Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What comes first?…The student or the school?

Written by: on August 31, 2023

What did come first?  I would love to know!  Is it nature, is it nurture, is it have a mentor like an older sibling or is it mirroring our parents?  When I read through The Secret History of Oxford by Paul Sullivan I was drawn by the people, or as he states the “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and most other members of the Hall of Fame”.[1]  Is Oxford Oxford because of the students it produced? The thinkers, the royalty, the inventive, the naughty?  Or do we know of these students because they were at prestigious Oxford?  How many of you have told people you get to study at Oxford for a week and it instantly brings on the “oh! Wow!” factor?  I feel instantly elevated in their eyes…I mean, come on it’s OXFORD!

The first person Sullivan highlights is Roger Bacon and tells of a Legend of how “he once dressed himself as a common thatcher to meet a deputation from Cambridge University.  The students from the “other place” were so dismayed to find such a formidable intellect amongst the common populace that they ran back home, afraid of being put to shame by Oxford’s genuine academics.”[2]  So here we have a 13th century illustration of imposter syndrome!  If Cambridge students worry about being good enough, it should make us feel better that we too, even in year 2, may still be drawn to our own inadequacies.  I know the beginning of this semester feels like a slow creaking wheel starting up again and therefore these feelings of being an imposter are “baaaaccckk”!

When considering our own journey in this doctoral world I have encountered a major threshold experience recognizing we are stepping into the world of being peers with our teachers and mentors.  I honestly struggled (as I made known in some of my blogs) with feeling that I was a misfit for this program.  I waited until the end of my first year to voice it to those who needed to hear it and low and behold, they listened.  We worked out some of the wording in the syllabus  and the grading rubric (and I don’t know if it changed or not for future students, but I felt heard.  The saw my struggle and helped me find creative ways to approach my research that honored who I am and what I was studying.  As Loren told me “you are a peer now, you are an expert in your field and it’s expected to speak up for what matters to you”.  I have been a “good” student; give me the syllabus, and the grading rubric and I try to do what I can to meet the teacher or programs expectation.  It did not dawn on me that I could challenge the expectations!  So am I a product of a great first year of doctorate work from my school, or did my school create a student who changed the way it taught?

Not every celebrity in Sullivans book got there through high morals and intellect, so a place like Oxford also has to claim those celebrities too.  Oxford itself is a celebrity.  Julian Treasure states in his book How to be Heard “it is what you say and the way you say it.”[3]  We seem to have a responsibility as Doctoral students to perhaps leave this program better then how we found it.  And we speak up because it made us better then when we started.  So what comes first? We as students who encounter a learning environment sharpening iron or the school who allows itself to be changed by the students who arrive through it’s threshold?

I am looking forward to walking the hallowed halls of Oxford like so many incredible, wild, rebellious, silly, creative students have before me and the gift is knowing I will be changed just by showing up.  (I don’t know if one week of me being there will change Oxford, but it is amazing to think that we already have done this for each other in this program).  It is not just the topics, the authors, the professors and staff we encounter, it is this cohort, our iron sharpening iron that makes this program priceless!

[1] Paul Sullivan, The Secret History Of Oxford (New York: The History Press, 2013), 103.

[2] Ibid, 103

[3] Julian Treasure, How to be Heard (Florida: Mango Publishing Group, 2017), 187.

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

6 responses to “What comes first?…The student or the school?”

  1. Adam Harris says:

    I have been a “good” student; give me the syllabus, and the grading rubric and I try to do what I can to meet the teacher or programs expectation. It did not dawn on me that I could challenge the expectations!

    Appreciate how you put this. This has got to be the biggest shift for us all. For so many years we go to class, look at the agenda, listen to what the teachers and books say, retain as much as possible, and regurgitate it the best we can. Still doing that to a degree, but now we should be pioneering and creating a curriculum and understanding that contributes to the bigger conversations. This is exciting, humbling, empowering, and a bit terrifying. It challenges me to do good research and be as thorough as life will allow with my subject matter. It also gives us permission to push against ideas and speak up when possible.

    While writing my posts I was watching some Richard Dawkins (Oxford grad) debates and heard him say that Educational spaces should not be “safe”. Safe from physical harm of course, but not safe when it comes to ideas, different perspectives, push back, honesty, etc. We need push back for growth. As you quoted, iron sharpens iron!

  2. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Jana,
    I have to admit that I enjoy saying…I will be in Oxford in September. People gawk a bit. When I said to the agent who was processing my Global Access, even he seemed impressed.

    I failed to say that I was going to be a TOURIST!

    Still it is fun. A friend of mine actually did a fellowship at Oxford for a year. He and his family studied/lived/worked for a time. I guess he qualifies as an INTELLECTUAL.

    As I putz along, I am content to be a Pseudo Intellectual. The program has focused me on my immigrant law/resettlement/compassion and my nonprofit is starting work in Ukraine. This outward focus (Deut 10:18) has given me purpose and this program is sharpening to be much more efficient at the tasks “HE” has set before me.


  3. mm John Fehlen says:

    Your blog got me thinking of various “nature vs. nurture” scenarios that I encounter personally. When I dress up in nice clothes I often feel smarter. After I get a carwash my car feels as if it drives faster. When my office desk is cleared off, I am able to focus and get great work done.

    Do the clothes or carwash do this? Obviously, no. But, it is a perception. And, they (whoever ‘they’ are) say that “Perception is 9/10 of reality.”

    Does Oxford make the student, or does the student make Oxford? Am I smart to dress up, or dress up because I’m smart? I think the answer to both is YES. Yes to both sides of the question. It is a symbiotic relationship, like so much of life.

    As always, Jana, I love your thoughts and look forward to another great year together!

  4. mm Tim Clark says:

    “We seem to have a responsibility as Doctoral students to perhaps leave this program better then how we found it.”

    I really love your invitation for us to shape the program as it is shaping us. And this idea that we leave the program better than we found it is an inspiration I hadn’t thought of and can help me take any frustrations I have and put them to good use!

    Thanks for the challenge!

  5. “Is Oxford Oxford because of the students?” Hmm? Good question Jana. It’s a question I will ponder throughout my experience while in Oxford. It is really a great question to think about…What really makes Oxford, Oxford? Thanks Jana. Looking forward to seeing you, soon!

  6. Kally Elliott says:

    I have totally been that “good student.” I appreciate Loren’s words to you, “You are an equal now, an expert in your field.” I haven’t thought of myself as an expert in the least!

    I also appreciate your reflection on do we know about Oxford because of the people or do we know about the people because they went to Oxford. I hadn’t considered that either. Thanks for giving me more to think about!

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