Excellence in Thought WWU Students Learn With the World's Best Scholars

Since 1994, Walla Walla University has been connected with one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world: Oxford University. Every year, up to four students are accepted to spend a summer, a semester or entire year learning with some of the best scholars in the world.

"Students work hard, but have a remarkable experience," says Greg Dodds, WWU history professor and the first WWU student in the program. "They not only learn culture and history, but they also get to experience life at one of the oldest universities in the world."

After a month of interdisciplinary study, students meet alone in tutorials with a single Oxford don and in small seminar classes to study the courses they've chosen. Course options vary from theology to history of science, from rhetoric to art and art history and many more.

The academic program at Oxford is rigorous. Under the dons' stern eyes, research, writing and careful reading are everyday occurrences.

Dan Lamberton, WWU professor and program coordinator, says the Oxford program can change the futures of students who attend.

"It has helped students win competitive Fulbright scholarships and admission to top-tier graduate schools," he says. "Because of their Oxford experience, these students enhance the culture of our classes as well. We all benefit from their study; they spread their new confidence. It makes a huge difference."

Students have access to Oxford student clubs, activities and, most importantly, the library. Some even choose to be part of the Oxford Union, a world-famous debate society.

Julie Nordgren, a WWU student who studied at Oxford this year, called Lamberton from the infamous Bodleian Library every Friday afternoon to tell him what was around her, what she was studying and what challenges she faced that week.

"Students find at Oxford that there is no place to go where study is so beautiful, so expected and so seriously part of a long tradition," says Lamberton. "Rigor is in the architecture, the conversation among students and the meetings with professors."

As one WWU student who spent time at Oxford puts it:

"It's serious and inspirational to walk up a set of steps worn down by scholars who have been walking there for hundreds of years. To enter the office of someone who is part of that tradition, to be surrounded by that professor's intellect and writings and to count yourself a part of that tradition is simply amazing."

September 01, 2009 / Walla Walla University

Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent