CFP – Teaching Leaders and Leadership through Classics: A Virtual Conference, May 8–22, 2017

Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great, engraving, Charles Laplante (1866)

This conference aims at exploring and developing the ways that the study of classical antiquity has been, can be, and should be used as a platform for leadership education in the 21st century. As universities place greater and greater emphasis on their mission to develop students as future leaders, the field of classical studies can become central to the study of leadership and the education of leaders. The primary texts and artifacts we study are often about, for, or by the leaders of their times. Our discipline’s emphasis on textual and visual analysis, narrative, and cultural history aids students in developing the skills of empathy, contextual intelligence, and critical thinking that are the most essential for the success of leaders. We hope that this conference will lead to the development of a new discipline of humanistic leadership studies, with classics leading the vanguard.

This conference will focus on two broad research questions: (1) how can the ancient world improve our appreciation of leadership in general and (2) in what ways does studying the ancient world actually train someone to be a leader? We seek submissions from scholars, teachers, and students who share an interest in ancient leadership writ large: individuals with experience or interest in teaching about leadership in antiquity, as well as those who, through classroom activities, assignments, or other means, attempt to foster leadership skills in their students by means of the study of the ancient world. Our goal is for this conference to become a resource for classics instructors who would like to include leadership development in their future teaching.

We seek contributions addressing the following questions:

  • When we say we are teaching “ancient leadership” or “leadership in the ancient world”, what do we mean?
  • How does teaching leadership through classics differ from leadership education available through other channels, from business courses, to military training, to self-help books, to mentoring, etc.? For example, does classics offer anything to leadership education that any other humanities discipline or interdisciplinary field does not? If so, how much of this is a function of the specific properties of ancient sources, of the history of the discipline of classics, of the role of classics in the modern academy, etc.? How, to what extent, and when should the study of ancient leadership engage with these other modes of leadership education?
  • What was successful or unsuccessful about the Fall 2016 Sunoikisis Ancient Leadership course? How can we improve this course for the future, increase the available course materials, and expand the community of participants? What other leadership courses in classics and humanities have been successful, and why? (We are interested in both faculty and student perspectives.)
  • What are the ways we can foster leadership development in classical studies courses through syllabus design, classroom activities, field trips (e.g. museums, theater, study abroad), and/or assignments?
  • What are the ethical responsibilities we have as leadership educators, and how might those responsibilities affect the material we choose to teach or the ways in which we teach it? What can we learn from ancient educators and advisors of leaders (Aristotle, Seneca, Pliny, Dio of Prusa, etc.) about how to channel theoria within the academy into praxis outside it?
  • What are productive, responsible, and rigorous ways of making connections between ancient leadership and 21st century leadership? How do we model that process for our students, and how to we get them to move beyond simple comparisons?

Virtual Conference Format:

This conference, like the the Sunoikisis Ancient Leadership course, will be a digital, virtual, open access event. We have chosen to use a virtual format for several reasons: lower costs for participants and organizers; reduced environmental impact; greater accessibility to a global audience, especially those who cannot normally attend a physical conference on account of limited mobility or limited resources; more open dissemination of ideas; and more opportunity for thoughtful, productive discussion. We are adapting the model of the nearly carbon-neutral (NCN) conference developed by the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Environmental Humanities Institute (see here:

The conference will exist as a website, which will launch on May 8, 2017, and will be available after the end of the conference period on May 22, 2017. Contributions will consist of pre-recorded 15–17 minute video presentations; participants are encouraged, though not required, to submit a full text of their presentation to facilitate discussion and future reference. These will be organized into panel sub-pages, with each panel containing 3–5 videos. Each panel will have a discussion feed, which will be open from May 8–22 to pre-registered participants. Contributors will be expected to engage in the discussion feeds throughout the conference period. We also plan to have occasional synchronous discussions via Google Hangouts during the conference. Individuals whose abstracts are accepted will be given technical support for recording and uploading submissions.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should submitted no later than March 18, 2017 to Any questions about the conference can also be directed to this email.

Program Committee:

Mallory Monaco Caterine, Tulane University (chair)

Joel Christensen, Brandeis University

John Esposito, 6st Technologies

Victoria Györi, King’s College London

Ulrike Krotschek, The Evergreen State College

Jonathan MacLellan, University of Texas-San Antonio

Norman Sandridge, Howard University

Lindsay Samson, Georgia State University and Spelman College


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