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The Honors Experience

One constant through my time here at Belmont has been the Honors Program. Since my first day of class, I have had the wonderful experience of being a part of this program in a very hands-on way. My past four years with Honors have been rigorous but worthwhile. The great opportunities I have received in this program, along with the friendships have made this program one of the most memorable parts of my time here at Belmont.

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The Honors House!

One of the best part of Honors is the cohort. I have built incredible friendships within the Honors program — these are people I never would have met if it was not for the program. These people are ones I have now worked with in different capacities of campus, in leadership roles, or in student organizations. I know that these friendships will go past the walls of the Honors House, and that these will be people that I can call on many years after graduation.

Another unique aspect of Honors is creating your own major or minor. Ever since my first day of Honors, I was intrigued with the idea of making my own minor. I eventually created a minor in Southern Studies that was approved by the Honors Council. This opportunity has been incredible, and very unique to Honors. With the approval of the minor curriculum, I have been able to focus my studies to the American South in sociology, literature, political science, and history. Looking forward, there’s a great possibility that I may want to work within the realm of Southern Studies, and these opportunities have given me a great base for in case I decide to work in this field in the future.

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Some of us Honors students at Model United Nations in Chicago this past November

Finally, my most challenging, but possibly most rewarding part of Honors has been the Scholarship Track. In this track, I had the opportunity to create a thesis, which looks at the place of race in higher education in the South. Though this year-long project has pushed me to my end, it has forced me to dive head first into academic work and set myself apart while going towards graduate school and the work force. The faculty members involved in my thesis have been extremely helpful in the creation of this project, being patient, kind, and critical when needed. I am so excited to defend my thesis and be done with it next week, but it truly has been a cornerstone of my last year here on campus!

Overall, Honors has been an incredible experience! I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I cannot imagine my time here at Belmont without it. If you want to learn more about the Honors Program, visit www.belmont.edu/honors.

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Faith at Belmont and Beyond

Recently, I had some friends return from Immersion trips. These are University Ministries sponsored week-long trips that happened during Spring Break from Washington, DC to the US-Mexico border to Guatemala. Upon returning back, my friends told me how they were impacted by learning about issues such as how poverty touches DC, and how that community is working towards eradicating this issue.

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DC Immersion Trip members on a snowy day outside of the White House

Hearing these stories about how my friends’ faith was challenged during Spring Break made me think about my faith journey during my time at Belmont. When choosing schools, finding a Christian school was not a requirement, but it sure was an added plus when I was considering Belmont. Automatically, I decided to find a church to plug into and chose Brentwood Baptist. During these past few years, my time at Brentwood has challenged and pushed my faith to new boundaries.

Besides normal Sunday service, they offer a unique worship service designed just for college students called Kairos that happens on Tuesday nights. I initially found out about Kairos after meeting Michael Boggs, the worship leader, the summer before my Freshman year. By far, Kairos has been one of my favorite parts of living here in Nashville. The best part is that I see a lot of people from Belmont there every time I go, one of our Bruin Recruiters even works on their technology team!

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Kairos worship service

Worship offerings like this can be found all over the city. I’ve had friends get plugged into many different churches in the area, from Baptist to Episcopalian to non-denominational and everything in between. What is even cooler is the offerings you’ll find on the Belmont campus. My freshman year, I joined a Bible study called Awakening that met late on Tuesday nights in the Beaman Student Life Center for an hour or two. By the time that academic year was up, we had about seventy people coming to our Bible study! To this day, I’m still friends with people I met in Awakening and will catch up with them from time to time.

Lots of things like this are offered on campus. Some, like Awakening, are organized just by students with a passion to gather a community around a Bible study or a worship service. Other are actual student organizations on campus, like RUF (Reformed University Fellowship), CRU, and Belmont Wesley Fellowship for example. (Information on these and more spiritual development groups on campus can be found here.)

I’ve been thankful to go to a university that doesn’t force faith on a student, but rather presents the opportunity to engage at our own pace. While being at Belmont, I’ve found a community whether it was through something like Awakening my Freshman year, or Brentwood Baptist, and I truly believe it has helped me grow within my past four years. I hope that if you come to Belmont, you’ll find this same kind of community in some aspect of Christian life on campus and in Nashville!

Note: If you’re moving to Belmont and are looking at ways to plug in to some sort of faith community, I’d encourage you to look around University Ministries’ website here. They have some great resources of churches in the area as well as a list of ways to engage here on campus through things like faith development organizations or Immersion trips.

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Music City

If there’s one thing Nashville is known for, it’s being Music City. Everywhere you turn in this town, someone is either playing music, or does play music. Because this is a musical hub, there are all kinds of cool opportunities for everyone: regardless of if you’re musical or not!

One of my favorite things to do in Nashville is to go to concerts. While it may take up a lot of my money, it’s amazing to hear some of your favorite artists perform their work and to just relax with your friends. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to go to a couple shows that truly can only happen in Nashville…

Last week was the Country Music Seminar, a series of concerts, lectures, and meet and greets with professionals in the music industry. While I’m not someone looking to get in the “biz”, I do love a good concert! On Monday night, a panel of country artists performed for the CMIL Benefit Show for City of Hope. Quite a few artists came on stage and performed a small acoustic set including bigger names like Dustin Lynch and Kip Moore, but also some up-and-coming artists. (I am unashamed in admitting that I was entirely way too excited to see Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of Britney Spears!)

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(Jamie Lynn Spears and her band – they sounded great!)

Another group that performed was the Striking Matches.  This group was phenomenal, and the best part is that they met while being students at Belmont! I’ve heard about them recently from some friends, and they had a song recently play on ABC’s Nashville. Check them out here and support some Belmont talent!

Also, a couple weeks ago I went to a taping of CMT Crossroads. I had the opportunity to go to the taping of Fall Out Boy and The Band Perry a couple months ago, but this time was Dierks Bentley and OneRepublic. What an incredible show! While they both sounded great, they were also kind to the crowd, talking to people in the audience in between shoots. At the end they did a special non-taped cover encore that you can watch here.

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(Super close and free, you can be jealous.)

Things like this happen all the time in Nashville! Seriously, where else can you go to shows like this? Not many. Here’s to hoping that I get to see a few more before graduation in May!

Walking Backwards since 2011

Hey everyone! I hope y’all are all doing well and are thawing off from one of the coldest winters ever. I know here in Nashville it’s absolutely beautiful… at least for now.

Today I wanted to write about one of my favorite things about my time here at Belmont: being a tour guide. Back in March 2011, I was hired on in Admissions as a tour guide and to be honest, I was so giddy.

(Honesty Hour: When I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a tour guide. I know that sounds so strange, but when I went to Disney World I thought that was so cool, so when I returned home, I would drive around on my little 4-wheeler with my Winnie the Pooh safari hat and act like I was leading a tour group around a safari. Adorable, right?)

So I guess I was destined to be a tour guide! Next month will mark three years of being a tour guide, and I have to say it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done on campus. It’s one thing to sit down with a family at a Preview Day and explain why I love Belmont, but taking a family on a tour is just a different experience. When I take a tour group out, I try to make a point to get information about each student, and find out if they’ve been to campus before. When some of the prospective students tell me that they’re from super far away and this is finally their first time on campus, I can see the just pure joy on their faces.

Nothing beats walking out of Freeman Hall with a tour group, standing next to the Belmont Mansion, and seeing on someone’s face that they know they’ve found their home for the next four years. It’s truly an honor to be able to take y’all around on your first time walking through campus. This place has been so special for me for the past four years of my life, and I want to do nothing more than show prospective students why it’s such a beautiful place.

Now, sometimes my tours are just plain interesting! Every tour seems to be a different adventure, from trying not to trip over people, bricks, or my own two feet, it’s always different. You never know what someone is going to ask on a tour, which always is fun! Always though, families have been nothing but gracious during the tour and are always asking questions that keep me on my feet and understanding if I don’t have the answers.

I believe that taking families around for fifty minutes on a Monday morning is the least I can do for a place that has invested so much in me. There’s one spot on the tour, on the bridge in between the Massey Business Center and Inman Health Sciences Center that is one of my favorite spots.

Looking to the south, you can see straight down to the Curb Event Center. Depending on the time of day, people are walking down the sidewalk, talking with each other, or maybe sitting next to the big tree next to Patton reading a book. This always is a quiet reminder of the community here at Belmont, which has always been so special to me. It also reminds me that only a handful of students get the opportunity to be a tour guide, which always humbles me.

Looking to the north on a clear day, you can see the skyline of downtown Nashville. This sight has gotten more precious to me since graduation is coming close. Even though my post-grad plans aren’t finalized, there’s a good chance I won’t be living in Nashville once I graduate. Looking out on that skyline is a reminder of why I love this city and the quirky, diverse people you meet in it. Where else can you go for free to see OneRepublic and Dierks Bentley or casually run into Taylor Swift at a pizza joint? Not many other places.

So what’s all this rambling about? Well, every time I look north and south from that bridge, I’m reminded on how this place could impact someone as it did me. Though I may only interact with these families for fifty minutes on a Monday morning, maybe something they see on my tour will stick with them during their collegiate search. Maybe they’ll end up choosing Belmont. And maybe they’ll walk over that bridge every day for four years and remember the first tour they had and how they fell in love with this school and this city.

Will this ever happen? I’m not sure, but I like to think it will. It’s for that person and that moment that I love being a tour guide.

I hope some of y’all will come visit us soon, and maybe I can take you around campus for the very first time!

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Nashville Adventure: Fido

It’s a Thursday evening. You’re sitting at dinner with your friend, talking about how you have this paper due tomorrow and, oh gosh, you have to read a few chapters tonight as well. Obviously, you’ve got some work ahead of you, but you’re not really feeling like going and locking yourself in your dorm room while you get through all of your work.

Lucky for you, you go to Belmont and therefore live in Nashville which may or may not have the largest number of functional and fun coffee shops in America. (This statistic may be skewed by the author’s love of various Nashville coffeeshop.) So let’s go on a coffee adventure!

One of my favorite places to buckle down and get homework done while sipping on some great coffee is located just down the street from Belmont. Due west on Wedgewood Avenue on the corner of 21st Avenue sits a unique neighborhood called Hillsboro Village. Here, you can get some great chicken at McDougal’s, eat pancakes at the famous Pancake Pantry, or visit one of the locally-owned street front boutiques. Just a block down from the intersection lies Fido.

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Just walking in the door, you can see that Fido is quintessentially Nashville. The exposed brick, the hipster with his Mac in front of him and a C.S. Lewis next to him, it all just screams Nashville. Because it is so close to campus, there’s a great chance that you’ll run into someone from Belmont meeting up with friend for fun, or getting some work done.

There are a handful of reasons why I love Fido:

  1. The employees are so friendly! Don’t worry if it’s your first time going to Fido. The speciality drinks may have intimidating names, but do not hesitate to ask the barista what their favorite drink is to help make your decision.

fido_7122(Typical menu at Fido… drinks change with the seasons, so don’t be afraid to try something new!)

2. Their coffee is delicious! (My favorite is the Local Latte, but you really can’t go wrong.) After waiting a couple of minutes, you have a beautifully crafted coffee, which is always better than whatever you can brew up in your dorm room. It also helps that their food is fantastic, and fairly well priced.

3. The atmosphere is undeniably Nashville, and the space is expansive. At rush hours, Fido can get busy, but there’s a good chance you’ll still be able to find a seat to get your First Year Seminar reading done. The people you’ll encounter will remind you why you’ve fallen in love with Nashville. The fellow college student next to you, asking you how your classes are going. The aspiring musician on your other side, sifting through music on the internet, or maybe scribbling on their notebook. Either way, the people are always inviting, and you’ll feel right at home.

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(The main front room at Fido… this could be you!)

4. Location, location, location! Like I mentioned, the Hillsboro Village area is a very popular part of town, specifically for Belmont students. You’re just a few blocks away from campus, so you’re still within walking distance. You’ll probably run into a friend or two, and you may even run into a celebrity! (One of my friends saw Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal there, and I’ve seen two cast members of “Nashville” there as well.)

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(Typical days at Fido! Reading, papers, and Local Lattes.)

Fido is just one example of the cool places Nashville has to offer. The best part is that they’re not located far from campus at all! Though there is almost always something happening on campus, it can feel good to go and explore Nashville. I can guarantee you that if you start driving around the city and visiting places like Fido, Nashville will feel even more like your home.

Happy coffee hunting!
- John Palmer

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Back at it again…

After a very relaxing break, it’s great to be back at Belmont. I went back up to Illinois for a couple of weeks to celebrate the holiday with my family, and even though I didn’t do a lot, I still had a great time.

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(My little brother Will was so excited to hang out and “take James Bond pictures” with his toys over break…)

It was fantastic to just hang out with my family, try to dodge the snow, and get reading done just for fun. I came back into Nashville for New Years and rang 2014 with my friends and went to a couple of football games. After a whirlwind trip down to Birmingham with a friend for the day, it was time for the first day of class!

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(My view this past Sunday afternoon as I set up shop in a local coffee house and had a homework marathon!)

It’s crazy thinking that this is my last semester here at Belmont, but I’m ready to make it my best semester yet. I’m so thankful to have called this institution my home for the past three and a half years, and I plan on making the most of these last few moments.

I’m excited to join the Bruin Blogger team, and I hope you get an idea of what it’s like to be a Belmont student through my eyes during these last four months!

- John Palmer