Michael Hembree

Reconstructing ancient Italy

Only 24 college instructors in the United States were chosen for an institute to study ancient Italy, and Michael Hembree, professor, history, was one of them. 

Hembree traveled to Italy in June 2012 to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Institute entitled "The Legacy of Ancient Italy: The Etruscan and Early Roman City" and will use this research and personal experience to revise his classroom curriculum. 

“I’ll also be presenting some of my program-related research at upcoming academic conferences,”Hembree said. 

NEH funds several summer institutes and seminars each year. Each Institute brings together college teachers and distinguished scholars for an intensive study of a particular topic.  

“I applied to participate in this Institute because it offered me an opportunity to study ancient Italy – a topic I had neglected in my graduate studies,” Hembree said.  

He has, however, studied modern-day Italy. While pursuing graduate studies at Florida State University, Hembree became involved with the university’s program in Florence, Italy. 

“College study abroad can be a life-changing experience, and I can attest to that,” he said.  

“I’m not of Italian descent, but I was drawn to Italian culture from my first visit. Later I received a Fulbright Fellowship for a year in Rome to finish my dissertation research. My major field of study was Modern European History with specific focus on Italy in the early 20th century." 

In Hembree’s 21-year tenure at JCCC, he also has helped organize and direct several spring break study tours of Florence and Rome. 

The 2012 NEH Institute began in Orvieto, Italy, with trips to Tarquinia, Cortona, Siena, Chiusi, Florence, Bologna, Volterra and Rome. 

“My experience in Italy this last summer gave me a new appreciation for the intercultural exchange in the Mediterranean world during the early Iron Age – the Etruscans were agents in that exchange,” Hembree said. 

“The art and artifacts from Etruscan tombs reflect strong Greek influences, but some of the objects also reveal how artistic influences and ideas from the Middle East and Egypt traveled across the Mediterranean and even into northern Europe,” he said.

NEH provided a stipend for the participants, but this institute incurred additional costs because of the extensive travel involved. 

“I received generous support from the JCCC International Education Program to cover these extra expenses,” Hembree said. 

“For me, the institute was the opportunity to become a student again and gain a deeper understanding of the ancient Mediterranean cultures. I felt privileged to be among the distinguished scholars in Etruscan studies, and to share with my colleagues a common passion for teaching and learning.”