OPINION: Experiencing Joy in Academia

Written by Amanda Davis, Feature Editor

As busy college students, finding joy in academia can be a very difficult task. There always seems to be an assignment to finish, a deadline to race, and exam to stress over. Academia can sometimes turn things that we hold dear and near to our heart into something that we dread. I have dealt with this problem countless times, and recently I had an experience that gave my stressful academic life a refreshing breath of air.

During the weekend of February 10th – 11th, I attended the 2023 Tennessee Collegiate Honors Conference with two other students, Daeana Roberts, and Priscilla Doran, and English Professor Lynn Russell, at Austin Peay State University. My fellow students and I conducted research about topics that intrigued us prior to the conference, and we wrote a paper about our findings. We presented our research to an audience during one of the morning sessions.

Students were given the opportunity to create poster presentations of their research and to display them on the third floor of the Morgan University Center. Students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee State University and many other universities participated.

The conference’s theme was joy, and each presentation had to be centered around this topic. Students expressed their understanding of joy through the lens of their various academic interests. There were presentations about how Jewish prisoners found joy by orchestrating music during the Holocaust, how the joy of reading can change someone’s perspective and how media bias in school shootings can shape our thoughts and emotions.

I observed much creativity and passion during the conference. It was refreshing to see people who were just as enthusiastic about research and learning as I am, and to share that joy even though we were strangers. Seeing other people succeed made me feel like in a way, that I was succeeding as well.

Russell was asked to attend the conference by Dr. Scott Jones, the former Dean of the Honor’s Institute, because she is the research advisor for the honors students. Russell said that she loved encouraging her students in their research and that seeing them succeed gave her joy. “All of you are passionate about your research, so you all picked topics that you thought were interesting and engaging, and I love supporting students’ passion and ideas and research,” Russell said.

Roberts found joy in a presenter during her session who wrote poetry and prose focusing on a central theme. Roberts said that she often worries about not being taken seriously in the academic field, and that the presenter’s theme encouraged her. “Seeing that kind of presentation at this kind of conference, and seeing how it was received, it was received really well, it was done really well, it encouraged me to read more poetry and explore that a little bit more in my own life,” Roberts said.

Doran said that she saw how the theme of joy opened up many possibilities in research. “It had so many implications for human learning and experience, especially in the humanities field,” Doran said. Doran also liked that the aspect of joy showed how much cultures and humanity truly had in common.

Emotions are what define us and make us human. When we celebrate our mutual human experiences, we celebrate our strengths, and help build a community. TCHC taught me that joy can be found anywhere, and that sometimes we need a new perspective before we can truly see it.

Amanda Davis is a sophomore communications major and creative writing minor at Bryan College. She is a Kansas City native and loves reading, writing and photography.