By Hannah Schultz, News Editor

Senior Joel Sams is the latest Asbury student to receive the de Jaeger prize for excellent academic performance from Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) for his fall 2014 semester abroad.

The prize is awarded to those who show outstanding application and ability during their Scholar’s Semester at Oxford (SSO). Recently graduated Jarred Ingles won this award in the fall of 2013 and senior Priscilla DeFini in the spring of 2014.

SSO has many benefits for Asbury students who wish to spend a semester abroad in an academically challenging environment. “Our leaders at SCIO called the program ‘graduate school boot camp,’ and it definitely felt that way at times,” said Sams. “We weren’t expected to find ‘the answer’ to our research questions—we were expected to weigh our sources against each other and come to our own conclusions.”

The structure of the Oxford term differs from the normal Asbury classroom setting, and according to Sams, has its own advantages and drawbacks. “To me, the benefit of the tutorial system is the depth of scholarship and research it provides,” he said. “You can’t get that if you’re taking 18 credit hours in a classroom setting.”

“But at the same time, it can feel very isolating,” he said of the Oxford model. “Even though there are a ton of other students reading literature, there’s a good chance no one else is pursuing the same research area that you are. It’s just you and your tutor. That’s where the communal and relational aspects of the American model really shine.”

Either way, SSO has been rewarding for Asbury students in different areas of their lives. “In talking with students who have gone, I have found that they have come back profoundly changed in one way or another—some in their philosophical views, others in confirmation of life vocation or calling, still others in renewed passion to step out of their comfort zones as they seek to serve others for Christ,” said Lenore Sweigard, the previous overseer of Asbury’s study abroad programs. “In every case, it was a time of intense academic and personal growth.”

As Asbury students travel to Oxford and continue to achieve academic excellence, others involved with SSO and SCIO also appreciate Asbury students and their commitment to pursuing education for the glory of God.

“Thanks for sending such fine students,” Executive Director of SCIO Stan Rosenburg wrote by hand on Joel Sams’ award announcement.