Latin student’s capstone takes a look at the past

Marshall University students must sometimes go beyond learning in the classroom.

Senior Abigail Pullen, who double majors in Latin and classics, did just that Thursday afternoon when she presented her Latin Capstone project to a room of classics professors and students.

Working on a capstone requires intense research and thought to be put into a project that translates into additional skills that can’t be acquired just by lectures.

“You have to look at literature or secondary references and you have to look into what they’re saying and why they are saying it,” Pullen said. “I had to realize what their general point was, but also how the way they were saying it effected the point that they were trying to make.”

Associate professor of classics Christina Franzen said working on a capstone project, especially for Latin, allows students to gain a bigger perspective and an in-depth look at literature.

“As Latin majors, it’s really hard to get the big picture because you look really closely at individual words, clauses and phrases and it’s hard to get your head out of that and into bigger contexts,” Franzen said. “What I see my job as a teacher is to get you out of that and really narrow grammatical focus and to draw that out and to get a bigger picture in terms of the social, historical and political context of what’s going on at the time.”

Pullen’s capstone project was interpreting passages from Roman authors and poets Ovid and Seneca. She analyzed how they confronted the idea of literature becoming a representation of their reputation in the future.

Presenting capstone projects also allows students to gain experience presenting projects in a professional setting. Presenters must also defend their projects when professors ask questions about their capstone.

“Knowing that I’m going to have to present it in front of people is scary, but it makes me think about things that I wouldn’t otherwise think about and that’s a good thing,” Pullen said. “Some of the questions I had thought about before, but the ones that I hadn’t thought about caught me off guard. You’ve got to think on your toes.”

Franzen said this project specifically helped Pullen prepare for her future career.

“Abby is going to go onto graduate school and become a teacher of Latin to high school students,” Franzen said. “I hope that she gets to go to conferences and present more papers like this to professionals, like professors of Latin, where she will be in an even higher stakes situation, so this kind of thing prepares her for that.”

Adam Stephens can be contacted at [email protected].