For innovative teaching in NJ prisons, RU Classics prof Emily Allen-Hornblower wins inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Faculty Excellence

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Professor Emily Allen-Hornblower accepts the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence from Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards

Here’s another great Rutgers Classics first. Honored in the inaugural group of seven recipients of Rutgers New Brunswick’s important new faculty award—the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence—is Associate Professor in Classics Emily Allen-Hornblower.

In a ceremony Tuesday 4 October 2016, Chancellor Richard L. Edwards recognized Professor Allen-Hornblower in the category of Excellence in Service.

In presenting the award, Edwards cited “her heartfelt conviction that the Classics are of significance to people in all life situations and her dedication to bringing her scholarship beyond the university classroom to new audiences through her participation in the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons program (NJ-STEP)”.

Emily Allen-Hornblower has taken her teaching talents outside Rutgers’ classrooms, in an unusually visceral way. In November 2014 she spotted a feature in Rutgers Today about an ex-inmate and university student, Christopher Etienne, who managed to receive his undergraduate degree in large part through the help of Rutgers’ innovative Mountainview Program. It was then that Emily was inspired by the idea of being able to teach currently incarcerated inmates.

This led to her involvement with NJ-STEP, an association of colleges and universities that provide college courses for inmates and assist in their transition to college life upon release from prison.

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At left (below church), entrance to Rome’s Mamertine Prison (from 1930s-era postcard)

Here Allen-Hornblower has had an enormous transformative impact in teaching—on top of her ambitious research agenda, regular Rutgers teaching load, and duties as Classics undergraduate director—full-semester history and literature courses at two correctional facilities, “Western Civilization” at the medium-security Northern State Prison in Newark (summer 2015, mornings, 16 students), and “World Civilization” at the maximum-security East Jersey State Prison in Rahway (spring 2016, nights, 20+ students).

We asked Professor Allen-Hornblower what she found most rewarding about the NJ-STEP program, “That’s easy”, she replied, “the students! They are wonderfully engaged and curious—plus they are genuine intellectuals. These students do all the reading and investigate every question with intensity and passion, and always ask for more.”

Allen-Hornblower continues, “I have to emphasize that this teaching experience is very much a two-way street. I learn so much from them and their questions and reflections; it is a profoundly and mutually enriching experience. It really has brought home to me ‘our interconnectedness to the past and our interconnectedness to each other’ as one of my students so eloquently put it.”

The student teaching evaluations for these two courses include glowing and often poignant praise, and attest above all to Allen-Hornblower’s gift of empathy, and superior ability to make the ancient world and its complexities both familiar and relatable.

One quote will have to stand for many, from a self-described Rahway “lifer”: “to have someone believe in me is something new for me to experience…this gives me the courage and strength to believe in myself.” This sentiment is multiplied many times in the student assessments.

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Professor Allen-Hornblower at 4 October 2016 awards ceremony with Rutgers Classics chair Professor James McGlew

Emily Allen-Hornblower joined Rutgers’ Department of Classics as a tenure track assistant professor immediately after completing her PhD in Classical Philology at Harvard University, in the fall of 2009. A year later she received a second doctoral degree, under a Harvard co-tutelage agreement, from Paris IV-Sorbonne. She has been tenured at the rank of Associate Professor in Rutgers Classics since 2015.

For 2012/3 and 2013/4, Professor Allen-Hornblower received two back-to-back competitive research fellowships: from the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, and from the Loeb Classical Library Foundation. In March 2016 she saw the publication of her first book, From Agent to Spectator: Witnessing the Aftermath in Ancient Greek Epic and Tragedy, published by De Gruyter in its Trends in Classics series. For a glowing review, see here.

Plus in spring 2015, Allen-Hornblower was awarded a Presidential Fellowship for Teaching Excellence—just one of five across the entire University. In his presentation of the award, Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi praised Allen-Hornblower “for her passionate dedication to teaching and mentoring, and her skillful guidance of class discussions, which allows students to discover for themselves how to find the answers to important questions.”

It is hard to imagine, especially upon reading the student testimonies, that there is a more suitable faculty member at Rutgers to receive this award and the recognition it entails. Congratulations Professor Allen-Hornblower!

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Following 4 October awards ceremony, Professor Emily Allen-Hornblower with Classics faculty colleagues (from left) Associate Professor Corey Brennan, Professor and Chair James McGlew, and Distinguished Professor Thomas J. Figueira

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