacher certification in Latin and English, and others pursuing advanced degrees in classical studies, history, higher education, and medicine.  The situation and resources at my institution are not unique, and it is likely that the results described can be duplicated at other universities.


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