Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Lylee Gibbs
Carmen Wilder posing for a portrait, Feb. 14 2024 at Smith Hall, Thompson Point, Carbondale, Illinois

For the first time in history, the Southern Illinois University Honors Program will be hosting the Honors Council of the Illinois Region’s annual conference on Feb. 23 and 24. 

The Student Research Symposium will kick off Friday at 5 p.m. with a tour of the Buckminster Fuller Dome, followed by a welcome dinner at the SIU Student Center Big Muddy Room. Saturday will be filled with presentations from around 35 to 40 honors students, University Honors Program Director Jyotsna Kapur said. 

“The annual student symposium is a venue for Honors students to present their research,” she wrote in an email. “We have been going to the HCIR Symposium for the last several years and it was time for us to host the conference on our campus.” 


The event is also an opportunity to showcase the many talents of the honors program members. Honors faculty will chair panels, while the Honors Assembly, which is the student governance body of the UHP, will serve as discussants. Day Starr-Fleming, an honors student and designer for the Daily Egyptian, has designed a t-shirt for the conference. Dr. Lingguo Bu has designed and printed the event trophies in the honors design lab, which is also used by students in his seminar “Making Math Fun for Children” to design 3-D toys for local school children. 

Kapur said, “This gives us an opportunity to showcase what makes the SIUC Honors Program distinctive – it is our commitment to sustainability as an overarching goal of education that we pursue through our curriculum, research, service, and campus activities.” 

Honors Assembly Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Carmen Wilder said she is most looking forward to networking and observing research.

“Meeting people from other universities and like-minded individuals who are just so passionate about research,” she said. “And even though I personally am not involved in research, I love hearing other people talk about their research. So the goal is just leaving the event feeling inspired, if you will, and just having new gained knowledge from sharing everyone’s ideas.” 

Sarah Kukavsky, president of the honors assembly, shared similar excitement. 

Sarah Lukavsky posing for a portrait, Feb. 14 2024 at Smith Hall, Thompson Point, Carbondale, Illinois (Lylee Gibbs)


“I think for me, I’m very interested in connecting with other people who have nothing to do with the zoology field [her major],” she said. “I love going to conferences to, kind of like Carmen said, just to learn as much as I can. And I think I’m in a very nice role where I get to talk to tons of people and get to understand, like, what they’ve done with their time in the honors program.” 

Kukavsky will be participating in a poster presentation and a panel discussion. Assembly Vice President of Commerce Natalie Eves will also be sharing research.

“I am presenting on the topic of ‘Why psychological skills are important in core curriculum,’” Eves said, “I am presenting on this topic to highlight the mental health crisis as a call to action for state-wide honors programs. The hope is that they will understand why a health class alternative which focuses more on mental health and development of psychological skills should be offered by colleges.” 

Eves has helped with planning and will assist with key aspects of the event. 

“With the help of the honors staff, assembly members and volunteers this will be a great event,” she said. 

The Honors Assembly has been preparing since the beginning of the semester with biweekly meetings. Kukavsky has also been meeting with faculty to ensure the plans are geared toward students.

“My job is to be the voice of the students,” she said. “So [faculty will] do their adult discussions, and then they’ll look at me and I’m like, ‘that won’t work for a student, let’s tone it down’ or like, ‘as a student, this is what I would want to see happen.’ So I’ve been kind of their soundboard. Helping them work out things to make sure everything goes smoothly. And then I relay it to the rest of the honors assembly.” 

Kukavsky said the biggest challenge she’s faced is getting honors students who are not a part of the assembly to attend. 

“I think a lot of students are kind of scared when they see the words ‘Research Conference,’ because they don’t necessarily understand that, like, you don’t have to have done research to come and learn something,” she said. “So I think that’s been my biggest struggle.”

Wilder added, “The struggle is wanting to get more people involved, and also just spreading the word about it, making sure people know what it is, and just how big of a deal it is that our school is hosting it for the first time. I really just hope it’s a good turnout, and that SIU is represented well.” 

Both students said that they hope attendees will walk away having learned something new and feeling inspired. 

“If you sit on a panel, or if you look at a poster, or you listen to anyone talk that day about what they’re passionate about, you should learn something,” Kukavsky said. “And I think it’s going to be really exciting to meet people across the state who do things that we haven’t dreamed of yet. It should be awesome.”

Wilder wants participants to “feel inspired [and] to want to keep learning and thinking in a different way.” 

If interested in volunteering, honors students should check the 411 Newsletter for sign-up information. Any other students interested can email [email protected]


For more information on the event, visit


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