Last week I had the chance to get away from Eastern for two nights. I was one of more than 300 presenters from eleven states at the Southern Regional Honors Council (SRHC) conference.

To attend the conference I had to moderate one of the sessions in addition to present my own research. Some friends of mine presented during the same session, but I didn’t even know the other person who was presenting in my section. I was nervous before my presentation because I had never given a presentation at a venue like SRHC.

Anxiety wasn’t the only emotion I felt during this conference, though. When I look back at the conference experience, I realize  this campus has a lot to offer when it comes to being the best and how we are continuing to strive to be the greatest.

First, our campus is home to a great honors program where many of our students present at regional and national conferences every year. When you go to a SRHC conference you are technically only required to be at your sessions, either moderating or presenting, but I went to an additional poster session and another session given by one of my friends. One of my professors, Bruce MacLaren mentioned in a lecture that if you ask questions, you remember more of the event.

Second, this university is home to the Chautauqua lecture series where speakers are brought in to address the community on a series theme. These speakers vary with many nationally known people, but also faculty from the university. At SRHC I had the honor of speaking about Eastern’s Chautauqua series and the history of the series and the involvement of honors students.

Luter, director of the honors program at the University of Tampa, mentioned similar issues related to funding and reserving space for their Honors Symposia series. I feel thankful knowing we have large venues at our campus. Luter said the largest room that they could reserve at the University of Tampa was 225 seats.  The series started with only $20,000 and was located in one of the Moore Building lecture halls; now, the series continues in O’Donnell Hall and can hold 400 people, or certain lectures for Eastern’s series is held in the EKU Center for the Arts, which can hold approximately 2,100 people.

We tend to look at our Chautauqua series with an attitude of, “Oh, it’s just a Chautauqua lecture.” Others institutions react stunningly to our recorded attendance of 2,000 people to presenters like Temple Grandin and Richard Dawkins.

If I had to give any advice it would be to get connected at any conference or presentation event. It can be as large as SRHC or even as small as the Eastern’s Undergraduate Presentation Showcase. This allows us the experience how different things are at other universities and their programs, which will give you the opportunity to reflect on your experiences at Eastern.

The SRHC conference keynote speaker was Harry Pickens, who is a jazz pianist. He challenged us about striving to be the greatest that we can be and living with an attitude that we need to be successful, and that can be applied currently to Eastern.

We are looking forward to welcoming our new president, Michael Benson. As he takes on the role of president, our budget is being reallocated, and we are demanding more of students when it comes to monetary support. The university and the people here still need to be striving to be the greatest in everything that we do here at Eastern.

We need to make our university excel and not just a second option for people who didn’t get accepted to a flagship university. This is our moment, and I believe that the future is here, and greatness is in our near-future.