Please meet Dr. Miriam Vivian from the History department.
What is your field of study?
The Late Roman Empire/Late Antiquity: I’m especially interested in the transformation of the Roman world resulting from the growth of Christianity (and related movements, such as monasticism), particularly the impact on the physical landscape.
What is your favorite class to teach?
It’s hard to settle on one because I thoroughly enjoy teaching, especially upper-division courses, but my course on Roman history is probably my favorite: "Building an Empire: A History of Rome.” In this course I provide some emphasis on Roman contributions to engineering, architecture, and building, as well as the many other institutions they built, such as a republic, an effective military, legal principles, etc.
What are you excited about this semester?
Being in a brand-new building AND having the experience of a year on the semester system under my belt.
What was the last book you read?
The novel Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, while I was in Italy in June. I’m currently working through two books: The Parthenon Enigma (a scholarly work by Joan Breton Connelly, 2014); and The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (a more popular work, by Stephen Greenblatt, 2011), about the impact of Lucretius’ 1st-century BCE work On the Nature of Things (de rerum natura).
What was your worst subject in school?
I managed well in high school, thanks to extra credit in math, but got a C+ in Physics for Non-Majors in college.
What is your secret talent or hobby?
It’s no secret: I love to play tennis, and play doubles regularly with a large pool of gals, with a schedule that changes whom we play with each time.
If you had to make a documentary, what would the subject be?
Probably on the legacy of the ancient Romans—what we inherited from them.
What do you do for fun and relaxation?
Play tennis, swim, and read. I consume a good bit of print news. I also enjoy singing in choirs.
Do you have any advice or thoughts for our students?
Get organized! At least half of success comes down to organizational skills, persistence, and a determination to “get it done.” Also, if students are having problems, I urge them to talk with me (and other professors) rather than simply disappear or fail to show up for an exam. I try to make accommodations for students dealing with school and personal issues, and I think most of my colleagues are likewise understanding.
What did you do over the summer break?
I enjoyed my first cruise ever, a week aboard a small ship on the Mediterranean, in between a week each in Italy and Greece. This was a wonderful (belated 30th-anniversary) trip with my husband, Tim (RS prof.), and as we appreciate most of the same types of travel destinations, I could indulge my interest in ancient ruins and one archaeological museum after another. Whereas I’m well versed in important sites in Italy, I had not been to Greece, so this was amazing for me: not only did we see a good deal in Athens, where we stayed with a former professor from grad school, but we visited the ancient site of Delphi (famous for its oracle of Apollo), the island of Paros, and Crete, the last of which afforded us the opportunity to see the ancient site of Knossos, home of the Minoans and their legendary King Minos. Otherwise, summer has been about packing up my office of 27 years for the move to our new Humanities Building, and making short hops around the state to visit family and friends—and escape the Central Valley heat
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