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A scholarly community

The Scholars Program offers first-year students challenges and camaraderie
Feb 25, 2010
By Colleen Kiphart

In its second year, the Scholars Program in the College of Arts and Sciences is establishing itself as a haven for promising first-year students -- offering opportunities to tackle major philosophical questions while finding a niche at Ohio University.

"I think the best aspect of the program is that it helps prepare students to be human beings," said Mark LeBar, an associate professor of philosophy, who has been involved with the Scholars Program since its inaugural year. "That is, people who think about ideas that human beings have been finding important to their lives and commitments pretty much as long as human beings have been writing things down."

Students who are admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences with an ACT score of 25 or above, are invited to apply for the program. The Scholars Program will also begin accepting applications from students in University College for the 2010-11 school year.

The Scholars Program consists of three classes, one taken each quarter of a student?s first year at Ohio University. Each class is taught by two faculty members from different academic departments. Classes are capped at 25 students each. Throughout the year, the classes study the history of humanity and related philosophical questions. Moreover, the students learn skills to help them to reach their full academic potential.

"I?ve enjoyed the students? ideas and taken great pleasure in seeing them develop as scholars," said LeBar.

Laura Hyde, a first-year undecided student, was slightly daunted to study so closely with tenured professors straight out of high school.

"I was a little intimidated by the professors originally, but all of them are really nice and friendly," Hyde said. "I was no longer intimidated after the first couple of encounters with them."

Students are encouraged to ask questions and to participate in class discussions. The questions are big, and the debates are often lively.

"One of the things that makes it great is that not even the teachers know the true answers. It is all about discussing and trying to come to a conclusion together," said Amelia Shaw, a first-year English major.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Benjamin Ogles said there are many aspects that contribute to this program?s growing success.

"It is hard to pick out my favorite part about it," he said. "I like the intensive writing, the interdisciplinary nature of the Scholars Program, and the way instructors engage students in lecture and discussion format."

The Scholars Program?s interdisciplinary nature is not only found in the professors who are teaching, but also in the students who are learning.

"We have students from across the college," said Tom Carpenter, the Charles J. Ping Professor of Humanities and Professor of Classics and World Religions, who helped to found the Scholars Program in [date]. "The program involves intensive reading and writing, but we don?t just have English and history majors. There are many students from the physical sciences."

And through those diverse personalities and interests, different perspectives and philosophies emerge.

By examining primary sources - the students use only primary sources in all three courses - with faculty from across disciplines, even the instructors are learning how to read frequently handled texts with new eyes.

"For me, it is always a delight, usually a challenge, and invariably a learning experience, to encounter these great texts with colleagues in other disciplines who are used to thinking about them in a very different way than I do, and with students who are encountering them for the first time," said LeBar.

Faculty members from around the globe participate in the lectures. Once a quarter, internationally renowned experts are brought in to speak with students about their fields. Funding for these opportunities is provided by an 1804 Grant.

The Scholars Program recently played host to Jane Hawkes, a reader in the history of art at the University of York in England. Hawkes discussed religious art in Medieval Europe and asked students to examine how the art and architecture reflected the time as well as the present.

The students wrestle with questions like these with the help of their peers. It is a help that they find in study groups and potentially around the corner, if students choose to live in Bush Hall, the designated residence hall for Scholars Program participants..

Being able to have people nearby when I sit down to do my work at 10 p.m. and realize I have no idea what I?m doing is really fantastic," said Hyde, who rooms with a fellow scholar in Bush Hall.

Students and professors bond throughout the year over classes and pizza. A recent event combined the Italian delicacy with another, Dante?s "Inferno." Participants got together to enjoy conversation, camaraderie and a B-movie version of the classic poem.

"Everyone is really great," Hyde said. "I feel like we are all kind of a big, weird family."


Published: Feb 25, 2010 8:00 AM

The Scholars Program

Josephine Bloomfield, associate professor of Medieval language and literature, shares pizza, conversation and a B-movie with Scholars Program students (from right to left) Zach Marion and Jen Atkins.

Photographer: Katherine Clement 

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