Popular Honors Thesis Projects: Ancient Leadership

Loving well-written stories, poetry, and language is an understatement when it comes to Classics Major Eli Embleton. Combining this with a passion to innovate education is precisely how his thesis “Leadership in the Ancient World” was born.

Embleton has dedicated the past year to creating a thesis about a future course called “Leadership in the Ancient World.” This class will be open to enrollment for honors college students in the Fall of 2014.

During the year spent on his thesis, Eli read multiple texts to decide what would be a part of the course. The lengthy process included, “writing five to ten pages every week over the period of two semesters. Most of the effort came in the form of editing and selecting which stories made it into the final product,” Embleton said.

The inspiration for this thesis came from Eli’s belief that, in order to change education, we need to shape better leaders. The characters depicted in ancient literature display leadership in such a way that pairing the two for this course makes sense.

“I have always felt the drive to take the path less travelled, and I found it in the pursuit of this thesis,” Embleton said.

Students who enroll in “Leadership in the Ancient World” will learn valuable character traits from the famous epics and tragedies of Rome and Greece. The course will explore leadership as a collective phenomenon that, “emerges through complexity,” Eli said. This approach makes for a unique learning environment.

Embleton notes that “the most difficult part of the project is convincing people of the value of reading texts with which they are unfamiliar. Most people love the stories of Greek Epic and Tragedy but are initially intimidated by the prospect of reading Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.”

Aside from the leadership traits of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Embleton incorporated modern techniques into the teaching of his course. He drew inspiration from work with the For the Kids (FTK) Dance Marathon, at which he encountered many prominent student leaders, physicians and executives.

Through the design and implementation of this course, Eli hopes to change education and cultivate brave new leaders by using creative techniques geared toward a more active classroom environment. He believes that, “Too often the classroom performs an ‘educational decapitation,’ where only the head and the intellect are invited but the rest of the person is left at the door.”

Embleton’s thesis project is designed to make the student as a whole participate. Students will be encouraged to express not only what they are thinking, but how they are feeling and believing. Instead of using a mundane textbook, Greek and Roman mythology and literature will teach leadership through use of drama and action.