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Birds and Bruins: the Honors Scholars’ Collaborative 

Left to right: Honors students Nicholas Harbison, Lauren Brown, Morgan Hirshman, Mattie Luster and Carolyn Johnson. Tessa Pendleton/Belmont Vision.

Four years ago, Belmont Global Honors revamped its curriculum, and now the program boasts its first class of seniors under a new system. This week, students presented the results of their honors projects — the third and final portion of the Honors Scholars’ Collaborative. This program is the focus for upperclassmen honors students and includes courses in project planning, execution and reflection. Project topics ranged from a documentary on bird conservation to multi-purpose, philanthropic music scenes to park-based projects, including a scavenger hunt for kids and a walking tour. Senior Finn Goodwin-Bain reflects on his documentary project on Nashville bird conservation after presenting on Wednesday. “My original plan was to just make like a five-minute video,” Goodwin-Bain said. “But people within the Belmont faculty connected me with other people in Nashville who they knew are doing this same kind of thing. Suddenly, I had all these people who were willing to volunteer their time so we could do something much bigger and involve the community in a much more serious way.” Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, director of Belmont Global Honors, hopes the program will equip students with the skills they need to continue growing as responsible global citizens. “One of the things that we understand about the way the world works today is that people work with people outside their disciplines as well,” said Whitehouse. Honors students from varying disciplines are grouped together their junior year for the projects. From there, they consider problems in the community they want to resolve. After selecting a topic, they create a group presentation to share their solutions with the Belmont community. “The goal is to really learn to appreciate the process of proposing a question and sitting with that question,” Whitehouse said. The second course focuses on project execution. This year’s students collaborated with many local organizations, including the Nashville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, Hands On Nashville, The Branch, Nashville Sites and Fort Negley. Goodwin-Bain recalls the collaboration between both the Belmont community and broader Nashville. “It has shown me the value of leaning on other people to accomplish something that you can’t do yourself and not being afraid to reach out to people,” he said. The final course of the collaborative is the Honors Senior Symposium where students take time to reflect and report on their project. Final project reports will be published on Belmont’s library database for public access. While the bird conservation documentary is still in production, it is expected to be complete by February. Along with a showing for the NTOC, Goodwin-Bain has hopes to show the project at Belmont. As more students experience the program in its entirety, Dr. Whitehouse looks forward to developing and expanding the program further. “We’re sailing the boat,” she said. “We are listening to our students and we’re listening to our faculty, and we are learning from our partner organizations here in Nashville — but also across the world — about what they offer and how there might be some opportunities for us to connect things that we haven’t connected before.” This semester’s final junior project proposal will be held at the Leu Center for the Visual Arts on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome. This article was written by Tessa Pendleton

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