On March 22, Union sent two Honors students, junior communication major and Union Scholars Vice President, Natasha McWilliams-Nasser, and myself (Union Scholars President), along with Honors director, Dr. Malcolm Russell, to the Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference in Lamoni, Iowa hosted by Graceland University. This year’s conference was themed, Future Stories.
Upon arrival on Thursday evening, all present honors students from 18 different colleges and universities gathered for a buffet meal, followed by a time of socializing where students had the opportunity to network and make friends over card and board games and an open mic night. McWilliams-Nasser explains, “I got to network and meet some really nice people from all over. I met a girl, her name is Dani, and she is a pre-med major, very friendly. She’s actually half Lebanese just like I am and we just clicked and became friends quickly.”
The following morning was filled with six speaking sessions with 45 different lectures to select from, each lasting 25-50 minutes. I had the privilege of being selected as a presenter, speaking on how pornography enables rape culture. Other topics at the event included racial ambiguity, the future of transplant technology, studying abroad, recreational therapy, end of life care and many others. The later afternoon also had 24 poster presentations on a variety of topics, including the arts and humanities, health and biological sciences, math and engineering, natural and environmental sciences and social sciences and education. McWilliams-Nasser stated, “I thought it was all very good. We also got to attend quite a few of meetings and learn about a variety of different things. There was one speech about how certain fields, specifically STEM fields, are male-dominant and we were able to talk in groups about how we can try to change that to be more equal. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to hear a variety of opinions. Typically, when you go to a Christian/Adventist college, a lot of people come from a similar background, but here you were able to discuss and hear about a lot of hot topics from people who come from many different backgrounds.”
Although a three-day event, Union concluded their time at the event on Friday evening with a banquet meal provided by the conference and a speech from keynote speaker Stephen Donahoe, major-donor fundraiser of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The topic was, “The Future of Peace and Justice Advocacy: Your Voice Is Essential,” during which Donahoe challenged students to get involved, vote, and take care of their mental health and each other.
After friendly goodbyes and a few last pictures, Union began their journey home, taking with them many ideas for the Union College Honors program and ways to further extend the Union Scholars experience.
Dr. Russell concluded, “I think students enjoyed it and it gave me a lot of ideas that we could consider for Union. I hope people will come next year. Honors conferences are a great time for students to come present themselves. One of the nice things for this conference was to hear Kayla give a very good presentation.”
In future years, Russell hopes to bring more Honors students to the conference as both presenters and attendants. He encourages students, “It is a great experience for you, it strengthens your speaking skills, it strengthens your professional development, and it is an all-around good experience.”
Kayla Miller is a junior studying nursing.