Spring Summer 07

The Core


Living Legacy

Doc of Ages

Tour de Force


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Ocean's Informants

Transcripts: Leaping from the 18th Century to the 21st

Secret History

Big Shoulders, Helping Hand

C'est Si Bon Bon

Oxford and Upward

Go Ask Alumni

Beyond the Quads

oxford and upward

Last year, Nick Juravich, AB'06, was one of three graduates of the College to be named a Rhodes Scholar, bringing Chicago's total number of Rhodes Scholars to 42. Michelle Caswell checked in with Nick at Oxford to hear his thoughts on the differences between Oxford and Chicago.

What have you been studying at Oxford?
I'm in a two-year master's of philosophy program in economic and social history. My program consists of two core courses—one in history and social science methodology and one in statistical analysis and quantitative methods—and four "advanced papers," which are similar to graduate seminars at Chicago. The main component of my degree, however, is a 40,000-word research paper, and that's the most exciting part for me. At Chicago I researched the Rainbow Beach Wade-Ins, a series of protests that took place in the South Shore neighborhood in 1960 and 1961 to desegregate Rainbow Beach. I'm still captivated by social protest and its historical origins and impact, so I'm thrilled that here at Oxford I'm going to be able to continue studying human rights movements. I'm working with Stephen Tuck, who is a historian of 20th-century American and British race relations and human rights movements, and he's just begun a project with a coalition of historians in Britain and the U.S. to document social protest for human rights after World War II in an international context. My research project will hopefully become a small component of this project, and will focus on the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963, in which Afro- Caribbean immigrants in Bristol organized a boycott opposing the hiring practices of the Bristol Bus Company. Bristol is less than two hours away from Oxford, so just as I did in Chicago, I'll be able to immerse myself in this history through interviews, documents, and archives that are available there.

How does Oxford differ from the University of Chicago, in your opinion?
The two institutions have a lot in common— they're both serious research universities that place a premium on undergraduate instruction, and they're also both places that are proud of their particular role in scholarship throughout history. However, that's about where the comparison stops. Chicago is firmly rooted in the American tradition of a broad liberal education spanning many disciplines, even more so than most American universities thanks to the Common Core. British education and Oxford in particular are much more specialized; most historians I work with here have been studying history exclusively since they were 18. The result is what you'd expect: American graduate students here tend to bring a much broader, interdisciplinary approach to their studies while British- educated students have developed extraordinary depth and focus by the time they've graduated.

My experience at Chicago has been a real blessing, because all the thinkers on philosophy of social science and method that we've read in my core courses here at Oxford are rooted in the traditions of thought I was exposed to in my Social Sciences and Humanities classes. Because of my familiarity with foundational social science texts, much of the more oblique philosophy I've read here— writers like Foucault and Lakatos—has been accessible to me and I've been able to connect these abstract concepts to concrete problems of historical research more clearly.

And on a related note, how has Chicago's international focus prepared you for this type of international experience?
When I graduated from the University of Chicago, I knew I had a great education. After two terms at Oxford, I know that I have a world-class education. As much as I've been challenged by a new culture, I can't think of better preparation than a Chicago education. I'm not sure if it's specifically the international focus that I rely on as much as the lessons of the Common Core: when in doubt, read the words on the page, read the argument sympathetically, understand it, break it down, and then apply a whole host of methods and begin to critique it. From casual conversations to class, I'm a better thinker now than I was four years ago, and that's due to the way I was taught at Chicago. At Chicago, you were captain of the cross country team, and were actively involved in the human rights program. Have you been able to maintain that level of activity at Oxford? I still push myself to the absolute limit and try to do as much as I can. I run with the Oxford Cross Country Club, which is very different than running in Chicago. After only a mile you're slogging through ankle-deep mud on a tiny path between sheep farms and forest preserves. Getting to the top of one of the hills around Oxford and looking out over the valley with the spires above the trees is breathtaking. I also currently volunteer for a group called the Bridging Project, which provides tutoring in English and basic schooling to youth refugees and asylum seekers. This has been a very important part of being at Oxford for me; it's given me a chance to learn about immigration and racism in the U.K., and it's reminded me constantly that there is a whole world beyond the spires.

What are your goals after Oxford?
I think I'm going to go for a JD/PhD in the U.S., with an eye towards practicing as a human rights lawyer before seeking an academic position. But I'm not set on anything particular—the older I get, the more convinced I am that it's more important to follow your passions academically and professionally rather than plan too far ahead. I want to make a meaningful contribution to social justice and human rights—whatever form that takes is fine with me. There's that Chicago Human Rights program influence for you.