Chris Gipson, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of the Classics was quite ill the opening weekend of spring break in March when he received a life-changing email.

The email informed him that he had received the Fowler-Merle-Smith Fellowship from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) to support a full year of study in Greece for 2019-20.

Chris’ reaction? “I said, ‘Oh, cool…I’m sooo sick!’” but he called his mother at his home in Los Angeles to share the good news.

The ASCSA provides graduate students and scholars from affiliated North American colleges and universities a base for the advanced study of all aspects of Greek culture, from antiquity to the present day.  Chris will leave for Athens in early September and remain in Greece till May of 2020. It will be his first trip to Europe. He said he now looks forward to seeing “the grandeur of all of it,” plus meeting scholars and visiting libraries.

Athens will be his home base during his first semester, as there will be trips in the region surrounding Athens, and in the second semester trips to islands or to various historical sites, with a week or two at each site. He said there will be lectures at each site, plus an option to “do some digs.” There also is an optional trip to Europe during the break between semesters.

Chris came to Illinois after completing a BA in Classics at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles (in 2013), and a one-year post-baccalaureate at UCLA. His professors at UCLA recommended that he apply for post-graduate study at Illinois. Chris is glad he did. He describes the Department of the Classics as a “warm place” with wonderful people. He said his advisor, Angeliki Tzanetou, is an amazing resource for all he is studying.

Chris studies Greek religion and ritual. He’s working on his prospectus, which he plans to finish and defend before leaving for Athens in early September. He said he is interest in ‘the other’ in Greek literature and the ancient world, as well as cannibalism and Greek literature.

To apply for the fellowship, Chris had to fill out an application, stating what he had read and why he was applying. He also had to take an exam in which he translated selected Greek passages and wrote essays on Greek literature. He also received letters of recommendation from faculty.

He is currently taking his second semester of Modern Greek. Chris also knows Latin and Greek, and says he can read “okay” in French. As a teaching assistant in the Department of the Classics, he has taught Latin 101 and 102, plus Classic Civilization-115, “Mythology of Greece and Rome,” a popular Gen Ed course. He said he loves teaching, and the students at Illinois are “good” and enthusiastic. “Latin’s hard, but they stick with it,” he said. “They know more than they think they think they know. It’s very encouraging.”

Beyond Illinois he said he wants to teach, either at a small liberal arts college, like Loyola Marymount, or at a research university. “Both have their strengths and weaknesses.” As a teacher, he especially likes mentoring, which he says is “a lot of fun. It’s exciting to see a student grow and learn, and come into their own.”

And, with fellowship in hand for his year in Greece, Chris is looking forward to growing and learning as well.