June 20, 2007
MUW Residential Honors Program culminates with
By Jill D. O’Bryant
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- After one year of living and
studying together as part of Mississippi University
for Women’s Residential Honors Program, 19 students
enjoyed a month-long study abroad experience in
London this summer.
“The trip was an important piece in a two-year
honors program called the Residential Honors
Program,” said Dr. Eric Daffron, director of the Ina
E. Gordy Honors College, coordinator of study abroad
and professor of English. “That program is designed
to foster student learning by asking participants to
live and learn together.
“These students took history and English classes
together and lived together in the Honors Residence
Hall the entire year. The study abroad program, a
continuation of that living-learning environment,
was the culmination of that first-year experience.”
Daffron, along with Dr. Tom Velek, professor of
history, accompanied the students who earned four
college credits for taking a history seminar and a
literature seminar while in London.
For the history seminar, Dr. Velek created a list of
25 London neighborhoods or sites the students read
about in Peter Ackroyd’s book “London: The
Biography.” The students each chose one site from
the list to write a research paper and then give an
oral presentation at the site.
Each student received a card to the main Kensignton
Library, and this allowed them to use any of the
borough libraries in the system.
“They showed amazing self-motivation in terms of
getting into the libraries and getting at the
sources,” Velek said. “More impressive, many found
their way to the neighborhoods and found local
Lauren Jee of Greenwood had an interview with a
curator at the Museum of London to discuss the
London Stone, Vicki Elinburg of Fayette, Ala., found
the rector at St. Barts for a tour and sources, Kacy
Lee of Pontotoc made her way to Canary Warf in the
East End and found the Docklands Museum, and Sarah
Ellwein of Ridgeland convinced the people at the
London Central Market, which is normally closed to
the public, to give her a tour.
For the English seminar, called London and the
Gothic, students were asked to read three 19th
century Gothic novels set in part or in whole in
London. In addition to discussing the novels, the
students read Gothic-inspired excerpts in “London:
The Biography,” which helped the students make
connections between London and the Gothic, and they
went to museums and other cultural sites which
helped them place the novels in a large aesthetic
The students will write a research paper on one of
the novels and will be encouraged to make use of
their London experience as inspiration or even as
In addition to working on their individual projects,
the group went to Stonehenge and Bath where they
toured the Roman baths. They went to a traditional
English cream tea. They also visited a Bangledeshi
area in London where they had a group dinner.
“All three events were designed to help the
students’ understanding of Britain and British
culture,” Daffron said.
Some students also made side trips to Scotland and
“This was an incredible opportunity for the
students,” Velek said. “This is the kind of really
innovative program that is particular to MUW. We can
do this kind of program because we are a small
“It really highlights MUW’s commitment to give
students international experiences and help create a
Daffron agreed, “For many of our students, going to
London was their first time out of the country.
They, like all students their age, need
international experiences so that they can learn how
others think and live. Doing so leads to better
Velek said the trip brought back memories for him.
“This was a wonderful trip for me,” he said. “In
1985, I first came to London as a student on an art
and drama tour with a professor from Millikin
(University in Decatur, Ill.). It is something, 22
years later and many return trips later to be the
professor bringing the students.”
MUW will continue making such trips, Daffron said.
“This is a set piece of the Residential Honors
Program,” he said. “Thus, we will replicate this
program next summer for this fall’s incoming
Residential Honors Program students.”
For more information about MUW’s Honors Program,