A ‘Classics’ underD.O.G. tale

Dr. Kristi Eastin

How the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures went from two supporters to over 90 in three years for Day of Giving.

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (MCLL) gained titles for “most improved” and “most unique donors” in the College of Arts and Humanities and a major part of it was thanks to the leadership of Dr. Kristi Eastin.

Eastin, a professor of Classical Studies (known simply as “Classics”), sat at a faculty development meeting three years ago and wondered how MCLL could improve during the 24-hour Day of Giving (DOG) fundraising campaign. That’s when she heard a critical message from Dr. J. Daniel Herring, the department chair of Theater Arts. 

With his background in non-profit organizations, he recommended, “You want people to invest in you? You have to invest in yourself. You have to believe in yourself and show that you believe in what you are doing.”

His words sparked an idea for her as she realized, “We need to show people that we care, show that we believe in ourselves.” 

She took the message back to her colleagues and the following year showed growth with MCLL receiving over 20 unique donors. The next obstacle, however, was to repeat the process again for the upcoming year and promote the campaign consistently. 

Eastin reflected that it felt awkward for many faculty who were not used to this kind of fundraising that required a lot of attention. She decided to take charge to show that the arts and humanities matter and, most of all, to support students. 

Every couple of years she has taken about 25 students on a three-week summer course to Rome or Greece thanks to the generous support of the university, the college, and scholarships. The class counted toward G.E. upper-division credits and students visited historical sites related to their readings. 

This year, the trip will be in Rome with a Sicily extension. For some students, the trip may be the first time they have ever been out of California. With new negotiations of transportation, culture, and beliefs, the students bring back a part of those cultures and the experiences of being a world traveler.

Eastin added, “It changes the way they think. It’s life-changing and they become global citizens.”

Olivia Mannon, political science major and Classical Studies minor, can attest to the incredible opportunity. She participated in summer of 2018 and plans to attend the trip again this summer. As a Division I athlete, she is unable to leave during the academic year. With financial support for the study abroad, the trip allows her to participate and see the world through an academic perspective. 

Praising Dr. Kristi and her husband Dr. Curtis Eastin’s guidance, Mannon said, “They crafted a whole curriculum for every site we visited. There is nothing more validating than seeing what you read about in textbooks in real life.” 

Dr. Kristi Eastin
Dr. Kristi Eastin

Before D.O.G. 2019 arrived, she and two other faculty, Dr. Curtis Eastin and Dr. Alexander Petkas, sent out emails to all their contacts and reminded their students about the campaign. In person, she encouraged her Classics colleagues with a little competitiveness. She joked, “We have to beat French this year.”

One particular email’s header she sent out was titled “Got ten bucks? (Seeking your support for Classics at Fresno State–tomorrow!!)” 

With her written voice warmly greeting everyone and informally asking for support, her humor and enthusiasm came across the screen. She listed the instructions in easy steps and ended her message with deep gratitude. “Thank you (thank you, thank you) for your time and, if you have it, your money and support! And again–best wishes to everyone!” 

On the actual day of D.O.G., the team sent another email and kept in touch with their contacts via text. 

“The support we received shows that the community values what we teach,” said Eastin. “Classics teaches students to be profound critical thinkers about language, specifically Latin and ancient Greek, and the complex ideas that deal with being human beings.”

Mannon, who studied Latin, Greek, and ancient history in high school, was ecstatic about the Classical Studies program at Fresno State–so much so that she and a few peers established the Classics Club during her second semester of freshman year. 

For D.O.G., she encouraged her friends and family to donate to the program because of the impressive and talented faculty.

“These professors of the department are a vital source to teaching humanities. The Classics and Humanities courses are Fresno State’s hidden gems–all due in part to the faculty who teach and encourage scholarship in these fields,” Mannon said. 

Dr. Honora Chapman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, praised her fellow classicist, “We are so grateful that Kristi rallied her colleagues on Day of Giving to produce unparalleled results in garnering donations to support students traveling with their upcoming study abroad course in Italy. With her energetic enthusiasm, Kristi has shown that a passion for student success can inspire heroic efforts that directly transform our students’ lives. Brava!”

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2021 Graduate of Fresno State's MFA Creative Writing program, focused in Creative Nonfiction. Hmong American writer.

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