Student Profile: Brenda Tyrrell

CATEGORIES: March 2015

As graduation quickly approaches, I find myself reflecting back over my years at Iowa State. What have I learned? Would I change anything if given the opportunity and myriad of other questions I am sure other graduating seniors are asking themselves as well. I will be graduating in May with a double major in Classical Studies and English, as well as a World Film Studies minor. One of the first (and hardest) classes I took was Ancient Greek with Professor Henry and, let me say, after almost twenty years between educational experiences, learning this language was indeed a challenge! The amazing thing about the Classical Studies department is the one-on-one interaction between student and instructor. This aspect saved me more than once in that first year! Professors Henry, Meyers, and Mook (and in later years, Hollander, Betcher, and Marks) pulled me kicking and screaming through Greek and Roman mythology, The Ancient City, Greek and Latin, and Roman Archaeology.

The most fantastic part of being involved in the Classical Studies department was the opportunity to go to Rome last summer with Professors Hollander and Meyers. For three weeks, they led students with various majors through extraordinary sites such as the Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica (and even saw the Papa!). We stayed in Trastevere, enmeshed within the local culture, but also took short trips outside of Rome to the Bay of Naples, exploring the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as Tarquinia, to visit an Etruscan museum and necropolis. It was a trip of a lifetime; I have 6,000 photos, and two tattoos, to prove it!  Although not as fantastic as Rome, I also participated in a Classical Studies film class where I actually received credit for watching such iconic movies as Spartacus, Gladiator, It Happened on the Way to the Forum, Ben Hur, and even a little Monty Python in Life of Brian

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This class was the inspiration I needed to pursue the World Film Studies minor, where I am currently taking a German films class with Professor Rectanus and a Russian films class with Professor Mesropova. Additionally, Dr. Weber-Feve captured my French imagination with her online French films class. Finally, Professor Mesropova introduced me to the cinema of the world with her Introduction to Global Film class, covering films from Russia, Italy, China, Japan, and other countries. Similar to the Classical Studies department, the film studies professors are also well-intuned to their students’ needs and work very closely with those students to meet the goals of the classes, as well as the minor.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned I was a double major in Classical Studies, as well as English. You might be asking yourself how these three areas of interest intersect but, for me, they do so at an interesting level. My first semester as an English major I took Literary Theory and Criticism with Dr. Withers and became enraptured with this whole field of study, although ‘criticism’ in literature and ‘criticism’ in film is usually not the same thing. With the tools I learned from Dr. Withers (thank you, Dr. Withers), I am able to look at literature and film in a whole new light, whether it be a formalist light, a feminist light, a disability studies light, or any of the other theories taught in this wonderful class. Additionally, the classical literature of Homer, Aeschylus, and Plato, just to name a few, help make my arguments even stronger. In short, each of the three fields I chose to study at Iowa State is strong in itself, but combining them is akin to inheriting a superpower!

So, as I wrap up my final weeks as an undergraduate at Iowa State, I feel inclined to offer these words of advice: don’t be afraid to make your education your own! Even if others tell you what you want to do makes no sense, do what brings you joy. That is the only way you will learn to fly! Happily, I will not be leaving Iowa State, but instead, staying on to obtain my master’s degree in English literature. I have every intention of staying in touch with my Classical Studies professors, as well as my World Film studies professors. I could not have achieved the success I have without of your encouragement and support. Thank you all so much for making my undergraduate years so satisfying and enriching!