Oxford Added to Schools Abroad

By Emily Singer

The College is expanding its network of schools abroad with the newly re-named Middlebury College – CMRS Oxford Humanities Program, in which the College will take on operations conducted by Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) at Oxford.

This is the College’s first C.V. Starr School Abroad in the United Kingdom and is affiliated with Keble College, the largest of the more than three-dozen small, independent, self-governing communities at Oxford.

Prior to the venture, students at the College wishing to study abroad in Oxford were limited to a highly competitive, yearlong stay with Lincoln College at Oxford University, or through CMRS, which is specifically for students who have not matriculated with Oxford.

While CMRS specializes in Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, students also have the option to pursue a general course of study in the Liberal Arts. The program will be open to students of all academic disciplines and will provide the option of a semester- or year-long study abroad experience. In keeping with College policy, students studying with CMRS will receive academic credit for their coursework while abroad.

CMRS follows Oxford’s one-on-one tutorial teaching, in which students register for two private tutorial courses with experts in the material they wish to study. Formal essays are due each week based on primary and secondary source readings. The individual attention by tutors allows for more flexible teaching methods and courses of study.

In addition to Oxford-style tutorials, students register for one seminar course and one Integral Course. The seminar course expands upon work completed in tutorials and allows students to learn from each other. The Integral Course is a larger lecture-based class that provides a broader overview of history, literature and scholarship of the Medieval period and the Early Modern period. Students present extensive formal research papers at the end of the semester, serving as the culmination of a semester’s worth of tutorial and seminar work, as well as independent research.

According to a College press release, A. Barton Hepburn Professor of History Paul Monod, who has been on academic leave this year, will become the program’s director.

“Middlebury-CMRS is an excellent program for students with an interest in the humanities who want to spend a semester or year in Oxford and experience an intellectually challenging environment,” Monod said in the press release. “At the same time, students have a wonderful chance to learn about British culture firsthand.”

Students who studied at CMRS in the past noted the benefits of the tutorial system, in particular, but also acknowledged educational inconsistencies that Middlebury can improve upon.

James McMillan ’14 called his oratory tutorial at CMRS “one of the most productive, formative learning experiences of [his] entire college career.”

“Even with discussion-based classes, … Middlebury doesn’t quite facilitate or foster the development of oral skills. Much of our future professional lives will, at least to some extend, require public speaking,” he noted.

While McMillan himself was paired with tutors who also taught at one of Oxford’s many colleges, his fellow students were not so fortunate.

“Their tutorial experiences were not nearly as strong,” McMillan said. “With Middlebury now overseeing the program, it will be interesting to see if the strength of the faculty becomes more consistent.”