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River Run and UB Launch Scholars in the Schools

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – For the past couple years, UB's Scholars at Muse series has given the public a chance to sit in on college lectures without having to attend college. Professors from UB offer lectures on the humanities throughout the semester at the Albright Knox Art Gallery. Now, the popular series is giving some high school students the same opportunity. WBFO's Joyce Kryszak tells us more about the new program, Scholars in the Schools.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's full story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

Last year, a UB anthropology professor gave a lecture for the Scholars at Muse series on the alternative realities of the Mapuche Indians of Chile. The first lecture this semester? How about Shakespeare's Math? That was a lecture that explored the irrational dimensions of mathematical theory as they informed literature and aesthetic innovations of the Renaissance. Pretty heady stuff for non-academics you might say. Now, imagine a teen ager tackling these subjects. Not a problem said Leah Natali as she flips her long blond hair to aside. The City Honors School senior said she and her classmates are up to the challenge.

But at this scholars in the schools session, the debate will have to wait for the lecture to end. UB English professor Rachel Ablow is presenting Pain, Truth, Torture and Victorian Literature to a combined class of City Honors School and Nichols School students.

Ablow is presenting the students the same sophisticated analysis of Eliot's novel, The Lifted Veil, that she did in her Scholars at Muse lecture last month - with adults. And that's just what's intended.

Patrick Martin is president of Riverrun. That's the cultural organization that works with UB's humanities department to offer the two Scholars series. Martin said nothing is watered down. He said they want students to get the full benefit of UB's brightest, unconstrained academic minds.

It's an opportunity that's open right now to a limited number of students. About 30 juniors and seniors from two Nichols and City Honors classes were chosen to participate in the pilot program.

Waiting for last week's lecture, Nichols' junior David Zakalik was eager for the more grown-up learning experience. Zakalik said classes in high school all too often are "single-sided conversations."

But it's not all conversation and debate. The students will have college-level work to do for this class in addition to reading course materials and attending lectures. That's o.k. with Alyssa Henry. The Nichols' junior said they are used to hard work at the top-ranked school. And Henry said this is extra work she is happy to do.

The process involves an inter-disciplinary approach, the same as it does in UB's on campus humanities classes. For example, next semester the Scholars in the Schools class will hear a lecture on Race and Representation in the 19th Century.

UB history professor Jason Young teaches the course that explores the historical arguments raised around the authenticity of race through photography, science and politics. Young said it is a complex analysis. He is looking forward to hearing what younger, more media savvy students will add to the discussion. Young said universities should be doing more of this kind of educational exchange.

Eventually, organizers would like to expand the program to other schools. Elissa Banas heads the international baccalaureate program at City Honors. She said Nichols and City Honors were chosen for the pilot partly because they are nationally recognized and their students must meet a certain aptitude. But Banas said every student should have access to scholars who can really challenge them.

Tonight, everyone is invited to come stretch their intellect. The Scholars in the Schools lecture presented last week to students will be offered again Monday at 6:00 PM at Nichols School. Students, parents and the public are invited to attend the free lecture. Then on Friday afternoon Scholars at Muse continues at the Muse Restaurant in the Albright Knox Art Gallery at 4:00 PM.