The University of Houston–Downtown, located on the historic Buffalo Bayou in the heart of our nation’s fourth largest city, is one of four distinct universities within the University of Houston System. With an enrollment of over 14,000 students, UH-D is the second largest university in Houston, exceeded only by the University of Houston flagship campus located just 5 miles to the south.
UH-D is also the most ethnically diverse university in Texas, and ranks among the top 40 schools in the nation for graduating African-American and Hispanic students with bachelor’s degrees.
UH-D attracts talented students with 44 undergraduate majors, 8 master’s degree programs, and one of the lowest tuition rates of four-year universities in the state. For students interested in taking on an extra challenge, however, the University Honors Program is a good option.
The University Honors Program admitted its first students in 2014. In the fall of 2016, approximately 30 incoming freshmen will join the 50 students currently enrolled in the program.
Interested students must complete a written application. While applications are reviewed holistically, priority consideration is given to students meeting established criteria for SAT/ACT scores, high school GPA, and high school class rank. According to Mari L. Nicholson-Preuss, Ph.D., Director of the University Honors Program, the written application “provides students with the opportunity to elaborate on their academic experience and achievements in the areas of scholarship, leadership and citizenship.”
The application includes a required essay, an optional personal statement, and space for a URL in case the applicant would like to submit a link to supplemental information, such as a portfolio or a YouTube video.
Should a student’s high school record fall short of the criteria required for priority consideration, Dr. Nicholson-Preuss encourages him or her to apply by submitting, along with the application, a high school transcript as well as additional evidence of achievement.
According to Dr. Nicholson-Preuss, “[t]he options for additional evidence are rather broad and should allow the student to build a case as to why they should be admitted to the program. Supplemental evidence could include AP/IB scores, letters of recommendation, completion of leadership programs, capstone projects, service projects, University Interscholastic League, and other academic awards and honors, portfolios and writing samples.”
Once accepted into the University Honors Program, students commit to meet with both the director and a peer mentor each month, to attend one hour of weekly honors study hall each week, and to participate in at least 3 honors events each semester. Freshmen and sophomore students are expected to enroll in at least 30 credit hours per academic year, including 18 hours in Honors sections over the 2 years. In order to graduate from the University Honors Program, a student must maintain a 3.25 GPA and complete 30 hours of Honors credits.
Program perks include an Honors Lounge, the peer mentor program, social events such as attending a Houston Astros baseball game, scholarship opportunities, special lectures, invitations to community events, priority course registration, smaller classes, and opportunities to represent the university in public.
Honors students also have opportunities to take “linked courses”, and benefit from overlapping content or focus. The Honors Program is also developing additional thematically linked courses, focusing particularly on those that enhance UH-D’s commitment to service-based learning, community engagement, and social justice issues.
This is an exciting time to be part of the new Honors community at UH-D, as it continues to develop additional Honors courses and innovative plans for the future.
Although the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University offers more than 40 sections of all-honors classes, with an average class size of fewer than 16 students, perhaps the most impressive feature of the college is the range of inventive co-curricular learning options available to the college’s 1,785 students.
As a reminder, the term co-curricular refers to learning experiences that complement classroom learning, whether for credit or not. Increasingly, co-curricular activities provide credits for participants.
Dr. Carla Koretsky, Dean of the college, tells us that one of the co-curricular options is the Study in the States “placed-based” learning series. Offered for three credit hours, mostly in the summer, the courses are capped at 8-10 honors students.
“Students, a faculty member and an honors college staff member travel for 7-10 days to study something outside of the state of Michigan,” Dean Koretsky says. “Students receive honors, and typically also general education credit for these courses. Students pay the regular tuition rate and the honors college pays all expenses associated with the travel for every student in the course (airfares, ground transportation, lodging, meals, incidentals).”
Recent courses include:
Garbage in Gotham: Anthropology/environmental studies course in New York City.
Texas Tour: Business course in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, TX.
Entrepreneurship: Business course in Austin, TX and Boulder, CO with additional travel to Detroit, Grand Rapids, Chicago and Cincinnati.
Vue d’Afrique: French film course to the African Film festival in Montreal.
Disney Pilgrimage: Interdisciplinary course traveling from Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA
The college also offers a weekly Lyceum Lecture series, featuring a weekly talk by a faculty, staff or community expert. Recent themes include Climate Change, Race Matters, Living with Uncertainty, Globally Engaged Citizenship and Sustainable Energy Future.
A Metropolitan series takes small groups of students to museums and cultural events. “Recent groups have visited the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the Art Prize Competition in Grand Rapids and the Arab American Museum in Dearborn,” Dean Koretsky says.
A Peer Student Success Team, comprised of upperclassmen who serve as mentors to incoming freshmen, “hold office hours in the honors residence hall, help with our events and organize at least four volunteer group events for honors students each semester.
“The honors college has a Common Read book for freshmen, who are given a hard copy of the book during summer orientation. We begin fall welcome week with a facilitated discussion of our book and invite the author to campus in the fall semester to discuss the book and meet with honors students. Recent books include The Events of October, the Life of Pi, Tell the Wolves I’m Home and Unbroken.”
The honors college has also spear-headed a major lecture series, Raise Your Voice, open to all students and the public, but especially promoted to honors students. “The series theme is understanding and preventing gender-based violence and hostility. Speakers include Anita Hill, Jackson Katz, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Soraya Chemaly, Tatayana Fazlalizadeh and Gloria Steinem.”
The presence of extensive co-curricular offerings is no indication that classroom learning has been slighted at the college. It is unusual for honors colleges and programs to offer only all-honors classes–sections that are not “mixed” or “contract” courses where honors students may been the minority of those enrolled. All the honors sections at the college are all-honors sections.
Even better news: all of the major disciplines are included. English, history, math, chemistry, philosophy, business, psychology, economics, political science, and health-related classes are all a part of the course schedule.
In addition, the college has an honors residential hall (Ackley) and includes priority registration for honors students during all four years of study. Prospective honors students often succeed in the Medallion Scholarship competition. “All competitors receive a 1-year $3000 scholarship and automatic admission to the honors college. Semi-finalists receive $6000 over 2 years and approximately 20 finalists receive $60,000 over 4 years. Finalists who complete an undergraduate degree in less than four years may use remaining funds for graduate study.
“We also offer honors scholarships for study abroad (up to $3000) and to pursue research and creative activities (up to $3000). These are awarded through a competitive application process.”
Prospective students should know that the minimum admissions requirements are a high school GPA of 3.6 and ACT score of 26. The six-year graduation rate for honors entrants is 81 percent.
Honors News is a regular (not always daily) update, in brief, of recent news from honors colleges/programs and from the world of higher ed. Occasionally, a bit of opinion enters the discussion. These brief posts are by John Willingham, unless otherwise noted.
In his Rhodes Scholar interview, Robert Fisher was asked to talk about something he had seen that was strikingly beautiful. The honors student from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga knew at once what he wanted to say:
“Looking out from Sunset Rock, on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee…Chattanooga is nestled between two mountains and a river runs through the city. The real beauty in that view comes from knowing the place: I could see my university downtown, the river, even the highway, I could see where it goes. I could see it all.”
Robert Fisher shaking hands with President Obama
One reason that Robert could “see it all” as such a young man is that as a Brock Scholar at UT Chattanooga he was challenged “to be an advocate, to become a civic leader, to tackle some really tough issues in the college and in the community.” In the process, Robert evolved, as he puts it, to a point where the relationship between the university and the city of Chattanooga became his central focus.
Much of that evolution came from honors coursework and from the mentoring hand of a Brock Scholars alumnus, Demarcus Pegues, now a doctoral student at Columbia University. Demarcus had already worked as an intern for two summers at the Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington, DC. Debbie Bell, now associate director of the honors college, helped Robert connect with Demarcus, and Robert then gained acceptance into the program and interned for two summers in Washington, where he met President Obama.
“The Brock Scholars program (now a four-year honors track incorporated into the new Honors College) was really good at encouraging us to find out who we are from the time we arrived,” Robert said. “They were so great in putting me in touch with mentors.”
The Brock Scholars Program/ Honors College is both challenging and still small enough that mentoring is readily at hand. The College now has 140 students, but with a new dean brought on board in 2013, Dr. Linda Frost, both staff and facilities will expand sufficiently to accommodate about 600 students. Aside from the mentoring, the College has also taken on a role that fits perfectly with Robert’s interests: leveraging the relationship of the university and the city of Chattanooga to the benefit of both.
The College sponsored the first-ever TEDx event last October–and Robert was one of two student speakers, discussing ways to overcome some of the inequities that still exist in the rapidly-growing (and quickly improving) city.
The College has also adopted a rigorous curriculum and completion requirement, effective for Fall 2015. Brock Scholars will have to complete at least 31 honors credits; the average completion requirement for the 50 national university honors programs covered in our recent Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs was less demanding–28 credits.
The profile of the Honors College students is also competitive with those at national university honors programs. The mean ACT for the Honors College is 30.7, virtually the same as for the 50 national universities.
Financial aid is also especially generous for Brock Scholars. Dean Frost says that “in addition to their separately funded university merit scholarship and their Tennessee Hope scholarship, 30-35 Brock Scholars have been awarded an additional $16,000 scholarship ($4,000 per year) for some time.” Honors housing is also available–apartment-style, air-conditioned, with convenient dining and laundry facilities.
Cost, location, and challenging classes were what brought Robert to UTC from his home in Clarksville, TN, and to the Brock Scholars Program. “I wanted to go to a university that would prepare me for graduate school,” he says, and now he certainly has his wish.
“Robert is one of the most articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, balanced, mature, and charismatic students with whom I have ever worked,” says Dean Frost. “It is the combination of all these talents that has attracted so many leading authorities to Robert, people such as the Chancellor of our own campus, the mayor of Chattanooga, the President of the University of Tennessee system, and even the governor of the state.
“All of these figures have recognized the amazing presence and intellect that characterize Robert and have sought out his leadership in their own initiatives as a result. Only the fourth two-term Student Government President in UTC history, Robert is not just a natural leader; he is an informed, cautious, and brave one. He has also been my colleague since I stepped foot in Chattanooga, sharing and developing ideas with me about the founding of our Honors College. And well he should because it was the Brock Scholars Program, our long-standing four-year honors program, that brought Robert to our campus and that has afforded him many of the experiences that helped him develop his leadership abilities and style.”
His experiences in Washington, one result of honors mentoring, gave strong focus to Robert’s interest in public service. Now as a senior at UTC, Robert’s passion is finding ways to strengthen what he sees as the mutually beneficial relationship between the university and the city of Chattanooga. Robert has served as co-chair of the Downtown Task-force for Mayor Andy Berke’s Chattanooga Forward Initiative, working to bring more energy, dynamism, and inclusiveness to downtown Chattanooga.
He is already serving on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, University of Tennessee Advocacy Council, University of Tennessee Alumni Association Board of Governors, University of Tennessee President’s Budget Advisory Group, and Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.
The former star debater in high school says his debate coach also made a great contribution to his successes in college and in the competition for prestigious scholarships. As Dean Frost noted, Robert is exceptionally articulate, but he has now learned along the way that in both the honors classroom and in the sometimes contentious world of local and university governance, it is not sufficient to be able to take one side or another of an issue and argue it effectively, regardless of where one’s personal values lie, because government in action is about reconciling values that can be extremely personal.
In the much more real world of city and university politics, almost everyone has strong convictions; listening, thinking and reasoning through divisive issues, respecting other views while advocating for your own–all of these skills are much more important and harder to master than simply declaiming on this or that side of a single issue.
In debate, Robert says, he could separate his inner person and beliefs from the position he was assigned to argue in competition. Sometimes he might agree, or partially agree, or even completely disagree with the argument he had crafted and presented for the competitions.
But in honors humanities classes, Robert learned not only “how to state an answer but how to reason your way through to find the answer, and how to deal with disagreement in a civil manner.”
Honors humanities seminars were “foundational” for him and other students because of the critical learning skills they developed, but the courses also taught honors students how to “become better persons” through sharing honest insights, discovering similarities and differences, and often developing more subtle or comprehensive views.
“That’s healthy because it invites us to have a more thoughtful approach to understanding something, and to challenge ourselves, to evolve—the beauty of my experience in college has been to use all that I’ve learned–my government leadership, the academics, my personal development–the confluence of the personal, the academic, and the professional.”
If Robert’s accomplishments and interests make him sound like an ideal candidate for a Truman Scholarship, which is awarded to outstanding juniors who plan to make a contribution through public service, well…Robert did win a Truman Scholarship in 2014, and he was a Presidential Fellow in 2013-2014. “I have four years to begin using the Truman Scholarship,” he said, “and so now I can go on to Oxford [as a Rhodes Scholar] and get a master’s degree first.” At Oxford, he plans to study comparative social policy. Later, he might consider a doctoral program at UCLA, Columbia, or perhaps someplace else.
And…if Robert’s accomplishments also sound like those of a young man who might seek elective office, then the answer is yes. “I certainly have an interest in running for public office, and I like to see the changes up close as they happen–and so local government is really interesting.”
But it’s easy to see Robert leading at a higher level. The photograph of the new Rhodes Scholar shaking hands with the President brings to mind another photo taken more than fifty years ago: the future Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton shaking hands with President John F. Kennedy.
With continued support from both parents, who “from kindergarten on, had very high expectations for both my sister and me,” and with the lessons already learned at UTC, Robert Fisher’s vision will continue to grow during his time at Oxford. The view from that storied university is as expansive as it gets, especially for someone who has been to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and heard freedom ring loud and clear.
One of the most positive developments in higher education has been the establishment of honors colleges and programs in public “regional comprehensive” universities–and in the last few years both the honors programs and the universities have shown that their students can compete with any in the land.
Take the case of Tayo Sanders II, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Honors Program student who has completed 11 research projects, published two papers in materials science journals, made 11 presentations around the country, won a Goldwater Scholarship…oh, and was named a Rhodes Scholar for 2015.
In addition, in Spring 2015, Tayo will serve as a mentor in University Honors, co-teaching a section of Honors 100, said Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch, director of University Honors. The UW-Eau Clair Honors Program was one of five regional comprehensive honors programs we reviewed in the 2014 edition of A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs. The other regional university honors programs or colleges we reviewed are at Eastern Illinois, Grand Valley State, UNC Wilmington, and Western Kentucky.
“In my judgment, Tayo Sanders will rise to the very top of every endeavor in which he chooses to take significant part, and will spend his life leading,” Vahlbusch said. “In Tayo, a truly stellar intellect and a sheer unending range of interests and abilities are united with a wonderfully engaging personality, great communications skills, and deep care and respect for others. Everything that Tayo is and does is characterized by a humane gentleness, a fine sense of humor, and strong loyalty to the programs and organizations in which he works and plays.”
In his spare time, Tayo serves as co-captain of the university’s triathlon club, and he has competed in collegiate triathlons around the country. And then there’s his mastery of Salsa dancing, his work as a University Ambassador and Ronald E. McNair Scholar, and his community outreach work in which he interests K-6 students in STEM careers. But nothing gets in the way of his passion for research.
“Tayo is an outstanding researcher, and I doubt there are many undergraduate researchers possessing such a broad, yet well-developed, skill set,” said Dr. Jennifer Dahl, an assistant professor in the department of materials science. She has facilitated and mentored Tayo’s research for three years. “I met Tayo early in his first semester at UW-Eau Claire and was instantly impressed by his poise, intelligence and enthusiasm for science.”
Tayo Sanders and Dr. Jennifer Dahl
(Tayo will earn his bachelor’s degree in materials science with emphasis in chemistry and liberal arts from UW-Eau Claire in May 2015.)
He is one new Rhodes Scholar who has already been to Oxford: Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, he participated in a nanoparticles research project at the University of Strasbourg in France in the summer of 2013. During the research program, he made a trip to Oxford University and met faculty and students and toured the materials labs. It was then that he decided he wanted to pursue a doctorate at the famous institution–and now he will as a Rhodes Scholar.
A first generation college student, Tayo now wants to follow in the footsteps of his research mentor and the other faculty he has worked with in material science and the honors program.
“My ultimate goal is to become a professor and emulate the research experience I’ve had with Dr. Dahl with students of my own,” Tayo said. “I will do everything I can to be in a position where I can give hope to students like she has given hope to me. I also want to continue contributing to the pursuit of economical solar harvesting solutions, and be a powerful advocate for sustainable development and STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education.”
“I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with so many faculty,” he said. “These are the individuals who have dedicated years of their lives to academic pursuits, and to be able to easily engage in direct discourse with professors creates opportunities for a much more profound comprehension of material. UWEC’s emphasis on undergraduate research has also developed my ability to draw connections between material learned in my courses and their applications to the real world — a skill that will prove absolutely essential as I continue on my academic path at Oxford.”
“Tayo Sanders’ selection for this prestigious honor — in the company of fellow scholars from private institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, MIT and Princeton — is a testament to his outstanding effort as an undergraduate student,” said UW Chancellor James Schmidt. “It also is a testament to the contributions of the many dedicated faculty and staff here at UW-Eau Claire who day after day provide the excellent teaching and the beyond-the-classroom experiences that prepare our students to excel when they go out into the world with their Blugold degree in hand. Tayo is a shining example of the value of a UW-Eau Claire degree.”
The Rhodes Scholarships, averaging about $50,000 per year, cover all costs for two or three years of study at Oxford. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.
The Honors College at Western Kentucky University came to our attention while we were doing our regular review of the number of prestigious national scholarships won by public universities, such as Truman, Goldwater and Fulbright awards. For this and other reasons, the honors college at WKU is the third we will profile from among the increasingly important regional state universities.
We follow Goldwater awards closely because they are awarded to undergraduates only, and only to students in the STEM subjects. The undergraduate focus points to the level of research and faculty support that students receive in order to win the highly competitive Goldwater scholarships.
Since 2008, WKU students have earned 15 Goldwater scholarships or honorable mention. This would be a high level of achievement even for a top flagship university.
We also commend the honors college at WKU for its extensive curricular offerings, along with the association of the college with the Chinese Flagship Pilot Program, one of only 11 such undergraduate programs in the nation and the only one centered in an honors college.
Students in the Chinese Flagship Program receive intensive language instruction, regardless of major, and achieve very high levels of fluency. In addition, the college reports that “in the past 3 years, our Flagship students have received 2 Fulbright Grants to China, 9 U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarships, 2 David L. Boren Scholarships, 3 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, and 3 Foundation for Global Scholars Awards.”
The college is also affiliated with the Gatton Academy of Math and Science, the only state-funded residential high school in Kentucky for students in the STEM subjects. This unique partnership allows gifted STEM students to take as many as 70 hours of college credit while they are in the academy, including many honors courses. Graduates are able to pick and choose among top colleges in the nation, and about one-quarter decide to remain at WKU for the remainder of their undergraduate work.
Freshman entrants to the college are required to complete 33 hours of honors work, including a six-hour capstone experience/thesis. A slightly different track is also available, requiring the same 33 hours but substituting honors seminars for the capstone/thesis.
Transfer students with 45 or fewer hours can still complete the 33-hour requirement. Those with more than 45 hours of work behind them are eligible for the 18-hour honors in the major option, which includes a thesis. All transfer students must have at least a 3.5 GPA.
Freshman applicants compete for 300 places in the college. The minimum requirements are a 27 ACT or a 1210 SAT or high school graduation in the top 15 percent of the class. But the average entrant has an ACT score of 29, SAT score of 1300, and a 3.86 high school gpa.
Another strong feature is the structure of the honors college. It is our opinion that honors colleges and programs work to their fullest and best extent when they are also the focal point for mentoring students with the potential to win national prestigious scholarships. The Office of Scholar Development at WKU is a part of the honors college and has three full-time staff members involved in the recruitment and support of high-achieving students.
The college has three honors residence options. Freshmen may live in Minton Hall, a traditional, corridor-style facility that is the only coed freshman hall on campus (with gendered floors). Bates-Runner Hall is a hotel-style dorm for sophomores and juniors, with shared rooms and private baths, while McLean Hall is a similar facility for juniors and seniors. All three halls are centrally located.
There is also the brand new WKU apartments on Kentucky Street, each with a private room and bath.
Another benefit for honors students is priority registration for classes and, even more important, students can actually design their own majors with help from small faculty committees. Class size is limited to 25 students, and many have 16 students or fewer. Continuation requires maintaining at least a 3.2 gpa. About 55 percent of honors students also study abroad, many in England and China.
In January 2014, the college will break ground for a new Honors/International Building, a $22 million, 67,000 square foot complex that will cement the relationship between the honors college and the university’s heightened focus on international studies.
As for financial aid, “all WKU students who are awarded the university’s top two scholarships: ‘Henry H Cherry Presidential Scholarships’ and the ‘1906 Founders Scholarships’ are required to be in the Honors College.
“On average, the 300 Honors College first year students are awarded over $2 million in renewable scholarships for WKU… over 66% of our incoming first year student are awarded at least a renewable tuition scholarship.”
WKU is located in Bowling Green, the third largest city in Kentucky behind Louisville and Lexington. The campus is on top a large hill overlooking the city of about 60,000 people and the entire Barren River Valley. There is a GM assembly plant in the city, making Bowling Green the home of the Chevrolet Corvette. WKU is the second largest university in the state and has the only honors college in the state.
It is a dream of many honors deans and directors that their offices might one day be able to coordinate honors curriculum, undergraduate research, internships, and study-abroad under one roof.
That day has already arrived for the Honors College at East Tennessee State University, located in Johnson City, right on the border between Tennessee and Virginia.
Although the bedrock University Honors Scholars program was established in 1993, the advent of the Honors College in 2005 brought with it two more honors options along with the consolidation of all the above functions within the college. Dean Rebecca Ann Pyles reports that graduation rates are high among the more than 400 students enrolled in all honors options–86–88 percent of students graduate in honors.
The University Honors Scholars program enrolls only about 22 students a year. Minimum entrancement requirements include an SAT of 1290 and GPA of 3.5. The UHS program extends across all four years and, like the other two options at the college, requires the completion of an honors thesis.
UHS students complete four year-long seminars, two in the freshmen year and two more as sophomores. The freshman seminars focus on English and philosophy. Students consider alternatives to their own views, often from global perspectives, and then reflect on how their own perspectives might be seen by others.
In the sophomore year, much of the emphasis is on the interrelationships of the sciences and the broader culture. Students not only learn about the most significant scientific concepts but also the ethical responsibilities that accompany many scientific advances.
Sophomores also take a turn toward the creative side. Students study and participate in studio and performing arts, learning the importance of aesthetics to all elements of human culture.
Juniors participate in the unique Honors Appalachian course, where they study the history, arts, economics, and politics of the region.
Senior honors work focuses on research and the completion of the honors thesis.
The Midway Scholars option enrolls transfer students with an associate’s degree or at least 30 hours of credit, and with a minimum GPA of 3.5. Midway Scholars take three honors or honors option courses and must complete a research course and write a thesis.
The Honors in Discipline (HID) option also requires honors or honors option coursework along with a thesis in the major, or “discipline,” of the student. Currently, seventeen departments are involved in the HID program.
All honors students can take advantage of Washington internships coordinated by the honors office, and can participate in international study, also through the honors college.
Honors students at ETSU also have the option of living on the sixth floor of Governors Hall, new in 2007. The hall includes space for more than 500 students who share double rooms with private baths.
By Jini Curry, University of West Florida Honors Program
Being part of honors is not just about being smart or making good grades; it is also about learning leadership skills and growing as a student and a person. Coming into college I never realized that one program could have such a lasting impact on my life.
The opportunities that I have been given as an honors student at the University of West Florida are unlimited. As I freshman I went to the 46th annual NCHC in Phoenix, Arizona and I was hooked. Therefore, when the word was spread about proposals for this year’s NCHC in Boston, Massachusetts, I could not pass up the chance. The experiences I had during my stay in Boston are more than what I could have ever imagined, and the passion that it lit inside of me is unstoppable.
Preparing for a conference is not the world’s easiest task, but with the help of my other group members we put together a presentation that we felt would be worthwhile for us to talk about and beneficial for others at the conference to hear, and we went with it. Walking into our presentation room Saturday afternoon and seeing it filled with people was overwhelming, knowing that they were all there to see what our program was doing and how we were running things–that was nerve-racking to say the least. After we presented the questions started flowing in and that is when the real fun began.
For me, one of the greatest parts of the NCHC conference is the collaboration that comes from attending sessions. A question is posed, and then it is discussed. People from all over the United States and the Netherlands get to tell others what their program is doing, how they are running things at the institution, and even the struggles they are going through. At that moment you are able to see what NCHC is truly all about. It is about developing leaders and then teaching them how to work together to come up with a solution. Through feedback from other institutions, you are given an innovative idea of how to fix something that may not be working in yours.
I must admit from a student’s perspective NCHC is not just about the collaboration and the sessions—it is also about the friendships. Going to different sessions, often separated from the people that came from your institution, creates some awkwardness. After you get past that initial “should I talk to the person sitting next to me” worry, the doors open for conversation and oftentimes friendships. The passion that is in a room of Honors students is mind blowing. Everyone is eager to talk about their plans and what they are doing, and if not, someone is there to bring them out of their comfort zone.
For me, talking to random people is not a difficult task and I use that to my advantage. Talking to people is how connections are created and the NCHC conference gives us that opportunity. Whether it is at a session, reflections after the plenary speaker finishes, or even at the many student activities, you are bound to encounter someone that you do not know. You gain the courage to talk to them and the next thing you know, a new friendship is developing.
Overall the 47th annual NCHC conference was an experience that will never be replaced. I made connections with other institutions, I created friendships with people in many different states, I collaborated with others on Honors related topics, I learned skills that would enhance my leadership, and my passion for Honors grew greater. The experiences that come from attending the NCHC conference far outweigh the strife that it takes to get there. Never think that you have nothing to bring to the table if you attend or that the process is too difficult, because if you do believe that, you are missing out on the chance of a lifetime.