|October 25, 2011|
Motivated students use presentations, programming to reinvigorate honors program at MSU Billings
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — They are not hard to miss. The honors students are the ones with the high GPAs, the backpacks full of books and an armload of academic challenges.
But this fall at Montana State University Billings, students involved in the University Honors Program are also taking on additional roles as promoters, popcorn salespeople and research presenters. It’s all a part of a plan by the Honors Club to elevate the awareness of the group and the opportunities for high-achieving students.
Patricia Hampton, a sophomore from Billings studying English Education (Secondary) and minoring in Spanish Education (K-12), is the current president of the Honors Club and spent much of the past summer planning for this fall’s activities. So far those activities have included hosting movie nights for fellow students (and selling popcorn to help raise money for the club), networking with other student leaders at special events and co-sponsoring a “Dance the Night Away” dance on Thursday, Nov. 17, featuring swing dance lessons.
And on top of all the fun, the Honors Club developed a night of presentations by students to highlight undergraduate academic research. Five students will make short presentations on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building’s Lewis and Clark Room. The event is free and open to everyone.
“We are really looking forward to the presentations,” Hampton said. “The topics range from Emily Harris’ presentation on creative writing, to science research by Steven Barton and Cory Lovec, to a study of democracy in education and student life. This is a great opportunity for honors students to share their research with the university and the public.”
Presenters of the program are:
The presentations in November will serve as early preparation for students who hope to present research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) next spring, Hampton said.
Energetic and driven, Hampton is using her role as Honors Club president to get her fellow students more engaged with their fellow students and university community in new ways. She’s taken on the duties of editing the club’s newsletter and created a Facebook presence this fall.
“We’ve been planning a lot of programs. It’s been fun,” she said.
The University Honors Program has been a part of the MSU Billings since 1997, but Hampton and other students in the club have been working to reinvigorate it so that other students are aware of its opportunities.
The program provides an enhanced and supportive learning environment responsive to the educational needs of exceptionally motivated undergraduate students. It is open to all undergraduates — regardless of their major — who are interested in opportunities for enriched learning, cultural explorations and fellowship. It fosters a small-college experience with enhanced access to professors while benefiting from MSU Billings’ size and diverse degree programs.
Harris, who will reflect on her arc as a student through poetry at the presentation, has already benefitted from the program. She presented at NCUR this past spring on the benefits of creative writing therapy for inmates at the Montana Women’s Prison. She said the work at the prison — aimed at helping reduce recidivism — showed how creative writing can be used as a positive way to vent feelings and frustrations.
Harris worked with seven women who all said the writing therapy helped position them for a brighter future outside of prison.
“They used it to effectively communicate to help put boundaries up in their life,” Harris said. “They could use it for those positive outlets that are important.”
Both Harris and Hampton said the Honors Program affords students an opportunity to explore academic possibilities. Students are encouraged to take initiative and run with ideas that allow them to grow.
Dr. David Craig, an adjunct professor of English and the new director of the MSU Billings Honors Program, said he is looking forward to working with students and the university community so the Honors Program recruits and retains more academically talented students for the university.
“The goal for our program, following the university’s motto, is to find a way for students to have access to academic excellence, to cultivate their own skills, and develop skills they don’t already have so that they can excel academically and compete at the highest levels,” Craig said.
Craig brings with him some experience from which to draw. He was the founding director of the Honors Program at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. and ran it from 1997 to 2010. He said he hopes to work with other faculty to develop more classes and opportunities with which to challenge highly motivated students. He eventually wants to build a capstone experience for senior honors students.
“At the end of five years, I hope to have seen a transformative effect on the whole campus community,” he said.
Much of the positive change, he said, will be due to students like Hampton and Harris who are taking leadership roles.
“I’m really catching the program on an upswing,” he said. “There is a lot of energy and initiative.”
PHOTOS ABOVE: Patricia Hampton, a sophomore from Billings, is the president of the MSU Billings Honors Club this year. Emily Harris, below, is a senior from Billings who has presented undergraduate research on a national level. She and Hampton will be a part of a University Honors Program presentation of student research on Nov. 3. Also pictured below is Dr. David Craig, new director of the University Honors Program.