(Story by Christine Sands ’15 with additions by Al Behrends)
Editor’s note: Laurel Boman ’14 is a member of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra and is section leader of the saxophone section. She is also plays lead alto in the Gustavus Saxophone Quartet.
Students at Gustavus Adolphus College have many opportunities to excel and be rewarded for their hard work. Laurel Boman ’14 is one such student who has made the most of those possibilities and has recently been awarded with the Manson A. Stewart Scholarship as a result.
This year the Classics Association of the Middle West and South awarded seven individuals within the region with this prestigious scholarship. The award is reserved for outstanding young classicists in their sophomore or junior year of an undergraduate degree. The application process begins when a student is nominated by the campus classics department, after which Boman completed her application and an essay component. The essence of the essay was to comment on the value of classics as a utilitarian discipline; essentially, Boman was asked to defend her major.
Explaining why her major is important, is not a task that is foreign to Boman. “In my essay, I used some of the same one-liners that I’ve previously used to ward off skeptics when they ask why I’m a classics major: It’s challenging and teaches me how to critically analyze. I’m forced to think broadly about the context of each piece, to understand references to literature of the Greco Roman world and its relation to the contemporary culture which draws upon those societies.”
Much of the major is focused on finding the points of connection with the Greco Roman world that are much like our modern civilization but also different in many ways. “My studies allow me to have a greater understanding of the human experience and to see my own humanity in ways that are unique to the discipline,” Boman exclaimed.
Boman got her start in the classics department as a first-year student in the Three Crowns Curriculum, previously known as Curiculum II, through a course titled Historical Perspectives taught by Professor Eric Dugdale. “Although it was intense, I was drawn to the challenge and to the professors in the department, all of whom are absolutely top notch,” Boman said. “One of the main things that pushed me to the classics major was that I couldn’t decide on any one major in the humanities, and with classics I still get a taste of everything.”
“Laurel is a remarkable young scholar. She has intellectual curiosity, acumen, and the tenacity to delve deeply into a topic — a winning combination,” Dugdale said.
Boman has enjoyed the wide variety of aspects within the major since she declared, and has taken a diverse assortment of courses including Plato and the Intellectual Revolution, The Greek New Testament, Vergil’s Aeneid, and a course on Homer. “There hasn’t been a course where I have not been challenged or have not been transformed by the material,” Boman stated. “I haven’t had a class that was sub-par so far in my major.”
Classical studies give students insight into Greek and Roman literature, the history and society of those ancient civilizations, and the surviving monuments of their ancient art and architecture. Boman has chosen a Greek concentration to her major, although she also studies Latin. “I love the way it looks, the way it reads, the way that we’re not actually sure how it really sounded, the way there’s so many worlds of history; it’s a whole new world at your feet when you pick up an incredibly old Greek text,” Boman declared. “It’s interesting to see what ways the Greek civilization has shaped our world and to see which aspects from their civilization have been completely dropped.”
“With Laurel, there is no artificial divide between her interests as a student and as an engaged citizen,” Dugdale said. “Her latest research project is a study of two modern adaptations of Euripides’ play Medea in which she analyzes how classics has been used to explore issues of identity and race within the contexts of colonization and decolonization.”
Not only has Boman thoroughly enjoyed and been transformed by her classics major, she also believes that her studies have been beneficial in preparing her for life beyond Gustavus. “I think that classics is a really challenging major and it teaches discipline and hard work. Not only the aspect of sitting with a text for hours on end attempting to figure it out, but also the excitement when you are able to really figure out what you’re reading. When those two things go hand in hand, I think it’s an exceptionally life giving experience,” Boman said. “That is what I personally strive to do in the future with any career. I want a healthy challenge in front of me, and because of the challenge of the major, I am confident that I can handle the challenges that my future career will bring.”
Inviting and accepting challenges is something that faculty members, including Dugdale, have seen Boman do since she stepped foot on the Gustavus campus.
“If you want to understand the value of the humanities for understanding and shaping the world, just talk to Laurel. She embodies the liberal arts commitment to developing the total person,” Dugdale said. “She uses her talents for the greater good, teaching English to recent immigrants, helping her peers as a writing tutor and Greek language tutor, and speaking publicly about the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. Laurel is making the most of her Gustavus education, and I have no doubt that she will go on to great things.”
Through her praise of the major and department as a whole, Boman is especially confident that the professors play a key role in making the major what it is. “I feel like the professors in the department are so student centered – they have this unique marriage of being outstanding scholars but still being able to communicate with undergrad students at our level,” Boman asserted. “They’re willing to go above and beyond for students, and they are all sorts of wonderful!”
With the dedicated and fabulous professors, the assortment of courses, and the basic foundations of the major, Boman has made the most of her studies in the classics department and feels rewarded by more than just the Manson A. Stewart Scholarship. Although the scholarship was truly an honor to win, Boman feels just as grateful for her time spent within a department that is so clearly one of the many wonderful opportunities for students at Gustavus.
Laurel Boman is a native of St. Paul, Minn. She has been selected for induction into the Guild of St. Lucia and was accepted to study in India next fall on the India: Social Justice, Peace and Development semester abroad.