Published: Nov. 20, 2020 By

Specialist in art, architecture and archaeology of ancient Rome wins 2021 Excellence in Teaching Award from Archaeological Institute of America

Diane Conlin, associate professor of classics emerita at the University of Colorado Boulder, has joined a “small group of elite educators” who’ve been recognized as outstanding teachers in the field of archaeology. 

Conlin has won the 2021 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) announced this week. She is one of 10 scholars whose work was recognized by the institute this year.

Conlin, who joined the CU Boulder faculty in 1998, has taught both in classics and art and art history and specializes in the art, architecture and archaeology of ancient Rome. 

Diane Conlin

At the top of the page: A funerary inscription from Ara Pacis, wanted by Augustus to recall who his life and accomplishments. Rome, 9 AD. Above: Diane Conlin

She been routinely recognized for her teaching; she’s been named a CU President’s Teaching Scholar and has won the “Best Should Teach” Gold Award and the Boulder Faculty Assembly Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dimitri Nakassis, professor and chair of classics, noted that Conlin joins a small group of “elite educators” who have won the AIA teaching award. 

He added, “This is a wonderful national and international recognition of what all of us here at CU have known for a long time: Professor Conlin is a superb educator.” 

In a recent departmental newsletter, some of Conlin’s former students echoed that view: 

“It really isn’t enough just to say that Diane Conlin is an outstanding professor,” observed Amelia Chouinard, who earned her BA in classics this year. “During my four years at the University of Colorado Boulder, she was a mentor, a counselor, a friend, and an inspiration to me and to so many others.” 

Travis Rupp, who earned his MA in classics from CU Boulder in 2010 and now serves as a lecturer in the department, said he was deeply indebted to Conlin. Inspired by Conlin’s work on the Ara Pacis, a Roman altar to Pax, the goddess of peace, he applied to CU Boulder in 2008 hoping to study with her. 

“She is an amazing mentor and aided in the academic success I have experienced over the last decade. She drove her students to be better writers, scholars and teachers,” Rupp said, adding that Conlin “inspired my lifelong dedication to the fields of archaeology and art history.”

Elspeth Dusinberre, a college professor of distinction in classics, said the award recognizes Conlin as the “nation’s outstanding teacher of archaeology at the college level.”

“Diane is electrifying in the classroom, whether teaching hundreds of students at the lower-division level or just a few in advanced graduate seminars,” Dusinberre said, adding that Conlin’s “engaged, involved approach to helping students learn” includes active learning projects such as designing a Roman house, building a mosaic and visiting local sculptors’ workshops, and including her students in organizing and attending international conferences. 

Conlin led the charge in 2000-01 to create a new curriculum in classical archaeology, including a new undergraduate major and a new MA degree, Dusinberre said. Conlin also worked with Education Abroad to introduce a new archaeological field school in Rome, where she and teams of students excavated the monumental Villa of Maxentius over the course of many summers. 

Conlin has collaborated closely with the CU Art Museum to teach multiple seminars using their collection of ancient coins—“work that has culminated not only in an extraordinarily valuable gift of ancient Roman coins to the museum … but also most recently in a remarkable new exhibit at the museum showcasing the ways ancient coins can be used to understand ancient art more broadly,” Dusinberre said. 

She is an amazing mentor and aided in the academic success I have experienced over the last decade.​"

Dusinberre also praised Conlin for working closely with major donors to realize these projects, including the current loan of “stupendous Greek coins” to be displayed alongside the university’s “now remarkable collection of Roman coins.” 

Dusinberre added: “Amidst all of this, she has mentored students and supervised theses, served for years as Classics’ Honors Council representative, and—a thing of great importance for me—been a wonderful colleague, mentor, friend and inspiration for her colleagues.”

“I am so psyched about this recognition,” Dusinberre said, adding: “Boy, does she deserve it.

Conlin herself said she was “thrilled and rather overwhelmed” by the latest award: 

“The greatest gifts of my career have been the opportunities to share my passion for all things ancient Rome with generations of young scholars while also learning alongside them both in the classroom and in the field.”

She added: “I want to extend many heartfelt thanks to all of my amazing students over these past decades here at CU Boulder, and also to my super-talented, supportive colleagues in the Department of Classics and the Department of Art and Art History.”  

Winners will be formally recognized at the AIA Awards Ceremony, which will take place during the virtual annual meeting in January.