Archive for August, 2010

Kathy’s Wroxton Journal — Or, What I Did on My Summer Vacation

August 1, 2010

Kathy’s Wroxton Journal — Or, What I Did on My Summer Vacation

July 25, 2010

Wroxton Abbey

As Wroxton College Dean Baldwin has so aptly written, “Wroxton — the College; the Abbey; the Estate — is a very special — even magical — place…. it was — and is — impossible not to fall in love with it.” p. 6

 After the flight from Newark to London and an hour-long trip northwest on the motorway, we passed through the town of Banbury, a prosperous town with a mix of old and new, and a few minutes later entered the village of Wroxton, where diminutive houses with thatched roofs  and garden flowers  signaled a passage to another era.  Although I had seen countless pictures of the Abbey, I was, nonetheless, unprepared for vision that awaited me as the Abbey came into view at the end of the drive.

While the Abbey itself was more than impressive, I fell in love immediately with the gorgeous, park-like property, with a spectacular view over a seemingly endless lawn.  After being assigned a room, one of the first things I did was to take a walk down the path to the pond, the first of two on the property.  With its beautiful water lilies, the pond was reminiscent of Monet, yet a later walk revealed a second, larger pond toward the rear of the property.  Early morning walks were accompanied by birds, rabbits, and more.

As the week progressed, I explored the Abbey grounds and the village as time permitted, encountering scenes of the countryside and village life even more vibrant than I had imagined.

The Staff Retreat

In describing the Wroxton College curriculum, President Adams has written that “students are taught by a British faculty and by distinguished visiting lecturers from government, academia, business and the arts”  p. 7

Meals taken together in the Carriage House were an opportunity for the group — participants, guests, and the group leaders — to become better acquainted and to discover shared interests and goals. In addition to the three daily meals, morning coffee and afternoon tea in the Buttery were refreshing breaks between sessions where participants and guest speakers had the opportunity to continue conversation on a variety of issues in an informal setting.

Our meetings generally took place in the Lecture Hall, a multimedia space, in the Carriage House, reminiscent of doctoral seminars I attended in Vermont College’s Noble Hall.

Bringing together my work as Associate University Librarian and Director of Public Services  at FDU’s Giovatto Library and my academic interest in translingual and transcultural elements in education for global citizenship, I developed and delivered a presentation on “Information in the Electronic Age:  FDU in the Digital World”.

Highlights were the presentations given by the participants and group leaders, as well as by Dean Baldwin, Dr. Nigel Forman and Dr. Pamela Mason of the Wroxton faculty, and guest speaker Dr. Edward Harcourt, Director of International Relations at the University of Birmingham.  Dean Baldwin conducted a tour of the Abbey with an account of its history;  Dr. Forman delivered a presentation on “Globalization and Its Impact on Higher Education”;  Dr. Mason discussed the Shakespeare play we were scheduled to see; and Dr. Harcourt delivered a presentation on “The Internationalization of Higher Education”.

Out and About

As President Adams has written, “the academic offerings … are supplemented by an extensive schedule of tours and special events…The  Abbey, the traditions, the faculty, the cultural opportunities:  it all adds up to a unique place to experience a new culture and learn what it takes to succeed in a global environment, and what it means to be a global citizen.” p. 7

In addition to the retreat program, participants and guests had the opportunity to visit Broughton Castle, Oxford, Blenheim Castle, Stratford-on-Avon, and to spend a day in London before returning to the U.S.  Guests were also able to visit the Cotswolds. On our last evening together as a group, we attended a performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” by the Royal Shakespeare Company after a farewell dinner together in town.

FDU’s Mission of Education for Global Citizenship and Wroxton College

Through the presentations, discussion, and time spent together, participants were able to come to better know the contributions made by colleagues in other university departments and to understand more fully the importance of Wroxton College within the context of the history and mission of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

As President Adams has written,

Immersing oneself in a different culture is a way to confront and deal with things first-hand, to learn and grow on an educational level and a personal one. And, in an era of globalization, those who are unaware of other place, people, and ways of doing things, will fall further and further behind.

We believe strongly that there is no better gateway to new worlds, diverse perspectives, and — most of all — new ideas than Wroxton College. p. 6

Observations and Lessons Learned

While North Jersey is home to two FDU campuses, our students come from all over the world, bringing with them a variety of backgrounds and experiences.  It has been illuminating to be able to reflect on both my work in the FDU Library and on my academic interests in language competency in education for global citizenship from our UK campus.

Despite the recession, both the outgoing and return flights were completely booked, and London and Stratford-on-Avon were crowded with tourists, mostly young people of student age, from a variety of countries — no longer were Americans the predominant, or most visibly affluent, group. 

No longer was English the language most widely spoken.

While we are tempted to feel at home in the UK due to our shared language and history, the massive traffic jams through London’s West End caused by the Queen’s Garden Party and the very formal, very British, fashion choices made by the throngs of attendees visible on line at the entrance to Buckingham Palace and in the surrounding streets highlight the difference between our cultures.

An unscheduled stop at Stewart AFB for re-fueling during a much-delayed and turbulent flight home was a reminder that travel is still an unpredictable adventure.

Thank you

Although I had traveled to Europe extensively from 1973 to 1984, I had not had the opportunity to do so in more recent years until I was selected to participate in the FDU staff retreat.

I would like to express my appreciation to all those at FDU who made this once-in-a-career experience possible and to Shelly and Diana, our group leaders, and all of the participants and guests who participated in the program.

Many thanks to Dean Baldwin and to the entire Wroxton College staff for their gracious hospitality.


Please find photos @ stein smith

Selected Readings

Adams, J. Michael.  “Wroxton College:  A Treasure in FDU’s Global Mosaic”. in Sammartino, Peter, et al.  Wroxton.  CreateSpace, 2009.

Baldwin, Nicholas D. J. ” Foreword’, in Savage, Walter et al.  Wroxton Journals.  CreateSpace, 2009.

Davies, Julie, and Edward Harcourt.  “No shonky * , cappuccino courses * here, mate. UK perspectives on Australian higher education. ”   Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, Volume 11, Issue 4, 2007, Pages 116 – 122.

Department for Business Innovation & Skills.  Higher Ambitions:  The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy

Edwards, Paul.  “The Gardens at Wroxton Abbey, Oxfordshire”.  Garden History 14: 1, 1986 p. 50-60. 

___.  Wroxton Abbey: research for restoration proposals.  Landscape Research. 4: 3 Autumn 1979 , pages 18 – 19

GHERC:  Globalization and Higher Education Research Center

 Kogan, Maurice, and Stephen Henney.  Reforming Higher Education.  Jessica Kingsley, 1999.

Kowarski, Ilana.  “Colleges Help Students to Translate the Benefits of Study Abroad”.  CHE, July 22, 2010.

Steves, Rick.  Travel as a Political Act.  Nation, 2009.

“What Happens at a Garden Party.”  The Official Website of the British Monarchy.

Wildavsky, Ben.  The Great Brain Race:  How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World.  Princeton University Press, 2010.