Conversations build community. For the University Honors Program, engaging students in conversations about contemporary concerns has brought students together virtually and forged opportunities for their growth and learning.
While new students were prevented by the COVID-19 pandemic from coming to campus in person in summer 2020, Honors invited all first-year students to stream the film "Just Mercy" (made freely available by its studio last year). Students were then invited to gather on Zoom to discuss its themes. Turnout was high and students found themselves having virtual and engaging discussions with fellow students and Honors faculty before starting their actual careers at UNO.
One incoming first-year student, Abigail Williamson, notes: “I probably wouldn’t have watched that film if it weren’t for the Honors event. When I saw there was an opportunity to watch and discuss with other students (especially in a time when social interaction was low) I thought it was a good chance to get involved and gain some education. I was impressed that the Honors Program was willing to discuss something they could have easily ignored. I have to say, I’ve thought about that film and its contents since I saw it, and I’m glad I was able to experience it since it gave me a new perspective.”
Continuing the efforts this summer, Honors partnered with the Goodrich learning community and offered this fall’s incoming students a book. Students were invited to read the book over the summer and come together virtually to begin community conversations. Exploring challenging topics such as racism and ideologies, national concerns prominent over the last year, gives incoming students opportunities to experience university level discussions before starting their university classes.
June saw students gather to discuss the first section of the book, with Williamson and other current students joining in to lead the conversations this year. Students thus pay forward their experiences and continue conversations that build the community. July and August will invite students to return and see where the book takes them. The University Honors Program welcomes the campus community in these virtual conversations too; please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details of next month’s event.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.