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Freshman Fellows create community atmosphere

With the right touch, a dorm can feel like home.

Lyon freshmen Nikkolette Perkins and Nicholas McDonald are working to foster that sense of community for the Honors Fellows Program. 

The program is designed to provide highly skilled, motivated students the opportunity to study, hone their research skills, and exchange ideas in a challenging and supportive academic environment. Honors Fellows work closely with Lyon faculty in small, specially-designed courses to extend their academic experience beyond the scope of the traditional undergraduate curriculum.

Each class of Fellows elects two representatives, and Perkins and McDonald were voted in as Freshman Representatives in September. They serve on an executive committee with other Honors Fellows.

McDonald and Perkins are working to strengthen the different aspects of the program.

“We pair upperclassmen with freshmen for a mentor program,” said Perkins. “Last semester, Nick and I got really involved with that, trying to make the relationships really strong.”

McDonald said one of their biggest goals is creating a community atmosphere on the third floor of Whiteside Hall, where all of the freshman Fellows live.

“It’s become very easy among the freshmen to have this sense of home. It’s kind of weird going to other places now and seeing that they don’t have dishes out or shoes in the common room.”

To accomplish this feeling of home, he and Perkins hold events like “family dinner” for their floor.

“Right now, I’m planning a ‘family dinner’ for Sunday. I’m going to cook breakfast for everyone on our floor,” Perkins said, “and we’ll just have some community time.”

They got the idea from one of the juniors and thought it would be a good tradition to continue.

“We use our own funds and set out a tip jar because we’re college students,” Perkins said, laughing. “Everyone on the floor donates a dollar, which covers a good chunk of it.”

McDonald said the idea behind the family dinners is that the honors program should be more of a community. Since the program is only in its third year, it can sometimes just feel like a series of classes.

“People haven’t really found out how the system works, so they haven’t fully bought into it,” McDonald said. “Starting with my class, I’m trying to get people to invest in it a bit more.”

The dinner was one of the first bonding experiences the freshman Fellows had together.

“When we first did it, we didn’t know each other at all,” Perkins said, “but food brings college students together.”

The pair have also learned valuable lessons from their roles as representatives.

“Being the freshman representatives can sometimes be a challenge because we’re the youngest of the executives,” Perkins said. “It’s a balancing act. We have insight, too, so we have to make our voices heard.”

She has also learned how to deal with people and manage problems instead of being overwhelmed by them.

“Everyone thinks differently, and we’ve had disagreements over little stuff. It’s really helped me learn how to take a breath and get perspective.”

Perkins continued, “I probably would’ve been the one getting mad before, but now I’m the mediator. It’s a cool skill to have.”

McDonald has worked on balancing his various responsibilities. 

“I kind of crammed it all in my first semester and was very overbooked,” he said, laughing. “I feel like that was a good thing.”

“I failed early, so now I know where I want to spend more of my time. It’s all about finding where you belong and can be impactful.”

Perkins and McDonald are both grateful to represent the Honors Fellows Program.

“I think this program is really special, and I want to help make it even better,” said Perkins. “I have met my best friends through it. I think that’s the best part of being an Honors Fellow personally.”