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New research course takes students to Greece

By Jessica Moes '14
May 29, 2012

This summer Annemarie Smith '12 (from left), Associate Professor of History Tim Howe, Alisha Kasparec '13, Rebecca Frank '14, and Daniel McNamara '13 (not pictured) will travel through Greece as part of a new course focused on research methods in the humanities. 

This summer four St. Olaf College students will get an up-close look at ancient history as part of a new course aimed at familiarizing them with research methods in the humanities.

The students — Rebecca Frank '14,  Alisha Kasparec '13, Daniel McNamara '13, and Annemarie Smith '12 — will spend several weeks traveling through Greece with Associate Professor of History Tim Howe. In addition to handling and analyzing artifacts dating back to the sixth century at several museums in Athens, the students will present at a conference featuring well-known historical scholars from around the world.

"These students will be able to speak with the top scholars in their fields — whose books they may have read — and then they will get to interact with historical materials in a way not currently available to most undergraduates," Howe says. "It's a tremendous opportunity."

The students are the only undergraduates invited to present at the 10th International Conference on History: From Ancient to Modern. Their papers will combine their background knowledge of Alexander the Great with the new information they will learn from working with primary artifacts during the first part of their course in Greece. Along the way, Howe will teach them research methods used in the humanities.

At the conference, students will have the opportunity to learn even more by networking with historical scholars. "We will have ample opportunity to pick the brains of men and women who have made it their lives' work to study Alexander and his legacy," says Smith, a history major with a concentration in Middle East studies who will be attending Yale University in the fall to study ancient history. "And then they get to pick our brains."

The summer course, created in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of the College, is part of an effort to increase opportunities for students to conduct research in the humanities. As part of this course, students will research artifacts at the Numismatic and Epigraphic Museums in Athens and will travel to Macedonia, Dion, Thessaloniki, Pella, Edessa, Naoussa, and Vergina.

"We're giving students practical ways to get hands-on experience with the material they're studying," Howe says. "We're putting them into the conversation right now."

Howe, one of the organizers of the International Conference on History, will be leading a mini conference titled "Ancient Macedonian History: A Diachronic Analysis" that the St. Olaf students will be involved with. Howe has done extensive research on Alexander the Great, examining his role in both ancient terrorism and environmentalism. This variety of research ensures that Howe can invite a wide range of students, with diverse interests, into this large academic conversation. He hopes to give these students the research tools that will enable them to continue the conversation beyond of St. Olaf.

"I want them to know that what we do at St. Olaf is not so far from the international scale," says Howe. "I want students to realize that their conversations are not so different from the conversations scholars are having."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or