Virtual Honors Communities

Since we were still off campus in the fall because of the pandemic, I wanted to provide virtual spaces where the honors students could connect both with the program and with each other. I assumed that Zoom would be the obvious choice since many faculty were using it in their classes and the students would be familiar with it.

I held the Honors Orientation using Zoom. Several new students and some students who had been in the program since last year attended. We reviewed  program requirements, discussed publishing opportunities and upcoming events, and then mostly used the time to actually see and talk with one another. Zoom worked really well for this kind of event.

It also worked for the reading by New York Times bestselling author, Laurie Notaro. People registered in advance and received the Zoom link. Notaro read from her work and answered questions. Her humor was a welcome relief from the stress of the pandemic, civil unrest, and the wildfires that had devastated parts of Oregon.

Laurie Notaro

When it came time to create a virtual honors lounge to substitute for the physical lounge space we had created on campus, I thought Zoom would be fine. The campus lounge served students from the Honors Program, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the Sigma Chi Eta National Communication Association. Groups held meetings there, PTK officers held office hours there, and people just dropped by to socialize or ask questions. When I suggested to the PTK officers that we use Zoom for a lounge space, however, Brian and Nadira recommended using Discord instead. Kyla, the Honors newsletter editor, also recommended Discord. 

I knew about Discord, but I hadn’t really used it, and I only really understood why it worked better for a virtual lounge when a few of the students helped me set it up. Discord is an instant messaging and digital distribution platform. Everyone who joins the server can communicate in real time using video, voice, or text. It’s also easy to keep everything organized. Sigma Chi Eta didn’t participate in the lounge, but Honors and PTK did, so we set up text and voice channels for both groups. We also set up channels for the student lounge and for upcoming events.

We held PTK chapter meetings in the PTK voice channel. Student leaders in the Honors Program and PTK held two hours a week in the student lounge channel to answer questions and connect with other students. At Kyla’s recommendation, I made some of the student leaders monitors, as well, so that they could make sure the communications were appropriate and also move discussions out of one channel and into another if they were accidentally happening in the wrong space.

When someone joins Honors or PTK, I send them the link to join the Discord server. So many of the students were already using Discord for socializing and classes that they were already comfortable with it. We are continuing to use it this term, and I would like to find more ways to make it a place to create and support community. I can see Zoom continuing to be useful, as well.

I may draw on some of the ideas my colleagues at other honors programs have shared. At the National Collegiate Honors Council’s virtual conference, I participated on a panel about virtual honors spaces. Al Golden (Joliet Junior College, Illinois), Trista M. Merrill (Finger Lakes Community College, New York), Kathleen Sullivan Stephens (Dallas College, Richland Campus, Texas), and I recorded our session on Zoom in September. They offered activities including taking virtual tours of a city, using Smule for karaoke events, setting up honors penpals, and holding virtual dance parties. The session was shared with people who registered for the conference.

It is clear to me after my experiences this fall that we need to not only continue with virtual honors spaces but further develop them. They are obviously needed while we are still off campus, but they could also be beneficial as ways to connect students who are only taking online classes or have schedules that prevent them from coming to campus for events. It was a bit of a crash course in creating our first virtual honors spaces, but the benefits are clear and the possibilities are exciting.

Maintaining an Honors Community During the Pandemic

As the new term began, I noticed an increase in messages from students in the Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa. I also noticed more students joining both groups. Given that everyone is studying and working from home, the physical college is closed to everyone but the few employees who must be on campus to do their jobs, and all spring events have been canceled, it’s not surprising that students are looking for ways to connect.

So far, I’ve taken several steps to support the students and help them feel less isolated and more focused on their goals:

  • starting a new Lane Honors Program blog and a new Phi Theta Kappa blog;
  • using blog posts, email, and social media to share information about publication and volunteer opportunities;
  • working with students to research their transfer schools, curate their ePortfolios, and polish up their resumes; and
  • developing with Casey Reid a short workshop on building their first CVs based on an earlier workshop that Casey had created.

Later this term, we will hold an online orientation for new honors students, as well.

I’m so impressed with these amazing students. Regardless of sheltering at home, losing jobs or working new shifts, and moving to a remote instruction learning environment for all of their classes, they are persevering. They are, as always, inspiring!

Wrapping Up Winter Term 2020

With the pandemic impacting people around the world, the college moving all spring instruction online, and the people of Oregon being ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, it seems like a good time to reflect on some of the positive things that happened for students in the Lane Honors Program this winter.

We added two new classes:

  • ENSC 183_H Aquatic Cultures (fulfills a lab science requirement)
  • PS 297_H Environmental Political Science.

We also plan on at least three new classes next year:

  • CH 243_H Organic Chemistry
  • MATH 243_H Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  • PSY 201_H General Psychology.

We renewed our transfer agreement with Portland State University’s Honors College. Southern Oregon University’s Honors College will work with us unofficially while they try to build capacity to accept more transfer students. The agreement is on hold while they work on how to accommodate a much larger cohort than they currently have. University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College continues to work on ways to admit transfer students. Their restructuring will be complete in fall and will provide ways for students to transfer in as sophomores. I’ve asked them to find ways for our students to transfer in as juniors rather than paying UO tuition for three years instead of two.

We also held an orientation this term with 13 students attending. Claire Dannenbaum, the Honors Librarian, joined us to discuss the many ways she supports honors students through the library.

We took a wonderful field trip to UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and then to Noisette Bakery for lunch and to see Claire’s art exhibit.

After many years, I’m happy to say we are now planning on circulating an honors newsletter! Honors student Kyla Ramsey has accepted the position of editor, and publication is set for later in spring.

More posts coming soon. In the meantime, stay safe and stay well!

Field Trip!

On Friday, February 21, we headed out on an art field trip. Students met on campus and then we carpooled to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.

Meeting in front of the museum.

The museum had several excellent exhibits, including “By Looking Back, We Look Forward,” by Roger Shimomura and “The Usual Suspects” by Carrie Mae Weems.

The Roger Shimomura Exhibit

After spending time at the museum, we went to Noisette Bakery to see an exhibit by Honors Librarian Claire Dannenbaum.

Noisette Pastry Counter

Claire joined us for the field trip. While we ate, she shared information about her work and answered questions.

Claire’s Bio

You can follow Claire on her blog!

Diana Arterian Poetry Reading

On May 20, 2019, the Honors Program sponsored a poetry reading by Diana Arterian

The event was held from 3:00-4:00 in the Haugland Commons on Lane’s main campus. Students who attended received a free copy of Diana’s book, Playing Monster : Seiche.

Diana read many poems from this collection followed by some poems from her current project, a manuscript of poems about Agrippina the Younger. She described the research she conducted for this project, including a trip to Rome.

After the reading and Q&A session, students stayed on to have their books signed and to talk with the poet.

Honors Orientation and PTK Meeting Spring 2019

Things are on the move! 24 students attended a joint Honors Program Orientation and PTK Meeting. Huge thanks to Casey Reid for joining me as a PTK advisor when she already has a long list of responsibilities at the college in her role as Writing Center Coordinator. Together, we facilitated this event. 

Students pick up agendas, wrist bands, info cards, etc. at the start of the meeting.

With plenty of food set out in the Haugland Commons, we reviewed the criteria for completing the Lane Honors Program. A key point was the new option for attending three academic/cultural events as a way to fulfill this requirement.

Then we discussed the newly reopened Sigma Zeta Chapter of PTK, our need to elect officers for next year, and the importance of raising campus awareness about PTK. Due to the shut-down of the chapter for a couple of years and the general lack of visibility, many students receiving the email invitation to join PTK think it is a scam. We are recruiting students to serve as PTK Ambassadors to help let people know that this is a legitimate and beneficial organization to join.

Students at tables listen to Casey Reid speaking at the front of the room.

Casey Reid explaining the responsibilities of each PTK officer.

Students had until Friday, May 10, 2019 to submit paragraphs expressing their wish to run for office and their qualification to hold office. Casey and I will create a ballot this week and then hold a meeting to announce the election results.

All-Oregon Academic Team Awards Luncheon

The All-Oregon Academic Team (AOAT) Awards Luncheon was held at Chemeketa Community College; however, the day didn’t start there! Our two students, Holly Kolodziejczak and Sabrina Piccolo, started their day at the State Capitol Rotunda for a photograph with Governor Kate Brown. Then they travelled over to Chemeketa CC for the lunch, and  I met up with them there. President Marge Hamilton, Vice President Paul Jarrell, Board of Education Member Susie Johnston, and Director of Public Affairs Brett Rowlett all attended the event.

The awards luncheon is sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa and the Oregon Community College Association.

Phi Theta Kappa Logo

Oregon Community College Association Logo

It began with a buffet lunch followed by the presentation of the AOAT members who came to the stage one college at a time. President Hamilton presented Holly and Sabrina with their medallions.

President Hamilton shaking Holly's hand.

Holly receives her medallion from President Hamilton.

President Hamilton shaking Sabrina's hand.

Sabrina receives her medallion from President Hamilton.

President Hamilton, Sabrina, and Holly facing the crowd from the stage.

President Hamilton with our AOAT Members!

We then listened to three amazing student speakers. Finally, we wrapped up with a few closing remarks and headed back to Eugene. Lane Community College was well-represented by these outstanding students! Thank you, Holly and Sabrina!

Lane’s Nominations to All Oregon Academic Team!

Now that we have the Honors Program and PTK Sigma Zeta Chapter back up and running, we’ve been able to nominate two students to the All Oregon Academic Team after missing this opportunity in the recent past.

This team is sponsored by the Oregon Community College Association. As explained on their website:

“The All-Oregon Community College Academic Team, a part of the national All-State Community College Academic Team program, recognizes high achieving two-year college students who demonstrate academic excellence and intellectual rigor combined with leadership and service that extends their education beyond the classroom to benefit society. Phi Theta Kappa, community college presidents and community college state associations sponsor All-State Community College Academic Team ceremonies in 38 participating states.”

Our two nominees are outstanding students who are in the Honors Program, are PTK members, and also tutor in the Writing Center.

Holly Kolodziejczak

Sabrina Piccolo

Both nominees are excellent representatives of Lane Community College and very deserving of this honor!

Honors & Phi Theta Kappa Info Session

This week, Casey Reid and I organized an information session for the Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa. Nine people attended our event. In addition to serving as an information session, this event fulfilled the honors orientation requirement for students in the program.

At this event, we reviewed the benefits of these two honors opportunities, the requirements for each, and the ways in which participating in both could be especially beneficial for students planning to transfer to four-year schools.

We also introduced students to the Honors Librarian, Claire Dannenbaum (far right) and the Honors Writing Tutor, student Sabrina Piccolo (third from right):

A highlight was presenting Sabrina and Holly Kolodziejczak (second from right) with their honors medallions for successfully completing the Honors Program!

And of course, we had lots of snacks!

Casey and I will be offering several more information sessions before the end of this academic year, hopefully in our soon-to-be-realized Honors and PTK Student Lounge!