By: Adrian Modzik, Honors College Senior
Before traveling to Denver, CO, the furthest I had ever traveled was Dallas, TX for a soccer tournament when I was 12. I was excited for the adventure of tackling a new city I have never been in. It turns out, my adventurous mindset was very fitting given the theme of this year’s National Collegiate Honors Council Conference.
During the conference, there was a break in sessions, and we were asked to attend a speech by plenary speaker Erik Weihenmayer. Erik lost his sight very early in life. He aspired to do great things, and he did not let a little thing like sight stop him. Erik is the only blind person to reach the summit of the tallest peak on each continent, including Mt. Everest. Recently, Erik decided to take on a new adventure and succeeded in kayaking the entire length of the Grand Canyon.
Erik’s remarks were both witty and inspiring. His take home message was two fold; first, go beyond what you think you are capable of (because you never truly know what exactly you are capable of until you push that boundary), and second, you cannot accomplish your goals without a good team behind you. Throughout the conference, I came to the realization that I had never heard truer words.
As I sat in each session and listened to all of the wonderful ideas and programs that other Honors programs across the country have instituted, I was so inspired by these amazing people. Each school had unique approaches to a variety of common challenges faced in every Honors program. However, I also realized how truly special our program is. We are, by far, the best program in the country. We offer our students more, we have more resources for them, and we have the best team of faculty and staff. I felt so thankful, again, that I had chosen East Carolina for my education because of the Honors College. All of the students in attendance were proud to represent their program, but tha was nothing compared to the pride I felt for our program.
This being said, when it came to giving our presentation, I could not have been more nervous. Shayna Mooney and I had been selected among a competitive pool to give a presentation on Honors Student Engagement and Leadership: Honors Ambassadors. (Honors Ambassadors is a voluntary, student-led organization which strives to improve the Honors College through marketing, recruitment, philanthropy, and student programs.) I have very little experience speaking in front of people, and my co-presenter Shayna has always excelled at speaking in public, so I felt that I had a lot to live up to. How could I possibly accurately do justice to our program? And that was when Erik’s words came to me. If he can accomplish all these things that should not be possible for him, why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I be the confident advocate that our Honors College deserved? I resolved to conquer this peak, and to give the best presentation I possibly could. Thus, when I walked into the conference room to present, it was with a confidence in myself and our program that I didn’t know I had. The presentation was a huge success, and it was one of the best moments in my life when we finished. Mr. Baxter did not have a single complaint–in fact, he praised our stellar performance. In that moment, I felt like I was on top of Everest.
Throughout the rest of the conference, Erik’s second point also hit home with me. Without the amazing team of Honors College faculty and staff, my experience would not have been the same, and would not have even been possible. As I have grown up in the Honors College since my freshman year, the faculty and staff have become like my second family. Having their support in this adventure meant more to me than I can say, and I am so proud to have been (hopefully) a good representation of the kind of student and person that the Honors College at ECU produces.