Jenny Wendell Adds to Family's Academic Reputation

Sept. 20, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif. - By Debbie Rosenfeld-Caparaz

Jenny Wendell was raised to believe that education is the gateway to one's dreams. It's not surprising, then, that her parents, Peter and Lynn, who met at Princeton, set high academic standards for their six children.

Chris and Brian, Jenny's older brothers, studied at Princeton and Harvard, respectively, and her sister, Carolyn, plays soccer at Dartmouth. Younger siblings Patrick and Emily are still in high school and have yet to make their higher education choices.

For six months earlier this year, Jenny, a junior midfielder on California's women's soccer team, proved her family's merit by studying abroad at Oxford, the world's oldest English-speaking university.

'I knew it would be a challenge,' said Wendell, an English major with a 3.9 GPA at the United States' top public university. 'Oxford is a world of its own. You feel like you're ensconced in the 13th century. Everything is tall brick, and high heels get stuck in the cobblestone.'

Wendell participated in the tutorial system, which has continued for more than 1,000 years, at Hertford College, one of Oxford's 39 colleges. Visiting students meet one-on-one with professors, known as tutors, while other tutorials feature small groups of students.

'You show up at the beginning of every tutorial, and you read your weekly six-page paper out loud, which is a tradition at Oxford,' Wendell said. 'Then you engage with your tutor for the remainder of the hour. It's enjoyable, but it's exhausting. When you walk away from an hour meeting with an expert in your field, your mind is spinning.'

From January through March, Wendell took African-American literature and modern European history. After a six-week break for travel through Italy, Greece and Spain, her focus from April through June was Shakespearean comedies and literary criticism and theory.

Wendell delved into Shakespeare under the guidance of David Tolley, which proved to be one of her favorite academic memories.

'This man lives Shakespeare,' Wendell said. 'He had so many students, sometimes he wouldn't remember what I had been assigned that week. If I said, `We're doing Much Ado About Nothing,' it would be as if he just studied it for hours because he knows it so well. He's a master in his field.'

When Wendell wasn't plowing through readings, crafting papers or seeing Shakespeare plays, she was involved in other campus activities. Despite having no prior rowing background, the San Francisco native joined Hertford College's novice eight on the chilly River Isis.

'Maybe rowing in the winter wasn't the best decision,' Wendell said. 'I refused to take off my gloves, which wasn't the `proper way.''

During Wendell's second term, she led her five-a-side soccer team to Hertford's indoor championship. She also was a member of Oxford's Law Society, attending events that sometimes featured speakers from Parliament.

Following a whirlwind European adventure, Wendell returned to the Bay Area knowing she represented her family and Cal with distinction.

'Being at Oxford gave me a lot of confidence,' Wendell said. 'It made me okay with who I am. I care about studying. Being in an environment that supported and challenged that part of me was exactly what I needed. It made me more appreciative of life at Cal.'

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