Faculty Updates 2023-24

Want to know what your Classical Studies professors have been up to? Read about their research, teaching, travel, and other life updates below:

First, we are sad to say that Dave Wharton began phased retirement in Fall of 2023 and will be teaching only three courses each Spring semester in 2024, 2025, and 2026 before full retirement. He is nevertheless enjoying the challenge of teaching elementary Greek for the first time in his career, relishing the opportunity to refresh his recall of all those beautiful Greek verb forms he first mastered during the heyday of Duran Duran. He’s also continuing his research on Roman color cognition, which is yielding surprising conclusions. Outside the academy, he enjoys hiking with his wife and dog, reading philosophy and theology, learning to do barbell deadlifts and squats, and being a grandparent. 

Maura Heyn reading 'How to Be a Dean'

Onwards and upwards!

Maura Heyn continues to work on different topics related to the funerary portraiture of Palmyra. She presented on the jewelry displayed on the female portraits at the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting in New Orleans in January (2023). She also put the finishing touches on a co-edited volume that focused on the idiosyncratic elements of Palmyrene iconography, entitled Odds and Ends (Brepols, 2023), and she submitted a ten-year perspective on the study of female portraits in Palmyra for another edited volume, Palmyra in Perspective (Brepols, 2024). On July 1, Maura took a new position: Associate Dean in UNCG’s College of Arts and Sciences. It has been a bittersweet move: she enjoys the new challenges and perspective in the dean’s office, but also deeply misses the daily interactions with everyone in the department.

Professor and student at ancient ruins

Jon and Jessie Craft (’13) in Ostia

Jon Zarecki had two articles published in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought. The first argued for a specific date for the end of Cicero’s military authority during the civil war and the other one the philosophy of old age in the Philippics. He gave two talks at Tulane University in New Orleans, one on the intersection of literature, archaeology, and re-enacting in the study of the Roman army and the other on reading Cicero’s encomium of literature in Pro Archia as a tool for professional development in higher education. In July he participated in the Leadership Facilitator Training Retreat at the Center for Hellenic Studies sponsored by Kallion, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the Humanities as a tool for personal leadership development. In July he joined up with Magister Jessie Craft (’13) to chaperone a trip to Italy with a group of students and parents from Reagan High School. In 2024 he’s looking forward to leading the next iteration of UNCG in Rome with Dr. Le Blanc and finishing up several projects on Augustus.

group of students and professors in Greece

Kea Team 2023

Joanne Murphy was thrilled to be awarded the Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award from the Archaeological Institute of America last year. As usual, she ran the annual field school on Kea and the Kea Archaeological Research Survey study season and was joined by 12 students, who labored tirelessly and delighted at their first visit to Greece. She will run the project and field school again this year as well as a tour of Greece for 10 days. She also published a paper on Death in Late Bronze Age Greece in an online bibliography series by Oxford University Press (OUP). Continuing her work on the Bronze Age and with OUP, she began organizing a monster edited volume on Minoan Crete with over 80 authors. She also continued her work as director of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies and chair of the excavation and survey committee at the American School of Classical Studies. In August she took over from Maura as interim department head and is finding her feet in the role and is extremely grateful for all the support from the faculty, staff, and students as she transitions.

Roman artifact

Roman “Piggy Bank”

Robyn Le Blanc spent part of 2023 on research leave, which included research trips to Rome and Denmark for a nascent book project on Roman “piggybanks.” After a hiatus imposed by COVID, her World of Alexander the Great class in Fall 2023 picked up with a new (Bigger! Larger! More pirates! Now with giant angry bird monsters!) version of her “Heirs of Alexander” role-playing game. She is looking forward to summer 2024, when she will co-direct the UNCG in Rome trip with Dr. Zarecki for the first time. Her son, Jack, is now 3, and (for now) prefers dinosaurs to Roman “quarters.”

Professor leaning over students playing a game at a classroom table

Michiel Van Veldhuizen and students with knuckle bones in Oracles class

Michiel Van Veldhuizen has had an exciting year, not least because he celebrated the birth of his fourth child (and first daughter!) in October. In the summer he traveled to Coimbra (Portugal) to give a paper at the Celtic Classics Conference on the topic of animals in the ancient world sensing disasters before they happen. A visit to Lisbon during that same trip was therefore very on topic, because the famous earthquake and tsunami that destroyed much of that city on All Saints Day in 1755 was said to be preceded by mice, pigs, and even worms displaying signs of great agitation! Still on that topic, he traveled to Groningen (the Netherlands) in February to give a paper on Poseidon’s formidable earthquake powers. Pedagogical highlights this year included teaching a new course on Ancient Medicine, an elective for Classical Studies and the newly minted Medical Humanities Program. The course focused specifically on the intersection of medicine and religion, from Asclepius to St Lucia – whose platter with eyeballs he encountered in the Cathedral at Salamanca. Another favorite this year was the seminar on Ancient Oracles, in which students rolled knucklebones to divine the future and wrote seminar papers on topics ranging from oracular animals in Greek and Hawaiian religious traditions to the role of prophecy in the Oresteia and Kung Fu Panda. 

Derek Keyser had a busy and rewarding year in 2023. He taught a wide range of courses, including surveys of Greek mythology, an advanced Latin course on Pliny the Younger, and a Greek class on Euripides’ tragedies. He worked to make his teaching more engaging and dynamic by completing a year-long certification program from American College and University Educators. This course collection helped him learn contemporary pedagogical theories related to accessibility, equity, and online learning and put them into practice while teaching every week as he completed each class. Derek also continued his research in Greek tragedy, presenting a talk about performative masculinity in Euripides’ Electra at the meeting of CAMWS Southern Section in Greensboro last November.

Aisha Dad’s year has been full of exciting opportunities. As the Director of the Classics Gaming Collaborative (CGC), Aisha brought together a global community of scholars invested in innovative pedagogy. Through the CGC platform, she has organized lecture events and research and scholarship opportunities that create dialogue around understudied but prolific avenues of Classical Reception. She served as the faculty mentor to Ethan Divon’s (Class of 2025) URCA that focused on the reception of comparative mythology in video gaming. Aisha also collaborated with NC Sparks to build a course module, titled ‘Gods, Heroes, and Monsters’, for North Carolina public high-school students that helps them explore real life applications of narrative study in video gaming. In the summer Aisha traveled to Coimbra to present her paper on the animated series Blood of Zeus and cannibalism in Graeco-Roman mythology at the 2023 Celtic Classics Conference. In the classroom, Aisha coordinated with UNCG’s Esports Arena to hold gaming labs for her courses on mythology and world epics.  

Pottery on tables

Mochlos Pottery

Georgios Doudalis had a very productive 2023. During the summer, he directed the study season of the Mochlos Archaeological Project, in Crete with Jeff Soles. In collaboration with students from Italy, Canada, Australia, and the United States he examined the ceramic material from the recent excavations (2021-2022) and produced preliminary reports about the life in the site in the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1700 B.C.). During the fall of 2023 and after being hired as Lecturer in the Department of Classical Studies, he introduced the Course “Games in the Ancient World”. This course was a unique experience for the students, since they had the opportunity to learn about the Ancient Mediterranean world through recreating ancient games from Mesopotamia (The Royal Game of Ur), Egypt (Senet), Ancient Greece (Petteia) and Rome (Ludus Duodecima Scriptorum). This activity was received with great enthusiasm because the students not only recreated but also played them in the ancient way. At the same time, Dr. Doudalis held classes in the Esports arena, in which the students had the chance to play video games that had as their main theme the classical antiquity and Mythology (Assassin’s Creed, Hades, Apotheon). Through this fan activity, students discussed about the ancient world and how it is represented and reproduced in the popular media, such as gaming platforms. Both the work on the field, and the innovative teaching in class about the past, were the two highlights of Dr. Doudalis’ life in the past year.