Dordt College News

Dordt student earns Oxford Literary Award

June 12, 2013

Caroline Eckstrom, a 2013 Dordt College graduate from Stanton, Nebraska, earned the de Jager prize for exceptional academic performance for her work during the Scholars’ Semester at Oxford University’s Wycliffe Hall in the spring of 2013.

Mary Dengler, Dordt College professor of English, encouraged Eckstrom to take on the challenge of studying abroad in Oxford’s rich literary environment.

“Studying abroad is an essential part of education for academically gifted students like Caroline, as it puts them among other equally talented students and allows them to discuss and share ideas and motivate each other,” said Dengler. “It introduces them to a wider world and an awareness of history and culture outside of their own preconceived ideas.”

At Oxford, Eckstrom had to choose a topic for the four-week integrative seminar component of her semester. She chose an area outside of her comfort zone: the history of art. She then embarked on researching, attending lectures, meeting in small groups, and visiting local art museums such as the Ashmolean Museum.

Eckstrom received the award for her 4,000-word research essay, the culminating work of the course, titled “The Spirit of an Age,” where she compared Viennese poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Viennese artist Gustav Klimt, who were popular at the turn of the 20th century.

The award was well earned, said Dr. Elizabeth Baigent, who is the head of the board that grants the de Jager award,
“Caroline pursued her studies sedulously and to very good effect,” said Baigent. “A very pleasant member of the student body, she took full advantage of the excellent libraries and tutors in Oxford to produce work, which was imaginative and intelligent.”

When she wasn’t hitting the books, Eckstrom was absorbing the culture and learning about her housemates.

“I lived in an old Victorian-era house called ‘The Vines’ with 34 other students from all over the United States (with only one kitchen!),” said Eckstrom. “At first there was a little competitive spirit—who’s taken the most Latin, read the most Augustine, got the highest SAT score, that sort of thing—but we got over that fast and just had fun together after that. My housemates were some of the funniest, most intelligent, and warmhearted folks I’ve met. I thought the program was exaggerating when it said that students form some of their closest friendships at Oxford, but it wasn’t.”

Eckstrom was shocked by receiving the award after journeying outside her forte.

“The award surprised me,” Eckstrom explained. “Art history is out of my league as an English major, and I had no background experience in it. I just took it on a whim to try something new and interesting. Getting this award is encouraging especially because of that, and it makes me think, ‘Hey, I really can try something new and do okay at it!’ It’s an encouragement to keep tackling new things in the future and not just stick with things I know I can do well.”

Student teaching this upcoming fall with plans to graduate in December, Eckstrom wants to teach English full-time, possibly internationally, as well as pursue graduate work.

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