The University Honors Program is piloting a five-part series designed to cultivate meaningful conversations and connections between University of Nebraska–Lincoln students and local professionals.
Supported through a $4,000 grant from Lincoln’s Cooper Foundation, the Honors-Cooper Community Conversations series launches Feb. 6 with a discussion on the need for collaboration between individuals with varied political viewpoints. Participants in the first talk include Nebraska state senators.
“Our goal with this series is to foster a regular exchange of ideas between our honors students and local and state leaders,” said Patrice McMahon, director of the University Honors Program. “The discussions will be an open exchange of ideas and opinions focused on challenging issues related to community building and civic engagement.”
Each discussion will feature a maximum of 50 students participating. Attendance is by invitation only and will include primarily honors program participants. Students in related majors or career interest will receive invitations whenever possible. And, the conversations will take place over a meal — one each at breakfast and lunch, and three at dinner time.
“We believe these conversations will further (Honors Program) objectives, specifically helping students develop 21st century skills and mindsets that will help them prepare for an uncertain, globalized world,” McMahon said. “The Honors-Cooper Community Conversations will also allow our students to make meaningful connections with individuals making profound and lasting impacts across Nebraska.”
While focused on creating meaningful engagement directly with students, the Community Conversations series is an extension of the Cooper Foundation’s longtime support of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues. Established in 1988, the Thompson Forum works to bring a diversity of viewpoints on international and public policy issues to campus and the people of Nebraska.
The Community Conversation series is also part of an ongoing expansion and reshaping of the University Honors Program. That work started with moving the program into a renovated space within the university’s Knoll Residential Center. Other recent Honors Program focuses have included creating experientially-infused education tracks for upper-level students; community outreach through local after school clubs; expanding study abroad opportunities; and offering hands-on career learning through a new Honors Co-op.
Lecture dates and topics in the five-part Honors-Cooper Community Conversations series are:
Feb. 6 — “Real Talk with Nebraska Senators: Cooperating Across Differences”
Feb. 18 — “Ethical Dilemmas Past and Future,” featuring public servants discussing how they have collaborated to promote change
March 3 — “Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century,” a discussion with state senators, military leaders and community members regarding how effective leaders make ethical choices and the tradeoffs involved
March 12 — “No Place Like Nebraska: Combating Climate Change in the Cornhusker State,” featuring author and activist Mary Pipher and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and journalism professor Joseph Starita
March 31 — “Responsible Journalism in a Divided World: What is Lost if We Don’t Get it Right,” an open talk with Nebraska journalists and media experts delving into the meaning of responsible journalism and the vital role media plays in times of social upheaval.