Friends, Romans... USF Bulls

Julie Langford

Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Sciences

Department of History



Octavia Minor. Joan of Arc. Eleanor Roosevelt.

Women throughout history fascinated Julie Langford as she was growing up. In fact, she called her favorite historical figures her “circle of super friends,” and it was from this timeless community of the world’s most compelling female personalities that she found role models for her own life.

“History gave me a community – a place where I could engage with some of the greatest minds of all time,” she says, “and that enabled me to discover my own voice and sense of self.”

So it’s no surprise that Langford continued to study history as an undergraduate at the University of Utah and as a master’s student at Indiana University, focusing a second master’s degree and then a doctorate on Classical Studies. Today, she is an assistant professor in USF’s Department of History.

“There’s something about Roman history that makes people stop and listen,” she says. “We think there are powerful lessons to be learned from ancient Roman civilization – and there are.”

It’s these powerful lessons about Roman civilization and its dynamic figures that she teaches USF students in her classes. In addition, she mentors several undergraduate students involved in research related to provincial coinage from ancient Rome’s Severan period. Inscriptions on these ancient coins played a key role in communicating the official narrative of an imperial administration’s reign and, therefore, serve as an important resource for historians in reconstructing history. The students’ work contributes to a growing database on Severan coinage, a project that involves collaborators worldwide.

While Langford has one foot in ancient history, the other is firmly grounded in the 21st century. She may teach about the Roman Empire and know ancient Greek and Latin, but as a resident faculty member, Langford lives in the most contemporary of settings – USF’s newest residence hall, Juniper-Poplar – among hundreds of texting, tweeting college freshmen.

And she loves every minute of it.

Since she never lived in a residence hall during her own undergraduate or graduate years, Langford, who joined USF in 2005, is excited to be doing so now. In fact, many evenings her “Sex in the City” class (the city being ancient Rome) moves down the hall from one of the Juniper-Poplar classrooms, to the dining room table in her apartment where she says discussion among the upper-level students flows more naturally.

“I truly love being with students” she says. “I love their ‘irreverence’ – their conviction to challenge the status quo – and their idealism that they can change the world. It’s inspiring to live here.”

So when she’s not in her office, which is just steps from the Juniper-Poplar welcome desk, Langford makes sure students can find her easily. She mingles with residents in the lobby as they return from classes offering candy and a friendly greeting and circulates through the dining room during meal times stopping to chat about whatever is on a student’s mind. She is establishing a lecture series in the residence hall, including “lunch and learns” where she invites colleagues from different departments to speak, a film series, and academic success programs to address topics such as time management and organization.

“We need to recognize how fragile new freshmen can be and that college is a big adjustment,” Langford says. That’s why she varies her role from student to student, trying to meet individual needs. That could mean connecting a student with academic resources such as tutoring services or just listening to a first-year resident who misses home.

Since research has shown that students who live on campus and are more involved in the life of the university are more successful, USF now requires that all full-time, first-year students reside on campus. The university opened its newest residence hall this year – the seven-story, $65 million Juniper-Poplar Hall, which offers living space for 1,050 students.

“It’s all about building community,” she says. “In Rome, people lived their lives outdoors and were involved in their communities. I'm hoping that living in the residence hall will give students an opportunity to do that.”


Story by Mary Beth Erskine

Photos by Joseph Gamble