Honors Expo showcases student service-learning projects

students present a poster project

Speaking from the Jones Hall patio Tuesday afternoon, President J. Bradley Creed reminded honors students that service is vital to education at a faith-based institution. His listeners at the Honors 102 Service Learning Expo were living proof of this — the expo was the culmination of more than 1,400 hours of student community service over the past two semesters.

The Expo wrapped up a thematic sequence of two classes designed to widen students’ perspectives from the classroom to the community. This year, 56 students from a variety of majors took part in the year-long program.

The first course, Honors 101, was a discussion-based class centered around the book of Genesis. Guided by Ann Ortiz, students explored themes of new beginnings, stewardship of the earth and levels of emotional awareness.

President Creed speaking to students
President Creed speaks to honors students on the value of service learning.

“Connecting a broad-based Christian worldview to their work helps students understand the meaning and purpose behind giving to a community,” said Ortiz, “no matter what field they end up working in.”

Professors from the Physics and Christian Studies departments visited to teach theories of the beginning of the universe, but students also used journals and discussion boards to broach questions about the implications of the term imago dei — made in the image of God.

In the spring, students continued into Honors 102, a service-learning course that integrates the fall semester material with a group community outreach project. Co-instructors Ortiz and John Bartlett helped students choose projects based on the needs of the community.

Lyndsi Goodman devoted her year to researching and cleaning up Cape Fear River. Her team’s presentation included maps of each entry point they cleared of litter.

“We believe that stewardship is a form of worship, and that God called all of us to care for his creation,” said Goodman. “This project let us do that for the people who visit this river and the animals that live there.”

Goodman’s project was one of 13 team presentations. Each section of the honors class gathered for their own expo in an open house format, where visitors could freely converse with each team as they share their projects.

Since the beginning of the honors program, the Honors experiential learning courses have encouraged students to invest in their communities. But in fall of 2018, the school is revamping the honors curriculum for incoming freshman, and new service learning initiatives are in the works.

“It’s kind of the end of an era,” said Ortiz, who has worked with the honors program for 20 years. “But considering the legacy these classes have, seeing all the work students have done in the past is a great base for moving forward.”