Honor Students Study History at Oxford


February 2010

While most Maryville students packed up standard supplies for their classes at the start of the semester, Bascon Honor students Matt Renaud and Mark Dragoni packed their passports. Renaud and Dragoni are the first Maryville students to experience a semester at England’s Oxford University. The new program, an arrangement with Oxford Study Abroad Programme, an Oxford-based academic organization that serves as the liaison between American students and Oxford University’s many colleges, was developed last year by the Bascom Honors Program and the Center for Global Education. Collaborators included: Jim Harf, PhD, associate vice president and director of the Center for Global Education; Linda Pitelka, PhD, professor of history; and Germaine Murray, PhD, professor of English.

Through the program, two Maryville Honors or high-achieving students study in England for one semester each year.

“When I was at the University of Tampa, we had a very successful study abroad program at Oxford University and when I arrived at Maryville, I was hopeful that we could introduce the students to the same experience,” Harf said. “This view was shared by Linda Pitelka, head of Maryville’s Honors Program, and Germaine Murray, who has been heavily involved in study abroad. Germaine and I visited the Oxford Study Abroad Programme last summer and successfully concluded an arrangement so that Maryville could participate in the program at an economically feasible rate for students.”

Renaud and Dragoni were selected from a pool of Bascom Honors students who submitted essays explaining why they wanted to study at Oxford and why they felt they would be a good candidate. Following approval from Maryville, they had to be accepted into Oxford.

Renaud and Dragoni are already immersed in their Oxford studies this semester, but shared some thoughts before their departure.

Renaud, a junior majoring in history, said studying at Oxford University gives him a chance to experience new ideas and foster his education in early American history and political science.

“I’m a little nervous about traveling to Europe, but very excited to go,” Renaud said. “I’m looking forward to getting a different world view on American history and to learn more about the European Union, its current position and future. Oxford is the Number Two university in the world so I know it will be a challenge but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Having participated in other study abroad programs, Dragoni was less nervous about traveling outside the country. Even so, the prospect of being a student at Oxford is daunting.

“I did the Harlaxton trip with Dr. Murray last summer and fell in love with England. This was the perfect once-in-a-lifetime chance to go back but I’m terrified this time,” Dragoni said. “This will be such a different experience. We will work one-on-one with Oxford professors and that’s a little intimidating. I imagine that the work will be very challenging and I’ll probably have to learn to speed read overnight.”

Both Renaud and Dragoni are studying in two separate tutorials of their choice. Renaud is focused on study of the American Constitution and the Early Republic, while Dragoni’s studies emphasize 18th century European history and the American Revolution from the British perspective.

Study abroad costs are typically borne by the students themselves, but fundraising efforts helped alleviate some of the costs for the current two students traveling to Oxford. Harf hopes that future donations will strengthen the program, making it an attractive recruiting tool.

“Our goal is to send two students to Oxford every year with the support of the central administration and we’re very excited,” Harf said. “We have created an endowment fund for study abroad programs and, within that fund, we have created a Mother Bascom fund for the purpose of raising money to cover costs while the students are in Oxford. This year, the honors program and the Center for Global Education are providing modest scholarships for Renaud and Dragoni.”

About the Bascom Honors Program
Mother Marion Bascom founded the Bascom Honors program in 1939 to offer an opportunity for students to challenge themselves academically and personally. She drew from her own experiences while a student at Oxford University, especially the latter’s philosophy that encourages and supports close mentorships between instructors and students.

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