This academic quarter I am commuting up to UC Santa Barbara to take two Religious Studies seminars with professor Christine Thomas, who does work in Biblical Studies, Classics, Turkish Archaeology, and a lot more! I am very grateful to have this opportunity, since Dr. Thomas is offering a first-ever seminar on ancient Mediterranean religions and their relation to Christian origins, as well as a course on the New Testament. Dr. Thomas is an outstanding expert in her various fields, and is on the executive committee of the Society of Biblical Literature, among many other things. A great part of being a graduate student in the University of California system is that you can take courses at any UC campus (as well as get inter-library loans from every UC campus, which has helped give me access to a very wide range of books).
For those who are familiar with the geography of Southern California, my “commute” may sound rather crazy! My home campus is UC Irvine, which is a good two and a half hours South of UCSB, without traffic, and traffic can easily double that time. Fortunately, I actually don’t live in Irvine, but further North in Long Beach, which shaves some time off the commute, but not much. To make things work, I am driving up on Tuesday to take one course, spending the night in Santa Barbara (I’m at a Motel 6 right now), taking the other course Wednesday morning, and then driving back down to Long Beach around noon (a good traffic window). Dr. Thomas was very generous in helping to make this arrangement feasible for my schedule, and I am even able to still TA a course at UCI this same quarter. But there is a catch: I had to get up at 4:30 AM this morning, and get out the door by 5:3o AM, in order to beat the LA traffic. It worked pretty well, since I was able to get up here by 8 AM and was even able to grab breakfast before class.
As readers might imagine, I am very, very interested in taking these seminars! But the truth is that I have had to do a lot of other crazy commutes in my graduate studies. If you can take advantage of the UC system inter-campus exchange, you can have access to a wide range of scholars to study under. I have taken courses on subjects such as Roman history and ancient education with Michelle Salzman at UC Riverside, Late Antiquity and numismatics with Edward Watts at UC San Diego, and have had the opportunity at my home campus, UCI, to take a seminar on inductive reasoning with Brian Skyrms (a leading expert in epistemology and philosophy of science, whose course was admittedly a bit over my head in some parts, but which also helped me learn a lot more about Bayes’ theorem; likewise, epistemologist and counter-apologist Robert Cavin also studied under Skyrms and also got his PhD at UCI in Philosophy). I am heavily invested in inter-disciplinary work, since I have used my time in the UC system to study not only Classics, but also Philosophy, History, Comparative Literature, and Religious Studies.
On the subject of inter-disciplinary work, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss why I chose Classics (or Classical Studies) specifically to pursue my PhD. Likewise, since I’ve been writing this blog for over two years now, I also think that now is a fitting time to talk about why I do what I do.