Just about every college in the United States has some semblance of Greek life – at some institutions scarce and at others thriving – but the “Greeks” in question are fraternities and sororities (called that because of their Greek letter names), not Hellenes.
But there are a bunch of American colleges where Greek life means more than frats: it means a major in Greek – the language, the history, the culture, either directly or indirectly.
One of the most prestigious programs in the country is at Columbia University in New York City, where students can major in Classics with a concentration in Modern Greek Studies. Students in this concentration must take four terms of Greek language study – two elementary and two intermediary.
The program as described in the University course offerings, follows: “The study of Greek language and culture concentrates in on Ancient Greece and on many of the questions that are of direct pertinence to the ways in which modern lives are shaped and lived; at the same time, Greek literature and philosophy, so fundamental to the later development of the Western tradition, boast works of great intrinsic worth and interest. While all Columbia students get an introduction to classical texts in Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, classics/classical studies provides a more advanced study of ancient cultural issues and habits of mind already sampled in the Core.
Study abroad in Greece offers a variety of educational experiences that are continuous with those of the major, enriching both linguistic expertise and cultural awareness. Students in classics have the opportunity to take part in archaeological digs abroad and, on occasion, to assist faculty in research projects that require, for example, bibliographical collection or the checking of research data.
Many majors pursue graduate study in classics and classical studies. Upon earning their graduate degrees, they often embark on teaching careers in universities, colleges, and high schools. Many graduating majors also enter a number of other professional fields, among them law, banking, accountancy, publishing, and museum-work. Employers tend to find that students in classics are articulate on paper, as well as orally; are organized of mind; and have good skills in general reasoning, an ability developed by the study of Greek and Latin language. In effect, the study of classics opens up a wide array of options, both in education and in the wider world.
The program of the department aims for a comprehensive understanding of classical literature and culture, and the mastery of Greek on which such understanding depends. Careful study of the language occupies the largest part of the first-year courses and is not omitted in the more advanced courses. Although literature becomes the chief subject only in the advanced courses, important authors like Homer and Plato, are studied as literary texts already in the intermediate courses. A wide variety of courses are offered in translation.
Various courses on Greek history and literature are also offered. Columbia’s sister-school, Barnard College (for women only), allows its students to take these courses at Columbia, as part of a Minor in Greek at Barnard, part of the Ancient Studies major.
While these programs are quite impressive and prestigious, there are other colleges throughout the country that offer full-fledged majors in Greek.
The Ave Maria University, located in Ave Maria, FL – near the Southwest Gulf City of Naples, is one such institution that offers a Greek major. Students take four courses in Latin, and then two in the Greek language, along with a course in Greek prose, another in Greek poetry, one on the Early Greek Church Fathers, a Greek prose composition, course, and special topics in Lyric, Oratory, Drama, Philosophy, and the words of Homer and Herodotus.
The major is a rigorous academic program designed to develop proficiency in the Greek language, to promote literary study across a broad range of authors, genres, and subjects, and to instill an awareness of the Classical tradition and its profound influence. The Greek Department “is committed to integrating the study of classical Greek literature and the vast corpus of Greek writings from the biblical, patristic, and Byzantine eras,” they explain.
Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, MI also offers a major in Greek, though the focus is heavily based on studying the original New Testament and other writings of the Early Christian Fathers. At Calvin, the thrust of majoring in Greek is to become a biblical scholar.
The Greek major at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, takes an array of Greek language and literature courses, with special courses each devoted to a particular Greek historical figure, including Aristophanes, Herodotus, Homer, Plato, and Thucydides.
Ohio State University, in Columbus, OH places particular emphasis on students becoming immersed in Greek language and culture. Much of the actual coursework takes place in Greek – after students have been exposed to the language on a preliminary level – and an important component of the major is study in Greece, with emphasis on understanding modern society there, as well as traditional folklore.
In nearby Dayton, OH Wright State University offers both a four-year baccalaureate degree in Greek, or an accelerated three-year version.
Ohio State’s sports rival, Michigan State University in Ann Arbor, MI also rivals its counterpart to the southeast by offering an extensive selection of Greek studies, including two majors – one in Ancient Greek Language and Culture and the other, a Modern version.
Tulane University in New Orleans, LA – a historically significant place in terms of Greek-American communities that have endured for over a century – has long offered extensive studies in Greek. Not only in its undergraduate major, but also in its Law School’s study abroad program to the Greek Islands, particularly Rhodes, with an emphasis on the study of Rhodian sea law.
The Ancient Language major at Wheaton College in Norton, MA is somewhat misleading. Because studies include Latin and Hebrew, it detracts from the fact that Greek is its primary focus. There is also emphasis on Greek mythology, a whole other spectrum of study in the United States, suitable for a future article.
A myriad of other institutions offer courses in Greek language, history, literature, and culture, providing minors or concentrations. In a nation in which the Founding Fathers almost selected Greek as the official language, it is not surprising that even today, numerous institutions remain devoted to its study.