William & Mary and University of St Andrews began offering a joint degree program in the fall of 2011, providing students of both universities a unique opportunity to learn on both campuses.
However, the relationship between the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the oldest university in Scotland extends much further and continues to grow.
Continuing a successful affiliation with St Andrews that has spawned the joint degree program and various student exchange partnerships, William & Mary is offering its students an opportunity to participate in an upcoming summer study-abroad program run by the Global Education Office in the Reves Center for International Studies.
The St Andrews study-abroad curriculum will take place over four weeks in July and August and consist of two courses, one taught by program director Frederick Corney titled “Mythic Scotland Through its Culture,” and another taught by a St Andrews faculty member titled “Scotland’s Evolving Landscape.”
The application deadline for students is Feb. 3. The program requires an eight-week, one-credit preparatory course during the spring semester. In that class, students will familiarize themselves with the history, geography and culture of Scotland and St Andrews.
Corney has taken students abroad several times, traveling to locations such as St. Petersburg, Russia; Potsdam, Germany; Cambridge, England and Prague.
“I like doing these,” said Corney, the history chair. “You get to know the students. You get to know different places. So as more and more of these programs grow, I think they're looking for areas where it makes sense.”
According to an Institute of International Education study, 57.7 percent of William & Mary students participated in study-abroad programs in 2017-2018, the highest percentage of any public university in the United States.
Each study-abroad opportunity offers a unique experience for the students and instructors.
“We are delighted to be working together with St Andrews to offer this exciting new summer study abroad program opportunity for students. The Global Education Office and the International Studies Advisory Committee developed this program to increase study abroad opportunities for students, especially those interested in STEM courses abroad,” said Sylvia Mitterndorfer, director of Global Education in the Reves Center for International Studies.
Corney’s course in Scotland will provide a broad overview of Scottish culture as it is perceived by the Scottish through an examination of the major mythic moments and personalities of Scotland’s historical narrative.
“I'm trying to get the students used to asking questions about Scottish culture. You don’t just see a kilt or hear bagpipes; you try to find out why the tartan is such an elemental sign of Scottishness, that kind of stuff,” Corney said. “Why does every Scot I know constantly quote poet Rabbie Burns? There are good reasons for that.
“It’s about when the Scottish national identity was built, romantic nationalism in the early 19th century. We'll look at various key memory sites in Scottish history with the students. We’ll visit some. We’ll do visits around Edinburgh and Glasgow. If possible, we're going to get the students up to the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness and Inverness.”
Corney researches locations and finds places that would interest him and the students. He looks for “hooks,” and interesting stories that students might latch onto. For example, author George Orwell wrote “1984” on the Isle of Jura in Scotland.
“He’s got this shack, and he's writing ‘1984,’ and it's pretty bleak up there,” Corney said. “Anywhere around the North Sea coast is pretty bleak on either side of whatever country you're in, Denmark or Norway or Iceland, so if you're reading ‘1984’ and you kind of have a sense of where he's writing, in this cold hut somewhere, that kind of stuff is interesting.”
A faculty member from St Andrews’ School of Geography & Sustainable Development will teach a course titled “Scotland’s Evolving Landscape,” which will address themes such as physical landscapes, cultural landscapes, climate change, population change, landscape management and sustainable development.
“Scotland has a spectacularly changing landscape,” Corney said. “It’s amazing stuff. One moment you’re walking through the heather on fields and the next you’re in these massive mountains and it looks like a blast site. It’s absolutely spectacular.
“They’re going to look at populations and how climate shapes the landscape, how humans shape the landscape, and then they’re going to get into issues of sustainability and what Scotland is doing towards sustaining its environment in what is a very exposed part of the North Sea up there.”
Corney has instructed at least a dozen study-abroad groups during his time at William & Mary. He is excited about the opportunities to visit some sites he’s always wanted to visit, and he’s excited to provide those experiences for the students as well.
“It’s fun to do,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done so many of these programs if I didn’t enjoy them.”
William & Mary and St Andrews is expanding their partnership through this study-abroad program, and they continue to explore ways to build on their budding relationship.
“The collaboration that connects W&M and St Andrews is transformational and multi-layered,” Mitterndorfer said. “We deeply value the opportunity to work with our St Andrews colleagues to develop high impact international experiences through the joint degree program, the semester and year student exchange program, the First Abroad spring break exchange program and now this summer program.
“When you have two institutions so closely aligned and deeply connected, such a partnership is ideal for creating new programs and opening up new opportunities for our students.”
The partnership also opens up opportunities for W&M faculty. Mitterndorfer said the Reves Center will start taking faculty applications in March for 2021 summer abroad programs, including St Andrews. The deadline to apply is April 1.