Education teacher enjoys week at Oxford Round Table

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Suzanne Nesmith got a special treat this summer when she represented Wayland Baptist University at the Oxford Round Table in England.

An assistant professor of education and the assistant dean in the School of Education, Nesmith spent a week on the sprawling, historic campus participating in a discussion with other university professors on the topic of dual cultures.

“The idea is based on lecture that C.P. Snow did in 1959 where he spoke of the emergence of two cultures, one of those in the sciences and one of those in the humanities,” Nesmith explained. “He felt that those were becoming further apart and that they needed to come together somehow or there would be difficulties. He proposed that their needed to be a third culture that was a blending of the two, and he noted that many of the great thinkers throughout history were part of that third culture.”

Nesmith said the round table brought together professors from universities around the world who had an interest or work in the topic area. Since she did her doctoral dissertation on a teaching approach that blends mathematics and literature, she qualified for the group and found quite an interest in the discussions.

“I was the only one in our group in the teacher preparatory area, and I likened our role to creating that third culture since many of our elementary education students are generalists and don’t have a teaching field. They have to know a little about everything,” she said.

Nesmith’s Round Table group consisted of 25 individuals, and an Oxford representative who served as a facilitator for the discussion sessions, all of which was held at Exeter College. The day typically consisted of full morning sessions beginning with a presentation by one of the Round Table members, followed by a question-and-answer time and discussion by the group. After several of these, the group would break for lunch, held in the stately dining hall at Exeter, then have some afternoon free time for scheduled tours or sightseeing on their own.

Nesmith took advantage of a few of the tours, including one around Christchurch – another college at Oxford and the setting for much of the filming of the Harry Potter movie series. She also became familiar with the train system, taking a trip out to Stonehenge one afternoon.

In the evenings, the group would reconvene for a formal meal with another short presentation and discussion following. The final night at Oxford, the evening was even more formal and the group got to enjoy entertainment by a world renowned pianist and an operatic singer who were part of the Round Table gathering.

Nesmith drew the first presentation of the week, which she felt was fitting since she represented the move toward that third culture mentioned by Snow and was a neutral party. She benefited from the ideas and thoughts of others, though, and came back with new ideas and understanding.

“I really came away with a sense of recognizing so many varied perspectives about education but also the similarities,” she said. “We all had the same concerns and issues, and we all want what’s best for our students.

“Being from the United States, we often think that our way is the best way or the only way. But this was a way for me to expand my vision about the world and realize there are more options.”