Chris Forstall, '04: "A Reflection on Why Classical Studies"

I confess: when I arrived at Lehigh, I was unaware that Classics was a possible undergraduate major, or indeed even the name of a field of study. I planned to major in Biology in order to study evolutionary theory. At the same time, I held a strong belief in the value of interdisciplinary study and of a broad, liberal arts education. This belief, along with a positive experience with Latin in high school, prompted me to sign up for Greek 1 in my first semester. When I graduated in 2004, I had a double major in Classics and Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES). I completed a Master of Science in EES at Lehigh in 2006. Today I am in the sixth year of a Ph.D. program in Classics at the University at Buffalo, writing a dissertation on the poetry of Homer that combines core skills I developed in Lehigh's Classics program with many others I took from my science degrees. My goal is an academic career combining teaching in a Classics program similar to the one I enjoyed at Lehigh with research in the newly burgeoning field of Digital Humanities.


The education that I have pursued to this point depended on the encouragement and personal attention of some remarkable Lehigh faculty members—attention that undergraduates rarely receive at many other, larger universities—as well as a couple of financial and academic opportunities unique to Lehigh. Perhaps most fundamental was the core language and literary study I did during my Latin and Greek courses with Barbara Pavlock. A strong foundation in grammar and well-honed skills in close reading have applications beyond Latin and Greek philology: the ability to look at language objectively, to read critically and to express myself clearly was equally helpful in my scientific study.