Honors students James Auwn, Emma Clugsten, Alison Cody, Aidan Keaveney, and Annie Manges were accompanied by Dr. Heather Waldroup, associate director of the Honors College and professor of art history, on their trip to Birmingham, Alabama, from March 30 to April 2, 2022, to attend and present at the Southern Regional Honors Council (SRHC) Conference. The SRHC is a professional organization that supports honors programs and colleges at institutions of higher education throughout the Southeast. In addition to presenting their research, these students networked and exchanged ideas with other Honors students from various states in the region.
Because the event was held in the historic city of Birmingham, both the overall theme of the conference – “A Strength to Love, Explore, and Learn: Honors and Community” – and many of the activities related to the conference connected to the Civil Rights Movement. The students visited the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail; stayed in the historic Tutwiler Building (now a hotel); and heard some outstanding local live music.
As James Auwn, a double major in cell/molecular biology and psychology who presented his research in the poster sessions, noted,
“Being able to present in the historic city of Birmingham, Alabama was an opportunity that I am so grateful for having been able to participate in. From the powerful history of the Civil Rights Movement to the hopeful future of the young academics presenting, I was truly inspired and rejuvenated in mind and spirit."
Aidan Keaveney, a double major in mathematics and physics, presented his research on inequality in ‘gifted’ education. Keaveney has also just published this research, “Inequalities in Gifted Education Selection as a Source of Systemic Racism in the United States,” in the journal Y Ddraig Goch: An Interdisciplinary Honors Journal (Volume 1, No. 3, Fall 2021). Of his experience attending SHRC in Birmingham, he reflected, "The Civil Rights Movement, particularly the fight for integrated schools, is so deeply rooted in Birmingham. I found it especially powerful to reflect on that legacy and how it informs the work I presented on today's inequalities in gifted education."
Alison Cody, a psychology major, presented "What would He say? Reaching Jesus through technology," research resulting from their work with the research group the Digital Jesus Project led by Dr. Randy Reed, professor of religious studies. Of the larger experience of the conference, Cody reflected, “We were at the conference only two days, and yet I feel like I spent weeks there. Seeing so many fellow students' passionate research, touring museums, and experiencing my first in-person conference, I am reminded of why I went to college and chose the Honors path."
Emma Clugsten, a first-year Honors student who presented her research on music, explained,
“I am so grateful for the experience of being able to attend and speak at the annual Southern Regional Honors Council conference. I can’t wait to use what I have learned from the conference itself as well as feedback from the others in attendance to build my skills for conferences to come. It was truly a one of a kind trip and I am so thankful to the Honors College for the opportunity and to the people I met who made it the best!”
The 2023 SRHC Conference will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Honors College encourages all Honors students to be on the lookout early next year for the call for proposals for the 2023 conference and to plan to submit.
Top photo features Honors College students (left to right) Aidan Keaveney, Annie Manges, James Auwn, Emma Clugsten, and Alison Cody at the Southern Regional Honors Council Conference in front of the historic Tutwiler Building in Birmingham, AL.