When Illinois College Professor of English Robert Koepp was a college student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., he studied abroad at Cambridge University in England, and since that experience he has always wanted to return for another extended stay across the pond. This spring semester he will get that chance as he spends his sabbatical as a visiting professor at Cambridge.
“Two years ago, when I began developing plans for my Spring 2013 sabbatical leave, I decided to explore the possibilities of spending time abroad as a visiting scholar,” Koepp said. “Since I had spent my last leave in 2006 as a visiting professor at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and had found this experience so enriching, I was determined to find another situation abroad. Cambridge seemed like the perfect choice.”
Koepp applied earlier this past year for official academic visitor status at Cambridge, along with one of the university’s constituent colleges, Wolfson College. In June he received the news that Cambridge’s English Faculty granted him University Visiting Scholar status, and Wolfson invited him to be a Visiting Fellow of the college.
“My hope was to secure one of these positions,” Koepp said. “I have happily accepted both positions so my wife, Janet, and I will be spending the Lent term, from early January to late March, in Cambridge. We'll be in residence at Wolfson, well-situated to take part fully in the life of the college and the university.”
As a visiting fellow, Koepp will have library privileges at three libraries – Wolfson's Lee Library, the Faculty of English Library and the Cambridge University Library. During his time in Cambridge, Koepp plans to work on a project developing course materials for his concepts of comedy class at Illinois College. He also expects to participate in Wolfson's Humanities Research Forum and in the English Faculty's Nineteenth Century Research Hub.
“I will likely have opportunities to share my current work on Victorian novelist George Eliot. There is a reading group at Wolfson focusing on Dickens this year – I will also plan to participate in that group,” Koepp said.
Over the years Koepp has returned to England many times for research, to participate in academic conferences and to introduce Illinois College students to the country and its literary culture.
“I have regularly returned to Cambridge for short visits, and on several occasions have taken BreakAway groups to tour Cambridge University and the city,” Koepp said. “I have often thought about returning to Cambridge for a longer stay, enabling me to take an active part in the life of the academic community there.”
This past summer Koepp and his wife traveled to England to visit some sites related to Charles Dickens and attended a festival celebrating the novelist's 200th birthday.
“We included Cambridge in our itinerary, visited Wolfson College during our brief stay and had the good opportunity to learn more about the college, its facilities and the arrangements for our 2013 visit,” Koepp said.
While in Cambridge this spring, Koepp said he will look for future opportunities for other Illinois College faculty members and for students to study at the university.