A student's experience on Honor's Conference moved online.

Mount St. Joseph News


On March 27  I was supposed to be in Grand Rapids, Mich., presenting my honors paper entitled “The Materialistic American Dream: How ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Fight Club’ Prove That Money Does Not Buy Happiness.”


Instead, I was setting up a tripod and adjusting the lighting in my basement to record a presentation I was about to give to an audience of none.


Although the Mid-East Honors Association’s 2020 conference did not go as planned, due to travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, honors students from Eastern Illinois, Indiana, Northern Kentucky, Southern Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia were able to share their scholarly papers or posters with their peers online. Mount St. Joseph University was well represented at the conference, with three presentations and several more virtual attendees.


Students who had been accepted to present at the MEHA conference had prepared for months. Many of these projects were tied to honors coursework or thesis presentations required for graduation. For me, my paper was connected to Dr. Liz Mason’s English course Dollars & Sense: Materialism in 20th Century Fiction, that I had contracted for honors credit. My presentation dove into whether or not the characters in the two novels I explored—“The Great Gatsby” and “Fight Club”—were actually able to achieve their own individual versions of the American Dream. I found that although the novels are vastly different, the main male character in each is driven by one thing: material goods. Even though Jay Gatsby desires possessions, and Tyler Durden destroys them, both characters are controlled by their obsession with materialism.


Moving my presentation from an in-person format to online was a bit of a challenge. Once honors students were notified that the conference would take place virtually, adjustments had to be made to presentation slides, posters, and scripts to fit the new time and visual requirements. I had to cut out quite a bit of my presentation so that I could ensure I was not going over on time, and I changed my script to be less interactive, as there was no audience during my presentation. Additionally, I am very thankful that I am currently enrolled in Video Post-Production, because with the knowledge from that course I was able to stage, edit, and upload my presentation with little trouble—I even think it looks pretty good!


Overall, I am grateful to MEHA for adapting to the situation, and providing honors students the chance to share our work with one another. With all that has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, I applaud MEHA for creating this virtual experience, and encouraging students to “keep learning.”