By Catherine Moore
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
I remember first seeing these wise words of Socrates when interviewing in March 2015 for a coveted spot in the Haslam Scholars Program. They hung on a wall in the conference room of the Honors & Scholars suite and delivered a silent message to the 30 students gathered at UT that weekend. Quite frankly, however, I recall being more focused on answering the interview question pertaining to poetry than I was on the quote. Fast forward to two and a half years later, I have passed the quote countless of times without ever giving it much thought—until now.
Through its mission, the Haslam Scholars Program strives to “foster intellectual curiosity and engage the moral sensibilities of scholars.” The two years leading up to my study abroad experience consisted of classes that focused on the abstract concepts of power, life, and knowledge.
These courses established a curriculum that creates a holistic and interdisciplinary approach the scholars can use when examining the world before them. Scholars are encouraged to take what they have learned within a four-walled classroom and apply it to civic engagement activities throughout the community. In essence, scholars make it a point to create their own learning opportunities by venturing outside of textbook learning.
One of the biggest opportunities the program provides scholars to truly enhance their real-world experiences is the cohort study abroad experience in Edinburgh, Scotland. Being the small-town girl that I am, the required conceptual classes and subsequent Scotland study abroad trip originally seemed quite daunting. However, after a few weeks into each of the courses I was able to start envisioning a bigger picture of the world that encompassed civic duty and justice. Thought-provoking topics such as oppression, the potential for life on Mars, and religion enabled my classmates and me to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the world we live in.
I began to learn that not everyone around me will share the same thoughts and beliefs as I do, but the courses also taught me how to be accepting of this new epiphany. Because of the HSP curriculum, I now have a confidence in my own beliefs and values as well as an interest in those of others which enables me to have difficult yet important conversations with my peers and mentors.
All of these learning objectives were further grounded for me when I was able to apply them within the study abroad trip. My study abroad experience in Scotland went far beyond the classrooms at the University of Edinburgh by allowing me to experience a foreign culture, environment, and lifestyle. The mere idea of being across the world from my comfort zone was in itself an experience. This sense of vulnerability gave me a new perspective on how I should view others and their lifestyles.
Furthermore, the trip was one of the final pieces to the puzzle for my learning experience with the Haslam Scholars Program. It helped me make connections between what I have read in literature and seen in community schools in Knoxville to what I experienced in Scotland. Although my cohort and I learned specifically about philosophy and history during the Scottish Enlightenment period, we were able to use those traditional ideologies by applying them to modern-day issues that we take interest in.
Personally, I studied the philosophical and moral boundaries regulatory agencies should take when allocating the world’s water supply. Being able to utilize the insight I gained on Scottish history allowed me to help create guidelines for present and future problems pertaining to conservation and sustainability. Ultimately, I was able to see the importance and relevance of historical Scottish philosophy and how something so traditional can still be applied to today’s time.