Megan O'Keefe, 2021
Describe your dissertation, thesis, or capstone (if you completed one):
My thesis centered on the significance of the ancient Roman shrine of Janus Geminus during the reign of Augustus (27 BCE-14 CE). This shrine, which is no longer in existence, is often overlooked. However, I have argued that it played an essential role within Augustus' political agenda. In my research, I have examined Janus' mythology, the shrine's rituals and connections with the Ara Pacis Augustae, Augustan religious revitalization, and Augustan public spectacle. In the future, I wish to expand on this evidence further by examining the use of Janus and the Janus Geminus shrine during the reigns of later rulers as a way to connect themselves with Augustus.
How did you choose your specific area of study?
I have always been interested in Greek and Roman art and history, but I had never considered pursuing these interests as a degree or career until late in my undergraduate degree at GMU. I received my BA in Visual Arts from GMU with a minor in Art History. Late in the program, I took both Ancient Greek Art & Architecture and Ancient Roman Art & Architecture with Dr. Gregg and immediately knew I wanted to pursue a Master's in Art History.
How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?
During my time in CHSS, I have become more confident in what I want to do with my degree and where I want to take my career. The faculty and staff within the department have given endless support and advice both academically and career-wise, which is so greatly appreciated!
Of which accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud?
I am most proud of my time as a TA for Dr. Gregg! We worked together for several semesters and it was so great to work closely with him and experience the classroom from a different perspective. I am also proud of being a part of the UGA Classics in Rome study abroad with Dr. Gregg. I received a scholarship for the program where we spent six weeks studying in the heart of Rome. It is academically and personally one of my fondest memories! I am also proud of completing my thesis during COVID. It was one of the most challenging experiences, but so valuable for myself and my future.
Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career?
So many! The faculty in the Art History department at GMU are exceptional and played a major in role choosing my MA program. If I must single some out though, I would first and foremost like to thank Dr. Gregg! My Art History journey honestly began in the undergrad courses that I took with him and when I returned to Mason for my MA, he had a major impact on my journey. I've taken so many courses with him, which I have truly loved (especially Rome!). My experience as his TA was wonderful and enriching. It is something that I will carry with me throughout my career.
I'd also like to thank Dr. WIlliamson who has been my thesis advisor. She has changed the way that I write, think, and analyze so much for the better. As I mentioned before, the thesis was challenging but I could not have produced the work that I did without her guidance and expertise.
I'd also like to thank Dr. DeCaroli and Dr. Ho for the advice they have given me over the years. It has been invaluable and I truly appreciate it!
What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?
- Get to know your profs! They are all incredibly smart, kind, and are always willing to help in any way!
- Speak up in class! I've always been pretty shy and quiet but being a part of the class discussion is so helpful when it comes to understanding the material and thinking critically in any course.
- Study abroad if you can! There's nothing quite like learning about something while you're literally standing right in front of it!
What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?
After graduation, I am hoping to get a position at a museum. I recently relocated to Pittsburgh and the job search is on! I am also considering a Ph.D. in the future and possibly becoming a university-level professor.