Honors students meet in Indy: This pit crew takes care of brains

March 28 2008

“The Ultimate Pit Crew” is in Indianapolis this weekend but you won’t find its members at the race track.

Members of this crew don’t change tires or fuel race cars, but they just might do research -- in the name of community service.

The “crew” consists of nearly 200 college and university honors students and faculty from seven states. The name pays homage to the fact that the 30th annual meeting of the Mid-East Honors Association is taking place in a city known for racing.

The theme of the conference, “Getting Up to Speed for the 21st Century” reflects the changing role of university honors programs. That evolution is reflected in the variety of presentations scheduled throughout the two-day program at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel.

There are sessions one might expect on scientific research, such as stem cells, and on studies of well-known authors such as Oscar Wilde. But there are also presentations examining other roles honors students play on their campuses. Indiana State University students will report on ways to incorporate a recent spring break trip to Rome into research assignments when only half their class actually made the journey. Students from the University of Cincinnati will report on a project to provide fun-filled “family weekends” for seriously ill children and their families.

The keynote address by Darlene Hantzis, professor of communication and women’s studies at Indiana State, (at 6 p.m. Saturday) is titled “Who Am I This Time' Playing the 21st Century, the World’s Largest MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game).”

Before settling down for two days of presentations on Saturday and Sunday, students will take in a concert by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday at Hilbert Circle Theatre.

Such cultural events are among the reasons Indianapolis was chosen for the 30th annual conference, according to Greg Bierly, associate professor of geography at Indiana State University and director of the Honors Program at Indiana State.

“Indianapolis is a fine city with many cultural attractions,” Bierly said. “We wanted to take the students to a symphony and we wanted the conference set in a nice downtown area.”

As co-executive secretary and treasurer of the Mid-East Association, Bierly and Linda Maule, associate professor of political science at Indiana State, planned this year’s conference.

Presentations are divided into three main areas, Bierly said: student research, student organizations, and -- for faculty -- assessment of honors programs.

“As assessment continues to grow in higher education, honors programs are going to have to come to grips with that,” he said.

For students, the annual honors conference, provides opportunities to present professionally in “a fairly friendly environment,” Bierly said. “For our students personally, it gives them confidence as they compare their work and activities to those of other universities.”

A complete schedule for the conference is available online at www.mideasthonors.org .

Photo:Honors students in Rome During this year's spring break, a group of Indiana State Univesity honors students, accompanied by Latin instructor Marilyn Bisch, experienced the history and culture of Italy, including the Roman Colosseum.

Contact: Greg Bierly, associate professor of geography and director, University Honors Program, Indiana State University, and co-secretary and treasurer, Mideast Student Honors Association, gbierly@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Nearly 200 college and university honors students and faculty from seven states will gather in Indianapolis for the 30th annual meeting of the Mid-East Honors Association, planned by two Indiana State faculty members.

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