columns

AB / MA Program

( An overview and history by Minna C. Duchovnay '98, MA '99)

The undergraduates who major in Greek and/or Latin languages at Bryn Mawr College are well trained in reading and research in the classical language(s) of their choice. In addition, there are students who may wish to do even more advanced work than the regular undergraduate curriculum offers. For them, there is the opportunity to participate in a combined AB/MA program. Such students must make their wishes known early in their undergraduate career, preferably by the end of the Sophomore Year.

With her major advisor's approval and support, the student prepares a major work plan for both degrees and fills out the application to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). An Undergraduate Committee which provides oversight on special academic requests reviews the work plan and the application. This Committee must approve the work plan before the GSAS application may be forwarded. The Committee makes the decision based on knowledge of the student's intent and goals, her academic career to that point (a minimum GPA of 3.7 is required to make application), and an estimate of the worthiness of the application, i.e., whether the student will be able to do the extra work required in the time allotted to complete the joint degrees.

After approval by the Undergraduate Committee, the Graduate Council of GSAS must approve the application. The applicant must satisfy all application requirements EXCEPT FOR completion of the Graduate Record

Examination

Once the Graduate Council approves the application, the student is admitted as a Graduate Student at the same time she is an Undergraduate. The student has the option of taking undergraduate and graduate courses together. The student is expected to complete her MA within one year after completing her AB, unless both degrees are granted simultaneously.

The student registers each semester with the Undergraduate and Graduate Colleges. Among the benefits of the AB/MA program-in addition to exemption from the GREs-is obtaining both undergraduate and graduate credit for two senior-level (300) courses in the major language(s). To obtain this double credit, the student must complete the work for both levels during the course period. Other graduate courses may be taken along with the student's regular undergraduate coursework, but tuition will be charged at the usual rate in effect at that time for the graduate courses. Nevertheless, the requirement post-BA is four courses, because of the double credit.

It was typical for students who attended Bryn Mawr College, at the beginning of its history in the late nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries, to major in both Greek and Latin. In addition, several stayed to do the MA, and occasionally the PhD. At the beginning, the number ofstudents who completed both the AB and the MA was influenced by the core requirement which the College had for all students, that of having a proficiency in both the Greek and Latin languages. When that core requirement was removed, the number of students who did classical languages remained consistently high. However, the number who went on to do the MA decreased. Those who did usually elected Latin as the classical language of choice. Since the 1980s, only four students have participated in the combined program. Of these, two students did both Greek and Latin, one did Greek, and one in Latin. Of these four, only one student has completedboth degrees in four years.

The small number of students who are enrolled in the AB/MA program belies the readiness of the faculty to work with students who wish to participate. It is more the readiness of the student, early in her undergraduatecareer, to be aware of her goals and the willingness to do the necessary work to complete the degrees in a reasonable time. In this respect, the student must express her interest and intent.

Although the program is a challenging one, it does provide a wonderful opportunity to students who wish to immerse themselves in either or both of the classical languages and to participate with both undergraduate and graduate students in their academic pursuits. The program prepares the student to do in-depth research, beyond that usually provided by the typical undergraduate experience. The program is ideal for the student who wishes to teach at the secondary school level. It would not be unusual for a student who completes this program to continue with additional graduate studies, either immediately after completing her AB/MA, or after an interval.

[The author is currently Coordinator of Meetings, Programs and Administration for the American Philological Association]