Honors College Navigation
The mission of the Honors College at East Carolina University is to
prepare tomorrow's leaders through the recruitment, engagement, and
retention of exceptionally talented students of character in a diverse
intellectual living-learning community and to challenge them to attain
high levels of academic achievement.
Although it’s been a long day of classes, the energy of ambitious Honors College freshmen crackles through the animated conversation sparking across the Gateway Sounds assembly hall. The students are sharing the progress and impact they’ve experienced during HNRS 2000, the freshman-year Honors colloquium. In this course, students partner with local organizations to solve a “wicked” world problem that aligns with their career interests.
Although the course has always focused on leadership and service, Honors College faculty recently revamped the Honors curriculum based on the tenants of design thinking. “This represents one of the first large-scale efforts in Honors education in the world to incorporate design thinking into a curriculum,” explained Dr. Tim Christensen, one of the faculty members teaching the course. “Design thinking is quickly becoming the standard paradigm for cutting-edge commercial and non-profit ventures to conceptualize problems and identify viable solutions.”
The principles outlined in the #1 best-seller Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life were the guiding spirit for the curriculum: providing the means for students to productively address the challenging moments in their college careers and lives. According to Dr. Katie Ford, a professor and shaper of the course, the values of “Human Centered Design” give students the tools to solve problems in their career and personal lives.“The coursework and Designing Your Life book offer insight into assessing problems—personal or external—such as reframing failure, establishing creative confidence, and understanding leadership positions within group context,” says Dr. Ford.
If we fast forward beyond graduation, we can see design thinking’s impact on student success, embodied by Honors College alumna Mona Amin—Co-Founder of FreshSpire and Program Manager of Innovation Initiatives at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) in Washington, D.C. “I approach the work that I do with an innovative mindset and lead my efforts with confidence,” said Mona. “An aspect of boldness is having the courage to take risks; I’ve incorporated that into my life by allowing myself to be comfortable with the unknown.”
Social entrepreneurship and the Human Centered Design skills that the Honors College freshman class are currently applying in the Greenville community are core tenets in Mona’s approach to both FreshSpire and the WBENC. “I currently support the FreshSpire team through my role as Director of Internal Business Development, and my Co-Founder, Shraddha Rathod, and I are spearheading efforts to empower farmers. FreshSpire is an online wholesale marketplace that helps farmers connect to buyers (distributors, nonprofits, and restaurants), and we truly believe that farmers will save both time and money, and reduce food waste through using our platform,” she said. FreshSpire aims to optimize growing and selling products for farmers in local food communities. Mona’s business then provides a local food one-stop-shop for restaurants and businesses, making it easier for them to buy local.
Mona’s role in the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) also benefits from her experience with Human Centered Design. “Although WBENC is a non-profit, it is also a social business at its core,” she said. “We tackle the issue of unequal access to business opportunities for females through providing programs and certification opportunities that give female founders a foot in the door at several Fortune 500 companies.”
Her experience with social entrepreneurship all began with her Signature Honors Project. “Consumers today are becoming more conscience of the businesses they support, and so there has been a rise of social enterprises, businesses that strive to improve human and environmental well-being,” Mona said. “My Signature Honors Project—’Social Enterprises: The Intersection of Business and Humanity’— explored design thinking and the creative process behind building social enterprises among student entrepreneurs at ECU.”
“I found that so many college students have the drive and passion to do something big,” she added. “They want to solve the world’s most complex social problems. All they need is a platform and the right resources to help them ultimately reach their goals.”
As a key player in the shaping of HNRS 2000, Mona was chosen as the keynote speaker at this fall’s Honors College Convocation welcoming the Class of 2023. Her keynote mantra—“Get curious, meet people, try stuff—important points of Designing Your Life, are the words she left this year’s Honors freshmen to ponder and incorporate into their collegiate journey.
“Society often pressures us into following straight life paths, but this book helps you understand that there are so many alternatives to that straight path,” said Mona. “The Honors College is dedicated to building dynamic experiences for students…to think outside of their current major and coursework. College is no longer just a set path to a specific job—it is a gateway to the real world.”
ECU Honors alumna Kelly Kerschner (’14) graduated with a BS in Public Health Studies and a minor in Biology. She then completed a post-baccalaureate program in medical laboratory science in Charlotte in 2015. Kelly is currently employed as a traveling medical laboratory scientist at a clinic on an Indian reservation in Oregon.
I’ve spent some time trying hard to figure out how to condense a 120 day life altering trip into 2-5 paragraphs. How do I get someone to take a walk in my shoes when I took over 5 million steps in them? There is no “right” way to sum up my experience hiking the Appalachian Trail, but this is my attempt:
In a world where we are frequently bombarded with social media, negative news, and life on a bigger scale than anyone can comprehend, I found myself lost. I had a good job, and I was complacent living in the city; but I found my anxiety always lurking around a corner and felt a sense of incompleteness. One October day, after having a rough time at work, a seed was planted in my mind: What if I quit it all and do something bigger than me, get off the grid for six months, break the daily grind and challenge myself? What if I took what I had been learning on my weekend backpacking trips and applied it to a through hike of the Appalachian Trail? So I slowly began to shape things that would assist me in starting the 2190.9 mile hike on March 19, 2018.
I quit my job in February, having saved up enough to travel to Europe for a few weeks before returning home to head to Georgia. When that morning of the 19th came, my parents stopped at Amicalola Falls to let me weigh my pack (38 lbs!) and check in before driving up to the Springer Mountain trailhead. I had no idea what I was going to face on the trail, you can’t prepare yourself mentally or physically enough, and my parents felt conflicted as they watched their daughter wander off into the woods on a footpath with just a pack on her back. They questioned my sanity on multiple occasions, but they never really gave up hope.
My first month and a half I endured typical weather in the south – scorching abnormal March heat, then snow and ice the next day. I walked through rain, whiteout conditions, winds reaching almost 100 mph, and the dreaded humidity. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it day-in and day-out, but I was motivated and determined; plus I had given up a lot to be out there and didn’t want to go back to starting over. Before I knew it, I was two months in and halfway there. A stroll through the mountains had become a physical challenge and a need to push my body to see what it was truly capable of. The day before I hit Harpers Ferry, I had hiked my largest day: 35 miles. It poured rain the whole day (as it had for the past 4 days straight) and involved a section called the roller coaster, known for its steep ascents and descents. I felt so satisfied at the end of that day and rode that high for the next week. The trail taught me to love my body. I learned to appreciate the people around me (the AT was a very social experience), and I learned to embrace the small things that gave me joy.
After Virginia the states flew by – some I hiked through in 3 or 4 days. The terrain got harder, and the mountains got higher, but I still never slowed my pace. Once I got my hiking legs about 5 weeks in, I would average 22-25 miles a day—much faster than most people.
In early July, I crossed the last state line. I had walked from Georgia to Maine, but I still had 280 miles to the finish. Some of the most beautiful hiking wasthrough New Hampshire and Maine, and
I hope to return and take my time someday. On July 16, around 3 p.m.on a sunny warm day, I summited Mount Katahdin – 3 months and 27 days after I had started.I went up alongside a guyI had hiked 110 days with, and we touched the sign side by side sharing that moment.
I cried as emotions washed over me – there is no way to put into words the feelings I had standing right there. Some were of relief, some were of pain, some were fear, but all together beautiful. When I stepped foot on the trail I was just Kelly, but when I trekked up the final mountain, I had changed—I was 16 pounds lighter, and everyone knew me by my trail name Throwdown. I was a thru-hiker.
Hiking the trail changed me, and sometimes, I wonder if it was for the best; but overall, it was an experience I am glad to have set my mind to and completed. I learned patience and the ability to leave myself open to change. I raised over $2300 for the organization ‘Hike for Mental Health’ and improved my own mental health along the way. It was a scary move to leave behind a comfy life at a steady job, but that part I never regret. I spent some time traveling after the trail and I have now moved out to Central Oregon, where I found a job and I can plan my next adventure.Whether it is the Pacific Crest Trail or just another weekend day hike, the sky is the limit, and the Appalachian Trail has instilled an unwavering confidence in me. I know I can do whatever I set my mind to – and you can, too!
You can follow Kelly’s adventures on Instagram, her Facebook blog, or e-mail Kelly directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about her experience.
Sophomore EC Scholar and biology/chemistry double major Peyton Jackson spent last summer interning at the Georgia Aquarium in their Fish and Invertebrates Department, specifically working with the Galleries Team. The experience was an incredible opportunity to build on their knowledge and experience in conservation; the summer before college, Peyton had interned at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher in the Aquariology Department.
“As the Galleries Team’s intern, I was responsible for prepping food and feeding animals, cleaning exhibits, and maintaining life support systems,” said Peyton. “I worked alongside aquarists and learned about different aspects of animal husbandry, including water chemistry, animal behavior, and life support. I took care of a wide variety of animals from jellyfish and corals to sharks and octopuses.” They were also exposed to other departments within the aquarium, such as Quarantine and Ocean Voyager, and even had the chance to shadow medical procedures.
“After college, I would love to work with an AZA institution with conservation and animal care,” Peyton added, “so this was a great way for me to experience first-hand what it’s like to be an aquarist at such a large institution with unique animals.” Check out their photos and videos from their internship below!