Honors Primetime is a 3.5 day workshop for incoming first-year honors students at the University of Iowa. Workshops of about twenty students engage in hands-on learning on a topic of their choosing with hand-selected University of Iowa faculty and staff. Students have the opportunity to get to know other honors students, connect with honors staff and faculty, and be exposed to the distinct approach honors education offers while learning their way around campus and Iowa City.
Imagine this: You are responsible for coordinating five hundred young adults into twenty-some workshops and you get a phone call telling you the only space big enough (that you reserved months ago) for all of them to gather is no longer available.
So, what do you do? Well, if you’re anything like me, you laugh.
Because of course the ceiling is caving in on the one auditorium on campus that can accommodate that large of a group. I’m exaggerating – it’s not caving in, but it is in dire need of ceiling repair. Either way, I had five hundred bodies coming to campus in August and nowhere to put them. There’s definitely a better way to say that but you know what I mean.
I’m the Program Coordinator and Communications Specialist for Honors at Iowa, and this will be my third Honors Primetime. As of August 18th, I will have facilitated almost 1,500 first-year honors students to take part in one of the most fun events I have ever coordinated. It’s definitely not easy – I have a checklist about five pages long that I use to make sure I don’t forget anything and the assistance of several honors staff members.
It covers only the most basic action items because the process changes from year to year. What it doesn’t cover is how to manage the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of phone calls from parents with a lot of questions, or that I will need to email one instructor six times asking what supplies they need to teach their workshop before I get a response. It doesn’t explain how to respond to the extremely concerned students who are worried about getting a spot, or how to reply to the flood of emails that come in with questions about workshops. For the record, it takes one of our staff members a full day to sort five hundred students into twenty-some workshops based on their preferred topic*.
*I don’t do this part, because literally.
My checklist also doesn’t cover the infectious excitement we experience when our brand new students come to check-in and sheepishly agree to sign up for the Primetime Photo Booth (just so you know, I will harass you until you say yes). It doesn’t detail how to handle the various emotions we all go through – anxiety, excitement, awkwardness, wonderment – not just the students but us staff, too (or maybe it’s just me).
If only you could be a fly on the wall during the summer months in the BHC. You would hear a lot of interesting things coming from my office: squeals of excitement as things fall into place (I did find a new location, FYI) and grumbled frustrations at the inevitably maddening issues that always arise – I could tell you things you’d swear I was making up.
We all know this feeling.
Despite the challenges faced I love hosting Honors Primetime every year and I love doing whatever I can to make it better than the last. The Honors staff plays an integral part in making this happen and I definitely couldn’t do it alone.
Primetime selfie at last year’s symposium!
So if you’re participating in Honors Primetime 2016, get ready because this year is going to be the best one yet. See you soon!
To learn more about Honors Primetime, visit our website.
by Jessica Waldschmidt (firstname.lastname@example.org)