Six Students Accepted into Prestigious Oxford Program


Courtesy of Dan Loh

Six Dickinson students will spend the 2023-2024 academic year at Oxford University through the prestigious Mansfield College Visiting Students Programme.

Provost and Dean of the College Neil Weissman said, “Our success in sending students to Oxford is a reflection of the quality of the educational program here.” Nearly 40 students have studied at Mansfield during the program’s eleven-year history.

Four of this year’s students — Vanessa Abraham ’25, Patrick Caffrey ’25, Anna Robison ’25 and Anna Wendel ’25 — will study English Literature, while Harry Do ’24 and Frankie Kelly ’25 will study Economics.

Wendy Moffat, Professor of English and the John J. Curley ’60 and Ann Conser Curley ’63 Faculty Chair in Global Education, is the on-campus coordinator for the Oxford program, which she said, “can be a real slingshot for the right kind of student.”

Dickinson students who have success in the Oxford program, said Moffat, have “a sense of humor, including about themselves,” understand “what questions ignite [them]” and desire “real independence.” 

Robison cited academic independence as a key part of her interest in the program. She said, The independence of the tutorial system and opportunity for really deep learning in my subject of English was an enticing prospect for me.” 

In the tutorial system, students meet one-on-one or in very small groups with a faculty member once a week. Typically, Moffat said, they must write a paper in preparation for each session.

Wendel is excited about the coursework as well: she said, “I am most excited to study the female writers and poets of the 18[th] and 19[th] centuries and their representations of queer, feminist and disabled identities in an age of progress.” 

The Mansfield program is highly selective, with only 40 foreign students admitted each year, primarily from “Ivy League and other top U.S. institutions,” according to the program website. Dickinson students undergo a rigorous screening process requiring a 3.7 GPA, a personal statement, three faculty letters of recommendation and a writing sample before a committee of Dickinson faculty recommends a select few to Mansfield.

“Everyone who’s applying has a really good brain,” Moffat said, “The question is…what are you going to do with that brain.” 

Robison said the “stressful and time-consuming” application “was valuable…in the sense that it made me critically examine what I was passionate about in the English discipline.” Moffat recognizes that the application process is “labor intensive,” but she hopes that “even those who don’t get selected can have a clearer sense of what they want to do” after completing it. 

In addition to Moffat, who reached out to eligible students last summer and has continued to provide guidance, Andie D’Agostino, Assistant Director of Education Abroad, and faculty in each of the students’ home departments support them as well.

Robison, an English major, said, “I’m also very grateful for the guidance and support from my peers and professors, but especially Professor Claire Seiler and Professor Sarah Kersh.” “All of the English department professors I’ve had have been wonderful,” she said, “and each has taught me different and useful elements of the discipline and work required.”

Wendel also praised the department, saying, “The English Department faculty at Dickinson is amazing for many many reasons, one of them being the incredible range of literature and theory that is covered in the course offerings that allowed me to explore and find my interests.”

Oxford is academically intense, but study is not all the students have to look forward to. Robison said, “Honestly, I’m excited for the entire experience, particulars of which include cooking my own food, being surrounded by all of the history, or having easy access to a lot of other countries.”

For students in the U.S. higher education system, Moffat thinks a year at Oxford can be “refreshing.” “It’s really not the least bit vocational,” she said. “It tends to open up their sense of purpose,” which carries on into their post-Dickinson life.

Wendel is looking to pursue postgraduate education in English literature, “hopefully through the Doctorate level.” Studying at Oxford, she said, “and being influenced by a wealth of new literature and voices is an excellent opportunity to take a step in the direction of those goals.”

Students in the program, Moffat said, “with rare exceptions, do as well there as they do here.” She does not take this for granted, however, saying “We wouldn’t be able to pull it off if we didn’t have students who were willing to put in the hard work to apply and faculty to support them.”

Wendel said, “I know the four of us [the English majors] have all been encouraged, comforted, and challenged by these incredibly kind people, and I can’t thank them enough for their ongoing support, enthusiasm and book recommendations.”