The fifteen-minute ride from her Saltville, Va. home to the Honors Program interview at Emory & Henry College felt like it lasted an hour. Katie Beth Bordwine had never been so nervous.
That feeling remained throughout the opening ceremony, until the college’s President at the time, Dr. Rosalind Reichard, stood up and read from Susie Morgenstern’s I Will Make Miracles a poem about a small boy and his big dreams. She read:
Everyone keeps asking me / when you get older what will you be / I say a plumber or
Pilot / Or dance the ballet / Though the truth is I don’t really know what to say…
I’ll make miracles my mission / I’ll meet everyone on Earth / and ask about their dreams /
because life is more / much more than it seems / I’ll fill up the world with people who
share / with people who smile, with people who care / It may sound like a thing only God
can achieve / and maybe it’s true / but here is the key / to change the world from dark to
bright / first I must learn to read and write.
Bordwine went into her interview with newfound confidence, determined that Emory & Henry and the Honors Program was going to be her map to show everyone that she was capable of doing all those things that the little boy in the book wished so badly to accomplish.
“I left my interview feeling confident and hoping that I would receive an acceptance letter,” recalled Bordwine. “I got a phone call a little later telling me that I had been accepted into the Honors Program and telephone wires throughout the mountains of Appalachia lit up with my mother tirelessly calling our relatives to let them know “our baby is an honors scholar.”
Those phone lines will glow once again upon the news that Bordwine has been named Virginias Collegiate Honors Council's Honors Scholar of the Year. As part of the recognition, she will receive a $500 scholarship, lodging and registration at the VCHC Spring Meeting on April 10 and 11 in Richmond, Va., where she will speak to her peers on the topic of being a part of an honors community and what it means to her.
When I heard the news, I actually dropped my phone with excitement. Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind was I could now tell my mother to stop fussing about the ‘B’ I got in one of my classes last semester because now I’m the Honor Scholar of the Year in Virginia! Katie Beth Bordwine
Bordwine’s road to success was not always easy. She often found herself feeling intimidated by the resumes and backgrounds of those in her cohort. Bordwine was from a small rural high school that was working with outdated resources and limited faculty and staff. She may have done well in high school, but she felt she was out of her league in college.
In fact, she was convinced her only option was to drop out of the program, drop out of college, and enter the work force like most out of her graduating class of 65 had already done.
“I walked to the director of the Honors Program’s office with my speech already prepared,” Bordwine remembers. “I was going to say, ‘Thank you Dr. Lane for your confidence in me, but I believe you all have made a mistake.’ However, before I could open my mouth to say those words I had rehearsed in my room he said, ‘Katie Beth, when are you going to stop apologizing for who you are, and start showing me what you can do?’ In that moment, the course of my experience at Emory & Henry and the course of my life was changed. I got up from the chair in his office that has become a home away from home to me, and made miracles my mission yet again. “
Now in her junior year, Bordwine is a member of the Honors Steering Committee for next fall. She has traveled twice to New York City, the first time with her honors cohort, the second time leading the trip for the subsequent cohort. She is enrolled in a study abroad class, and plans to travel to Sweden over the summer.
Emory & Henry College is a community that stresses family and love. The Honors Program is an extension of that community and blankets me with colleagues and friends who challenge and push me every single day.Katie Beth Bordwine
Bordwine stays busy outside of the classroom as well. She currently serves as the manager of the women’s basketball team, the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the public relations chair of the Calliopean Debate Society on campus, and the president of Sigma Upsilon Nu Social Sorority. Her peers also elected her Homecoming Queen in the fall of 2014.
Bordwine is currently triple majoring in history, political science, and sociology and plans to apply to law school within the next year.
She has just begun work on her honors thesis through which she hopes to understand the work that enslaved African American men and women did in Smyth County, specifically in her hometown of Saltville, Va, and why they have been overlooked and underrepresented in the social and historical narrative of the region.
“The Honors Program has helped me witness an injustice in my own community and has given me the tools as well as the courage to take what I have learned at school and bring it back to my home,” Bordwine said. “My exhibit will be making its debut at the Museum of the Middle Appalachians located in Saltville, Va. in Spring 2016.”
Bordwine says much of her success can be attributed to the support of the Honors Program professors, including its director, Dr. Joseph Lane; its assistant director, Hai Yan Chen; the members of her cohort; and all of the members of the program.