CSU Acquires House in England to Accommodate and Expand Study Opportunities at Oxford

Columbus State University marks a milestone this year by the opening of its own house at England's historic and prestigious Oxford University, one of the world's oldest institutions of higher education. Named the Spencer House, the three-story Edwardian residence will house CSU students, CSU faculty members on sabbatical, as well as students from affiliated colleges at Oxford.

Center for International Education Director Neal McCrillis said the inclusion of Oxford student tenants would help to enhance the international experience for their CSU counterparts. The acquisition also distinguishes CSU as a mid-sized state institution in the ranks of larger and prestigious schools, such as Stanford, the University of Georgia and Williams College (Mass.), which administer full time, year-long programs through Oxford.

The CSU Foundation recently acquired the Oxford property in a prime residential neighborhood on Woodstock Road just minutes from the center of town. Students from a CSU literature class will be the first occupants next month during a weeklong spring break visit.

The purchase of Spencer House was made possible by a grant from the J. Kyle Spencer and Sara D. Spencer Charitable Trust.The Spencers initiated the CSU summer study program at Oxford 15 years ago after they took summer courses there during the early 1980s.

The gift represents an element of CSU's recently-announced capital campaign, titled 'An Investment in People.' With more than $53 million already raised toward an $80 million goal, CSU seeks to establish a learning environment more advanced than at any institution of similar size.

For the Spencers, the gift means sharing the experience of Oxford as 'an indepth education in Anglo-American humanities within the context of English history, literature, arts and law,' said Kyle Spencer. 'These three-week summer study abroad programs were a first step in establishing access to Oxford and making friends there who have been most helpful to CSU, particularly David Vaisey and Christopher Day. Now with our own house we can offer our faculty and students a year-long experience in English liberal arts at this great institution.'

The house will accomodate three separate CSU study abroad programs beginning this spring when Language and Literature Professor Jim Owen directs students from his 'Oxford in Literature' course in site visits and research in and around Oxford University. The trip, 'Freshman International Experience,' will coincide yearly with spring break. This new addition to the CSU Honors Program is open to freshmen in a core course to be designated on a rotating basis.

The CSU in Oxford Summer Study program will make the Spencer House its base in separate sessions, June 4-25 and July 1-22. Language and Literature Professor Patrick McHenry will teach 'Oxford Writers in Oxford' in the first session, followed by 'England and the American South' - a study tracing the roots of American southern culture, to be directed by History Professor John Lupold.

Applications are being acceped for the summer programs, as well as for a new, year-round 'CSU-in-Oxford Academic Year Program.' McCrillis said two students will be chosen for full enrollment at Oxford in the 2003-04 academic year with more in future years. Students with a minimum of 40 semester hours and a 3.5 GPA are eligible. The screening process, said McCrillis, will be exhaustive because of the challenging nature of Oxford's tutorial system of course delivery. 'It's demanding. The student in this system must learn more independently with a higher degree of responsibility.'

The students selected for the year-round program will be taking advantage of a unique program - one that no other mid-sized state university offers at Oxford, McCrillis said. 'CSU is among a half-dozen U.S. institutions with this type of program at Oxford, McCrillis added, by providing full enrollment as an Oxford University student.

Joining the students in the year-round program will be a CSU faculty member selected for a year-long sabbatical. The faculty member will serve as an adviser to the student residents in addition to conducting research. Oxford, said McCrillis, 'is a prime location for a faculty sabbatical with its incredible library system - comparable to the Library of Congress.'

The cost value of the year-round program, $6,000 per semester, is significant, McCrillis said. The reduced cost - just $1,500 more than for a full semester on the CSU campus - is made possible by CSU Foundation funding of more than half the tuition per student. McCrillis said a scholarship endowment is targeted and will be needed to ensure any student can participate and to allow for more participants.

McCrillis said the Spencer House at Oxford represents one element of a broader plan to provide international study opportunities for as many students as possible. In 2002-03, CSU is sending around 100 students to other countries in study abroad programs with an objective to double that total within seven years. The recent expansion of offerings at Oxford, said McCrillis, has provided momentum toward meeting this goal.

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Contact: Neal McCrillis, (706) 565-4036; E-Mail: mccrillis_neal@ColumbusState.edu
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