Students in Dr. Chris Gurrie’s Honors Speech for Business and the Professions class recently participated in the Leadership Challenge Ropes Course. Students worked together in groups, focusing on challenges that would enhance their communication competency. Charles Yezak and his student leader, Faith, led the students through obstacles and then discussed the purpose of each obstacle and how it related to communication and teamwork. Purposeful communication in teams won the day, illustrating how vitally important working as a team is in business communication and life. These are the kinds of enhancements that are added to Honors Courses at UT.
In conjunction with the Departments of Political Science and Speech, the Honors Program at UT sponsored Presidential Debate and Election Night watch parties this Fall. Hundreds of students turned out for the various watch parties. They had a chance to enjoy some drinks and snacks during the debates and the election. They also got to participate in discussions led by professors after the debates and election ended. Regardless of the election outcome, the Honors Program at UT encourages students to be politically informed and engaged citizens.
Professor Chris Morash, the Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin, presented to Honors Program students on November 10th in Fletcher Lounge. Professor Morash used Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s writings to discuss changes in Irish identity over the last several decades. In particular, Professor Morash was interested in how Irish identity is losing its sense of place with the transition of the economy from agriculture to service and technology and the movement of people from rural areas to bigger cities. Likewise, growing diversity in Ireland and globalization are leading to a declining sense of Irishness. Professor Morash described this as a type of existential homelessness and explored some of the ways that Seamus Heaney had suggested we can cope with this transition of identity.
The beginning of this week marked my being at Oxford for one full month. It feels like forever and no time all at once. The first two weeks or so were a whirlwind. After arriving we had two weeks of orientation with the OSAP organization which was spent learning about the city of Oxford, the tutorial system, and the political workings of England. Along with these morning meetings, we also had inductions into our colleges and to the Bodleian libraries. Walking around the city I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the golden hues of the limestone buildings comprising the city. It’s impossible to look at them without feeling transported back in time, to years before the birth of America, when these buildings still stood as they do now.
Of course with all the excitement of settling into a new environment, a wave of ‘freshers plague’ had many of us coughing, sniffling, and scrambling to find the British equivalent of Nyquil. That put a hold on exploring for me for the later part of the second week, but slowly I’ve gotten better.
Classes began in my third week here and were immediately an intellectually humbling experience. The professors here are so immensely knowledgeable and yet being able to converse with them one-on-one isn’t as terrifying as it seems. The tutors here want to connect with their students, and keep from being intimidating. That being said, the rigorous workload of Oxford does at first feel overwhelming. Only after many long days spent reading inside the Radcliffe Camera, did I feel I had a proper hold on my workload. The Rad Cam has become my home away from home away from home.
Despite the workload, I haven’t forgotten to enjoy my experience here. I was extremely fortunate to find great friends in my flatmates, and in my fellow UT students studying here. Through the OSAP program we’ve traveled to London for the day, where we were free to explore the city, and this upcoming weekend we are visiting Bath. I’ve also explored all that Oxford has to offer. Being a nature lover, having Christ Church Meadow so close to my apartment is a gift. The falling leaves are something I’ve sorely missed the past three falls I’ve been in Tampa. Standing in the park it’s easy to imagine where J.R.R Tolkien, who was a student and professor at Oxford, got his inspiration for the landscape of the Shire.
It’s hard to believe my time in Oxford is passing so quickly. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store!
On October 24th, the UT Honors Program hosted Scott Keeter for an Honors Symposium. Dr. Keeter is a senior survey advisor at the Pew REsearch Center. His talk was titled, “The Origins and Future of ‘Trumpism’ in American Politics.” In the talk, Dr. Keeter offered a broad explanation of why Donald Trump rose to prominence during the Republican Primaries and eventually won the nomination from the Republican Party. After explaining the factors that contributed to Donald Trump’s appeal, Dr. Keeter talked about how Donald Trump’s run for the Presidency of the US will continue to shape the future of American politics as well as the direction of the Republican Party.