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CAMS: Meet One Of Penn State’s Smallest Majors

Penn State has more than 160 majors in 10 different academic colleges. That’s a lot of different pathways for students to take. This multitude of programs can be especially overwhelming to incoming freshmen. I remember being completely blown away by how many different options I had at Penn State. To this day, the variety of majors at our university continues to surprise me.

Because Penn State is so academically diverse, we decided to profile some of Penn State’s smallest majors. Sure, these programs have small enrollment numbers, but they offer big opportunities to their students. Last time, we introduced the Costume Design major. This time, it’s time for the College of The Liberal Arts’ Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies major to shine.

Now, Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies is quite the mouthful. Most people familiar with the major refer to it as CAMS, which is way easier to articulate. There are currently 33 declared CAMS majors at Penn State, according to the department head Mark Munn. That number of students would fit into a classroom in Willard, with a few seats to spare.

But those 33 CAMS students have a quite a few unexpected benefits from having such a small major. According to Munn, students in the major get a lot of attention from the CAMS department’s faculty. “[It’s] especially true with advanced language classes in Greek, Latin, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Sumerian, not to mention Aramaic and Hittite, taught once in a while.”

All of those languages sound pretty intimidating, but the CAMS major is so much more than just speaking ancient tongues. The program, which was born in 1993, is a hybrid at Penn State. The school decided to combine the Classics department with faculty from the History, Jewish Studies, and Religious Studies departments. The result was something truly unique: a department that focused on the ancient worlds of the Mediterranean and Near East.

“CAMS at PSU was one of the first departments created to cover these ancient civilizations, which elsewhere have usually been studied in separate departments of Classics, Near Eastern Studies, Biblical Studies, and Egyptology,” Munn said.

22 years later, the program is still going strong. In addition to the great student/faculty ratio, CAMS also boasts a strong study abroad program. “CAMS has several study abroad programs led by its faculty,” Munn said. “Including a spring semester in Athens every year, and field schools in Israel and Egypt.”

While study abroad isn’t required for every single CAMS major, it’s strongly encouraged. The program has three different options for students to choose from: the CAMS option, the Ancient Language option, and the Archaeology option. The archaeology option requires a study abroad experience, while the language option requires advanced language training.

All of this stuff sounds pretty cool, but only if you wanted a career like Indiana Jones, right? Well, the CAMS department offers much more to its students in terms of preparing them for a career. “We have students who go on to teach, go on in museum studies or cultural heritage management, go on to law school, and go on to business school,” Munn said.

The program is definitely a unique one at Penn State. But with this uniqueness comes the opportunity to learn some pretty amazing stuff during your undergraduate career. “This is where history began, where western literature set down roots, where philosophy was born, where you can study the beginnings of urban civilization, and the long history of human interaction with the environment,” Munn said.

About the Author

Anna Foley

Anna is a senior majoring in Communication Arts & Sciences and Spanish with a minor in Theatre. Yes, she went to Spain. Follow her half-funny thoughts @exfoleyator and send her chain emails at [email protected]


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