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April 27, 2022

Oxford University Hosts Bespoke Course for Holy Angels’ Scholars

This study abroad opportunity is personal — in the best possible way.


Several intellectually curious scholars from the Academy of the Holy Angels just ventured across the Atlantic, and immersed themselves in a bespoke critical thinking course at Oxford University’s Pembroke College. While tailor-made classes are usually reserved for college students, AHA English Department Chair Nancy Schneberger developed this challenging course especially for the young women from Holy Angels. The curriculum she prepared incorporates growth mindset concepts and links into the Academy’s philosophy of transforming individuals through education.


“Some of my goals when writing this course were to provide an opportunity for students to focus on deep, philosophical thoughts in one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and to explore another culture while learning more about themselves and the world,” Schneberger explained. “I hope that my students will be motivated to continue to travel and to see themselves as world citizens.”


Students get excited about learning for the sake of learning, and temporarily shelve any concerns about grades. As they dig into their cross-curricular studies (for about 7.5 hours each day), Angels become more careful consumers of information, think critically and analytically, and become empowered to speak confidently about their ideas with support from texts and established philosophical systems. Benefits include increased confidence and a greater willingness to embrace challenges.


“Several teachers noticed a change in formerly reticent students. In my own class, I saw some of the Oxford participants engage in classroom discourse with more thought and courage,” Schneberger noted.


She envisioned this course while she was attending a 2017 Gilder Lehrman seminar at Oxford. At that time, she met James Basker, founder of the Oxbridge Academic Programs. When she told Basker she wanted to establish a program for Holy Angels, he helped her connect with Dr. Richard Michaelis, the Oxbridge program’s executive director. Schneberger developed the curriculum, and worked with Michaelis to create a course that includes enriching site visits. The program ran in 2018 and 2019, but was kept on hold at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, several Angels, including some who were accepted to the scuttled journeys, had their chance to attend the course from April 8-16. Schneberger chaperoned the group with her husband, William Schneberger, and AHA Social Studies Department Chair Gail Fair.


Participating Angels included Giselle Acosta and Cara Chang of Fort Lee; Natalia Antaki of Franklin Lakes; Morgan Battaglia of Upper Saddle River; Zeida Ben-Fredj Lopez of Bergenfield; Mia Chang of Valley Cottage, New York; Patricia Coleman of New City, New York; Sophie Cossio and Ella Oaten of Tenafly; Isabella Dail of Saddle River; Caroline Dupas of Pearl River, New York; Ava Goyal of Montclair; Brooke Hess of Cedar Grove; Ria Jani of Haworth; Zuleima Noriega of Haledon; Isabella Novo of River Vale; Erin Pav of Westwood; Liana Powley of Mahwah; Gabriella Rigoli of Wyckoff; Natalia Ruiz of Fairview; Shivani Sahu of Paramus; Adriana Santos of Ridgefield; Kyra Sapontzis of Park Ridge; Karina Small of River Edge; Isabel Stein of Rutherford; and Julia Swearer of Upper Montclair.


This year’s teachers included Matthew Bradley, a doctoral candidate at Oxford; and public speaking instructor Eamon Haughian, a vocal coach with the Royal Shakespeare theater. Thomas Whitecross is currently in charge of the Oxford program.
“Our classes were quite informative and entertaining, as they facilitated a group learning environment with plenty of participation,” Shivani Sahu explained, adding that studying at Oxford was a highlight of her experience as an Angel. “I am so grateful that I was able to participate in such a rewarding program with some of my best friends!”

Erin Pav’s journey was extremely special for her, since this was her first trip outside the USA.
“I have never felt so immersed in rich culture and history,” Pav said. “Some of my favorite experiences were going to the Ashmolean Museum, river punting (on the Thames), the Bodleian Library, Blenheim Palace, high tea, and just overall exploring the beautiful town. The trip was liberating and so very valuable to my education. The food was great as well! One of the best things about my trip was the people who ran the experience,” she added, mentioning her guide, Thomas.
Nataliz Ruiz described her time at Oxford as a one-of-a-kind experience.
“The entire trip was perfect, from the college to the classes, our teachers and guides, the town, and the group of girls,” Ruiz commented. “My favorite part of the trip was the classes we took. Our critical thinking class challenged us to think about the way we think, why we think, the way society wants us to think, and ultimately change the way we think. In addition, we realized that we simply need confidence to succeed, especially when public speaking…I am forever blessed for this opportunity because it has taught me many valuable lessons that will stick with me throughout my life. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Schneberger and Mrs. Fair, as well as our guides and teachers Tom, Thomas, Kyle, Matt, and Eamon.”
Isabella Dail said, “The Oxford trip was one of my most memorable experiences at AHA due to the rich history of the school and intellectual stimulation through seminars and cultural trips.”
Liana Powley enjoyed meeting Oxford’s professors, digging deeper into the city’s history, and spending time with her friends.
“I really enjoyed trying the cuisine, especially high tea and treacle tart. Being able to study abroad in Oxford has been one of my favorite high school memories,” Powley stated.