Lars Franke had the East Coast at his fingertips when he spent a week on American soil in the spring. But he did something very American, which is also very European. Instead of beating a path to Washington, D.C., New York City, or some other metropolis known for its tourist attractions, Franke went camping.
It is one of his passions back in Reading, England, where Franke is beginning his second year as director of Randolph College’s The World in Britain program at the University of Reading.
Before bedding down in his rented RV at a campground near Natural Bridge, Virginia, Franke spent time on Randolph’s campus in Lynchburg meeting with faculty, administrators, and students. He also delivered the College’s Quillian Lecture, “Study Abroad and the Shaping of Western Culture.”
With a year under his belt in Reading, Franke is excited about the Reading program and his plans for the current academic year. He is also looking forward to the Reading Reunion planned for July 15–17, 2011.
“It’s been everything I hoped it would be and more,” he said, adding that the chance to take the helm of the Reading program has given him “a real sense of feeling that I’ve finally found my spot rather than feeling like it’s a job.”
Franke previously served as a visiting tutor and an interdisciplinary instructor of music for Randolph students in Reading. In addition to his duties as director, Franke is also an assistant professor of music at Reading and leads experiential learning tours. He earned his Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Southampton and holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Surrey.
Franke is emphatic about carrying on the familial atmosphere displayed by his predecessor, Randolph Ivy, who retired in 2009 after 31 years of service.
“The students know they can come and talk to me about things that aren’t necessarily academic,” Franke said. “That’s just as much a part of the program. The students are there to learn academically, but also to experience the culture and to learn about other ways of living, and to develop as human beings.”
Randolph students spend either a semester or a year in England during the program. All students take the course The World in Britain, an interdisciplinary seminar that explores—in large part through day and weekend trips to a variety of locations—the politics, social issues, literature, art, and science of England spanning the Renaissance to the present.
Originally from Germany, Franke has gained a wealth of knowledge from traveling and living abroad.
“I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who feels that they are interested in opening up to other cultures,” Franke said. “For anyone who attempts it, it will be a life-changing experience.”