Counselors play a key role in success of Honors Symposium

July 28, 2017 | Honors College |

Since Honors Symposium first began, high school students from more than 40 states and six foreign countries have converged over the years on campus for the program. Full of academic and spiritual rigor from some of the University’s top professors, the program has been a deciding factor in many students’ decision to attend Harding.

But it is not without the help of University student counselors that those enduring relationships and connections are made. These connections last well beyond the two weeks students are on campus for Symposium.

“For the students who attend Honors Symposium, this is really a pivotal point in their life at the time — going into your senior year of high school,” said sophomore Makayla Smith, Symposium counselor. “There are a lot of questions being thrown at the students, and being in a spot where I can directly influence high school students was appealing to me because I know just how encouraging older students were to me at that time.”

Symposium is conducted in four two-week sessions over the course of the summer and, in recent years, has added specialty programs like Honors Media and Culture, Honors Art and Design, and Honor Choir. No matter the program, the Honors College relies on University students to facilitate the success of the programs and to build strong, lasting relationships with students attending.

“As a student, you don’t realize how much the counselors do behind the scenes, and a lot of times, we’re facilitating them building relationships with each other,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into the job and taking our Symposium experience and asking how we can make that better.”

According to Smith, her decision to be a counselor was deeply influenced by the positive impact her Symposium counselors made on her life. She said she hopes this summer’s Symposium students leave with a similar love for the program and relationships made there.

“I think there is a lot of getting outside of your comfort zone at Honors Symposium,” Smith said. “For me and so many of these students, being able to breakdown and see how behaviors and values shape your worldview is really important. I hope they are talking about what they’ll do differently now that they’ve experienced this new perspective on things they’ve always known.”

For incoming freshman Jackson Duncan, Symposium was the deciding factor in his decision to join the Harding family as a student this fall, and his Symposium counselors played a large role in that. Duncan said the program, which he was unsure of attending at first, brought him his freshman year roommate and strong relationships with which to begin freshman year.

“I don’t have words to describe Symposium because words can’t do justice for what it did for my life,” Duncan said. “Without Symposium, I don’t think I would ever have considered attending Harding for more than a couple seconds. I [left] with dozens of best friends who will last for a lifetime.”

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