JSU honors students present at annual conference



JSU ‘s presenters smile after the first day of presentations. From left: Sawyer McKay, Megan Wise, Alex McFry, Katie Cline, Margaret McCrina, Mrs. Janet Whitmore, Hannah Leonard and Dr. Lori Owens. (Katie Cline/The Chanticleer)

*Editor’s Note: Click the titles of presentations to watch them on YouTube!*

Daniel Mayes, Staff Writer

Six JSU students were selected to present at the annual Southern Honors Conference (SRHC) in Asheville, N.C. last weekend. The students, Hannah Leonard, Katie Cline, Margaret McCrina, Sawyer McKay, Alex McFry and Megan Wise, travelled to Asheville to deliver their presentations at the event, which took place on March 30 through April 1.

“The SRHC was such a wonderful experience!” said Leonard, a freshman secondary education math major, who presented “The Wife of Bath: Sandwiching Society.” “I went in not knowing what to expect or anyone around me, but met some of the kindest people along the way, was thoroughly impressed by the amazing talent my collegiate peers possess and discovered the beauty of Asheville.”

The event, which had over 700 attendees, was sponsored by University of North Carolina Asheville. SRHC received over 400 applicants for presentation positions, and the six JSU students were among only 250 that were selected to participate.

Dr. Lori Owens, the Honors Program director, and Mrs. Janet Whitmore, the Honors Program coordinator, also attended the conference as administrators.



In their free time, students were given the opportunity to see the city of Asheville. Here, JSU’s group stops for breakfast at a McDonald’s before touring the Biltmore Estate. (Janet Whitmore/Facebook)

Margaret McCrina, a junior whose presentation was titled “’Who are the Britons?’: Shakespeare and the Welsh”, was happy with the variety of topics the SHRC selected for presentation.

“I geeked out about two of my favourite things and wrote about Shakespeare and the Welsh because I’m a nerd,” McCrina said. “It’s great that they let people like me, with topics that probably aren’t going to appeal to a lot of people, come and have this great experience.”


Alex McFry and Megan Wise enjoy the Biltmore gardens before presenting. (Alex McFry)

The students developed their presentations for honors and honors-by-contract classes at JSU. Professors then nominated the students and their presentations were submitted to SRHC.

“I fell in love with Shakespeare because of Dr. DiBiase’s class, and then it was kind of natural for me to hone in on language and how it’s used within his plays,” said Katie Cline, a junior double major in English and digital journalism who presented “[S]wordplay: An Examination of the Power of Language in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear,’ ‘Macbeth,’ and ‘The Tempest’.” “It was fun to get to analyze the different uses of language when it’s put in the hands of so many unique characters.”

There were a wide variety of topics presented at the conference, from the expected to the quirky.

“I really enjoyed being in an academic environment where people were genuinely interested in the same things I was,” said Sawyer McKay, a junior English major whose presented “Search Your Feelings: Wordsworthian Spirituality in ‘Star Wars’.” “Instead of being met with a chorus of crickets, I got responses from people in the audience that were thoughtful and interesting.”

SRHC changes location and theme each year. This year, the theme was “Diving into Diversity.”


Alex McFry’s short film “Miss Fortune” was shown at the conference. The film has been used as part of McFry’s applications to graduate schools. (Alex McFry)

“This conference was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had while attending JSU,” said Alex McFry, a senior integrated studies major and filmmaker who presented his short film, “Miss Fortune.” The film follows a young LGBT man named Taylor as he comes to terms with finding himself after ending a bad relationship. “In light of HB2 [the “bathroom bill”], the Southern Regional Honors Council decided to host the conference in North Carolina this year. The theme, Diving into Diversity, was so fitting of the current political climate. Asheville was a breath-taking city full of people who embraced their diversity to the fullest extent. As an artist and filmmaker who grew up in the south, this was refreshing. This conference broke every stereotype of the “old-south” that I’m so used to hearing.”

Senior Megan Wise was the only student to have participated in the conference in 2016, when it was hosted in Orlando. This year, she presented “From Pitch to Production, an Inside Look at Entertainment Pre-Production and Workshopping.”

“I was so glad to have the opportunity to present at the SRHC again this year.” Wise said.” It’s such a unique collegiate event. It’s so inspiring for me as a filmmaker to get to talk to people about their roles as movie audiences and educate the masses on the tips and tricks of the industry. Asheville houses such a diverse set of people, and it was so refreshing to be surrounded by celebrated differences and passions.”


Margaret McCrina and Sawyer McKay celebrate finishing their presentations. (Katie Cline/The Chanticleer)




For more information on the Honors Program at JSU and how to become a member, visit their page on JSU’s website.







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