The Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome
(ICCS) is an overseas study center in Rome
for undergraduate students in fields related to Classical Studies. It was first established in 1965 by ten American colleges and universities; as of 2007 the number of member institutions has now grown to 113. It is sometimes called Centro
, the Italian word for center.
Each member institution furnishes a "faculty representative" to Centro; from these, five are elected to sit on a governing board called the Managing Committee, currently under elected-chair Professor Michael Maas of Rice University. The Managing Committee hires a Professor-in Charge (PIC) for each year, and three subordinate faculty, usually an Associate Professor, an Assistant Professor, and a Graduate Student Instructor, who are responsible for instruction. Students at individual member universities should contact their faculty representative for further information (a recommendation from the faculty representative is required with every application).
Centro offers competitive admission to North American undergraduate students to study the Ancient City, Greek or Latin literature, Italian language, or (Renaissance and Baroque) Art History. Initially administered by Stanford University (and housed at Via Ulisse Seni 2), Centro is now administered by Duke University and housed at Via A. Algardi 19. A group of 36 undergraduate students is competitively selected as Centristi each semester; the faculty is drawn from American colleges and universities. The hallmark of Centro instruction is first-hand experience of the ancient monuments in Rome, in museums, in Campania, and in Sicily.
Centro has received important financial support from the Danforth Foundation, The Old Dominion Foundation, The Mellon Foundation, The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, its consortium of colleges and universities, and former students. One of its founders was the American Classicist Brooks Otis, in whose memory the center's library is named.
Normally there are four faculty members at ICCS Rome: a senior 'Professor in Charge' (PIC), two junior professors (often an associate professor and an assistant professor), and a graduate student assistant. Faculty are hired competitively at the annual meetings of the American Institute of Archaeology/American Philological Association in January. Faculty duties vary in accordance with the organizational plans of the PIC, but the course load is nominally two courses per semester except for the graduate assistant, who teaches a 1-1 load with additional resident supervisorial duties. The professors live in ICCS-rented apartments in the neighborhood, while the graduate assistant lives on the premises of the ICCS.
While "Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies" refers to the program in its official capacity, the word "Centro" represents a broader, more familial concept. "Centro" can refer to the building where the program is housed, to the concept of the experience taken as a whole, and to representative aspects of the program. Due to the intimate connection Centristi feel towards Centro, the article has been dropped as before the word "home." While a student lives and works at Centro, their life is Centro.
Indubitably, the heart of Centro coursework is the Ancient City course. Worth two credits and demanding an exceptional amount of time, this course teaches the history of Rome with a focus on its topography, ancient and modern; in short, this course is Roman history
as it could only be taught in Rome. Although they are supplemented by a weekly lecture, field trips provide the core of the class, with two to three six-to-ten-hour excursions per week. Each student also must give two on-site presentations, which help further emphasize the physicality of the field.
In addition to the ancient city course students must take two additional courses (some choose to take a third). One class must be in either the Greek or the Latin language, though you may opt for both. Currently Centro provides two electives, Elementary Italian or Renaissance and Baroque Italian art history; however, Francesco Sgariglia, the program's current director, is developing ideas for new classes that would give Centristi more exposure to modern Italian culture, such as 'Italian Cooking.'
Art History is taught by the godlike Paul Tegmeyer, a faculty member of John Cabot University. The class consists of a weekly lecture Thursday afternoon and a field trip on Friday mornings, normally to a museum or church. Paul Tegmeyer's paints the history of Renaissance and Baroque Art History in Rome as well as Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. The rewards of the class far outweigh the sacrifice of Friday mornings.
Life at Centro
Study at Centro is an intense experience because of the intimate nature of the program. There are only thirty-six students, and they spend the semester in a small three-story building that previously served as a convent in Monteverde Vecchio
. Breakfast, dinner, and most lunches are eaten together on all weekdays; the bedrooms are small; the long and frequent field trips for the Ancient City course mean that class time is heavily weighted.
This intensity and proximity has several consequences, including:
- detailed knowledge of every student and professor's wardrobes
- deep friendships that, presumably, last lifetimes
- conversations that transcend the banal, because the banal has just already been talked about
- a high incidence of so-called Centrocest, with a remarkable percentage of these relationships surviving the semester and beyond
Although the proximity can be maddening, most Centro students call this element one of the highlights of the program's structure. However, when the experience becomes overwhelming, many students like to escape to the beautiful Villa Doria Pamphili nearby, or wander down into Trastevere.
Three meals are provided daily for students and professors five days a week and with panache. Both appreciation and belts expand day after day. Eat your fill and you are richly rewarded with the cooks' favor and therefore more food, occasionally to the self-mutilation of your classmates, but never let that bother you. As Darwin says, let 'em starve. The breakdown of the meals is as follows:
- Breakfast is a simple affair, with rolls, fruit, yogurt and cereals offered every day and eggs and "feench toast" intermittently.
- Lunch typically consists of two courses, one of which tends to be soup in colder times of the year.
- Dinner begins with a pasta or risotto dish, then moves into the secondo piatto of meat and vegetables. A dessert course, with torta for students' birthdays, follows.
After eating at Centro for a semester, students often have difficulty reintegrating themselves into the then seemingly impoverished culinary world from which they came.
On the two week-long hell trips, the food is decided by Franco (q.v.) and thus reaches even higher heights of gourmet Italianity. A recent Sicily trip featured cannoli, fine wine, and a roast chicken which the students were told to eat with their fingers.