Comm Students and Faculty Gain First-Hand Global Experience during Study Abroad

Oxford University

In any given semester, students might have the option to take COMM 338, Children, Teens, and Media, a course that explores the role of media (television, Internet, video games, film, etc.) in shaping the lives of children and teens. This past summer the opportunity came with a chance to examine those ideas in not just the United States, but also the United Kingdom, and other locations around the globe. The students who took the course this past summer with faculty members Erica Scharrer and Lynn Phillips, did so as part of a study abroad program at Trinity College, Oxford, in England. The UMass Oxford Summer Seminar is one of the oldest American summer programs at Oxford University.

Erica Scharrer, professor of Communication, and Lynn Phillips, senior lecturer in Communication and SBS director of academic engagement and student success, spent three weeks each, teaching the course to a class of five students. The course followed the Oxford Tutorial Model, in which a small group of students works intensively with faculty members to delve deeply into the topic at hand. Three of the five students who enrolled in the class this year are Communication majors.

Angela McNamara, a junior, said she loved being able to explore Oxford, while also getting a unique connection to UMass faculty.

“I loved the program because it gave me the opportunity to engage in a smaller setting with professors within the Department of Communication and to take high intensity courses,” said McNamara.

The study abroad program’s original intention was to introduce a wide range of students to the best of Oxford University’s academic and social traditions. 

Scharrer and Phillips first taught the course at Trinity in 2016. They enjoyed it so much, they both jumped at the opportunity to return again this past summer. 

“Working with a tight-knit group of talented students from a range of academic disciplines gave everyone the opportunity to consider the topic from multiple vantage points,” said Phillips. “We were so impressed with both our students and the beauty and hospitality of Oxford. I would definitely urge students considering study abroad to look into this program.”

Participants also have the opportunity to explore England and Europe, both on their own and on free field trips. Recent Communication graduate Emma Tavolieri ’18 first enrolled in the program in 2016 as a student. Last year and this summer, she returned in a staff role as a Junior Dean. Her responsibilities included marketing and student recruitment on campus during the school year, and then working as a social coordinator for students during the summer in Oxford.

For an inside look at what it’s really like to participate in this summer abroad program, check out Emma’s video that she created with fellow UMass Communication student Donald Cadman, in which she gives a first-hand view.