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Tuning the Classics

Promoting the Shared Skills and Values of the Discipline

Inspired by the American Historical Association’s Tuning Project, Tuning the Classics seeks to bring together classicists, and those teaching aspects of the classical world in other disciplines, in order to develop a common (and compelling) language around the competencies and skills learned in the field.

Through shared dialogue, the collation of data across numerous small departments, and the construction of classroom activities designed to assess and communicate the outcomes of competencies in the classics, faculty will be better equipped to promote the visibility and popularity of the field, and especially to help students understand and articulate the value of their new skills.

Such “tuning,” as this process has been labeled, is not only critical to the field of classics, but to the promotion of the humanities and liberal arts, which have recently struggled to “sell” their value in national dialogue about education.

Tuning the Classics


Tuning the Classics: Promoting the Shared Skills and Values of the Discipline

August 14–15, 2017
ACM office, Chicago, IL


Sunday, August 13

6:30 p.m. — Unofficial meet and greet dinner (Location TBD)

Monday, August 14

8:00-9:00 a.m. — Breakfast at ACM office, includes introduction of participants and vision of project

Morning theme: Outcomes in Classics (full group discussion)

9:00-10:15 — Group discussion on outcomes and competencies

(1) How can we teach courses that interact with the contemporary world and social issues? And is there a way to teach courses in translation ‘rigorously’ that keep pulling the past into a relevance to the present/future? To some extent, this is also a question about how we can adapt to changing demographics of undergraduate enrollees.

(2): Relating content to skills: how is the focus on the ancient world crucial to the competencies we aspire to for our students (i.e. what do classics majors get that other language/culture majors don’t?).

10:15-10:30 — Break

10:30-Noon — Competencies

(1) What does ‘depth’ look like in our students’ studies of their Classics major?

  • Especially for students who are not specializing in language study but are taking most of their major courses as courses in translation? 
  • How do we all teach “advanced” or research-focused courses in translation?

(2) Language courses: in what ways do studying Latin and Greek provide advantages over other Classical Studies courses and other foreign languages 

(3) Majors vs. non-majors: levels of competency

Noon-1:00 p.m. — Lunch at ACM in small groups to create list of competencies in Classics

1:00-2:00 — Whole group discussion/sharing of competency lists

Afternoon theme: Marketing the Classics

2:00-3:15 — Marketing strategies (small groups)

(1): how do we market our courses on our own campuses? (e.g. ways that Classics courses fulfill needs in other departments/programs/majors)

(2): how can we market Classics to prospective students and parents?

(3) How do we keep/recruit those students taking Classical studies courses as gen eds or just to dabble

3:15-3:30 — Break

3:30-4:15 — Group discussion/sharing of marketing strategies

4:15-5:00 — Thinking outside the box: other ideas for sustaining/promoting Classics

6:00 — Group dinner (location TBA)

Tuesday, August 15

8:00-8:45 a.m. — Breakfast at ACM

Morning theme: Creation of Materials to Move forward

8:45-10:00 — Logistics of how to tap and collate alumni who have received Classical Studies degrees

  • Brainstorming questions for survey
  • Discussion of how to tap the largest number of Classics grads
  • How/if do we differentiate majors and non-majors

10:00-10:15 — Break

10:15-11:30 — Small Group discussion of materials/assignments to be created for distribution, possibly including:

  • Publicity materials/methods
  • Community outreach activities
  • Course assignments
  • Other?

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Concluding Discussion, plan for work on home campuses

12:30-1:30 — Lunch

1:30 — Departure of participants


 Reading assignments for participants to complete before the workshop.

Learning Outcomes/Assessment

Classics Specific

Foreign Languages

Other Useful Documents


Beloit College – Lisl Walsh, Associate Professor of Classics

Carleton College – Clara Hardy, Professor of Classics, Chair of Classics, John E. Sawyer Professor of Liberal Learning

Coe College – Angela Ziskowski, Associate Professor of History

Colorado College – Sanjaya Thakur, Associate Professor of Classics, Chair of Classics

Cornell College – John Gruber-Miller, Professor of Classics, Edwin R. and Mary E. Mason Professor of Languages

Grinnell College – Monessa Cummins, Associate Professor of Classics, Chair of Classics

Knox College – Hilary Lehmann, Assistant Professor of Classics

Lake Forest College – Richard Fisher, Associate Professor of German, Chair of Classical Studies

Lawrence University – Adriana Brook, Assistant Professor of Classics

Luther College – Dan Davis, Assistant Professor of Classics

Macalester College – Brian Lush, Associate Professor of Classics

Monmouth College – Robert Simmons, Assistant Professor of Classics, Chair of Classics

St. Olaf College – Hilary Bouxsein, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics

Note: Content below is adapted from the project proposal.

The humanities in general face a raft of challenges from students and their parents who feel pressured to see the value of an undergraduate major purely in terms of its “return on investment.”

Classics in particular is a field that is not well-understood (“Do you study Beethoven? Dickens? Austen?”), and not always contained in one department or discipline. Our majors fall in love with the ancient world, but often struggle to articulate to themselves and to others (e.g., prospective employers or parents) exactly the skills, training, and qualities provided by their work in Latin, Greek or Classical Civilizations.

ACM professors who teach classical studies will combat this situation with our Tuning the Classics project. We will develop a common repository of resources — from general promotional materials to individual course assignments — aimed at helping students understand and articulate the value of the competencies they are achieving through their study of the ancient world. These materials will also prove valuable for facilitating program-level assessment of individual colleges’ classics learning outcomes.

To build this resource library we will bring faculty together from a range of institutions, to articulate both a common set of competencies associated with an undergraduate degree in Classics and to develop common language to promote their value for students’ personal, professional, and civic lives. Additional data will be provided by a survey of classics alumni showing what paths they have taken and how their classics education applies to their current lives.


There are four main products that will result from the project activities.

  1. The first is the list of core competencies arising from the study of classics, which we will identify and articulate at the workshop.
  2. Next and associated with these competencies is the common language we will generate to communicate clearly and forcefully the bene?ts of these competencies.
  3. Third will be the data from the survey of classics alumni about the range of careers they enter, and the ways in which their classics education has been useful to them both in their chosen career and in their lives more broadly.
  4. The fourth and most substantial product will be the library of resources created to foster explicit understanding in our students and the community in general of what these competencies are, how they arise from the study of the ancient world, and how they are beneficial beyond academics.

We are hopeful that the outcomes from these products and the process of generating them will include innovation within individual departments or programs, sharpened program assessment, improved student self-understanding and self-advocacy, and a vitalization of our programs generally. If our project is as successful as we hope, we are convinced that there will be appetite to continue this “tuning” of classics at the national level.


Project leaders will begin by coordinating a two-and-a-half-day meeting of classicists from ACM colleges (and potentially institutions like Gustavus Adolphus College or the Universities of Iowa, Wisconsin-Madison, and Minnesota) in either Northfield or Chicago in August 2017.

Participants at this meeting will:

  1. Draft a list of competencies resulting from the academic work our majors complete and, using accessible, common language, articulate the wider value of those competencies.
  2. Work to design a survey of our classics alumni, to be administered through a grant-funded contract with assessment experts. Survey data would highlight the variety of career paths our majors pursue, the skills they most value from their degrees, and how those skills play out in their life paths.
  3. Begin brainstorming possible publicity materials, community outreach strategies, course assignments promoting understanding of attained skills, etc. for the resource library.

After the meeting all participants will take the materials generated at the workshop back to their campuses for discussion — incorporating survey data as it becomes available — and will develop at least one project for the resource library. By January 2018, each participant will contribute their materials to the project library, creating an archive that ACM (and other) classicists can share — and that can be a resource for future initiatives.

Finally, the project leaders will present our findings and solicit feedback at two professional meetings in 2018 and collaborate to write a short essay for publication submission in summer 2018.

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