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HCA offers students chance to ‘espresso’ themselves

Alex Cohen

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Honors College students have a lot on their plates. They struggle with a rigorous schedule of tests, homework and extracurricular activities. They often also struggle with a certain kind of social isolation — a disconnect from their fellow Honors College students.

So, from now on, the Honors College Assembly aims to make things a little easier for them. Tonight at 6 p.m., the HCA will host the first Express Night at Starbucks in the Ferguson Center.

At Express Night, Honors College students will have a chance to express themselves artistically, as well as relax and enjoy each other’s company.

“It’s pretty much an artistic social event that hopefully will bring about some dynamic conversation,” said Ryan Davis, HCA director of arts awareness. “And, of course, we get to chill out in a coffee shop setting.”

There will be 12 six-to-eight minute performance slots for anyone wishing to showcase some talent. Students without the desire to be onstage can grab a mocha and expect to enjoy various forms of artistic expression.

“[It] will be an open-mic night for any form of live performance, whether it be music, dance, poetry or prose,” Davis said. “It will also be an opportunity for artists and photographers to display their work.”

Express Night will offer a cozy, laid-back venue — perfect for aspiring artists to ease their way into any scene.

“I’ve played music for a while but have never really done a show playing guitar alone,” said Jose Ruiz, a freshman majoring in political science and communications. “I’m excited to get out there and give it a shot.”

Honors College faculty have had artistic events in the planning process for a long time. Davis and those he has worked with have had the idea for Express Night since July.

While this night will be dominated by voices and harmonic scales on the stage, the biggest achievement could just be social interaction among the audience.

“In the past, the HCA has noticed a little bit of a disconnect in Honors College among the students,” Davis said. “It’s all very similar to problems other big groups experience. A lot of students just don’t know each other. It’s unfortunate considering all the benefit that would come with just a little interaction.”

Colby Leopard, co-chair of the Express Night committee of HCA, also acknowledges the disconnect.

“We need to create a moment where we form relationships within HCA,” Leopard said. “If we are more aware of each other, we’ll be that much stronger and that much more successful.”

Although the burden of forming friendships falls on every Honors College student, Leopard said he believes freshmen have the most responsibility and the most at stake.

“In order for HCA to be successful, there has to be a large percent of freshmen participating,” Leopard said. “I personally want to see freshmen stepping up — not afraid to show an artistic side, not afraid to be on stage. They need to be taking ownership and embracing some leadership.”

Some freshmen are enthused about the opportunity.

“It gives us a way to get involved and meet new people,” Ruiz said. “I’m from Memphis and only know a handful of people down here. Events like this are a way for me to plug in.”

Davis, who has been involved in the Tuscaloosa music scene for some time, is no stranger to artistic expression. He said he understands that the arts can play an important role in students’ lives.

“One of the goals of the HCA is to create a cultural environment to complement students’ academic experience,” Davis said. “Social, artistic events like this one will help forge that identity within the Honors College.”

If you are an honors student and wish to perform or submit visual art, e-mail the Arts Awareness Committee at

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HCA offers students chance to ‘espresso’ themselves