Introducing the Bridge MA Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Program

By: Hana Aghababian & Sarah Epplin,  Classics
November 20, 2020

This year the Cornell Classics Department is excited to announce that it will be accepting its first round of applications for the new Bridge MA pre-doctoral fellowship program. The program is intended to support diversity in the discipline by providing additional training for promising students from diverse backgrounds who have completed a bachelor’s degree and wish to pursue a PhD in Classics or a related discipline.

The department plans to admit one new student to the program each year, with full fellowship funding for two summers and two semesters. Admitted students will have the opportunity to work closely with advanced doctoral students and faculty to improve their proficiency in Greek and Latin, as well as take graduate-level courses and develop their own research through the completion of an MA thesis. Those who successfully complete the program will receive the MA degree, and exceptional students may be invited to continue on into Cornell’s PhD program in Classics.

The launching of this new program is part of the Cornell Classics Department’s ongoing effort to foster a more diverse and inclusive environment in the field, as stated in the “Department and Field of Classics Statement on Diversity and Inclusion” which was adopted in 2019. Verity Platt, Chair of the Classics Department, says, “The discipline of Classics has a fraught and complex history, especially when it comes to barriers imposed by race, class, and gender. We have introduced several new measures here at Cornell in order to tackle these challenges as a community, from developing new courses and introducing workshops on ‘critical conversations in Classics’ to more inclusive hiring policies. One of our major goals is to broaden representation at the doctoral level, so we are delighted to be able to launch our Bridge MA Fellowship in order to generate greater diversity amongst our graduate students and, ultimately, the field as a whole.”

Lack of access to instruction in Classics at the secondary and post-secondary levels is one barrier to diversity which the Bridge MA fellowship aims to address. A 2017 report found that only 8.51% of U.S. secondary school foreign language programs offer Latin and only 0.73% offer Ancient Greek.1 There is also a notable lack of opportunity for Greek and Latin instruction at the university level; as of 2013, there were only 276 post-secondary institutions with Classics departments (a significantly lower number than other humanities fields),2 and the Society for Classical Studies found that on average fewer than two minority students per department graduate each year.3

Benjamin Anderson, Director of Graduate Studies in Classics and a member of the committee which worked to develop the new fellowship, says that the idea for the Cornell Bridge MA program was inspired by other similar “bridge” programs such as those at the University of Michigan and Princeton University, which are specifically targeted at students who come from non-traditional backgrounds or are part of groups that have been historically under-represented in doctoral programs. He explains, “We recognized that students who want to pursue the PhD in Classics often require additional language training beyond what they can do during the BA. Early training in Latin and Greek skews heavily in favor of socioeconomically privileged students, and many students may develop an interest in Classics first in their sophomore or junior year of college. In order to then gain admission to a PhD program they need an MA or a post-bac. There are fully funded MAs, but even taken together they do not meet the need, and most post-bac programs charge substantial fees. In order to genuinely diversify Classics, then, it’s necessary to remove as much as possible the financial and institutional barriers to access. The Bridge MA should be one small contribution to that broader effort.”

Applications for the Bridge MA program are due on March 1, 2021, with the first student to matriculate in Summer 2021. More information on the application process and eligibility can be found here.


1 American Councils for International Education, 2017 National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey Report

2 American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2012-2013 Humanities Departmental Survey

3 Society for Classical Studies, 2013-2014 Departmental Census

Photo courtesy of the Cornell Chronicle 

Cornell Classics Department