From Antiquity to Zoom

Reed’s Latin Forum brings Portland’s young scholars together.

By Robin Tovey ’97 | April 27, 2021

Pompeii was frozen in time, but Reed's annual Latin Forum is not. The event morphed into a virtual gathering this year, to yet again reach high-school students interested in Rome. Over two days in March, the online forum drew students and teachers from the local area, with 50 participants viewing a lecture and 27 attending a discussion.

Each year since 1987 (with the exception of 2020, due to the pandemic), the college has sponsored this opportunity for students and teachers from around the Pacific Northwest to explore the culture and literature of the early Romans. This year topics ranged from the social function of Roman chariot racing to the myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the excavation of Pompeii to how coins can illuminate imperial Roman history. 

Professors Tom Landvatter, Ellen Millender, Nigel Nicholson, and Sonia Sabnis each recorded a video lecture, and these were shared with area Latin teachers to use in their curriculum. Then the teachers and students had the option of joining the Reed professors for two office-hour discussion sessions.

Otho Sandwick, a student from Roosevelt High School who attended all four lectures said, “I enjoyed participating in an engaging academic discussion. With everything online for the past year I’ve had fewer chances to engage with academia, and the interesting work being displayed online isn’t as easy to find as I’d like. I’m glad I’ve got some catacombs to explore now!” Otho was one of the students attending for the first time; the driving distance had been a barrier in the past but accessing it online made it possible this year.

Ben Peterson, a teacher at St. Mary’s Academy, appreciates the forum for the exposure it offers his students. "Because our program is comparatively small within our building, the students can often feel as if they’re the only ones who care about this corner of the academic world," he said. "To see other students from the area similarly engaged reinforces to my students that they are part of a robust community, a community which prizes curiosity, reflection, and insight."

Praising the level of engagement by the Reed professors, Peterson offered, "I am always so taken with the kindness and generosity of the faculty. Each student feels welcomed and appreciated. They also get to see the care and energy each professor puts into their work and their enthusiasm for their subject matter. In many ways, the Latin Forum helps shape the students’ perception of higher education for the better."

There is no cost to attend the forum; however, students must be in high school and currently or recently enrolled in a Latin course to participate. This event is coordinated by Reed's Office of Graduate and Special Programs, and it was no surprise to Ashley Hudson, the new director of this office, that our faculty members are so dedicated: "The professors were versatile and enthusiastic; it was a pleasure working with them." Best of all, she says, "it was incredibly rewarding to see the high-schoolers filled with excited questions about topics of antiquity—so inspiring! 

Contact Hudson, associate dean of graduate and special programs, to learn more about Latin Forum, the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degree offerings, and other outreach programs under her umbrella. Follow the faculty members of Greek, Latin, and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (GLAM) on Instagram.

Tags: Professors