Junior Chris Saladin, a history and classics major, has won this year’s $5,000 Nils Hasselmo Prize for Academic Pursuit.
The annual award recognizes the scholarship of a junior in any field who plans on graduate school and a career in academics or research.
For Saladin, that’s ancient history.
He came to Augustana to major in classics, having taken Latin and history in high school, with the idea to pursue law. But after interning at a law firm, he realized it wasn’t the career for him.
Meanwhile, he discovered he was hooked on the fields that led him to consider law in the first place.
“Really, I came to greatly appreciate Greek and Roman history partly through my studies of Latin,” he said. Over time, Saladin combined his language, history and cultural interests into a focus on ancient history.
After a master’s and Ph.D., he can see becoming a professor. He draws his inspiration from his classics and history professors here, whom he has described as “the best part” of his work in his two majors.
From Missouri to Augustana to Tuscany
Saladin came to Augustana from southern Missouri, while visiting liberal arts colleges of a similar size. Then he met the professors here, “who seemed amazing, and it turned out they were amazing.
“I visited, and it was just the most impressive, really it was,” he said. Another draw was the cross country and track team, and especially legendary Coach Paul Olsen, who also is an English professor here.
“Ols was an inspiration and a big draw, but really it came down to which school I thought was better academically,” Saladin remembered.
With the $5,000 Hasselmo Prize, he will pursue a professional opportunity to help him on his path to graduate school. That may be an internship at a renowned history museum, or it may be something even more “hands-on” — an archeological excavation.
Last summer Saladin took part in an archeological dig at an Etruscan site in central Tuscany. An opportunity to dig again with the 50-year-old excavation project would be very compelling.
“I’ve always had a passion for archaeology... It’s a really cool site,” he said. “Most Etruscan sites are tombs, but this was a domestic site where people lived. Every day I found objects, mostly terra-cotta pottery upwards of 2,800 years old.
“Just being able to hold pieces of history every day...” he paused. “I’m not really sure I’d like to go into archeology as a field itself, but I’d definitely consider doing that again.”
Open to any opportunity, Saladin said, “I’d really like to focus on studying the ancient world... focus on that during my academic years, and see where it takes me.”