Oxford Abroad Spotlight: Eleni K. Pessemier

Eleni in front of Tom Tower at Christ Church (2019)


I was the type of kid who smuggled books into the trees I climbed and read under the covers past my bedtime (what can I say, the thug life chose me)—yet I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever loved books as much as I have since coming to Oxford. The libraries and book shops here are incredible (and everywhere), which makes working on papers feel almost easy. The biggest challenge is dealing with the temptation to take photos the whole time instead of working.


Writing twelve essays in eight weeks seemed daunting at first, but there are endless resources readily available here and tutors tend to be very personable and helpful. I have learned so much in each of my tutorials, which are on 17th-18th century literature and the development of the English language. My tutors are both experts within these fields and have given me invaluable advice that has made me a better researcher and writer. This experience has given me a new appreciation for UT as well, since my professors at home are similarly knowledgeable and willing to offer guidance.


Although we do a lot of studying here, I’ve also enjoyed more free time than expected. Tutorials require a good deal of preparation but only take up one or two hours per week. This type of schedule also frees up time for travel. OSAP plans free trips for us to famous historical sites every other weekend; I’ve gotten to see ancient Roman baths in Bath, gone on three day trips to London, and even spent a weekend in Nice, France (which is possibly the most beautiful place in the world and I highly recommend). There is also so much to see here in Oxford, from the 38 beautiful colleges to a thousand-year-old Norman church and the Eagle and Child pub where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to discuss their books.


It has truly been amazing to study English language and literature in a place where so much of what I am reading about actually happened. As the term comes to a close, I look forward to seeing more of Europe and then heading home for my last year at UT. This experience has been an unforgettable addition to my education, which I am so grateful to the Honors Program and Oxford University for making possible.

Oxford Abroad Spotlight: Diego M. Patino

Diego enjoying the snowfall in Oxford, England (2019)


Overlooking the fact that the U.K. lacks any nearby Popeyes Restaurants, Oxford has been absolutely breathtaking! To have been given the chance to study at Oxford’s world-renowned Bodleian Libraries is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. These libraries have long been the symbol of Oxford, a triumph of architectural design—so I guess you can say they are equivalent to UT’s Starbucks.


In all seriousness though, being here has helped me grow both mentally and emotionally thanks to my courses. I am currently working on tutorials in Neuropharmacology and Psychopathology. Both have challenged me to think about the same concepts in two completely different and opposing schools of thought. Nonetheless, this challenge has broadened my approach to conceptualizing mental and psychological disorders; this capability will prove invaluable in my future professional endeavors.


Since my arrival I had the chance to travel around England as well as to France, and I am still debating on which country has the best cup of coffee. Moreover, Oxford has a bunch of museums around the city. In fact, there is this new bacteria exhibit in the History of Science Museum that has a giant inflatable prokaryote hanging from the ceiling, A GIANT INFLATABLE PROKARYOTE—I have been nerding out about this for the past week There was also a dinosaur exhibit at the museum but (in my unpopular opinion) bacteria beat dinosaurs any day!


Anyway, my time here at Oxford has been amazing thus far, just have three more essays and a presentation left and I will be officially finished! Although it will be a bittersweet moment, I am looking forward to exploring England and Europe more!

Timothy M. Smith Award Recipient: Noah K. Oakley

Noah K. Oakley presenting at his symposium on January 27th, 2019

Timothy M. Smith lived his life yearning for the next horizon, always visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. His namesake award allows UT students to do just that: visit any place of their heart’s desire and research their passions. Noah Oakley was one such recipient and used his grant to travel to Lisbon, Portugal. He recently presented a symposium on his findings. See his statement below:

Portugal was not only full of myths and legends I had previous experience with, but full of stories surrounding our current issues of human rights. My initial research question going over to Portugal was to look at LGBTQIA+ culture. While I was there a law was actually passed for Gender Determination, meaning that individuals over 18 don’t have to have doctor or guardian approval to legally change their gender. What an amazing law for transgender individuals! While there, I talked with volunteers at Centro LGBT, a community center dedicated to providing resources and a safe space to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a queer person, it is always amazing for me to hear how other people around the world are fighting for our right to exist.

I also had plans to study gay Portuguese poets, however, I had a huge difficulty finding the texts I wanted. This was due to the Estado Novo, a fascist regime controlling Portugal from 1933 to 1974. During the regime, many aspects of life were censored, including works by the authors I had planned to study. Discovering this, a majority of my time in Portugal ended up being spent looking into this dictatorship. At the Aljube Museum of Resistance and Freedom, I learned all about the oppressive tactics the state and it’s police force instituted, and how fear was bred in the citizens. Eventually, citizens led a coup that overthrew the government. Learning about how people rose up against the regime was truly inspiring, especially when coupled with my talks with those people at Centro LGBT. These stories are ones that don’t always get told, and that’s why I wanted to focus on these items for my symposium. Stories are so important, and it’s up to us to always try and find out more stories so that way we can each rise up and provide a better future, for us and those to come. I can’t thank Lisbon enough for showing me this.

Coffee Conversation: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender?

Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Dr. David Gudelunas, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Tampa, led a coffee conversation on Thursday on the disruptive possibilities of drag culture. Coffee conversations ask students to participate in a dialogue rather than listen to a lecture; this one was organized around the question: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender? As part of this event, students talked about much more than just drag, addressing issues such as “Who taught you to behave ‘like a girl’ or ‘behave like a boy,’ and what were you taught that means?” They debated whether or not shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race reified, challenged, or complicated gendered expectations.

Dr. Gudelunas leading a discussion on drag culture.

Dr. Gudelunas researches in the areas of emerging media technologies, gender, sexuality, and communication. He is a widely published scholar and the author of “Confidential to America: Newspaper Advice Columns and Sexual Education” and co-editor of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture (Palgrave). Gudelunas serves on the editorial boards of Sexuality & Culture and QED and has appeared in local and national media including MSNBC, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

Symposium: When Rap Spoke Straight to God

Dr. Erica Dawson addressing the crowd during her February 7th Symposium

“Fearless” is a word that comes to mind for many when discussing the style in which UT Professor Dr. Erica Dawson writes. She is forward and unabashed, and that translated into When Rap Spoke Straight to Godher newest book of poetry. Dr. Dawson took the time to share her perspective and passion with Honors students in a recent symposium, in which she read excerpts from her novel and elaborated on her motivations to create it. When Rap Spoke Straight to God covers everything from the impact of the Trump administration to her experiences as a black women. Dr. Dawson walks a line between eloquence and conflict, to draw the attention of readers and listeners. Professors like Dr. Dawson inspire UT students to create art out of experience in a profound way.

Honors Tutorial: Sara B. Lattman

Sara Lattman presenting at the Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference on February 9th, 2019

Life is composed of the endless pursuit of knowledge, yet little to no research has been done on how learning adapts to the adult brain. The study of androgogy, the art and science of teaching adults, attempts to uncover just that. Honors student Sara Lattman set out alongside her Communication professor, Dr. Beth Eschenfelder, to inform conference attendees about the importance of incorporating androgogy techniques into professional coaching to tap into the motivation, perseverance, and passion of our generation. On her inspiration to learn more, Lattman replied:

I took Organizational Communication with Prof. Eschenfelder last semester, and on the first day of class she mentioned that she teaches her class using andragogy. I decided to do an Honors Tutorial surrounding the subject because it struck a lot of curiosity with me and I wanted to learn more about it.

On February 9th, Lattman presented her research at the Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference, giving her the opportunity to share her scholarship.