Heart Dissections and Vaccines, oh my!

This week, the students in both the Major and Minor for Medicine had the opportunity to dissect lamb hearts! They learned about lab safety, how to be respectful during the dissection process, and how to identify different parts of the heart. Some students even learned stitching techniques. A definite highlight for the Medicine students so far!


Medicine students also had their first guest speaker. Medicine teacher, Dr. van Winden, invited Dr. van Genderen from Amsterdam to come and discuss the vaccines debate. Students gathered to learn about all sides of the debate, and Dr. van Genderen really pushed the students to think critically. A great Saturday afternoon spent for students at l’Académie de Paris!

Guest speaker for International Relations students

Marie Ndenga Hagbe, a journalist with years of experience working as a French correspondant in Brazil, came today to talk to students in the International Relations major and minor classes. She explored many of the political challenges facing Brazil, and students were able to discuss these and how they relate to them in their own countries.

¡El Cerro de San Vicente, una charla y la jinrana!

Hoy por la mañana varias clases visitaron el Cerro de San Vicente, el sitio de los habitantes originales de Salamanca quienes colonizaron este sitio hace 2800 años. Les dieron una visita guiada por los restos del asentamiento. Los alumnos exploraron las cabañas de adobe conservadas hasta el día de hoy de estos antecesores y aprendieron como usaban la tierra para conseguir comida y para protegerse. Los alumnos se quedaron impresionados por aprender de esta historia pre-romana. También aprendieron que durante los siglos posteriores se construyeron más edificios sobre estos restos, incluyendo el famoso Monasterio de San Vicente donde pudieron ver los hermosos mosaicos de huesos de vaca en el suelo.

Por la tarde muchos de los alumnos asistieron a una charla de la Universidad de Salamanca (USAL) y aprendieron sobre la estructura del gobierno español. Los temas incluyeron la monarquía, la bandera de España y el parlamento. Los alumnos eran muy participativos y preguntaron mucho sobre la política y la opinión del pueblo español con respeto a los reyes.

Por la noche los alumnos participaron en una jinrana por las calles de Salamanca en la cual tuvieron que resolver jeroglíficos, hablar con gente de la calle para pedir direcciones y aprender un poquito sobre los sitios más famosos de la ciudad. ¡Todos la disfrutaron y a los ganadores tendrán una sorpresa la semana que viene!


This morning several classes visited el Cerro de San Vicente, the site of the original inhabitants of Salamanca who settled there 2800 years ago. They were given a guided tour of the remains of this settlement. The students explored the perserved adobe huts of these ancient peoples and learned how these peoples used the land for food and protection. The students were awed to learn of this pre-Roman history. They also learned that over the subsequent centuries more buildings were built over these remains, including the famous Monastery of San Vincente where one can see the beautiful mosaics of stone and cow bones on the floor.

In the afternoon, many of the students attended a lecture from the University of Salamanca and learned about the structure of the Spanish government. The subjects covered included the monarchy, the Spanish flag, and the parliament, among others. The students were very participative and asked many questions about politics and the opinion of the Spanish people with respect to the monarchy.

In the evening everyone participated in a scavenger hunt through the streets of Salamanca in which they had to solve puzzles, speak with people in the streets of Salamanca to ask for directions, and learn a little more about the most famous sites of the city. A good time was had by all and the winners will have a surprise next week!

Class Focus: History’s Secrets

Our History’s Secrets class is taught this year by our Associate Director, Luke Berryman. His summary of the course shows how theoretically diverse and wide-ranging their syllabus is…

“Dates, events, facts: these are the wares of textbooks and tourist guides. This course is less about the history of Oxford than history in Oxford. We won’t ask any questions that invite straightforward answers. Instead we will engage with theoretical, philosophical, and cultural issues that require us to critically reassess the city in which our class takes place. We’re going to build a firm understanding of what “history” actually is. What do people use it for, and why? We will also think about how cultures can manifest as spaces and objects, and vice versa. Students will be provided with a reader including a selection of recent scholarship and works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Theodor Adorno, and Jean Baudrillard. Our ultimate goal, with Oxford as our principal case study, is to assess the extent to which history can be manipulated, exploited, forgotten, remembered, misremembered, invented, packaged, sold, consumed, regurgitated, or simply destroyed altogether.”

Today’s final session sees students deliver their concluding presentations on the commodification of history, architecture, and urban space in Oxford.

Class Focus: Global Business

Rob Shesol’s syllabus for Global Business has ranged far and wide. His classes have covered basic business principles, how to develop ideas into practical and successful businesses, how to correctly construct business plans and financial statements, how to manage risk and opportunity whilst achieving targets, and how to consider the pros and cons of private and public ownership.

We know that our Business students will have learnt a lot from a teacher with so much experience…

After 15 years working in the financial services sector, Rob has more recently started his own business in China, Splash, the country’s first chain of express full-service carwash facilities. Rob began his career in the Real Estate Group of Salomon Smith Barney’s New York Investment Banking Division, helping raise over $7.5 billion, including several lead-managed IPOs. Rob
relocated to Europe in 1998, where he has taken several senior positions in venture capital and private equity, first in Dublin and later in the Czech Republic. More recently Rob worked with The Gem Group, a London-based private equity fund, where his duties included responsibility for restructuring a large Slovak machinery manufacturer.

Class Focus: English Literature

Michael Molan’s class syllabus extended from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, giving a broad overview of some of the most critical aspects of English Literature, and focusing in on specific texts and criticism.

This week, students have had lessons on:

  • Shakespearean Love: with a focus on Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5
  • Milton’s Civil Wars: with a focus on Paradise Lost, Book 2
  • Wordsworth’s Revolutions: with a focus on ‘Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey’
  • Dickens and the Industrial Revolution: with a focus on Hard Times, Chapter 5
  • Englands of the Mind: with a focus on poems from Alice Oswald, Philip Larkin,and Linton Kwesi Johnson

They’ve also dipped into performance criticism, critical debates on language use, extracts from contemporary letters and journals, and had a presentation on ‘Seamus Heaney and National Poetry’ from guest speaker Dr Sarah Bennett (Oriel College, Oxford). Clearly, they’ve been busy!

This morning, the class is being taught by our programme Director, Professor James Basker. Educated at Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford (where he did his D.Phil), Jim is on the faculty of Barnard College, Columbia University and is the founder of OxBridge Academic Programs. He has written several books on history and literature, the most recent of which are Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, and American Anti-Slavery Writing: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation. We are sure they’re having fun!

Each teacher here at the Oxford Seminar awards a Class Prize to a Major student of their choice. For his presentation, Michael composed a poem in honour of the occasion, set to the theme of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of One Seminar

by Michael Molan

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

it was the age of raised hands, it was the age of blank stares,

it was the epoch of nodding agreement, it was the epoch of nodding off,

it was the season of rain, it was still the season of rain,

it was the spring of arrivals day, it was the winter of grade reports,

it was the evening of Luke’s piano recital, it was not the evening of Luke’s piano recital,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,

we were all going direct to Heathrow, we were all going direct the other way—

in short, the Oxford Seminar 2015 had sped past so quickly that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Class Focus: Psychology

This year’s Psychology teacher, Jan Cosgrove, gives a summary of her class’s antics and progress:

“The students have embarked on a challenging journey through the core components of psychological thought! They started out at Freud, then continued to Behaviourism, onwards to Evolutionary Psychology and finally delving into the abnormal this morning! Furthermore, they have had to grapple with some of the difficulties in designing psychological experiments but yet somehow have managed to design, execute and analyse their own experiments for the group project component of the course – I could not be more impressed! The final presentations of their work throughout the week take place tomorrow and I am extremely excited to see what the results will hold! Photo’s of the presentations tomorrow will be posted so please stay tuned!”

As Jan says, watch this space for more from Psychology