History Department
History Department

Normandy Scholar Program takes 23rd trip to WWII-related sites in Europe

Tue, September 18, 2012

The Frank Denius Normandy Scholars of 2012 culminated their semester-long study of World War II with a trip to related sites across Europe. “Life-changing” and “unforgettable” are two words that often come up when students describe their experience in the Normandy Scholar Program (NSP). The study abroad program, which combines a semester of coursework and culminates in a three-week trip to Europe, allows students to learn about an important period of history in a way that is both innovative and challenging.

“Nothing brings history alive like discussing it with students on the spot where it took place,” says Professor Charters Wynn, the current director of the program. “It is extremely rewarding to teach, and learn from students, as we visit such sites as the Sachsenhausen concentration camp or the building where the Nazis surrendered to the Red Army. The intellectual and personal growth the program fosters has directly led to Normandy scholars’ success at some of the top graduate programs and law schools in the country. It has, in short, changed their lives — and mine.”

Blair McBride, a 2011 Normandy Scholar, states that the “Normandy Scholar Program was one of the most demanding and difficult experiences of my college career. It was also the most rewarding, exciting, and life altering.”

The Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program (NSP) began in the fall of 1989. As of 1997, with the support of then Dean Sheldon Ekland-Olson, the running of the program was taken over by the College of Liberal Arts as a faculty-led study abroad program. Its administration was vested entirely in the Department of History as of 2004.

The current four faculty members of the program are Professors Judith Coffin, David Crew, Bill Brands, and Charters Wynn. Coffin teaches a course on modern France. Crew teaches a course on Germany during the Second World War. De Backer teaches a course on sites of memory and is the associate director and planning coordinator for the program. Brands teaches a course on the United States and World War II. Wynn teaches the program’s course on Stalinist Russia.

Since 1989, 532 students and 16 faculty members from the Departments of English, French and Italian, Government, History, and the Center for American Military History have participated in the NSP. Students in the NSP come from all academic areas of the university, including history, architecture, biology, business, economics, fine arts, government, and radio/television/film.

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