Thirteen UGA Honors students are learning how to become engaged community members through participation in Honors Civic Leaders, a new extracurricular activity for students enrolled in the Honors Program.
“The creation of Honors Civic Leaders is a way to put into action the commitment to helping students fulfill their civic responsibilities that is a key part of our program’s mission statement,” says David Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program. “This initial group of students were selected through a nomination process, and I could not be more pleased by their quality and dedication, on an individual basis and collectively.”
One group activity involves the students moderating public forums on various community and national topics using the National Issues Forums format where three perspectives are introduced and deliberated. The NIF concept has been used as a teaching tool for the past five years in the Honors Program.
“When people are engaged in general, the system seems to operate better. These forums give everyone involved a chance not only to express their thoughts and opinions in a safe and welcoming environment, but also the opportunity to learn from everyone else who attends,” says Will Draxler, an Honors Civic Leader and a senior international affairs major.
Current and retired UGA faculty from a variety of disciplines periodically meet with the Honor Civic Leaders to share their experiences about the inner workings of civic engagement.
“We are exposed to some really brilliant minds who talk with us about how to improve our writing or the ways in which we think about things,” says Kathleen McNicholas, a senior in international business. “Discussions like these about new topics is what makes all of us better citizens.”
All the students have some experience with facilitating forums and researching timely issues through different Honors Programs.
Next month, the Honors Civic Leaders will present a poster at a conference hosted by the Oxford College of Emory University to demonstrate the merits of developing a deliberative culture to help today’s students effectively become tomorrow’s leaders.