BC Honors Students Travel to Arlington By Heather Paisley | April 19, 2011 | RSS BC student Lydia Freeman captured an award and BC English professor Rob Merritt was named to the executive committee at the Virginias Collegiate Honors Council (VCHC) conference April 9 at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Lydia Freeman with her award certificate and her $200 check. Freeman, a junior double-majoring in English and communications, was one of five students to win a VCHC 2011 Best Individual Presentation award, a cash prize of $200, at the conference she attended with Merritt, who chairs the Honors Committee that oversees the Honors Program. Merritt was named faculty representative for private four-year colleges to the executive committee. Although Freeman was the only BC student to present a project, three Honors Program students—Celia Jones, Amber McDonald and Emily Sears—also attended the conference, as well as Dr. Emily Lambert, a BC biology professor serving on the Honors Committee. The VCHC, now more than 20 years old, brings together universities, colleges, and community colleges throughout Virginia and West Virginia to support and enhance programs and activities that meet the needs of exceptionally talented and motivated students. The conference featured a wide variety of presentations by students from several colleges. For example, Sarah Hobernicht, a student from George Mason University, presented a project entitled “Serial Killers: Good for Society,” which was an examination of the cultural significance of serial killers, and the reason behind their sinister grip on our collective imaginations. Lenina Valle, a student from Marymount University, presented her project, “Designing University Spaces to Minimize the Stress of College Students,” in which she discussed common college stressors. Freeman’s presentation was on an unconventional subject. “My presentation was about creative non-fiction, which is a very different genre, and most people don’t even have a clue what it is,” said Freeman. “What creative non-fiction does is it takes first person essays you write in freshman composition, but it adds a deeper level to them. You might write a story about going to Disney World, but really you’re talking about God. You pay very close attention to the language, so it’s almost poetic.” At first Freeman did not know how she was going to present her project. “I had decided that I was going to present about the soul and I was going to do an essay,” said Freeman. “I did not know how to present a creative non-fiction thing about the soul with a Power Point presentation, so I had my friend Emily read it, and then I decided to memorize the whole thing because that would be more powerful.” Presenting a project that you have worked on for so long in front of a group of people can be nerve-racking, but for Freeman it was not all that bad. “I was really nervous until I got there and then I realized that these people are pretty smart, but I felt confident,” said Freeman. “I was nervous because my subject matter was so different from everyone else’s. I was scared because it wasn’t conventional.” Freeman placed her nerves aside and presented her project with confidence. “I presented my Power Point, which was six slides at that point. It was called, ‘The Nature of the Soul.’ Then I presented my first slide, ‘If you have an idea, what do you do with that idea?’ and I talked about how you communicate your idea to an audience. Then I explained what creative non-fiction is,” said Freeman. “My essay was called, ‘Birthdays Stop’ and I said my presentation all from memory.” Presenting from memory turned out to work to Freeman’s advantage. “I think what made it really good, was that since I had memorized and analyzed my entire essay, I knew the answers to everyone’s questions because I knew every sentence that was in my paper,” said Freeman. One of the questions Freeman was asked was, “What is the purpose of the refrain?” Freeman’s refrain appears several times throughout her essay. “I’m going to say it for you because I know it,” said Freeman. “’Don’t cry for me; don’t cry for me as I grow up, my bones pressing my skin until it stretches so thin. Don’t cry for me on my birthday. I know I’m getting older, but we’re all getting older. Don’t cry for me.’” The purpose of the refrain, she said, is complicated to explain and understand. “You know sometimes when you see the moon, it sometimes is a full moon and sometimes all you can see is a little sliver,” said Freeman. “The moon is the same; it’s just your perception is always changing, so, it’s kind of like that. You have this thing that is completely the same and is consistent throughout it. At first it may look like a sliver in the sky, but at the end of it, it looks like something different because your perspective is changing.” After Freeman’s presentation, her friends congratulated her on a job well done and told her that she was going to get the award, but she thought otherwise. “I’m not going to win an award, guys,” Freeman said she told her friends. “Then I won an award and $200, which was pretty sweet!” Freeman’s friends said that she should feel proud, but Freeman said she does not know how she feels. “I just don’t know how to deal with things like that,” said Freeman. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I don’t want to tell my friends I won because it’s awkward, but I’m trying to get an ego.” Freeman’s win has inspired her friend and fellow BC Honors Program member Amber McDonald to represent BC with a presentation and project. “Lydia Freeman did present for us from Bluefield and she was one of the students to win with a cash prize,” said McDonald. “That was definitely a highlight of the trip and we were all very, very proud of her. I am planning for my honors project to be completely done next spring, so that I can present at the next Honors Conference and proudly represent Bluefield.” According to Merritt, Director of the Honors Program at BC, there is a moral to Freeman’s winning and BC students’ participating in the conference. “The moral to the story is that Bluefield College students are just as competitive and intellectually responsible as any students at these other colleges,” said Merritt. Honors Program member Emily Sears agrees with Merritt. “I liked going because I was really intimidated and I felt that when you go to a little school and you go somewhere with people from George Mason and other big schools, you feel like you don’t measure up, but then I felt like we did when we got there,” said Sears. “When we got there we could just talk to other students and I wasn’t scared to and when Lydia won presented and won, it made me feel like Bluefield College was just as good as all those other colleges.” For BC Honors Program member Celia Jones, the conference was a dose of needed motivation. “The trip to the VCHC Conference was a great experience,” said Jones. “We got to see a huge variety of honors projects and I think it gave us a lot of confidence and inspiration.” For Freeman, it is not about the award; it is about the writing. “It feels like I wrote something that matters, and all I want to do with my life is be a writer, so it was really cool to get recognition for something that I had written,” she said. It was original work; it wasn’t like I did well on a research paper and got an A, but I wrote something that mattered to people and that was very rewarding. “ For more information about the Honors Program, contact Dr. Rob Merritt at or (276) 326-4270.