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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Biology professor and USI students travel to England

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Dr. Jeanne Barnett, professor of biology, and 17 USI students – most of them B/MD Scholars and Presidential Scholars – spent five weeks at the University of Evansville’s Harlaxton College in Grantham, England this summer. The group left in mid-May and returned in June.

“The main reason for doing this was that science majors wanted to study abroad,” Barnett said. “Most of the curriculum at Harlaxton is in liberal arts. When science students study abroad, they fall behind in completing courses required for the major. If they take one semester of liberal arts courses, that means they must double-up on science classes to complete the major on time.”

Barnett taught Virology, a class that ordinarily takes 15 weeks. “It was a rigorous class,” she said. “I did not cut any corners. They had exams almost every week.”

The staff at Harlaxton was impressed with her students. “They said they’d never seen more hard-working students.”

Class was scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday, allowing them to spend their weekends traveling around Europe. “The schedule is such that students can travel and experience other cultures – a major part of studying abroad,” Barnett said. “They all took advantage of it.”

Senior Rajeev Singh, a B/MD Scholar with a double major in biology and history, traveled to Ireland; Barcelona, Spain; and Brussels and Bruges, Belgium. “I would give most of my limbs to go back and study there for another summer or semester,” he said.

Harlaxton’s proximity to the University of Warwick allowed students the opportunity to visit the labs of Drs. Keith Leppard and Andrew Easton, the authors of their text, Introduction to Modern Virology.

“That gave the students the opportunity to see an active research program in virology,” Barnett said. “Students said it was a highlight. They saw the connections between what they were learning and what went on in the lab.”

The course was taught in Harlaxton’s Gold Room, a formal drawing room with a lot of gilt, cherubs, mirrors, a fireplace, and a mural. The awed students expressed concern that they wouldn’t be able to concentrate in such grand surroundings.

Barnett said, “Living in the manor was unbelievable. It was sort of like Harry Potter. There were so many different staircases it took a week to figure out where they all went.” She was impressed with the teaching facilities as well. “There was nothing I needed that wasn’t provided.”

Singh said, “The manor was amazing. I've never visited, let alone lived in, such an impressive castle. From day one, we saw non-stop beauty and breathtaking sights.”

Barnett would like to return to Harlaxton for a full semester. “There is a lot of opportunity for faculty development,” she said, citing interaction with faculty; proximity to campuses such as Oxford and Cambridge, healthcare-related research centers, and other educational facilities; and the historical setting.

Harlaxton is owned and operated by University of Evansville. USI is one of Harlaxton’s 13 partner colleges. Faculty interested in teaching at Harlaxton should contact Heidi Gregori-Gahan, director of International Programs and Services, at 812/465-1248.

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