The benefits of participating in the University Honors Program include an interdisciplinary emphasis, strong community, and focus on personal, professional and intellectual development (see this link: https://tx.ag/HonorsBenefits).
Other benefits are more concrete, such as our partnership with other programs on campus that provide special access to campus conferences that assist our students in their personal, professional, and intellectual development. In the post below, two students share their reflection on participating in the 32nd Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference, which was supported by the University Honors Program.
by Essynce Lewis ‘22, international studies major from El Paso, TX
The greatest experiences are ones that either connect you to a community that is inclusive for you or provide a perspective of a community unfamiliar to you.
The Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC) is dedicated to the unification of students from all backgrounds, most prominently the black community, but it provides an alternative view of the pathway and obstacles to leadership development. This year’s method of unity was encompassed in their theme of “Igniting the Dream: I the Flame, We the Fire”.
There is beauty in the struggle, and perhaps the most impactful part of this conference was our willingness to bring each other up despite our setbacks. The workshops provided a platform for us to share our experiences and learn how to narrow our focus to achieve our goals, individually and as a community. My favorite workshop was “2020 Vision”, which forced us to remove ourselves from societal constructs and recognize, question, and challenge disparities between truth and persuasion. In order to develop as leaders, we must reflect on the way we think and approach our goals with enhanced motivation and intention; this is the main takeaway that this conference emphasized. A large part of that is establishing our position in the world and acknowledging our history.
The opening keynote speaker Frank Leon Roberts cultivated the flame within each of us as he reminded us of our duty to our community and the range of opportunities for us to excel, while including a special emphasis on those who fought and lost their lives in order for us to be in the position we are in today. Hearing about the advancement of colored people through the years is a reason in itself to attend a conference like the SBSLC, because one’s story is always intertwined with the stories of others. It is only a different perspective that you gain. So if you decide to go, or even if you’re considering it, Go! Go with an open mind, and even if you’re well-versed on the topics, listen and try to learn something new, because I promise you will.
At its core, this conference provided a great networking opportunity and a chance to hear the perspectives of students across the nation. After attending an eye-opening conference like this, you realize we are not that different than we would expect.
by Deborah Obi ’20, university studies – society, ethics & law major from Dallas, TX
This year’s SBSLC – Igniting the Dream: I the Flame, We the Fire taught me ways to be impactful in my work environment. It made me focus on prospering as a black body in white spaces. Connecting and engaging in dialogue with several African Americans from Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly white institutions (PWI) enabled me to gain lasting memories about the conference.
This experience connects with my future plans of getting involved in criminal law and real-world associates that I will be interacting within the workforce. I learned to create my own opportunities when all doors are closed, negotiate my salary with my employer, and have the mindset that “my job does not define me”.
For students interested in participating in the future, I would recommend openness to several speakers that are not on your interest radar because it will enable you to learn something you never knew before. I also learned to “Tel;l my story” because it attracts connections and relativity.