Getting to Know Maia Lee-Chin ‘21, This Year’s Fenwick Scholar

Stacey Kaliabakos ’23

Features Editor

Maia Lee-Chin is a senior classics major and education minor at Holy Cross and is this year’s Fenwick Scholar. She is a co-president of Eta Sigma Phi (Holy Cross’ Classics Honors Society), co-chair of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents club, was the student representative on the Committee for Academic Programs and the Presidential Planning Group for Diversity Equity and Inclusion, and was an RA for two years as well. Outside of campus-related activities, Maia enjoys singing, playing the guitar, cooking, and gaming. Additionally, over quarantine, Maia created a podcast called Manic Classics: “Manic Classics started out of a literal craze to get all of the classics facts out of my head and into the world. I had no intention of it becoming as big as it did but it kind of just happened… Manic Classics is a fun, silly way to get introduced to some wacky stuff that was going on in the ancient world. People tend to think of classics as this boring, safe, lily-white, and elitist subject but it’s really not.” Finally, Maia is currently applying to graduate school. As someone who loves teaching, she hopes to be able to work with children in her future professional endeavors. 

Maia’s appreciation for classics goes back to her childhood, starting as an interest in Egyptian mythology in elementary school. After accidentally being placed in Introductory Latin her freshman year of high school, Maia grew to fall in love with the language and its intricacies. She took an independent study in Homeric Greek during her senior year of high school– a natural step for a student interested in the classics. At Holy Cross, Maia is one of two Bean Scholars in her year and, because of her scholarship, has been able to pursue study in classics farther than she could have imagined. Additionally, she became interested in education after noticing many inequities in the field of classics. Maia said, “I was one of the only people of color in the Classics department and the only Black woman. It made me think a lot about power and privilege, and the reasons why I was able to take Latin in high school and continue doing so in college. I think Classics has given me the tools to become a better thinker, a better writer, and a better scholar. Studying it in tandem with education allows me to think about the best ways to provide access to something that I am passionate about and has changed my life for the better.”

Graphic by Hui Li ’21. Photo from Holy Cross Magazine.

Maia’s project as a Fenwick Scholar is focused on how classics can contribute to marginalized elementary-age students’ motivation to read non-fiction texts. She hopes to reveal the effects of early exposure to classics on underprivileged youth, arguing that a lack of access to classical literature contributes to disinterest in non-fiction material. Maia knew that she wanted to do a Fenwick Scholar project from her freshman year at Holy Cross. Although the application took about two years to complete, she knew all along that it was something she had a true desire to do: “While I was doing all the research for my proposal, I would sprawl out all of my books on the Carlin window side in Kimball and just sit there all day reading The Iliad. There was one day when I finally got to the part of the story when Achilles finds out that Patroclus was killed, and I was just bawling my eyes out in the dining hall. People probably thought I was crazy. But that’s what’s so great about the Fenwick project. I get to do something that I care about so much that I’m willing to cry in Kimball about it without any shame.”

When I asked what her favorite part of being a Holy Cross student is, Maia said “It’s the sense of community that I’ve found. When I decided to come to Holy Cross, I didn’t think that I would be able to make a space for myself here. I was really withdrawn and felt like I wouldn’t make any friends that truly understood me. Although I didn’t find that right away, I’m lucky to say that I was able to make my own communities and safe spaces on campus. The Classics department is a much different place than when I was a first-year student. It took a lot of work to make it as welcoming and convivial as it is now. We’re a really tight-knit community. And then, of course, my roommates, Christine (@unofficialchristine) and Daniel (@tallm3n) have made this nightmare of a semester all the more bearable. I’m forever grateful to have them in my life and I can honestly say that the best part of being a Holy Cross student has been the ability to form such great friendships.” 

All the links to streaming services for Manic Classics can be found here: Manic Classics • A podcast on Anchor.

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