Every year, incoming freshmen and transferring students are welcomed onto Harding’s campus with a weekend of service activities, devotionals and themed events. This weekend is known as Impact, a short time before the beginning of the semester designed for incoming students to get to know one another and some upperclassmen.
Making Impact memorable requires the work of many student volunteers. However, every year, two students have the unique responsibility of planning the events and activities of the experience. These students are the Impact co-directors. The 2020 co-directors are sophomore Everett Kirkman and junior Ethan Brazell, who will be planning in circumstances unlike any before.
Caitlin Denton, the First Year Experience and Students in Transition assistant director, interviewed several students for the job before ultimately hiring Kirkman and Brazell. Denton said no matter the circumstances, Impact has looked different every year due to varied challenges. COVID-19 is another challenge that Denton, Kirkman and Brazell are willing to take on to make the summer and Impact weekend run as smoothly as possible. Denton said she hired Kirkman and Brazell for several outstanding qualities that have prepared them to take on this job.
“They both have an awesome ability to build strong relationships with students, peers and staff; we’ve seen that through their on-campus activities, reputations and interactions with our office and staff so far,” Denton said. “We also believe they have the creativity and determination to do that even with unique and unpredictable challenges. Ethan and Everett have shown they see the value in connecting with new students and welcoming them to Harding no matter the circumstances.”
Kirkman and Brazell have already begun talking about their future plans for Bison Bound summer orientation and Impact through Zoom. Kirkman said the two did not know one another prior to accepting the job, but they have enjoyed getting to know each other. Kirkman studied at Harding University in Florence this semester before coming home due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“During my 14-day quarantine right when I got home, I was encouraged to apply, so I finally did,” Kirkman said. “I really admired the work Luke [Humphrey] and Lindsey [Bender] did during my freshman Impact weekend and have loved getting to know each of them as my time at Harding has gone on. They left some big, incredible shoes to fill, but I decided I was up to the challenge.”
Brazell applied for the job because of the fond memories he associates with the Impact weekend. He said he met some of his closest friends during that weekend and is excited to see other students grow.
“This is definitely going to be an exciting summer,” Brazell said. “Both Everett and I will be in Searcy this summer busily making preparations for Bison Bound and Impact. We are both ready to be flexible and adaptable to whatever the circumstances of the summer may bring. Amidst all the unknowns, Everett and I are brainstorming non-stop on how this summer can be the absolute best it can be. We have a lot of fun ideas in the works.”
Earlier this week, recruiters told incoming freshmen that Bison Bound, the June and July events in which new students come to campus to register for classes, will take place online this summer. They also said that Impact will likely look different, with potential for an earlier or later move-in date for incoming freshmen and transferring students.
“This summer will definitely look different than any other summer at Harding,” Kirkman said. “COVID-19 has changed the way we all view the world, I think. But in a weird, roundabout way, I think a lot of us needed a reminder that we’re not promised everything we plan on … No matter where a student is from, no matter how many times they’ve visited campus before, no matter if they are set on a major or have no idea what they want to study, I want this summer to pump them up for their first semester at Harding.”