Gala promotes discourse

The Honors College fosters philosophy through disciplined conversation at its annual fundraiser, The Great Conversation, tonight in the Houston Country Club.

‘Each table is composed of individual mini programs where it has its own conversation – its own event per se, where a UH faculty member, or someone who has a relationship with UH, can lead a discussion,’ Shannon P. Brotherton, director of development at The Honors College said.

The Honors College’s primary fundraiser mirrors its course ‘The Human Situation,’ in which students and faculty discuss what it means to be human through ideas introduced in great books.

Discussion topics range from sports and wine, to political theory, economics and ethics.

‘Conversationalists discuss something that is their discipline or something they are interested in,’ Brotherton said.

This year there will be 28 conversationalists, including The Honors College faculty and directors from different centers around campus.

‘We extend the invitation for them to be a conversationalist, and try to reach out to new people as we meet them,’ Brotherton said.’ ‘If someone is interested in being a conversationalist then they can talk with the dean, but they do have to be a faculty member or director at the University.’

Artist in Residence John Harvey teaches ‘Writer and Their Regions’ in The Honors College. He will discuss the class, which combines Texas and Southern Literature with students’ creative projects.

‘(Donors) are interested in knowing about the artist retreat we have for spring break where 15 students and I stay in cabins and work on creative projects,’ Harvey said.’

Each donor chooses a table with a discussion topic and can invite up to eight people to share good food and great conversation.

‘This year we have raised $203,000, and it is primarily used for Honors College scholarships,’ Brotherton said.

Honors students who volunteer for table-decoration committees earn themselves seats at the tables.

‘The committee is about 25 honors students, and they can go to The Great Conversation, and fill up the extra spots on the tables,’ Brotherton said.

Jane Cizik, Advisory Board Chair and alumna of The Honors College, started the event 17 years ago.

‘(Since then) other institutions, -non-profit organizations and hospitals,-have copied this program with great success in Houston and nationally,’ Brotherton said.

The Great Conversation is an avenue to market The Honors College to the greater Houston community, she said.

‘One thing I love about this event is that it is a real active dynamic for alumni and community friends to interact with faculty,’ Brotherton said.’ ‘I think since everyone gets to participate, it keeps them coming back year after year.’

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