Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in classics shares experience

Published: February 17, 2023
Julio Vega-Payne portraitJulio Vega-Payne (Photo courtesy of Juilo Vega-Payne)

Anushka Chakrabarti | February 17, 2023

Julio Vega-Payne joined the classics department as a UCLA Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow this academic year. 

According to the fellowship website, “The Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers postdoctoral research fellowships and faculty mentoring to outstanding scholars whose research, teaching, and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity at the University of California.”

The expectations of the fellowship are to focus full-time on research and avoid other commitments, meet regularly with assigned faculty mentors and attend an annual academic retreat, according to the website. 

Vega-Payne, who earned his Ph.D. in classics at UC Santa Barbara, is researching representations of the natural world in Homeric poetry. His mentor in the department is Alex Purves, associate professor of classics. 

“Something that’s really exciting to me is finding that nexus between ancient and modern ways of thinking about the environment, and how humans interact with the environment,” Vega-Payne said. “So a lot of it is focusing on the representation of these moments between humans and landscape — rivers, mountains, air, water.”

The fellowship is a one-year program with the potential to extend for an additional year. 

“What’s great about this postdoc in particular is that there are no teaching obligations, so I can really just focus on research,” he said. 

In the six months he has been in the fellowship, he has also found opportunities to connect and collaborate with other scholars.

“For example, I’m going to give a talk in the environmental humanities space at UC Merced, and I’ve been in contact with UC Riverside,” he said. “The fellowship really allows you to build connections, in particular in the UC system, which is really exciting.”

Vega-Payne said he was intimidated at first by the size of the classics department at UCLA but has found the environment both supportive and collaborative. Being part of a larger UC community of scholars, he said, has been a key part of his positive experience as a fellow. 

“That community of exciting, energetic, diverse faculty members now, and students and postdocs … we are genuinely sharing our experiences with each other, and a lot of us have similar experiences coming into academia,” he said. “That’s something I’ve found really compelling, and I see myself as a conduit between those who will come after me as well.”