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Speaking at Honors Symposium Terrifies Writer

May 10, 2013 by admin

 By Mandi Shaw-Koehler

     On Friday April 19, the graduating class presented in the annual Spring Honors Symposium. A three-hour event, the symposium is held each year to showcase the accumulation of hard work and critical thinking of Brookdale honors students. 

     I was one of those graduating students presenting in this event, and quite frankly, I was terrified.

     Honors at Brookdale is a program geared toward high-achieving students. Often mistakenly confused as being one in the same with Phi Theta Kappa (the honor society on campus,) the honors program is coordinated by Dr. Laura Neitzel and consists of an entirely different curriculum than that followed by non-honors students.

     To be accepted into the honors program, you must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. A lengthy application, along with an essay, is submitted for review before consideration. Once accepted, there are two “honors paths” a student may take. You can take three classes (nine credits) of honors coursework and graduate with an honors certificate of recognition, or you can take six classes (18 credits), participate in the symposium and graduate with full honors.

     Each symposium presentation is based on an assignment that was completed in an honors class. Examples of what students give their speeches on can be a paper, a service learning experience, or studying abroad.   

   Once a topic is selected, the student signs a contract to be mentored by the faculty member in whose class the assignment was originally completed. After an entire semester of planning and practice, the student takes this assignment or experience and gives an eight to 10 minute speech in front of a crowd of peers, parents, and faculty.  

     The majority of incoming honors students are recruited into the program straight from high school. Therefore each year, new students have the same classes together and build a tight-knit sense of community. I jumped onto the honors wagon a bit late and didn’t start taking honors classes until my second semester at Brookdale. Because of this, I opted to take the nine honors credits and earn my certificate of recognition.

     However, I am the queen of biting off more than I can chew. On top of working two jobs and taking five classes during my final semester at Brookdale, I decided to participate in the symposium even though it wasn’t mandatory. After all, I made the choice to do so back in January when the course-load was light and stress was a non-factor.

     I wrote a paper for my honors psychology class about classrooms and motivation, and this paper became the topic of my speech. I wrote and rewrote my speech outline, met with my psychology professor multiple times, relentlessly worked on my powerpoint, and suddenly my symposium became the focal point of my entire Brookdale life. Assignments for every other class were pushed to the back burner. The reality of giving this speech in front of a room of 50 people sunk in, and I took the term “cold feet” to a whole new level – my feet were frostbitten.

     After months of stress and emotional meltdowns, the day to give my speech finally arrived. I had practiced to the point where I could deliver the speech in my sleep. Upon arriving at the event, I realized that I was the first presenter on the program. This was both utterly terrifying and relieving because once I went, I was free to relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

     Once I was in front of the podium, my public speaking skills kicked in, and suddenly I owned the room. The crowd reacted well to my powerpoint and anecdotes, and after the applause had ceased and I resumed my seat, the relief of my accomplishment flooded over me. Not only was I proud that I voluntarily participated in the honors symposium, but I was glad I had done so. Honors at Brookdale made my experience at this college fulfilling and rewarding, and if I had to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing. Hats off to the class of 2013!

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