University Scholars Spend Autumn Term Studying
at Oxford University
IN AUGUST 2005, A HANDFUL of Seattle Pacific
University students traded Tiffany Loop for Radcliffe Square.
The four University Scholars
— juniors Andrew Hays, Justin Peters, Michael Seguin,
and Rachel Woodbrook — were selected to spend a semester
as visiting students at Oxford University.
“I really wanted to do a study abroad program
that would challenge me academically,” says Hays, who
is now studying political theory
at Oxford. “Some programs emphasize the ‘abroad’
part, while the Oxford program definitely
emphasizes the ‘study’ part. If I can
make it here, I can make it anywhere.”
Each year, honors students from member institutions of the
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities apply to the
Oxford program, which is aimed at honing critical-thinking
skills and at conducting scholarship from a Christian perspective.
If selected, students choose from tutorial-based study programs
in disciplines ranging from art to religion.
“I’m studying classics and English literature,”
says Woodbrook, describing the focus on outside-the-classroom
I think we’re studying how to study. We end up practically
living in the libraries.”
“It’s quite a different emphasis than the American
system,” explains Professor of English
Luke Reinsma, who directs the University Scholars, SPU’s
four-year curriculum for academically gifted students. “At
learn to take charge of their education.”
The tutorial approach has its advantages, says Seguin, who
chose a course of study in the classics and Latin. “The
student dynamic allows for more
in-depth instruction and personalized assignments,”
Reinsma encouraged each of this year’s four students
to apply to the Oxford program. He says it’s as much
about life experience as it is about academics.
Peters, who is examining literature as diverse as Chaucer’s
Troilus and Criseyde and old Norse mythology, agrees.
“Sometimes you just have to sit back in the Bodleian
Library, look out at the Radcliffe Camera and remind yourself
that you are in one of the oldest and greatest libraries in
All the students say adjusting to life at Oxford has been,
at times, challenging. “Learning how to enjoy the city
is one of my main goals,” says Woodbrook, “and
it actually takes a lot of effort not to get completely caught
up in the academics.”
They admit to missing the familiarities of life at SPU, too:
favorite professors (“I miss the inimitable Dr. Reinsma,”
says Seguin. “He is simply a world-class professor and
a good man.”); Queen Anne Hill; walks across campus;
and, well, working appliances. “Our laundry
machine has a severe grudge against Justin, whose attempts
to do laundry have been foiled on three occasions by an exploding-laundry-machine
phenomenon,” says Hays.
A more welcome phenomenon, says Reinsma, is the potentially
life-changing impact of an experience such as the Oxford study
program. “These students have the unique opportunity
to get an entirely new view,” he says. “One of
the best things to do in education is to get outside the U.S.
It can be very sobering, but it’s so enlightening.”
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