Honors Media and Culture explores the stories of people and cultures around the state

June 21, 2017 | Summer Academic Institute |

For the fourth year, the Department of Communication, in conjunction with the Honors College, is hosting Honors Media and Culture. This two-week academic program challenges rising high school seniors to explore the power of media, examine cultural narratives, and tell stories while finding their own.

Katie Ramirez, instructor of communications and director of student publications, is directing the summer program. She said the focus of the two weeks is storytelling and how that can play a role in all areas of a person’s life.

“Storytelling is the big keyword, and I’ve tried to build a schedule for two weeks that hopefully expands their idea of storytelling — what a story is and how to communicate that effectively,” Ramirez said.

The group began their program by seeing Godspell, a musical that tells the story of Jesus in the book of Matthew, at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Ramirez said attending the production was aimed to challenge students to tell typical, traditional, or well-known stories in a unique format.

“We began with theatre because it’s an unfamiliar medium to tell a familiar story,” Ramirez said. “They saw the story of Jesus in a new and different way, and that’s what we’re hoping for over the next two weeks.”

Jamie Boyd of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, said she came to the program to gain a greater understanding of cultures and how something she is passionate about, like photography, can play a larger role in telling the story of that culture.

“We’ve learned that there is always a story to something,” Boyd said. “It could be the smallest thing, but it has a story, and it came from somewhere. So, you have to know how to ask the right questions like, ‘why is this here, where did it come from, how did it make it here and where has it been since?’”

Throughout the program, the students will hear from professors from different departments covering a wide variety of ideas — like connecting with theatre and photography, a font’s role in design, the power of protest, cultural symbols, book publishing and non-verbal communication.

In addition to their in-the-classroom discussions and activities, the group will take several trips to visit historic sites like the Little Rock Central High School Museum and cities rich with stories like Bentonville and Mountain View, Arkansas.

Cole Clevenger of Cabot, Arkansas, decided to attend Honors Media and Culture because he has an interest in sports broadcasting, and so far, the people he has met in the program have made a big impact on his experience.

“We get to hang out, have a good time, and even in classes we’re having a great time,” Clevenger said. “That’s what I like about the Harding community. It’s not work, work, work. We’re learning, but we’re also having a great time while we’re learning.”

When the students head home after the two weeks, Ramirez said she hopes they leave with a greater sense of storytelling and how they have the chance to change lives with the stories they tell.

“I would love for all of them at some point to have an ‘aha’ moment — at least one experience that resonated with them that they can’t stop talking about,” Ramirez said. “Two weeks is not a long time, but for what we do, it’s all built for them to have an experience where they have a crazy perspective change or they think about something for the first time.”

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Categories: Academics and University.