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This paper will focus on the theory and practice of a semester-long honors symposium on a current topic of significance to the academic and area community (e.g., the environment, service learning, ethics, the search for peace, cultural diversity). One purpose for such a symposium is to provide leadership opportunities for students to develop a topic, organize events (including time and place), find and contract speakers, create and distribute publicity both on and off campus, arrange for receptions and book signings, find students to introduce speakers, and create opportunities for students to present and share their research. A second purpose is to engage students in research on the topic and give them the opportunity to share their research with others, thus providing multiple perspectives on the topic. And, finally it offers the community a forum in which to come together to consider in depth an issue of social and political importance.
Ways to develop and facilitate a semester-long honors symposium will be discussed, as will a timetable for planning a symposium and ways to adapt courses, develop extra-curricular activities and programs, encourage student research, and involve the entire academic and area community. Additional topics include funding, student leadership and involvement, and using local expertise as well as bringing to campus nationally recognized authorities. The paper concludes with an exploration of ways to adapt courses to fit different symposia topics.