Professor Joshua Sabloff on Being a Churchill Scholar
I used the good fortune of being awarded a Churchill Scholarship during the 1996-97 academic year to study Part III of the Mathematics Tripos at Cambridge. Part III is purported to be the oldest continuously given set of mathematics exams in the world, and it was a wonderful opportunity to broaden my mathematical knowledge before specializing in my ‘real’ graduate program back in the U.S. As a year ‘on the side’ of the Ph.D. track, there was little pressure and many an occasion to explore completely unfamiliar subjects (some of which have come back to help my research and teaching in surprising ways). I also lucked into my future Ph.D. thesis area—though I did not know it at the time—in my final essay.
Of course, I did not spend the entire year with my nose buried in mathematics. British institutional meals forced me to learn to cook. I used the long inter-term breaks to travel across the British Isles and to the continent, weekends to experience the cultural delights of London, and afternoons to ramble about the countryside. The general intellectual environment at Churchill College was friendly, interdisciplinary, and active (as was the soccer team)—an environment I had not seen replicated until arriving at Haverford. Despite the ostensibly narrow focus of the academic program, then, it was a year that expanded my mathematical, intellectual, and cultural perspectives, solidifying my commitment to broad-based learning that eventually found a home at a liberal arts institution.