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In his headline address at the Radio and Television Correspondents Annual Dinner last summer, comedian John Hodgman called the strife that exists between “jocks and geeks” the “culture war of our time.” His speech playfully argued that many tensions in American life stem not from differences in politics, culture, race or socioeconomic status but instead from differences in the ways athletic and scholarly types view the world. As directors of an honors and an athletic program at the same institution, we have discovered that each of our programs holds the capacity to freshen the outlook of the other precisely because they seem, on the surface at least, to be so different from one another.
This fact was brought home when, a number of years ago, the two of us served on a committee together. During a discussion over enrollment issues, Carolyn noted her frustration with the pressure that the university was exerting on her program to recruit top-tier students. At that time, the honors program did not engage in recruitment efforts distinct from those of the university, and any student who applied for university admission and achieved a particular standardized test score or graduated with a certain rank was automatically invited to enroll in the program. Rather than offer a critique of the honors recruitment approach, Brad drew from his own experience and simply inquired, “Have you considered focusing on building relationships with prospective students?”