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A Unique Journey of Learning

BYUSA President and Honors Student All-in-One

When asked to describe himself, Robert Borden lists his affection for pizza, pasta and gelato, an affinity one might think comes naturally to an Italian major, his love for his wife of two years, Jenny, and their beta fish named Alpha. These personal descriptions paint a humble picture, but in reality, Borden is a driven and accomplished student. Consider some of Borden’s accomplishments: he was selected as the Director of Professional Development for the Golden Key International Honour Society, was chosen to be a member of a student delegation to China for International Relations and Diplomacy, earned the recognition of “Distinguished Delegate” on BYU’s Model UN team representing Italy, has been on the Dean’s List for the College of Humanities, and received the Donald C. Sloan Public Speaking Scholarship for excellence in public speaking.

Many of you will recognize Borden as the current President of the BYU Student Service Association (BYUSA) where his primary role is to facilitate connections for individual students by making leadership opportunities and student-focused experiences more relatable and accessible. Here in the Honors Program, we recognize Borden as a student who excels in scholarly inquiry and demonstrates academic excellence. Most recently, Borden has been making waves with his research for his Honors Thesis. "Academically, I am interested in the interplay between a nation's values and its conception of justice.... I am writing about justice and judicial processes in the United States and Italy. I decided to pursue this topic because I saw, what I initially called, ‘significant problems’ with the mechanisms for exacting justice in Italy. With time, however, I began to realize that what I was calling ‘problems’ were not problems at all. They were just differences. I began to realize that there were positive and negative attributes to the system that I was critiquing, as well as the system that I was born into. These takeaways were the foundation of my thesis and led to other findings that I believe were both personally and universally relevant.”

Borden’s thesis demonstrates that while justice is a universal goal, every country achieves it with different methodologies. "I have found that while most nations proclaim some sort of justice as the end goal of their legal systems, the mechanism of exacting justice varies from nation to nation. By comparing Italy and the United States I have come to see that in Italy, justice is served as a clearer version of the facts is exposed by experts. However, in the United States, justice is served as victory is declared by the common people. This difference is central to understanding the values systems of each political and government system as well as the people of the nation themselves.”

Borden states that the process of writing his Honors Thesis has been a unique journey of learning. "From the beginning of the thesis process I was very anxious to complete the paper and to accomplish the work necessary to graduate with Honors. However, as time passed, my advisors helped me to see the value of thought. I am more of a ‘doer’ and less of a ‘thinker.’ I think this is probably because it is easy to ‘do’ and hard to ‘think.’ Working through the process of producing a thesis has been exceptionally difficult, but I feel that I have learned how to think a little better and the value of depth of thought.”

During his undergraduate experience, Borden has found a wonderful balance between expanding his knowledge and participating in what BYU President Worthen describes as “inspired learning.” “Initially, I wanted to be a part of the Honors Program because I knew that prestige and honors would bring me better opportunities in my aspirations to pursue a legal education. Why not shoot for the stars, right? With time, however, my experience in the Honors Program, and specifically with my thesis, brought me to a fountain of learning that I was not able to experience anywhere else. Learning in the classroom is fantastic. It is an experience unmatched by many others. However, it is not everything. There is value in experiential and inspired learning that can only be attained if one takes on the personal responsibility of learning for one's self. This is the journey that Dante took as he traveled from Purgatorio to Paradiso and it is the journey that every one of us must take if we want to really understand the world around us. [For my thesis] I have traveled Europe studying judicial expediency and been able to meet people with unique gifts for teaching and leadership. These people have shown me the importance of thinking, writing, and communication and helped me develop intellectually, spiritually, and in every other capacity.”

Overall, Borden’s experience in the Honors Program has been varied but rewarding. “I joined because I knew that an Honors distinction would set me apart from others. I stayed because I realized that the only reason we should live our lives is to be close to others and the Honors Program teaches, preaches and lives that ideal. What an incredible group!”

In giving advice to new students, Borden quotes President Spencer W. Kimball with the simple phrase, “Do it.” That certainly is what Borden has done in his academic career, and has been made all the better for it.

In the next few weeks, Borden will defend his Honors Thesis and will then graduate in April with a BA in Italian and a minor in Global Business & Literacy.