More than 450 Phi Theta Kappa members, advisors, alumni and staff kicked off the 45th Honors Institute at the University of Denver on June 18 in the most unlikely of ways given the excess of technology available today: by watching a silent movie accompanied by a live pianist. And they loved every second of it.
“I thought it was an absolutely wonderful session,” said Aaron Rauscher, a member of the Sigma Phi chapter at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado. “It was thoroughly entertaining. It kept attention the entire time; and to keep the attention of a room this size is pretty amazing in and of itself.”
The Honors Institute is a weeklong intensive study of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Study Topic, The Culture of Competition. The institute is patterned after seminars held at Oxford University in England, which feature a thought-provoking presentation by renowned speakers followed by smaller breakout group discussions.
“Participants will also have the opportunity to study and discuss the interconnection of our Society’s Hallmarks of scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship that we call the Phi Theta Kappa Experience and the ways in which their study can translate into Honors in Action programs that benefit their colleges and communities,” said Susan Edwards, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Academic Affairs and Honors Programs.
The opening session featured Ethan Uslan, a classically trained pianist who turned to jazz and ragtime music and is now a specialist in the music of the 1920s. Uslan’s 76-minute performance coupled classic sports music with well-known college fight songs, timed perfectly to bring to life The Freshman, a classic silent movie by Harold Lloyd.
Uslan wowed the crowd and received a rousing standing ovation. He then took a few questions from the audience, briefly touching on how he feels the culture of competition in the film industry has affected the allure and romance of the movies produced today.
The Honors Institute will continue this week with speakers such as award-winning journalist Laura Ling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch and Peggielene Bartels, also known as “King Peggy,” the King of Otuam in Ghana.