Mr. Prelesnik, one of her favorite high school teachers, awakened her passion for history and helped her realize that she wanted to study at UC Santa Barbara (his alma mater). He loaned “me his copies of two terrific books—The Jungle and The Guns of August—and encouraged me to write a research paper (for fun) on the Dreyfus Affair.”
Dr. Vivian’s love of languages has given her additional tools as a historian. German was her second major in college. Her fluency improved when she took part in a summer work program in Bavaria, where she was employed in a hotel. She also studied French in junior high and Latin and Greek at UCSB. She knows some Italian and would like to learn Spanish, if only she did not have a full-time job!
It is interesting that Dr. Vivian is now described as an “Ancient” historian specializing in the Mediterranean world. This was not always the case. Upon entering college, she “was in love with American history.” However, “it was in my western civilization course (taught by a Roman historian) that my interest turned to things seemingly more exotic, especially those Romans.” In her junior year, she took two Roman history courses taught by Hal Drake, “one of the most talented and dedicated teachers anywhere.” She worked with Drake on a senior honors thesis, “which was a wonderful mentoring experience that prepared me to go on to more advanced study.”
Dr. Vivian is “most fascinated by Rome's empire, as opposed to its republic.” In particular, she is interested “in the challenge of ruling so vast a territory, the political and cultural impact of Rome's empire on the Mediterranean world, and the transition in the Roman world from a classical to a Christian culture.” She is working on a project with her husband, Dr. Tim Vivian: “He has produced a new translation of The Life of [the monk] St. Daniel the Stylite; it's my job to write an introduction and historical commentary.” She has published a few related articles, and hopes to write another one soon on the transformation of sacred space in antiquity.
Vivian has taught courses within her specialty, as well as “service“ courses like Historical Writing, Senior Seminar and Western Civilization. When she teaches, she hopes “to excite students in general about learning, but also about gaining a deeper understanding of the past.” She likes the fact that during the process she gets “to be a student, learning more and more about the people, places, and experiences with which I continue to be most fascinated."
This summer the hard-working Department Chair says she is looking forward to “Getting a rest!” Perhaps her idea of a rest is not shared by everyone. She will be spending July in Austria, participating in the excavation of a Roman town located just south of the Danube River, about twenty-five miles east of Vienna (the Roman Vindobona). The town, Carnuntum, lay at the intersection of two major trade routes. It was incorporated into the empire early in the first century; “in typical fashion it first became the site of a Roman military camp and later served as headquarters for Emperor Marcus Aurelius (from 172 to 174).” The city was destroyed by invaders before the end of the fourth century.
When she is not running the History Department, Dr Vivian enjoys reading (mainly history!), and likes to have some time each day for the Los Angeles Times. She does not watch much television, but tries “to fit in The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and, of course, the extremely dramatic 24.” She is an avid tennis player, and is a fan of baseball (she played softball through college). Her favorite team is the Angels. She is the mother of three children, and enjoys watching them participate in music and sports activities.
So, now when you meet her on the stairs of Faculty Towers you can talk to her about the Romans, the Daily Show, tennis, or baseball. Make sure you say “güten Tag”!
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