RSG's Signature Oxford Experience Turns 10
By Amanda Morad | August 8, 2014
Regent's Robertson School of Government (RSG) returned to Oxford, England this summer for its annual student immersion in Britain's cultural and political climate. One course compared Western and Islamic legal norms; a second class studied just war theory and the law of armed conflict.
"The RSG Oxford experience is tremendous: a tutorial-style learning environment, expert guest lecturers, visits to historic sites, and the camaraderie of a close-knit community of scholars," noted RSG dean, Dr. Eric Patterson. "This is a RSG distinctive!"
This 10th annual study-abroad program attracted a diverse group of students from the Government and Law schools both on-campus and online, and from across the U.S. and the world. Participants included a congressional staff member, the spouse of a diplomat, a political candidate, a military member, and students who had lived or worked throughout the Middle East.
"The Oxford Study Abroad Program was one of my most memorable and enriching life experiences," said Marie Leandre, an RSG student and native Haitian. "It allowed me to meet students from different fields of studies and from around the country. ...I blended so well with them that I forgot we were from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds."
The trip consisted of two academic courses in law and government. The first, taught by Regent Law professor Thomas Folsom, was "Liberty, Law and Politics: Islamic and Western Perspectives." The course surveyed law and politics in the Western legal tradition and in the Islamic legal tradition, as they intersect in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe in unique ways.
"Professor Folsom showed us in a relatively short period of time the breadth and depth of Islam, our interconnectedness, and our disjuncture," Leandre said. "He wrapped up by equipping us to provide a Christian response to Muslim narratives if we are to cohabit peacefully in a world that seems merging day-by-day."
During this course, students took a tour of Parliament and sat in on a session in the House of Commons as it was debating religious freedom concerns in the context of the growing Muslim population in Britain. Students also visited the Central London Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre prior to the start of the Muslim holiday Ramadan. Students received a tour of the facility, viewed afternoon prayers and heard a discussion from an imam on the effects of Islamic law in modern society and in England.
Students also participated in a roundtable discussion at the Quilliam Foundation, the world's first counter-extremism think-tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity and belonging in a globalized world. Quilliam advocates for religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.
The second course, taught by Patterson, was "Just War: Ethics and Law in Contemporary Conflict." The course examined the ethical and legal framework in which armed conflict occurs, from the moral consideration of using force to how war is fought and ended. This class fell at a particularly meaningful time as the UK was gearing up to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I on August 4.
Patterson provided training for his students on the law of war, the same training military personnel receive. The students also heard guest lecturer Dr. Dapo Akande, director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law & Armed Conflict at Oxford University.
Excursions during this class included a trip to London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), where they had a roundtable discussion with the think-tank's professionals about just war, the rule of law and their application in current global conflicts, and the British Museum.
"I was born in Poland and we fled there in 1985 during martial law," said RSG student Tom Kmiec, who is currently running for the Canadian Parliament. "I grew up thinking of war, like Cicero, as a time when the normal rules of civilized society are suspended and anything goes. I realize now how narrow a view that was and where the opportunity lies in avoiding total war. Being in Oxford with Dean Patterson was an exceptional opportunity I could not pass up."
Though the group focused studiously on their course material, they were able to explore historical Oxford sites such as Christ Church, the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum and Blenheim Palace, the ancestral birthplace of Winston Churchill.
For some students, the trip was not limited to Oxford or even London: many made weekend excursions around the UK and across the English Channel to Stonehenge, the Cotswolds, Normandy, Paris, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience for students," said Oxford program coordinator, Diane Hess-Hernandez. "The history and culture of England is amazing in itself, but these courses and the related trips allow students to experience England through a Christian worldview, which makes the program even more meaningful. Our faculty are able to show them Christian leadership in a global context."
Learn more about RSG and the Oxford Experience.
Mindy Hughes, Public Relations
Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888
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