Connecting past, present, self and community through humanities and service learning

Mallory Monaco Caterine, Senior Practice Professor in the Department of Classical Studies at the School of Liberal Arts, and Greenberg Family Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking. (Photo by Rusty Costanza)

Mallory Monaco Caterine views the study of ancient Mediterranean civilizations and languages ​​not only as an opportunity to gain knowledge of history, but also as a guide to understanding human behavior that helps inform our decisions today.

Monaco Caterine, senior practice professor in the Department of Classical Studies at the School of Liberal Arts and Greenberg Family Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking, wrote her doctoral dissertation at Princeton on the biographer Greek Plutarch, who wrote moral biographies of Greek and Roman statesmen. Her education influenced her journey and led to award-winning community engagement through the service-learning courses she now teaches at Tulane.

Late last year, Monaco Caterine received the 2021 Outreach Award from the Society for Classical Studies (SCS) for her work with the Nyansa Classical Community in New Orleans. She was nominated for this award by Dennis Kehoe, a professor in the Department of Classical Studies, and said she felt honored to be recognized not only by CBS, but by a colleague who has also done so much outreach and service to Tulane.

“I was really surprised when I got the notification. It’s very empowering because teaching service learning can be very difficult; you constantly encounter obstacles or need to find better ways to work with your community partners. It’s also important that students feel connected to the work and that their work is connected to what you do in the course. So getting the Outreach award has really motivated me to continue in this work “said Monaco Caterine.

The Nyansa Classical Community is a non-profit organization that provides enrichment educational programs for young students, ages 5 to 12, incorporating not only biblical literature, but also Greek and Roman literature into its curriculum. Her students (who know her as “Professor MC”) worked with Monaco Caterine to design new materials based on Latin and Roman, taking into account not only the needs of users, but also their aspirations. The course content, based on Roman fables, was a literacy builder and also acted as a discussion starter, stimulating Nyansa students to think about the stories and connect them to their own lives.

“How we use the past to make better decisions in the present and the future has always fascinated me. So it really grew from there. A lot of it is getting students to recognize different forms of leadership, that it is not necessarily the person who has a title who exercises leadership. There is a lot of taking turns, a lot of collaboration and a lot of listening. That is what happens when you see a good leadership,” said Monaco Caterine.

Through this collaboration, Nyansa is now committed to developing the curriculum and providing its materials free or at low cost to other groups interested in a more diverse and inclusive classical Christian education.

Monaco Caterine’s outreach work with Nyansa and her previous work with two public schools, Lafayette Academy and Crocker College Prep, inspired another venture, the formation of the nonprofit Kallion Leadership, of which she is a co-founder. and co-executive director. Kallion is a humanities organization whose mission is “to design and grow communities around the study of the humanities, to unleash human talent for creative, caring, and lasting improvements in our common condition.”

Kallion was born out of the belief that teaching the humanities can be an effective means of leadership development. Speaking of Kallion’s mission, Monaco Caterine said: “We think a lot about how to make humanities and leadership accessible to as many people as possible. Very broadly defined, all eras, all cultures, all kinds of humanities artifacts, whether it’s text, visual art, music, performance, philosophy, whatever people have produced to express their experiences and inner lives, we believe they can be used to help each of us demonstrate better leadership skills.