Over spring break, the students in “Rome and the Arts of Power,” a class taught by Glynn Arts & Letters Director Professor Margaret Meserve, traveled to Rome. The trip was a joint collaboration between the History Department and the Glynn Family Honors Program, hosted by Rome Global Gateway, and made possible by a generous gift from John and Barbara Glynn. Accompanied by teaching assistant and PhD History student Susan Naramore, Professor Meserve and the class spent five days immersing themselves in the eternal city, with each day focusing on a different historical era—ancient, medieval, Renaissance, baroque, and modern. Simply walking through Rome was a significant and much appreciated part of the experience.
“Not only did it give us a lot of freedom of movement, it let us interact with the city more—feeling the cobblestones and hills and taking in the beautiful Roman architecture all around us,” Arden Jennings ‘25 said.
As the class traveled to a number of places—from the Roman Forum and the Ara Pacis to St. Peter’s Basilica and Piazza Navona—they were presented with two tasks: first, to write a paper on a particular site, and second, to document their sightseeing through an Instagram diary at least five times per day. Their feeds were required to include a mix of short-form captions and longer reflections on locations they independently visited.
While students applied for the class because of the exciting prospect of traveling to Rome and further exploring Roman history, Grace Waddell ‘25 also spoke about how her Glynn Honors seminar with Professor Monta sparked an interest in the interdisciplinary depth of “Rome and the Arts of Power.”
“I was curious about extending this interest [in the power dynamics between individuals] to include how power dynamics can be physically represented between leaders and people through architecture and art,” she said.
After surveying a plethora of historical and architectural structures at the end of the five days, Clark Doman ‘23 was most amazed by the number of buildings that have been preserved from the past. “The way that different governments, from the Vatican to the fascists, have reappropriated and repurposed ancient structures is fascinating,” he said. “I loved seeing the modern, Renaissance, and ancient all interact.”
Both Doman and Jennings agreed that another highlight of the trip was the joy of getting to know their classmates better. For Doman, a senior, this trip was a final opportunity to make friends with students he otherwise would not have met outside of class. Jennings reminisced on a particular night when the class found a random restaurant that served delicious chocolate souffle and continued to explore the Trastevere neighborhood together after.
The trip has helped Doman, an Economics and American Studies major, potentially considering a future career in urban planning, to think about where Rome is situated in broader discourse on how cities—including American ones—are structured. For Jennings, a Program of Liberal Studies major, it prompted a number of questions about the legacy of the papacy and the intersections between tourism and pilgrimage that might turn into a full project or thesis down the road. Waddell, who studies Neuroscience and Behavior and Applied Computational Mathematics and Statistics, noted that while she is not sure that the trip has influenced any of her current research projects, it has certainly built her confidence and interest in traveling throughout the rest of her career.
“I currently aspire to earn a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience and to become a professor and researcher at a university, and I think that this experience has made me more [open] to going on trips for conferences or presentations to share the research that I hope to do and to learn about others' research,” she said.