Honors Student Council: Building Community

Honors Student Council (HSC) is charged with hosting events that unite the community of honors students at Texas A&M University. HSC also advocates for honors students’ concerns to the Honors and Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee (HURAC), the committee that shapes honors education at Texas A&M. Each semester, Honors Student Council hosts dozens of events for honors students, including socials, academic events, and special-topic panels. Recently, HSC has also found service opportunities to unite honors students. In the post below, junior Spanish and psychology double-major, and 2015-16 Honors Student Council President Joshua Fuller details the work that HSC has done over the past year.

By: Joshua Fuller ’17

In the past year, Honors Student Council has hosted dozens of events for the honors population at A&M, uniting the community through shared experiences. While the events traditionally focus in 3 key areas — socials, academic events, and special-topic panels — HSC has recently added service as another way to unite honors students. Below is a list of some example events we have put on over the past year:

Socials: HSC sees socials as a relaxed way to bring honors students together to participate in a relaxing and fun experience. HSC has hosted a “cool down” for finals event before finals May and a “warm up” for finals event in December. At the “cool down,” students watched a demonstration from the physics department where a student mad ice cream using liquid nitrogen, and then they ate the ice cream he created (as well as some pre-Blue-Bell famine ice cream). At the “warm up,” students made s’mores and drank hot cocoa while warming up around the fire in Tweener — the area between the Lechner and McFadden honors dorms. HSC also hosted 2 tailgates during football season that united honors students and their families over good old fashioned barbeque and sweet tea. Due to us being in an election year, HSC has additionally hosted “Presidential Bingo,” a fun night where we watched the debate and played bingo based off of what candidates said. In the coming semester, we hope to host a “Drunk Goggles MarioKart” event that warns about the dangers of drunk driving in a fun setting, more presidential bingo, and a bowling social at the Grand Station arcade.

Honors Student Council would not let a few clouds nor rain dampen their Aggie Spirit before the Auburn football game outside of Kyle Field in Spence Park during one of the HSC Tailgates. (November 7th, 2015)
Honors Student Council would not let a few clouds nor rain dampen their Aggie Spirit before the Auburn football game outside of Kyle Field in Spence Park during one of the HSC Tailgates. (November 7th, 2015)

Academics: HSC prides itself on uniting honors students through interdisciplinary learning opportunities. One of the most common HSC events is our “Donuts and Discussion” series. At a “Donuts and Discussion,” a distinguished undergraduate researcher, such as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, comes and talks to students about their research while students enjoy Shipley’s donuts and juice. Topics have ranged from research about enhancing radiology techniques, to the removal of an invasive species of fish in Belize, to archeological digs in the Middle East. Speakers also tell students how to get involved with research at A&M. We will have more “Donuts and Discussions” in the spring. Additionally, we plan on hosting a practice poster session for the individuals who plan to present at Student Research Week in late March, as well as anyone interested in learning about research.

Honors Students attend a watch party for the GOP Presidential Debate held in the lobby of Henderson Hall (September 16th, 2015)
Honors Students attend a watch party for the GOP Presidential Debate held in the lobby of Henderson Hall (September 16, 2015)

Special Topics Panels: In the fall of 2014, HSC hosted a panel entitled “Women in STEM: Overcoming Sexual Discrimination Barriers to Excel in Traditionally Male-Dominated Fields.” At the panel, 6 distinguished STEM professors spoke about their experiences being a woman in STEM, a traditionally male-dominated field, and how overcoming sexual barriers was (and is) difficult for them. The faculty inspired the audience by their resilience and reminded us that we all need to do our part to end sexual discrimination.

Dr. Datta (far left) addresses a question to the Women in STEM Panel, (left to right) Dr. Welch, Dr. Geller, Dr. Amato, and Dr. Pietrantonio.
Dr. Datta (far left) addresses a question to the Women in STEM Panel, (left to right) Dr. Welch, Dr. Geller, Dr. Amato, and Dr. Pietrantonio.
Students listen to Dr. Nancy Amato, Panelist: Dr. Deborah Bell-Pedersen, Dr. Suma Datta, Dr. Sue Geller, Dr. Patricia Pietrantonio, and Dr. Jennifer Welch take part in the Women in Stem panel. (October 29, 2014)
Students listen to Dr. Nancy Amato, Dr. Deborah Bell-Pedersen, Dr. Suma Datta, Dr. Sue Geller, Dr. Patricia Pietrantonio, and Dr. Jennifer Welch take part in the Women in Stem panel. (October 29, 2014)

Following in the footsteps of “Women in STEM,” HSC hosted another panel event in the fall of 2015 about the culture of mental health among honors students. Entitled “”Breaking the Silence: Mental Health Stigma in the Honors Community,” the panel was moderated by Dr. Maggie Gartner, the director of the Texas A&M Student Counseling Services, and featured 5 honors students and an one former honors student who live with mental health issues like anxiety disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The panel’s diverse background of experiences and accomplishments, ranging from receiving prestigious national fellowships to participating in specialized internships, demonstrated that you can be successful while battling a mental illness or mental distress. This challenged the misconception that mental health struggles and success are dichotomous. The panel ignited an important discussion about how we treat mental health in the honors community, as well as provided important resources like the counseling center to students. HSC will likely host another large panel in the spring, potentially initiating a series relating to mental and physical health.

2)Honor Student Council provided a student panel to discuss and bring awareness to Mental Health issues on college campuses, looking primarily at high achieving-high ability student mental health on the Texas A&M University campus. (October 30th, 2015)
Honors Student Council provided a student panel to discuss and bring awareness to Mental Health issues on college campuses, looking primarily at high achieving-high ability student mental health on the Texas A&M University campus. (October 30, 2015)

Service: Beginning in the fall of 2015, HSC has started to arrange service opportunities for honors students in the Bryan/College Station community. VP of Activities, Alyssa Salisbury, has been working with local schools to arrange tutoring opportunities for honors students that will hopefully begin this spring. VP of Academics and Special Events, Mita Coker, arranged several opportunities to volunteer with the Bryan animal shelter. We will be continuing our work with the animal shelter in the spring, including hopefully having a puppy-petting station on campus and an adoption center during parents weekend in April.

In addition to the events listed above, HSC is also responsible for advocating for honors students concerns to HURAC. Thanks to your feedback, within the past year there was a change from an honors “credits” system to an honors “points” system. Essentially, this gives more flexibility in reaching the required 30 “hours/credits” needed to get the University Honors distinction. This flexibility allows for some points to be earned from honors extracurricular activities, such as being an executive in Honors Student Council, as well as points from high-impact experiences, like study abroad and internships.

If you have any questions, ideas for events, or want to learn more about Honors Student Council, you may email us at tamuhonorsstudentcouncil@gmail.com.

Honors Student Council is able to provide enriching events and serve as advocates for Honors Students’ interests because of the generous support from the Association of Former Students. We are very grateful for their ongoing support!

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