Roman painting
Painting depicting the killing of Roman ambassador by King Illyria. (Image courtesy: RocelliAld)

After months of virtual classes, Saundra Schwartz, an associate professor of history at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, wanted to ensure her students were retaining information conveyed through Zoom about the ancient Roman republic. As finals arrived in fall 2020, she decided against traditional test-taking and instead asked her class to come up with innovative presentations.

Schwartz’ 20 students in the HIST 333 course came up with a wide range of projects, from reproducing ancient Roman recipes to developing a toga-wearing tutorial. One team created a short film that blends Ancient Roman politics and modern investigative reporting.

“It allows the students to come up with a creative way to process what they learned over the semester,” Schwartz said. “It supports students who want to drill down into a topic that somehow intrigued them…Given the challenges of the pandemic, all bets were off. I thought, ‘Why not see what they could do?’”

Kali Konopko, a classics major, was up for the challenge. “I had a quick moment of relief, followed by a bout of panic that quickly turned to excitement,” Konopko explained. “Being able to apply my understanding of the ancient Roman republic took an abstract idea and made it knowable.”

Although Schwartz is impressed by how students have adjusted to virtual learning, she misses teaching in class and seeing them face-to-face.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.