Siloam Springs, Ark (October 6, 1997) - John Brown University professor of English Dr. Shirley Thomas has played an integral role in the development of a new honors program curriculum at Oxford University. The program, which will begin in the fall of 1998, is co-sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and will be located at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Keble College, Oxford.

"Dr. Thomas has played a key role in helping to establish the Oxford honors semester," said Richard Gathro, vice-president for student programs at the CCCU. "It brings me great pleasure to appoint her chair of the Oxford Honors Program Advisorary Committee."

"The Oxford semester is an magnificent opportunity to experience an incredible education system," said Dr. Thomas, who also serves as director of the JBU honors program.

The Oxford honors semester will be offered in both the spring and fall to Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities honors students who meet very high academic standards. The curriculum, designed in part by Thomas, combines the traditional Oxford tutorial system in courses like literature, history, philosophy, science, music, arts, Bible and church history with an integrative, collaborative and experiential learning model developed by the Honors Semesters Committee of the National Collegiate Honors Council.

Students who are accepted into the program will have access to most of Oxford's facilities, including the world-famous Bodleian Library. All courses, except for an integrative seminar, will be taught by Oxford professors.

"A higlight of the semester will be the experimental learning," Thomas said.

The students will take part in field experiences one day a week. They will explore places like London, Bath and Stratford, she said. Thomas said there is also a possibility the students will be able to take a longer trip to the continent.Thomas has served for several years on the Committee of the National Collegiate Honors Council, helping design honors semesters in the Czech Republic, Greece, Wroxton, England and in various domestic locations.

In addition, Thomas served on the national CCCU task force to design program guidelines and curriculum. The three-person task force, which also included Dr. Gwen Ladd Hackler of Southern Nazarene University and Dr. Charlotte Kroeker of Messiah College, held planning sessions during the spring and summer of 1997 in Oxford. They and Dr. Karen Longman, vice-president for professional development and research at the CCCU and Gathro met with Dr. John Fendley, director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

"Dr. Fendley was quite enthusiastic about bringing coalition honors students to Oxford," Thomas said.

According to Thomas, Fendley told the task force that the Centre's experience with CCCU summer students had been gratifying. He said that in general the qualifications and dedication to study of visiting American students had been somewhat disappointing. However, Fendley said that the Coalition students were intellectually and ethically impressive.

"He expressed the belief that Coalition honors students would contribute positively to the academic, moral, and spiritual climate of Oxford," Thomas said.

Hackler, who has been involved with a CCCU summer program at Oxford that began about five years ago, said that this semester program was different from the summer Oxford program and other semester programs.

A lot of times the classes are taught by faculty from CCCU member schools, she said. The classes with the Oxford semester will be taught by British faculty.

"The students will get to experience what it is like to have an Oxford tutor and have a reading list instead of a syllabus," Hackler said.

John Brown University offers an honors program consisting of a variety of enriched courses in the general education curriculum which have been developed especially for gifted and highly motivated students.

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