Honors College celebrates 20th anniversary with convocation speaker

Posted on Sep 12 2017 - 8:00am by Jordan Holman

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, and a dedication at its annual convocation tonight will celebrate that milestone. This year’s keynote speaker is Fred Smith, the founder and CEO of FedEx. 

The convocation will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Gertrude C. Ford Center. Smith will join a history of convocation speakers including New York Times columnist David Brooks and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Debra Young, associate dean of the Honors College since 2000, said she finds the celebration of 20 years fitting among the school’s recent growth.

“The Honors College’s achievements are breathtaking,” she said. “The amount the Honors College has accomplished – the students it’s kept in Mississippi and the ones it’s taken a chance on – have been so worth it.”

The goal of the convocation is to celebrate 20 years of citizen scholarship by members of the Honors College across generations and to look forward to the future of the college. 

Founded in 1997 through the donations made by Jim and Sally Barksdale, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College has remained dedicated to its creed to “prepare citizen scholars who are fired by the life of the mind, committed to the public good and driven to find solutions.”

Carly Vowell, a junior international studies and German major, said the Honors College has been an important part of her college career. 

“The Honors College has given me incredible opportunities,” she said. “Freshman year, I participated in the Freshman Ventures program, where I had the opportunity to travel to Boston for research.”  

Freshman Ventures is an experiential learning program that allows freshman members of the Honors College to travel on a stipend. It is one of several scholarships the Honors College offers to students annually and one of many more opportunities – not all of which are purely academic.  

Mason Gardener, a freshman biochemistry major, said the Honors College has helped him grow academically and socially. 

“The Honors College has provided me with a great place to study and the opportunity to meet people who share the same interests as me,” he said.

Students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Honors College believe the institution is making a difference in their lives and remains a credit to the University of Mississippi.  

Young said the Honors College has helped the university progress forward, even in hard times.

The conversations on campus have always been – and should be – intense and painful. But I think the Honors College students have attributed a lot to the conversation,” Young said.  

Vowell said the Honors College has served as a way for her to improve academically. 

“The Honors College has pushed people to work harder, to not settle for complacency or mediocrity,” Vowell said.