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Program Goals

The students of the PhD Program in Classics will achieve mastery of the languages, literatures, and civilization of the Greco-Roman world. To accomplish this they take a broad spectrum of courses in Greek and Latin prose and poetry, one course each in Greek and Latin rhetoric and stylistics, a proseminar in the methodologies of classical studies, and a course in ancient history or archaeology. They also write several research papers grounded in primary sources in the process of their course work, as well as a doctoral dissertation that demonstrates their ability to do original, documented research in the field.

1. The First Examination

The first examination assesses the student’s ability to translate Greek and Latin literary texts by means of written exams in each language grounded in a reading list approved by the faculty and posted on the Program’s website. These exams demonstrate that a student has achieved the first Program goal: “mastery of the languages of the Greco-Roman world.” Students are expected to take both parts when they have earned between 30 and 45 credits. The Greek and Latin examinations are taken separately and are offered twice a year. They are composed by two examiners and graded pass/fail by two other examiners. Students who fail either examination on the first try may take it again. A student who fails the same examination a second time must petition the Program’s Executive Committee for the right to take it a third time.

2. The Second Examination

The second exam demonstrates that the student has achieved parts two and three of the Progam’s goals: “mastery of the literature and civilization of the Greco-Roman world.” It is given in three parts: a written examination in ancient history, an oral examination in the history of Greek literature, and an oral examination in the history of Latin literature. These may be taken in any order. The ancient history examination, composed by two examiners and graded by two others, is given twice a year; the oral examinations are each administered by a panel of three faculty members, and are offered at mutually convenient times during the academic year. For each of the three exams, the student will choose in advance a special topic and work on that topic with a faculty advisor who is also one of the examiners. A portion of the exam addresses the special topic, while the remainder is grounded in general knowledge. Students will prepare for the general knowledge portion of the oral examinations using a reading list posted on the Program’s website that is more expansive than the list used for the first examination. Students who fail any part of the Second Examination may take it again, but if it is failed a second time, they must petition the Program’s Executive Committee for the right to take it a third time.

3. The Dissertation

The dissertation demonstrates that students have achieved the final Program goal: “to do original, documented research in the field.” It is evaluated by a committee of three members of the CUNY Graduate Faculty chosen by the student and the Executive Officer in consultation with one another. Outside experts may also be added to the committee at the student’s request.

The first stage is the presentation of a prospectus, including a statement of the problem, a bibliography and an outline. This prospectus is assembled by the student in consultation with the dissertation director and formally discussed with the committee. If the committee sees serious problems, the student will be asked to address them and return to meet with the committee once again with a revised prospectus.

During the period when the student is working on the dissertation, he or she meets frequently with the dissertation director and communicates by e-mail. The other committee members begin to participate as readers as the project advances. The student’s final responsibility is a formal defense of the dissertation before the committee and if the student wishes, invited guests.

The dissertation is expected to constitute a new contribution to knowledge. It tests the student’s ability to engage with both primary and secondary sources, and to apply the skills learned in the writing of seminar papers to a larger project. It also enables committee members to assess the student’s capacity to read Greek and/or Latin texts with precision and nuance. It is the final measure of the student’s readiness to enter the academic profession.

4. Professional Development and Ethics Learning Goals

The goals for professional development and ethics in teaching and research have three parts.

  • Students who are interested in careers in education will be prepared to become effective teachers who manage their classrooms with integrity. This goal is met by facilitating appointments for the students as adjunct instructors throughout the City University and in other undergraduate institutions in the New York area. In this context, a student’s teaching is assessed by classroom observations performed by senior faculty and by student evaluation forms administered by the undergraduate department in which the student teaches. Both the observations and the student evaluations are required by the contract that governs employment at CUNY. Students also may enroll in short courses in pedagogy offered by the Provost’s Office and in our own semester-long course in Teaching Classics where they are assessed by the instructor. All the courses address the issue of ethics in teaching.
  • Students will learn to carry on research in the field and to present it in formats suitable for reading at conferences or for publication in professional journals. While almost every course requires students to write papers and to make an oral presentation, two courses, the proseminar at the beginning of the students’ program, and the Greek and Latin Poetry seminars at the end, focus on the various issues involved in doing research at the professional level and in thoroughly documenting it. These include ethical issues such as how to avoid plagiarism. Students in the poetry seminars present their papers in a panel at the end of the semester and many are subsequently submitted to conferences and journals. In these courses students are assessed by grades given by the instructors.
  • Students will master techniques of communicating research to the academic community and the public by organizing a professional conference. This goal is met through an annual, international conference on a theme chosen by the students. They promulgate the call for papers, select the participants anonymously, raise the necessary funds, set up the schedule, advertise and host the conference in a professional manner.