Global Honors Introduces the Lauren McCathren Award for Social Impact

Friends and family of Lauren McCathren
Stories of Impact

Global Honors Introduces the Lauren McCathren Award for Social Impact

September 13, 2023 | by Cara Davis

featured-image-lauren-mccathren.jpgBelmont Global Honors is proud to announce the Lauren McCathren Award for Social Impact, an existing award, which is now expanding in reach to resource students committed to addressing the world's most pressing social challenges. The award is named in honor of the late Lauren McCathren and serves as a testament to her enduring legacy, which was the focus of the Belmont Global Honors Honorable Life Dinner on Sept. 11, held at the Janet Ayers Academic Center on campus. 

The Lauren McCathren Award for Social Impact extends Lauren's legacy by annually recognizing a deserving student. McCathren, a Nashville native and former Belmont student who passed in 2005 at age 21, is remembered not only for her academic pursuits but also for her unwavering dedication to social justice causes. 

This annual dinner, which is a keystone event of the Global Honors Program, pays tribute to an exemplary member of the community who personifies the principles of "the honorable life" and shares the program’s core values.

Attendees were encouraged to "embrace a bigger story," with journals and prompts provided on each table. Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, director of the Global Honors program, explained: "At Belmont, we aspire to tell stories that inspire the world to students, faculty and staff. We really want you to embrace a bigger story, which involves seeing past our experiences as considering a larger context or a grander vision. So this night, our third annual Honorable Life Dinner is an opportunity to do just that."

embrace a bigger story journal

Smith Whitehouse knew McCathren and shared stories about her at the dinner, later reflecting: “Lauren McCathren had a passion for justice and a way of making things happen. Even at a very young age, Lauren was a humanitarian who sought to make this world a better place. She did not shy away from working to address the most pressing needs of Nashville. She advocated for unhoused people. She created a community library in a local Head Start Center. She even founded an alternative Christmas gift market at Christ Church Cathedral that still goes on every December. For the past 17 years, this award has been given to a Belmont student who served as a Spanish translator for a medical mission trip to Ecuador.”

Some of the past 15 recipients were on hand at the dinner and several contributed to a tribute video to McCathren, sharing how the “seed” of the award they were given has grown into a global, long-lasting impact. “Lauren's life was too short,” Smith Whitehouse said, as she introduced the video. “But Lauren's legacy and her story are long, and I want to share with you tonight about how Belmont students past, present and future are part of Lauren's legacy.” 

Moving forward, the award’s focus will expand to fund Belmont's Honors Scholars’ Collaborative students by providing approximately $1,300 to fund a social impact project they will complete in their junior year. 

The project places a strong emphasis on collaboration and encourages students to address global challenges and contribute positively to society. Past projects have included:

  1. Producing an entire original musical production.
  2. Creating an economic revitalization plan for a historic community.
  3. In-depth research and composed reports on overseas sweatshops.
  4. Healthcare services provided to the most impoverished communities in Africa and orphan care in India.

“We like to say that all of our students in the Global Honors program are encouraged to imagine that the place where God calls us – as Frederick Buechner memorably said – as the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” Smith Whitehouse said.Randall McCathren“As we imagine the future recipients of this award, we have no idea where these places of deep gladness and deep hunger will look like. We are grateful to Lauren and to her family to have this incredible opportunity to extend Lauren’s legacy through this innovative and visionary award.”

McCathren’s family attended the dinner and her father Randall thanked those who had gathered to honor her legacy. “She was a special person,” he said. “We believe that every one of you here is also a special person. And special people can do amazing things in this world when they set their mind to it. We look forward to coming back year after year and learning all about what social impact projects you will propose.”

Applications were sent to eligible students this week and are due Oct. 27. 

See the photo gallery from the dinner. For more information about the Lauren McCathren Award for Social Impact, please contact the Belmont Global Honors.