National Leadership Forum

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Jody VenkatesanThis week the University hosted nearly 200 high school delegates at the 60th annual National Leadership Forum. The event featured several lectures regarding topics such as leadership, attitude, economy, and issues related to environment and agriculture.

Among the speakers was Jody Venkatesan, a 1996 Harding alumnus. Venkatesan, owner of a professional consulting firm, spoke to students about the American economy and its opportunities for entrepreneurship.

“You don’t find a sense of entrepreneurship like you do in Silicon Valley anywhere else,” Venkatesan said in his presentation Tuesday morning.

Venkatesan spoke about how his early career experiences in internal and external auditing provided him with knowledge to develop his own company. He shared concrete steps to take when starting a business, such as incorporating and obtaining a tax ID. For many students, this was the first time someone had detailed how to go about being an entrepreneur.

“We ought to be teaching young people to become entrepreneurs, not telling them that they can’t,” Venkatesan said in his presentation. “You learn by going out and doing things, not by doing nothing.”

Venkatesan delved into several economic topics during his presentation, touching on national debt, national budget deficit, free market and the global economy. The basic overview aimed to inform students of where their ideas might fit in the broader picture of the nation’s economy.

In closing, Venkatesan shared student ideas for products, services or businesses. He said there is value in ideas, especially ones that improve upon existing processes. He encouraged them not to undersell themselves and to pursue their ideas.

“Economic growth is constantly being driven by innovation, research and development,” Venkatesan said. “It will continue to be driven by this generation of innovators.”

Shelby Dias, director of news services


Simpson picture

The 59th annual National Leadership Forum on campus began Sunday, June 7. This program, open to high school students in grades 9-12, provides students with opportunities to develop leadership skills, examine foreign policy, study social issues, and learn about the traditions and ideals upon which this country was established.

Yesterday, B. Chris Simpson, a University alumnus, spoke about proper communication as leaders. He is a young adult minister at the Holmes Road Church of Christ in Whitehaven, Tennessee, and this year marks the fourth time he has spoken at this event.

“My favorite part about this event is meeting the people that come up to me and say I have made a difference in their lives,” Simpson said. “When I meet them I know God hasn’t left us without representation.”

In a morning session on June 9, Simpson taught his key concepts through real life examples that were easily relatable for the young adult crowd present. He told students that there is more to people than what we immediately see, misunderstanding that idea fosters inaccurate stereotypes, and true leaders communicate and interact with the seen and unseen.

“Words are transmitted as powerful ropes to connect us throughout the ages,” Simpson said. “They are magnets diffusing energy that links strangers one to another. They are posts anchoring one human’s experience to the experience of humanity.”

Simpson pointed out leaders need to speak less and listen more, remember that people are different, and have compassion. He quoted Sharon Johnson, a life enrichment professional, saying, “Communication without compassion is brutality.”

Simpson has a gift for making teens think about oppressive stereotypes while being involved in his discussions. His questions and silly impressions kept the atmosphere light enough for them to feel comfortable answering and had them giggling throughout most of the lecture. Many came up to him afterwards to shake his hand, take a picture with him, or comment on how the topics made them think differently about themselves.

Erin Hanson, public relations intern

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Harding University arch

Summer has officially arrived and with it, an emptier campus, at least for the moment. School may be out for most, but campus doesn’t completely shut down in the summertime.

Intersession classes started May 11 and go until May 22. From the list of 58 classes being offered, 606 students are spending the next two weeks learning as much as they can in a variety of subjects from meteorology to medieval art. Class offerings are available to students in psychology, science, math, history, English, sociology, art and communication. Summer classes also start May 11 and go until July 31, and many students are choosing to stay and study in Searcy for the summer.

Harding also hosts a number of programs on campus throughout the summer, including Arkansas Special Olympics summer games May 21-23, and the 72nd session of Arkansas Girl’s State, a program created by the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Arkansas to allow high school juniors to participate in hands-on citizenship training, which begins May 31. This year marks the 22nd consecutive year Special Olympics has been held on the University campus. It’s an event to which the whole community looks forward.

Also on the calendar is three sessions of Uplift, four sessions of Honors Symposium and one of Honors Media and Culture, two Summer Stampede programs, three shows in the department of theatre’s Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre, and the 59th annual National Leadership Forum. For details, visit Stay tuned for our favorite stories and photos covering all the excitement in store at Harding this summer.

Hannah Beall Owens, director of news services

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The 57th annual National Leadership Forum on campus began Sunday, June 2. This program, open to high school students in grades 9-12, provides students with opportunities to develop leadership skills, examine foreign policy, study social issues, and learn about the traditions and ideals upon which this country was established.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a session on social media led by Assistant Professor of Communication Jim Miller. With my extreme fascination in all forms of social media, I was very interested in what issues would be discussed in this setting and how teenagers would respond.

In a packed classroom full of determined student leaders, Miller challenged participants to use social media for social good. Attendants discussed examples of using social media for both good and bad. I was impressed with many students’ ability to identify positive and negative social media methods.

In addition to revealing shocking statistics about the world’s social media usage, Miller shared stories of positive and negative situations that have happened as a result of social media. Many students spoke up in class, displaying their knowledge of the realistic dangers of using social media inappropriately and how to identify misuse. They were also able to provide examples of ways in which people and organizations have utilized it for social good.

At the end of each session, Miller challenged the group to go out and answer the question “How can teens make a difference in the world?” using Vine, a mobile app that allows users to create six-second video clips, and the hashtag #NLF13. After the session, I went and looked at a few. To see some of the student-created Vine videos, visit Twitter and search #NFL13. You’ll be surprised at some of the things these bright students can create. This session is just one of the many classes students are able to attend and learn how be the leaders they are.

Hannah Beall Owens, news director

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It is unusually quiet on campus right now. For the first time in years, there is a two-week break between Intersession and Summer I so few students are to be found.

Parking lots are so empty that there is time for the parking and transportation office to repaint the worn lines marking the spaces. The Student Center downstairs looks like a ghost town. But go upstairs and it is a different matter as the new Center for Student Excellence nears completion.

It is not the only construction going on as the new complex on the west side of campus, Legacy Park, is starting to reveal just how beautiful an addition to campus it will be upon completion in August. Meanwhile, new apartments being added to the Village are going up on the east side. And in the center between the two, Allen Hall is getting a facelift.  For Physical Resources, summer is anything but their slow time.

The lack of students on campus won’t last long. Alongside summer sessions, the campus bustles with activity all summer long. Arkansas Special Olympics starts Thursday followed by Girls State on Sunday. There will be sports camps, Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre performances, four sessions of Honors Symposium, three Uplift sessions, National Leadership Forum, Honor Choir, Pharmacy Camp and more!

Want to learn more? Go to for a complete list of activities.

In the few days remaining, I’ll enjoy not hunting for a parking space!

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer

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This Saturday more than 700 seventh-12th-grade students, along with their sponsors, will register for the first session of Uplift summer camp. The three sessions of the camp will welcome more than 2,000 visitors.

But before the multitude of campers arrive, this week is drawing almost 300 ninth-12th-grade students for the 55th National Leadership Forum. The long-standing event, co-sponsored by Arkansas and Tennessee Farm Bureaus, Civitan and other civic clubs, and the American Studies Institute, attracts delegates with excellent character as well as leadership capabilities.

The students are learning leadership development through lectures, films and team building, all designed to assist youth to become better acquainted with the American scene and build pride in our traditions and ideals.

This morning John Foppe addressed the group on “Life is an Attitude.” The motivational speaker, born without arms, has had to break down and re-engineer every aspect of his life, and focuses on translating visions into outcome. He serves as executive director for Community Link, a nonprofit organization that helps adults and children with developmental disabilities. In other words, he practices what he preaches.

When the students leave Friday, the outcome will be better leaders in their communities, schools, churches and homes.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor

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