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Mary Christine Helms ’26 earns Hertog Fellowship

Mary Christine Helms ’26.

Last updated February 6, 2024

By Tina Underwood

As one of 60 Humanities at Hertog Fellowship recipients, Mary Christine Helms ’26 had a few more things on her plate for the month of January. That’s OK with the Classics major because the extra assignments involved digging into a subject area she loves – British Romantic poetry.

She and 14 other students in her cohort met via Zoom and studied the political and social turmoil of the Romantic period through works of British poets of the era. American Enterprise Institute Fellow and former English Professor Christopher Scalia led the seminar. Three other seminars, Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” Melville’s “Moby Dick,” and Wharton’s “The House of Mirth” catered to the interests of the 45 other Hertog fellows.

Helms said she came away from the fellowship with a fresh perspective and greater understanding of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the early women’s rights movement. She also honed her knowledge of the class conflicts during the period, the Romantic poets themselves and their criticisms and praises of the historic events, not to mention the consequences thereof.

In some ways, the fellowship represented a microcosm of her Classic major, which gives Helms access to a broad range of disciplines.

“I’m a Classics major because I love how it allows me to intensely study the most foundational cultures on Earth,” Helms said. “But I also study Classics because it doesn’t confine me to one discipline. In addition to literature, I study language, philosophy, ethics, culture, history and more.”

Helms, also a psychology major, has her eye on becoming a licensed professional counselor.

“Studying the humanities, like counseling, requires looking at something holistically – breaking down the parts to better understand the whole,” she said. “It requires a broad array of skills and capabilities to do either of these things, and I’ve found that by studying the Classics and psychology simultaneously, iron sharpens iron, and I am better in both because of the other.”

Helms said the supplemental class time and projects associated with the fellowship were worth giving up a few evening extracurriculars, and she’d welcome the chance to participate in another fellowship.

“I would absolutely do something with Hertog again, especially with one of their humanities programs,” she said. “I will miss the discussions in particular. My peers in the program were so engaged and intelligent. Learning with such bright minds, with Dr. Scalia’s excellent guidance, was by far the best part of the experience and what I most hope to return to someday in the future.”

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