From Homer’s Odyssey to Star Wars: New Reed Fellow to Teach Innovative Course at UConn Waterbury

donors David and Joan Reed of Middlebury; Roger Travis, UConn professor and Reed fellow; William Pizzuto, Director of UConn Waterbury; and Joe McGrath, City of Waterbury Economic Development Director
From left: donors David and Joan Reed of Middlebury; Roger Travis, UConn professor and Reed fellow; William Pizzuto, Director of UConn Waterbury; and Joe McGrath, City of Waterbury Economic Development Director.

UConn Waterbury students will have the opportunity to study Greek tragedies – and popular superhero movies – thanks to the David and Joan Reed Faculty Fellowship established by donors David ’55 and Joan Reed.

Roger Travis, associate professor of classics in the Department of Literatures, Cultures & Languages and last year’s winner of the University’s Teaching Innovation Award, will be the second Reed fellow to teach in Waterbury. During a luncheon on May 20, he had the opportunity to meet with the Reeds and Waterbury campus administrators to discuss his classical mythology course, which will be offered in spring 2017.

“The course that I’m going to be teaching in Waterbury is one that I’m very proud of, and one that I think not only teaches students about a key area of the humanities and Western cultural heritage, but also provides a life lesson in how to approach and analyze their experiences with the kinds of stories that we find are so important today,” said Travis.

“Movies like Star Wars and Captain America: Civil War are very important to the way that we think about our culture,” added Travis. “This is a course not only in analyzing Greek tragedy and Homer’s Odyssey, but also in analyzing superhero and science fiction movies as a way of approaching how we’re going to live our lives as citizens of the 21st century.”

The fellowship will also give Travis the opportunity to update video lectures for the course and make all of the texts open source materials for students so that students won’t have to pay high prices for textbooks.

“Traveling to Waterbury means that I can create some unique opportunities for students to do what no students have gotten to do in this course before,” said Travis. “I’ll be designing a special activity for my face-to-face sessions with the Waterbury students, drawing on my research interests in game-based learning. The students will play in teams to portray characters in a story that takes them to ancient Greece, the fantasy of the world of the classical myths and a different version of their own world. Their task in each role-play session will be to display their skill in analyzing classical mythology in its various contexts.”

David and Joan Reed created the fellowship in 2014 to enable outstanding faculty from Storrs to be able to teach in Waterbury and interact both with students as well as with other faculty. David Reed attended UConn Waterbury for two years before transferring to Storrs.

“I attended the Waterbury branch first, so I have an interest in what’s going on there,” said David Reed, who graduated in 1955 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Then you add to this the fact that it’s not only about the University, but it’s also about the city of Waterbury. These were the important factors [in creating the fellowship].”

Over the past five years, UConn Waterbury’s enrollment has remained steady at approximately 900 – 1,000 students, according to William Pizzuto, Director of UConn Waterbury. Additionally, the campus continues to grow. Through a partnership with the city and the Waterbury Development Corp., the St. Patrick’s Hall building on East Main Street (known as the Rectory Building) was renovated to include six classrooms, meeting spaces and a large assembly hall. UConn is renting the building from the city and courses are already scheduled for the new classrooms. The city of Waterbury is also considering creating housing downtown with UConn students in mind.

“That would be helpful because you’ll have the students staying down [in Waterbury] at night,” said Joan Reed. “I think that would be a good thing for the city.”

Currently residing in Middlebury, David and Joan Reed were born in Naugatuck and graduated from Naugatuck High School. Their gift was the largest ever received by UConn Waterbury.