Honors Program Blog

Welcome to the YHC Honors Program blog! This blog serves as a forum for the YHC Honors Program community to share their experiences both inside and outside the classroom.


Summer Research through the National Science Foundation

Sept. 2016
Cody Mashburn

Members of the Honors Program, Tim Mohlin Torringer, Ramin Varnhorn, and Erik Hallin, received an Honors Experience Grant to help fund their delegation's trip to Boston, MA to participate in the Harvard National Model United Nations conference.

I’ve not doubted what I want to do with my life, namely research in academia, since getting to college. Certainly that interest has grown, developed, and been challenged in my time at YHC, but it’s always been fairly stable. However, I had my doubts this summer.

I spent the summer working in Western Kentucky University’s Cognition Lab under the direction of Dr. Sharon Mutter as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Admission into the program was competitive, and upon acceptance I was quite literally shaking with excitement. This opportunity would be a HUGE plus on graduate school applications and, more importantly, would give me the opportunity to learn things about science, research, and myself that YHC can’t at this time. Boy, did it ever.

The program lasted 10 weeks, during which I did research on the effects of causal learning on selective attention. I also attended numerous workshops and faculty research presentations designed to improve my research skills, and to give me an idea about what a future in academia might look like. Some things did not bother me, while others, like learning about the difficulties many graduate students have maintaining romantic relationships in graduate school, had me a little shaken, but still fairly resolute. The killer was the pressure.

Upon arriving, the other REU students and I had a day of orientation and then were shoved out of the nest, so to speak. It very much felt like a “Hi, here’s your house, here’s your lab, oh, and by the way, you have a literature review due in under a week. Have fun!” Basically, they treated me like a graduate student. For the first time in college, I was doubting my competency, and on multiple occasions felt so frustrated I wanted to quit and come home. I started to wonder what else I could do with my future. But then, something happened: I adjusted. As the summer progressed, I got better at doing things that were asked of me, I began understanding the research literature much more, I got more skilled in experimental and data analysis software, and my confidence improve greatly.

Coming out on the other side of the summer, I can reflect on it as one of the most positive experiences of my life. It challenged me more than I have ever been challenged before, and, having done so, I feel that it has prepared me for graduate school in ways I could have never anticipated. I am better able to deal with difficulties in graduate school because now I know that I am capable of doing so.

Bio: Cody Mashburn is a senior psychology major with a minor in philosophy from Ellijay, GA. He is a third year member of the Honors Program, a third year writing tutor, a fourth year member of the Scholar’s Consortium, and a member of the inaugural Leadership Living Learning Community. He really likes lizards. 

October 2015

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 28, 2015
Re-visioning Justice at YHC
by Samantha Jones

YHC sophomore, Samantha Jones, is working towards a Biology major and religious studies minor with professional goals involving veterinary medicine. She is a member of the Honors Program Student Advisory Council and serves as the peer mentor for an Honors section of First Year Foundations.

In the spring of 2015, three other students and I accompanied Dr. Bowman and Dr. Sass to a weekend conference entitled Re-Visioning Justice in America. I decided to attend after hearing about it from Dr. Bowman and my roommate. Speakers’ topics ranged from the Black Lives Matter movement, to the horrendous prison systems in America, to the seriousness of the cradle-to-prison pipeline. After returning home from this amazing and life-changing conference, the group of us thought it would be a great idea to try and share what we learned over that weekend. Patrick Silcox, Natalee Diehl, Lucy Avina, and I, with tremendous help from the wonderful Dr. Bethann Bowman, created the Re-Visioning Justice program in which we put on series of events that will hopefully lead to more people being informed on the current racial situations in America. As college students, it is very important for us to be well-informed on social activism, because, as young and driven individuals, college students have the ability to make serious changes. So far, two events have been completed: the first event acted as an introduction, informing attendees on what we learned at the conference and educating them on some of the serious troubles in America right now, while the second event featured a showing of the MTV documentary, White People, which highlights ideas such as white privilege and affirmative action. The main focus of these events is to bring movement to YHC, which is a small, liberal arts college located in a small town that isn’t very racially diverse. As students at YHC, we hope to tell as many people as possible about what is going on and how they can be involved in a proactive way.

-Samantha Jones

Designed to foster open communication about difficult racial and social justice issues, the next Re-Visioning Justice event is Thursday, Nov. 19 from 6-7. It will be a round table event discussing an article by Ta- Nehisi Coates.  To receive the reading via email contact Dr. Bethann Bowman at brbowman@yhc.edu.  Also, any students who are interested in participating in the program next semester should contact Dr. Bowman.

Photo (L-R): Lucy Avina, Natalee Diehl, Samantha Jones, Patrick Silcox attended the national Re-Visioning Justice in America conference at Vanderbilt University.



WEDNESDAY, OCT. 22, 2015

Georgia Woman of the Year
by Irenee Payne

On October 21, 2015 in Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, Georgia, Barbara Brown Taylor was awarded the Georgia Woman of the Year. For those of you who do not know, the Georgia Woman of the Year Committee was created in 1996 with the purpose of recognizing outstanding women in areas of religion, business, government, law, the arts, health, industry, and the media. Furthermore, the committee awards students with scholarships each year, giving over sixty extraordinary and dedicated students recognition. For the 2015 calendar year, Reverend Taylor was nominated, and I must say, a more exceptional nominee could not have been chosen.

Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor is currently the Butman Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Piedmont College, she is an ordained Episcopal Priest, and she has published thirteen best-selling books. Reverend Taylor has traveled around the world, speaking at various institutions of various faiths. Her endless list of accomplishments is remarkable in and of itself, but what truly left an impression on Jacky, Caroline, Cierra, and I was her humble personality that drew everyone in the room to her.

Prior to the presentation of the award, three people stood before the crowd and shared their experiences with Reverend Taylor. Although all of the stories were filled with humor, passion, and grace, one of the best portrayals of Reverend Brown was made by Reverend Martha Sterne, who stated, "Humility is power. She doesn't remember it- she lives it." This is the epitome of Barbara Brown Taylor. Upon receiving her award, she reflected the spotlight onto everyone around her, not once applauding herself. She is not only humble; she is dutiful to two extraordinary causes- the pursuit of equality across genders and the pursuit of spiritual growth and understanding in every individual.

After the award was given, Jacky Solis, Monica Ramirez, Cierra Alston, and I spoke with her. Although this night was in her honor, she was interested in our lives and who we were, asking questions, seeking to understand who we were. After speaking with us for a moment, rather than boasting of how hard she has worked in her pursuit of equality across genders, she turned the attention to us, remarking how incredible it was that we all attended and that we were interested in eh cause, that we were the next generation in this pursuit, encouraging us in our endeavors.

After meeting Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor, I am in awe of her heart, her intelligence, her drive, and I am beyond blessed to call her my role model. I am also thankful for Cathy Cox, who extended the invitation to attend the Georgia Woman of the Year ceremony to these three beautiful ladies and myself. I am thankful for Angi Smith's incredible navigation skills and outgoing personality- she definitely helped us in making connections and communicating to others at the ceremony. I am thankful for this experience because it was a humbling reminder that we are all called to a greater purpose, and we all have a voice that is capable of making a difference.


WEDNESDAY, OCT. 21, 2015

Finding balance as a student-athlete
by Makayla Underwood

School. [Insert sport here]. Sleep. Repeat daily. All student-athletes know the drill. College is an art of balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities, social life, family, and lets face it, insanity. For a student-athlete, you can throw hours of practice and games into that, already hectic, mix. As an athlete and a member of the Honors Program here at Young Harris, I am faced with a daily challenge of juggling soccer and schoolwork. For me, this means deliberately planning study time into my day. Sometimes, I have to get creative to fit in everything. School is my top priority, but I work hard to maintain a high level of dedication to both my studies and my sport. Although it is difficult sometimes to study through what could be a prime mid-day nap, it is important to make small sacrifices in order to succeed. Occasionally these sacrifices include rising early to fit in an extra hour of “crunch time” before a big test or being quizzed by a teammate with flashcards as we walk to practice. I put school first and allow soccer to be the outlet in which I unwind and de-stress.

Being a student-athlete is definitely a challenge, but it is rewarding above all else. Not only are we learning valuable life skills, such as time management, dedication, and perseverance, we are able to take advantage of being a part of a team, a family, and working with that family to achieve a common goal: a win. Being both a college student and an athlete allows me to have a busy schedule that always keeps me on the move. I am able to exercise, be social, and represent my school through the beautiful game. The challenges we face as college athletes make us stronger, well-rounded individuals with enhanced skill-sets. All these characteristics will, no doubt, follow us into the work force and equip us to be just as competitive in the work force as we are currently on the field. Being a student-athlete makes our college years more fulfilling. Not one of us would tell you it's easy, but every one of us would assure you it is worth the challenge.

Makayla Underwood is a sophomore student-athlete and member of the Honors Program Student Advisory Council. She is a math major, a member of the soccer team, a Presidential Scholar, and has long term professional goals involving engineering.

MONDAY, OCT. 19, 2015

The National Collegiate Honors Council defines an Honors education as one that provides "measurably broader, deeper, and more complex learning-centered and learner-directed experiences for its students than are available elsewhere in the institution; these opportunities are appropriately tailored to fit the institution’s culture and mission and frequently occur within a close community of students and faculty." Members of the YHC Honors Program are involved in enterprises all over our campus and the world, and this blog will allow others to learn along with them. 

Members of the YHC Honors Program enjoy a lakeside dinner event at beautiful Lake Chatuge. 
November 2015


SUNDAY, NOV. 15, 2015

NCHC Chicago
By Kaila Reece and Sheldon Clark

The past few days at the 50th annual National Collegiate Honors Council conference have been amazing! We are walking away with so many ways to enhance our Honors Program and create a strong community of members. Chicago is a beautiful city that has been more than welcoming, but we are ready to be back in the enchanted valley soon! Don't forget about our meeting on November 23rd from 5:30-7:00 (there will be refreshments!) in Wilson Lecture Hall where we will discuss in detail the conference. Thanks for following us on the blog and Young Harris College Instagram today! 


FRIDAY, NOV. 13, 2015

NCHC Chicago
By Kaila Reece and Sheldon Clark

Friday's signature NCHC event was the annual Idea Exchange. The Idea Exchange is an informal discussion space to share and gather information on student organizations, committees, program structures, innovative practice, special opportunities, or scholarship.

Failure. It's a term many of us struggle with, but failing is not necessarily a bad thing. Students who participate in Honors curriculum often associate failure with defining who they are as individuals and as students. However, this should not be the case! We have so much more to offer outside of the grades we make or the GPA that is listed under our names. Yes, we should strive to produce our best work, but some of us, me in particular, must step away from being driven by perfectionism. Perfectionism, as it is defined, is completely unattainable, so why not reach for something that is attainable? This does not mean to stay away from challenges. It simply means we ought to have a mindset that does not discourage us from taking risks because of the failure that may result.

In the session we participated in today, we were all asked to fill out a simple assessment prior to beginning. It provided insight on many personal levels as to things I need to work towards, so hopefully it will be of help to you, as well. In order to see how you view yourself in terms of whether you are more self-kind or self-judgmental, follow the link to the self-compassion scale: www.selfcompassion.org. - Kaila

If the only thing I take away from these few days is the power of communicating and connecting with others I will still feel as though it was worth it. I have gathered so much information from just listening to others and asking questions. Part of challenging yourself is taking opportunities to be vulnerable. You don’t have to have it all together and you don’t have to have everything figured out. Surrounding yourself with a support system that includes colleagues, advisors, and mentors is vital to being successful. Focus on encouraging yourself and others to have self-compassion and kindness. There is a separation from who you area as a person and your external performance. As honors students there is a tendency to strive for perfection and nothing less. YOU ARE MORE THAN A LETTER GRADE. Let’s strive to be a community that supports working through problems we face and celebrating the gifts of imperfection. We have the time for experiential learning outside of the classroom, developing into respectable members of society, and engaging in creativity. Some ways in which I have seen other honors programs at the conference display their goals for a successful program today are: creating a honors organization run by students and for students, having a mentor program within the honors program, creating and completing service projects as a program, providing space designed for honors students on campus, and networking with honors alumni. I am interested to see how we might be able to work some of these ideas into our own program… - Sheldon


THURSDAY, NOV. 12, 2015

NCHC Chicago
By Kaila Reece and Sheldon Clark

Kaila and Sheldon at the famous Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park.

Today consisted of workshops, explorations, and yes, more pizza. I admit the city is captivating, but my biggest take away from today occurred in the first workshop I attended this morning. An incredible benefit of NCHC is the overall sharing of information. Everyone encourages the exchange of ideas, and I have already gained so much insight in terms of new traditions, events, and other rituals of which we could potentially implement on our campus. This morning several directors spoke about missions and goals of the students within their Honors Programs, and one particular mission that stood out to me was this idea of service. Ouachita Baptist University, which is a small liberal arts college very similar to YHC, has an Honors club, and their sole mission is to be service-minded. The students volunteer in other service opportunities on their campus, and then at the end of every year, the Honors Program awards outstanding service certificates (and prizes) to those, students and faculty, who actively participate in events that pertain to their mission statement. - Kaila

Even after one day at NCHC I feel as though we have big plans for the Honors Program at YHC! I am so excited about all the new things we have been exploring, including this beautiful city! Prior to today I had no idea how different every honors program could be. It is encouraging to discuss with other college representatives what works for their program and what doesn’t. As a program we have so much potential to make even more out of our four years. I am hoping to see out program grow into a strong community of leaders who challenge one another to deeper thinking. There is power in the experiences and opportunities we have as honors students. A couple of sessions I attended today focused on creating meaningful capstone experiences. The honors capstone is a chance to learn research skills, discover the unknown, and demonstrate hard work. Several presenters mentioned preparing students for such a large and inspiring project by adding research classes prior to their capstone course to ensure that all students know how to begin a capstone project. Presenters also discussed the ways their programs showcase projects. I am looking forward to sessions discussing the “conception of failure” tomorrow! - Sheldon


WEDNESDAY, NOV. 11, 2015

NCHC Chicago
by Kaila Reece and Sheldon Clark

We made it to Chicago! Sophomore SAC member, Kaila Reece, junior, Sheldon Clark, and HP Director, Dr. Carr, are in town for the 50th annual National Collegiate Honors Council conference. Thanks to an EARLY start to the travel day, there was time upon arrival for a beginning conference session, exploring Navy Pier and the Chicago Riverwalk, and a rustic Italian meal on the Magnificent Mile. Tomorrow we plan to attend sessions about creating meaningful capstone experiences, developing HP traditions, and we'll engage with the “city as text.” Stay tuned for updates!


TUESDAY, NOV. 10, 2015

by Kristen Thigpen


When I first arrived at Young Harris, I had no idea what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I declared Early Childhood Education as my major and hoped that I somehow would discover something that I would want to do for the rest of my life along the way. I didn’t have any background knowledge on the art of education, and I surely didn’t expect everything that education would bring to my life.

As time went on during my freshman, and now sophomore year, I started taking courses that focused on education. All it took was one intro class and I was hooked. I realized that every single part of our world has a deep need for education; we wouldn’t survive without it. I began to realize that gaining knowledge and wisdom can often be the start of making a huge difference in communities.

Within my education classes, I began to think just how privileged I am, and almost every other American has been, to be able to receive an education. While some would say there are obvious issues with America’s public school system, we are immensely lucky that our government provides a free chance at education for every child. As I realized just how fortunate I was to be a part of an education system, I was reminded of the lack of opportunities for education that developing countries are given. My heart ached specifically for the people of Haiti, a country that captured my heart a few years ago.

My junior year of high school, my church offered a mission trip to Haiti. Somehow, despite the fears and concerns that my parents had of me traveling to a developing country, I convinced them to let me go. I never considered that that one trip could completely refine me and that one little country could have such a big impact on my life. I immediately fell in love with the culture and the people, and have now been able to travel back four more times over the last three years. Haiti has captured my heart and I am confident that my life will forever be intertwined with serving there. While Haiti has brought me immense joy, it has also brought a lot of hardship, and I know that with deeply loving a developing country comes a lot of difficulty.

Through my trips to Haiti, I have seen the overwhelming need for education. In Haiti, over ninety percent of schools are private. This means that families have to pay for uniforms, textbooks, supplies, and tuition for each child. In a country where the majority of the population is below the poverty line, this is nearly impossible. Many families can only afford school for one of their children, and cannot usually afford a complete education. Only thirty percent of children ever reach the sixth grade. To say there is a need for a public school system is an extreme understatement. I truly believe that education is what will get Haiti out of poverty, past just surviving, and into thriving. Of course, that will take a long time, but the thought that maybe I could be a part of that change makes it all worth it.

The collision between my two passions has been such an experience. They support one another and I am constantly shown just how intertwined they are. It’s exciting knowing exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life, even if it seems impossible at the moment. I can’t wait to see how education and Haiti will continue to shape my life, and what my next steps will be.

Kristen Thigpen is a sophomore Early Childhood Education major and member of the Honors Program Student Advisory Council.


December 2015


THURSDAY, DEC. 10, 2015

Student Abroad
By Christa Hamill

Hiya! That’s how the lovely Irish folk say ‘hello’ here across the pond! It has been a wonderful few months in this country, and it’s still hard to believe that I’ll be returning in just a few weeks! Living in a different country for 4 months has proven to be a unique adventure, especially when you’re attending a new university.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am currently a junior Psychology major with minors in Religious Studies and Biology! Though I am still unsure of what I would like to do in the future, I am focusing on applying to graduate school soon, and am considering Genetic Counseling at the moment!

I am currently enrolled in 3 classes…yes, only 3! Consequently, with all of this free time on my hands, what is one to do in a brand new country? Travel, of course! Although I say “Ireland”, I am actually referring to Northern Ireland, its own separate country that is part of the UK. Ireland itself is the southern part of the island, and most people refer to it as The Republic (of Ireland). They are significantly different, one reason being they use different currency (UK uses the Pound, whilst The Republic uses the Euro). The university I am attending sits at the very top of Northern Ireland, basically on the northern coast, situated in the cozy town of Coleraine, just an hour from Belfast, a popular city in the UK. I, along with another YHC student who was accepted into the same program I was, Grace Williamson, traversed the Emerald Isle immediately after we landed in the country! Our university had arranged for numerous trips and events for their international student sect, and we were able to sightsee within the first few days! We visited world-renowned places such as the Giant’s Causeway, the Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Ballintoy, and multiple other places worth seeing more than once! And still, through it all, I almost can’t believe I have this opportunity to study abroad!

Though I could provide a nearly endless list of “favorite things” I’m loving about Ireland, ranging from their abundance of delicious pastries and sweets, to the breathtaking sights the Emerald Isle has to offer, one thing I will always remember will be the kind people living here! I can confirm the validity of the myth that Irish folk are a happy-go-lucky people! I have yet to meet a very rude Irish person, and being the curious and confused world travelers Grace and I have been, we have thankfully encountered the most patient Irish people to answer the many questions we have about this country! We both have host families as well, and they have been like true family to us! Ultimately, the Irish are almost always smiling, and are more than willing to help out a sometimes-confused foreigner such as myself!

It’s an understatement to say I have enjoyed my time here in Northern Ireland (despite the tragedy of missing the Thanksgiving holiday!)! I could write a book telling of everything I would want everybody to know about the quirkiness of this country, but I suppose the best I can do is to implore the students at Young Harris College to take the opportunity to study abroad not only here, but anywhere you can!*

*Be warned…you WILL miss Young Harris College very much while you’re away!

I would like to thank Dr. Whisenhunt, Dr. Looper, Ms. Tammy Gibson, Dr. Carr, and other faculty for making this opportunity possible – without them, I would likely not be here! Thank you very much for your advice and support! Very excited to be back in America, and I hope you all have a wonderful semester! 

January 2016


By Anna Dyer

Well – it’s finally over.  My first semester as a college student has come and gone, but the memories are here to stay.  I’ll fondly remember the numerous trips to Waffle House, beautiful hikes through these mountains, and stressful nights in the library.  While I’ve learned so much in the classroom these past 4 months, the biggest realization I’ve had has been taught to me through the friendships I’ve developed and experiences I’ve had.  You see, college is much more than our academic pursuits.  Perhaps we get lost in the idea that our English and Sociology grades are measures of how well we’re doing this whole college thing, but I don’t succumb to this idea.  While education is certainly our priority for attending an institution for higher learning, this education does not necessarily all come from textbooks and lectures.  My point for saying all this is – get involved!  Young Harris is more than a collection of classrooms, labs, and study groups.

I wasn’t sure about the extra time and effort I’d have to invest in order to be successful in the Honors program, so I waited this Fall semester out.  I found that learning to balance the responsibilities of being on my own (getting a decent amount of sleep, limiting my ice cream intake, etc.) along with my academics was a great way to spend my first few months at Young Harris.  However, as this chapter closes, second semester must be a time for continual growth, opportunity, and involvement.

Taking the initiative to seek out clubs, organizations, jobs, or events that peak my interest is probably the “hardest” step I’ve taken in my attempt to get connected. Still, I must admit that I’m still repeatedly amazed at all that a simple e-mail can accomplish!  I encourage everyone to take advantage of Young Harris’ size.  Many professors and other faculty members will respond to emails within 24 hours, and they often are available for personal meetings as well.  This campus is connected – use it!

For me, getting more involved means building relationships, creating hobbies, and making myself a more well-rounded individual.  It’s given me ways to be productive in areas other than my academics, creating a sense of completion and achievement that I wouldn’t otherwise have.  Even things as simple as going to the rock wall have opened my world and made me realize I enjoy things I never thought I would.  It’s great to learn and grow with the people around you, so while we Honors kids may get caught up in striving for all As or writing the flawless research paper, remember that just because our adventures and relationships don’t contribute to our GPA, they’re going to be the things we think of when we reflect on our college years.  And to be quite honest, I’d rather remember nights at Underground and cheering on the athletic teams than simply recalling a nonstop blur of studying for exams and assembling the perfect group presentation.  

February 2016


Feb. 11, 2016
Tim Mohlin Torringer

Members of the Honors Program, Tim Mohlin Torringer, Ramin Varnhorn, and Erik Hallin, received an Honors Experience Grant to help fund their delegation's trip to Boston, MA to participate in the Harvard National Model United Nations conference.

The first day of the 62nd session of the Harvard National Model United Nations is now over – and it was a very long first day... Already at 6 am did we leave campus for transport to the airport and the two and half hour-long flight to Boston.

It was an ice-cold and windy Boston that met us, and after the check-in at the hotel we started to head towards the Conference for the registration. Luckily, our hotel is only ten minutes away from Boston Park Plaza where the Conference is held.

At the registration we received our badges, the conference handbook, and the placards, which are used in different voting procedures. This was followed by the opening ceremony, which is tradition at every Model United Nations Conference. 3,000 undergraduate students from 70 different countries gathered in the Grandroom to listen to some opening speeches and general information from the Secretary-General of the HNUM. The keynote speaker was Philippe Bolopion, Deputy Director for Global Advocay of Human Rights Watch, who shared his experiences in working in different conflict zones such as South Sudan, Burundi, and Mali.

After the opening ceremony it was time to split up and go to respective committee to represent our assigned country: the Commonwealth of Dominica. Marijo and me went to the General Assembly’s Disarmament and International Security Committee; Jonas and Erik to the Special Political and Decolonization Committee; and Ramin and Astheris to the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. During a three long hour session were, among many topics, the violent insurgency groups in the Middle East and the water scarcity in the world discussed.

One committee session done, five to go, and hopefully we will be able to present some interesting resolutions at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday.  

Honors Program