Ever since he was a child, Phillip Emeritz has been passionate about history, especially ancient civilizations.
“I’ve always been fascinated by everything the Romans and all of the cultures of the time were able to accomplish, even in the simplest things such as daily living,” Emeritz said. “And then there is the architecture and communication. It has intrigued me. Honestly, I’ve always wished I could live in ancient Rome!”
Emeritz won’t be in Rome this summer, but he will be studying “Romanization Through Currency” as one of the initial two recipients of a grant from Binghamton University’s Summer Scholars and Artists Program. The fellowship, from the newly established Undergraduate Research Center, provides a $3,000 stipend for students to conduct primary, original research or creative activities with assistance from a faculty mentor who receives a $1,000 stipend.
The 21-year-old triple major in history, English and classical civilization is researching how currency was used in the Mediterranean region of France and how it influenced the growth of the Roman presence in the area.
“This is an independent research about what I’m interested in,” said Emeritz, who recently finished his junior year. “I knew I wanted this to be about interactions betweens the Romans and the Gauls. I very much wanted to look at the Gallic culture to show that it’s not as simple as the Romans sometimes paint it. There was a definitive social and economic system.”
Emeritz believed that the economic development of the French region would prove most interesting, since it had the most interaction with the Romans.
More currency entered the region as Roman merchants moved in, Emeritz said, and that currency eventually showed the faces of Roman conquerors on the front and Gallic allies on the back.
“That shows that they weren’t just invading and removing the Gallic presence,” Emeritz said. “They were making allies to further their influence.”
As Rome became an empire, the currency transformed from an aesthetic item to a necessary tool for trade, Emeritz said.
With the help of Andrew Scholtz, associate professor and chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, Emeritz submitted his proposal to the Undergraduate Research Center and hoped for the best.
“My confidence was a little shaky,” he admitted. “I had no idea what to expect from the competition. I had no idea how many applied and how many would be accepted. I was nervous.”
That nervousness turned into excitement when Emeritz learned he was a summer scholar. Not only will Emeritz continue his research on campus this summer, but he plans to study currency during trips to Yale University and museums in New York City. He also plans to speak to experts in the field and is considering traveling to Europe for additional research.
Emeritz credits Scholtz for keeping the project on track.
“The suggestions he made during the proposal period were incredibly helpful,” Emeritz said. “I feel that if it wasn’t for his help refining my proposal, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the award.”
Scholtz said Emeritz’s project will help set an example for other undergraduate researchers.
“Phillip brings passion and curiosity to the University, a spirit of discovery, but also a desire to learn how to learn, how to do the kind of research that can add to human knowledge,” he said.
Emeritz came to Binghamton University from his home in Washington, D.C.: his father is from Long Island and he sought a school outside of New York City that was affordable and in a colder climate.
“All across the board, Binghamton had a solid reputation,” he said.
At Binghamton University, Emeritz has served as a member of the Hinman College Council and will edit “Mediaevalia,” a multi-disciplinary journal that the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies helps to produce.
Emeritz, who enjoys reading, writing and cooking, wants to enter Teach for America when he graduates in 2013. His career goal is to become a professor.
Serving as a summer scholar and working on a large, independent project is just one way that Binghamton University has helped Emeritz develop as a student.
“As I’ve taken more classes and met professors I really enjoy, it has helped me to hone my interests,” he said. “When I first came here, I had no idea what the plan was. But now I feel great about what I’m doing. I get a lot of enjoyment out of doing well in my classes and having this research opportunity.”