From Playstation to Plato
Faculty champion your success
Hometown: Quito, Ecuador
Majors: Classics, Economics
Associate professor of classics
Pierre Castro’s love of video games led to his major in classics. He says it makes perfect sense, having discovered the connection during one of Union’s first-year seminars, or preceptorials.
“Video games often depict the ancient world,” he says. “I took a classics preceptorial course on reconstructing the past and wrote my final paper on PlayStation’s ‘God of War,’ which is set, essentially, in ancient Greece. I analyzed why these worlds are so appealing to gamers and how video games empower them to act as gods.”
Pierre was encouraged to pursue his interest by Associate Professor of Classics Stacie Raucci, who taught his preceptorial class and the courses he’s taken every term since declaring classics his major.
“As a combined economics and classics major, I try to find connections between the two,” he says. “Professor Raucci is always supportive of my line of thought. She’s never once said, ‘That’s a bad idea.’ Instead, she’ll say, ‘That’s fantastic, now go find some evidence to support it.’”
Although she spends much of her time in the 1st century BC, Professor Raucci isn’t stuck in the past. In fact, you’ll often find her discussing Hollywood stars Russell Crowe and Dwayne Johnson over Zeus and Aphrodite.
“Antiquity is everywhere,” she says. “Hollywood is obsessed with it, as we can see from movies like ‘Pompeii’ and ‘Hercules.’ Most of my students will not go into classics as a profession. My job is to help them make those connections across disciplines and see how the ancient past can influence the present.”
Pierre is looking to ancient Rome for business ideas. As a Union Scholar, he’s part of a challenging program that involves sophomore and senior research projects. He is studying the economics of Pompeii, which he will develop into a course syllabus for Professor Raucci.
“I’m using theories from my economics classes to study entrepreneurship in the ancient world,” he explains. “I’m looking at consumerism at that time, the ways in which the elite class invested money in the city and the relationships between social classes.”
“He’s shown that the dynamics between social classes were much different than we may have thought,” Professor Raucci says. “It was horizontal – each class relied on the other – vs. a trickling down from the rich to the poor. His economic knowledge has really opened my eyes to new theories and resources.”
In true Union style, where faculty-student research projects and pairings are not only a possibility, but a probability, the two are also collaborating on a guide to Rome.
“I’m translating primary sources in ancient Greek and Latin to create a thematic sourcebook for modern times” says Professor Raucci. “So, for example, rather than a chapter specifically on the Colosseum, it will be on the Roman notion of spectacle. My goal is to bring the city to life.”
Pierre will play a pivotal part by collecting documents to serve as the book’s foundation. He’s even getting a chance to use his three terms of Latin.
“It’s neat because it will not only be used as an undergraduate text, but also as a guidebook for visitors to Rome,” he says. “It will have a large audience.”
In fact, he may use it himself one day.
“It’s funny,” he says, “I’ve never actually been to Italy. But it’s definitely on my bucket list.”
This student/professor duo works side by side: