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Impact Learning

TREX courses are using interesting topics to transition students to ONU.

Ohio Northern University provides ample opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning. As far as we know, only one of them involves someone getting knocked off a horse.

As a condition of enrolling in the Getty College of Arts & Sciences at ONU, incoming students are required to take a Transition Experience (TREX) course during their first semester. These courses are specifically designed to help students transition from their high school academic experiences and meet the expectations of college coursework.

“The most important difference between high school and college work is that students aren’t asked just to know information,” says Dr. Lisa Robeson, professor of English. “In college, students are asked to draw conclusions about the information on their own.”

Robeson’s TREX course, The Medieval Warrior: Past and Present, teaches students about the lives of medieval knights, the ethics and values they lived by, and how those things affected military strategy in the Middle Ages. For their final project, students write a paper comparing the historical knight to the modern soldier, taking into account society’s perception of military leaders, and examining the traits that have survived from the medieval outlook on warfare.

Freshman criminal justice major James Lee plans to interview a combat veteran associated with Ada’s chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for his final paper. A Navy veteran himself, the Frankfort, Ohio, native is curious to learn about the motivations of a soldier in battle.

“I’m interested in knowing what they were fighting for, what their personal values were,” he says. “Back in the middle ages, warriors often fought for goals of glory for their country or clan. Others fought for personal goals, such as plunder or for their own name to be heightened.”

To help students understand as much as possible about the lives of fighting men and the times in which they lived, Robeson splits the course into two sections. The first section deals with historical accounts of actual battles as well as the day-to-day life of a knight. The second half features fiction from the era, focusing on Viking oral histories and mythology. Combined, the sections provide an understanding of the knight as an individual along with the societal context in which he was regarded.

2012-13 TREX Courses

  • From Idiot to Citizen: Education for
    Democratic Citizenship
  • Imagining Paris: Past, Present, Future
  • Intro to Creativity for All Majors
  • Kings, Prophets, and Storytellers
  • Myth as Reality
  • The Mythbuster Experience
  • The Medieval Warrior: Past and Present
  • Nutrition, Nature and Nations: Food
    for Thought
  • Popular Culture Meets Communication
  • Science Fiction and Philosophy
  • Sleep on It
  • Sport and American Society
  • Sport and Modern Society

As the class was learning about the lives of knights, and specifically the concept of honor, they had a unique opportunity to actually witness “knights” compete for honor and glory through the ancient ritual of the joust at the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg, Ohio.

Jousting was a popular tournament spectacle during the Middle Ages that pitted two knights on horseback armed with lances against one another in simulated combat. In lieu of actual battle, jousting tournaments gave a knight an opportunity to attain glory and display his fighting skill and prowess.

Today, modern jousting is done as exhibitions by medieval re-enactors. It has become increasingly popular of late with renaissance festivals, medieval-themed restaurants and even a reality-television program bringing increased attention to the practice.

“We went to compare how they joust in modern times with the historical accounts of how medieval knights would joust,” says Lee. “There are a lot of similarities, actually. The point system is generally the same, with the exception of strikes to the helmet. Back in medieval times, a knight would get points for knocking off his opponent’s helmet. Today, they don’t even aim for the helmet for obvious safety reasons.”

Beyond the jousting, the Ohio Renaissance Festival allowed the students to experience a semblance of what life was like in the Middle Ages. Artisans created crafts from the era and the clothing, music and food were also representative of the period. While the festival itself strived for historical accuracy, some patrons had their own interpretations of the Middle Ages.

“There were a lot of enthusiastic people there. You’d see people wearing elf ears and wizard dresses,” says Aaron Tuck, a freshman professional writing major from Greenville, Ohio. “But the authentic parts of it were really cool.”

For Jordan Turner, of Casstown, Ohio, the trip to the Ohio Renaissance Festival was an enjoyable experience that wove authentic, historical reenactments of medieval life with the whimsy of childhood fantasies rich with heroes, villains and damsels in distress.

“When I was a kid, I had a group of friends that would go out into the woods with wooden swords and pretend we were knights,” says Turner. “It’s always been something fun to me —even with the bruises.”

The festival’s authentic shops gave Lee an opportunity to celebrate his Scotch-Irish heritage by purchasing a full outfit of matching kilt, hat, sporran, broach and fly, which he wore proudly that day. Just don’t expect to see him walk across the Tundra with it on.

“My girlfriend won’t let me wear it,” he says.


Visit the TREX page to learn more about ONU's Transition Experience courses.