As the only undergraduates at a prestigious two-week workshop on antisemitism studies at the University of Oxford, Concordia College students Ann Vanderlinde ’25, Jordan Jensen ’26, and Aneleise Martinson ’26 are already helping shape the future of an academic discipline.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared out of my mind the first week of the conference. We were the only undergrads there in a room of 50+ grad students, scholars, experts, teachers, politicians, etc., who all seemed to have a better grasp on the issue than we did,” said Jensen, a sophomore majoring in history, political science, and Spanish. “However, I was able to take Dr. Arnold’s advice of ‘just be a sponge!’ to heart. It was really fascinating to sit back and just listen.”
Dr. W. Vincent Arnold, chair and professor of history, earned an Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy Fellowship as a scholar in residence for its Oxford program in 2019. In February, the institute director asked Arnold to nominate an undergraduate for the 2023 conference and, instead, Arnold nominated three.
All three were accepted, with scholarships from the institute.
“I am thrilled for my students. I hope we can continue to send students to this institute on a yearly basis,” Arnold said, noting that engaged citizenship is the focus of Concordia’s first-year seminars.
“I gained — obviously — an expanded knowledge of antisemitism,” Jensen said. “But more than that, I learned that it is a unique form of hatred — with its own history and, now, contemporary manifestations that pervade our society in ways I had no idea about before.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents increased by 36% in 2022, with a total of 3,697 incidents reported across the U.S., lending new urgency to academic efforts to understand and fight against antisemitism.
“The workshop helped me understand the importance of academic discourse in an era of cancel culture,” said Vanderlinde, a junior from St. Bonifacius, Minn., majoring in social studies education with a history minor. “Throughout the program, I realized that challenging ideas and asking questions are vital for critical thinking.”
The trip also included attending a Shabbat dinner at the Oxford Chabad House, allowing students to learn more about Jewish culture firsthand, making the experience more immersive, Vanderlinde said.
“When Dr. Arnold first reached out about this experience, I was ecstatic,” said Jensen, of Moorhead. “I was excited at the prospect of taking my studies outside the classroom — and even out of the country!”
Martinson, of Sauk Rapids, Minn., is an elementary education major minoring in music and said the information she learned will last a lifetime.
“I was encouraged to engage in difficult and sensitive discussions and to question my own perspectives,” she said. “I was able to develop a more nuanced worldview because of that.”
While Martinson particularly appreciated England’s beauty, she also had a warning for prospective travelers.
“There was always something new and delightful to see every day, but if you’re ever in England, make sure to bring an umbrella for the unpredictable weather!” she cautioned. “One day you’re tanning in the park, and then the next day you’re caught in a rainstorm on your way to the coffee shop. Either way, it’s really pretty there, and it’s the perfect place for cool pictures.”