Returning to CUNY to Fulfill a Dream Deferred
A Hunter College graduate long aspired to have a doctorate and write a book.
Jennifer Ranck got to know what she calls the CUNY classics family while pursuing a second bachelor’s degree at Hunter College. Her professors guided her through the program and have stayed in touch with her since.
That family, she says, “converted me from religious studies” — the major of her first B.A. from the University of Rochester — “over to classics. So I totally blame and credit Hunter classics for doing that.”
Eight years later, Ranck is returning to CUNY, this time for a Ph.D. in Classics at the Graduate Center. She is on her way to fulfilling a long-deferred ambition to be a scholar and author.
After her first undergraduate degree, Ranck intended to continue studying religion, specifically Judaism and early Christianity, but she needed to learn more Latin and Greek. Plus, she wanted a break. She was burned out after eight years of balancing her studies with being a cross country and track athlete, first at the elite Bronx High School of Science and then in college. “I was toast,” she says.
Instead of going to graduate school, she got a job in information technology. Years later, while living in New York and working in New Jersey, she decided to take a class or two in Greek and Latin at Hunter College. “Back then, Tamara Green was the chair, and you can’t say no to her,” Ranck says. “So one class turned into matriculation.”
At Hunter, she studied with faculty who had joint appointments at the Graduate Center, including Professors Ronnie Ancona (GC/Hunter, Classics), David Petrain (GC/Hunter, Classics), and Lawrence Kowerski (GC/Hunter, Classics), who was her thesis adviser.
Ranck continued to work full time, even after graduating from Hunter. She also stayed active in the classics field. She has volunteered for three classical associations and presented papers at several conferences. In 2019, she published a book chapter on the parallels between the Cassandra figure of Greek mythology and heroines in contemporary science fiction.
At conferences, she’d reconnect with the CUNY family. “The CUNY contingent is really strong,” she says. “And we all congregate. So, over the years, we all gather, even if it’s just for five minutes or for coffee.”
Ranck thought she could continue as an independent scholar, but realized, without a home institution and easy access to certain scholarship, she was hitting walls. So she decided, finally, to go for her Ph.D.
“It was always in the back of my head,” she says. “I always wanted to write a book and have a Ph.D. I never gave up. I never surrendered.”
After years away, she’s eager to return to school. “It's going to be fantastic,” she says.