Honors and Phi Theta Kappa

The Sigma Zeta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) has been shut down this past year after some challenges with particular students. Having served briefly as the advisor for PTK, I remember that depending on the students involved, there can certainly be challenges. In fact, last fall at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, I asked other honors directors who were also their campus’s PTK advisor about the drama that often seemed to be part of the chapter’s history. One advisor said, “There is always drama with PTK.” The others just nodded.

One reason for the drama, I believe, is that PTK gathers together very bright, very creative students who may or may not have experience with leadership, organizing events, managing funds, and running a chapter. That’s part of the purpose of PTK – building those skills. Some students definitely do show up with one or more of those skills and can help a chapter succeed, or they may be up against a larger group that doesn’t want to follow their lead.

I respect the decision of Kristina Holton, the chapter advisor, to close down the chapter to let things settle out. I especially respect her decision not to push recruitment when there weren’t any activities or opportunities for new members to participate in.

Regardless of the challenges that can beset a chapter, the benefits in terms of scholarship, leadership, and service make PTK an excellent learning opportunity for students. PTK also provides a competitive edge for scholarships (and offers some scholarships available only to its members), college applications, and job applications.

The Lane Honors Program offers these opportunities, too, so what is the ideal relationship between an honors program and PTK?

Kristina and I have been working on the answer to this question specifically as it relates to Lane Community College. For now, we see the two honors groups supporting each other and are encouraging students to join both. In fact, we are now rebuilding the chapter with students from the Honors Program as the active members and leaders.

This week, we held an information session to learn what students wanted from the chapter. Ten students attended the meeting, asking questions and offering suggestions.

We will meet again during Final Exam Week to plan the next steps for spring. Having met with nine of these ten students when they first joined the Honors Program, I can attest to the intelligence, character, and enthusiasm of this group and I’m optimistic that Lane may soon have a vibrant Sigma Zeta Chapter that works hand-in-hand with our honors program.

Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World

Yesterday, the Honors Program played host to a special event: Sharon Schuman speaking about her book, Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World.

Sharon Schuman

Schuman’s work is interdisciplinary and drew support from across the campus. The event was co-sponsored by the Library; the departments of Communication, English, and Philosophy; and Student Life and Leadership Development.

Schuman uses Mikhail Bakhtin’s work on the dialogic nature of language and extends it to the concept of freedom. She argues that freedom is also dialogic and that the more perspectives one can see from, the freer one will be.

Mikhail Bakhtin

During the talk, Schuman used excerpts from great works of literature to illustrate her points, suggesting both that polarization is not new and that solutions are possible. Among the works she referenced was Homer’s Ancient Greek epic, Iliad.

Image from Home’s Iliad

The event was well-attended with approximately sixty people in the audience, including students, faculty, and staff as well as members of the community.

At the end of the event, we raffled off eight free copies of the book. One copy was for non-students and the remaining seven copies were for students. Everyone who received a copy stayed to have it signed and to talk with Schuman.

Sharon Schuman is updating her blog to add a post about this event. I’ll link to it once she has it up. More information about Schuman and her book can be found on her website, Dialogic Freedom.

Honors Students and the UO Special Collections Library

Every winter, the students in the Invitation to Inquiry Seminar visit the University of Oregon’s Special Collections Library. Manuscripts Librarian, Linda Long, teaches an instructive and engaging class on archival research, introducing students to the concepts of scholarly archives, special collections, finding aids, etc.

Examining Japanese lantern slides from the Gertrude Bass Warner Collection.

The Special Collections Library Reading Room

The last part of the class is open for the students to walk around the room examining the various rare books and manuscripts that Linda has brought out for them to see.

Original manuscript for Ken Kesey’s novel, Sometimes a Great Notion.

A signed first edition of Sometimes a Great Notion is currently valued at $2000.

This class session is one of my favorites each year because it is such a pivotal moment for the students. For instance, most students have not been to the University of Oregon’s campus before. Although many of them will transfer to UO, at this point the campus is a large, unfamiliar, and confusing space.

University of Oregon

After the special collections class, students have a point of reference on the campus. They also begin to realize that the library resources at UO are available to them now and they are welcome to use them at any time.

A second moment of awareness that occurs on this trip is just how extensive academic research can be, how many sources of information are out there, and that there is no end to what can be researched. Viewing 13th and 14th century manuscripts emphasizes the long research history they are now a part of while the online research opportunities including access to Archives West reveals how contemporary research benefits from an ever-expanding access to materials.

Linda Long and I plan to meet to find ways to incorporate archival research into the Honors Program.

Invitation to Inquiry Seminar 2017

This year, Stacey Kiser and I are making some changes to the Honors Invitation to Inquiry seminar to better support the course goals of engaging in undergraduate research and thinking critically about the research process.

Winter has two official holidays, and each year we miss two days of class. Since the seminar only meets twice a week, those missed days impact the students’ research projects and our focused discussions on critical thinking. This year, we are experimenting with a Wednesday/Friday seminar so that we can have the maximum amount of time working face to face with the students in class.

We’ve also asked the students to do some reading prior to the first class meeting. In addition to reading the first two chapters in the textbook, The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams,

we also assigned a chapter from Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions by Stephen Brookfield.

In the past, the class read an excerpt from the first chapter of this book. While this book was written for instructors, the students have done well understanding and applying the portions of the chapter they have read. It seemed reasonable to ask them to read the complete chapter and apply all of that material to their interrogation of academic research.

Finally, we have made the ePortfolio work more central to in-class activities as well as work assigned outside of class time. In addition to building and developing ePortfolios, students will be doing more processing and reflecting within their ePortfolios during class. ePortfolios can have an important impact on equity and student success, as addressed in the latest issue of the AAC&U’s publication, Peer Review.

These elements align with the college’s strategic directions and with the college’s and the Honors Program’s recognition of the importance of adopting an equity lens and always striving to support student success.

Check back for future posts about how these changes worked, student responses, and/or what additional modifications we made to the seminar once we were into the term!

Honors and OSU’s Beaver Hangouts

This afternoon, Executive Dean of Student Affairs Kerry Levett organized a conference call with Phil Rowkoski at Oregon State University (OSU) to discuss OSU’s Beaver Hangouts Program. The Honors Program, the Counseling Department, First Year Experience, the Library, the Math Resource Center, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and Student Life and Leadership Development all participated.

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Beaver Hangouts were initially a K-12 program, but the university is expanding the program to two-year colleges. Student coaches from OSU would be available to Lane students to answer questions and provide information about transferring to OSU. The initial contacts would be a series of Skype sessions followed by one-on-one visits. It sounds like the coaches could come to the Lane campus to meet with students.

Honors has a wonderful working relationship with OSU already, especially through the Transfer Services Manager Kayleen Salchenberg Steeves and through Gildha Cumming at OSU’s University Honors College. Kayleen has presented in the honors seminar and sent information to our program, and we take the students each spring to the University Honors College Thesis Fair and an honors information session. The student coaches could potentially provide more contact around these presentations and campus visits.

I can see having Skype sessions and/or meetings with coaches attached to the honors seminars. Combined honors and PTK events could also involve these sessions and meetings.

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When we visit the OSU campus, the students could meet in person with their coaches as part of the trip. Alternately, if Lane decides to hold larger Skype sessions or to video a Beaver Hangout presentation and make it available via Moodle, the honors students would benefit from those resources, as well.

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OSU is still in the early stages of developing the two-year college component of their Beaver Hangouts Program, but I see a lot of potential for our honors students and would like to see us be part of the pilot.

Honors and the Writing Center

This morning, I had a great conversation with Casey Reid, the Writing Center Coordinator. We explored ways in which the Honors Program and the Writing Center could support one another. Casey had some exciting ideas that I think will be beneficial to students.

Honors students could be course-embedded tutors for other classes. This option will take some time, as embedded tutors work best when the student and faculty member have already met in a class and established a relationship. There are also scheduling issues to consider, especially given that our students often have jobs and families in addition to taking a full load of classes. Nevertheless, it would be an excellent way for students to engage in experiential learning. I look forward to talking with our coordinator for honors experiential learning and honors cooperative education, Gerry Meenaghan.

Additionally, tutors could be embedded in honors classes, offering a resource to the students in the class and also helping the tutors further develop their skills. I can see this working well in several honors classes, including the seminars.

Our initial steps will be to check in with the current honors writing instructors, Amy Beasley, Anne McGrail, and Eileen Thompson, about these possibilities and to see if there is interest in pursuing them this year. I will also talk with my co-instructor in the seminars, Stacey Kiser, about ways that an embedded tutor could work, especially as the enrollments this year are growing.

Honors and International Students

One of my constant concerns is making sure that as many students as possible are aware of the honors opportunities at Lane. I know, from conversations with honors directors at other colleges, that this is a shared concern.

Yesterday, I met with three colleagues in our International Programs: Jennifer Falzerano, the director; and two advisors, Tomomi Kurosaki and Tia Gomez Zeller. Both Tomomi and Tia have been encouraging students to consider the Honors Program and we have had some wonderful international students join the program.

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This year, we are making the program even more accessible. Any student who completes the three, level F ESL classes with a 3.25 or higher GPA in those classes, will be given conditional acceptance into the program. The students will receive a letter from Honors congratulating them on their achievement. Once they complete WR 115 and are eligible for WR 121, they will be automatically accepted into the Honors Program.

Beginning in Spring 2017, we are giving conditional acceptance to international students who test into WR 93 or WR 115, and we are automatically accepting international students who test into WR 121.

These changes will provide honors opportunities to many more students at Lane and will support these students on their way to transferring to four-year schools.

NCHC Conference 2016 Recap

Last month, I attended the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference (NCHC) for the sixth year in a row. This year, the event took place in Seattle, and once again, it was filled with committee meetings and panels that provided helpful information for coordinating the Lane Honors Program.

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The conference always begins for me on Wednesday evening when the Assessment and Evaluation Committee (A&E) meets. I’m just beginning my second three-year service commitment with A&E. While our meeting this year focused largely on the summer training sessions for new honors directors and for program reviewers that take place during the summer, as well as approving new program reviewers, past work has also involved drafting the rubric schools can choose to incorporate into an NCHC review of their honors program. Our program has modified the rubric and intends to use it when we go through the college’s program review process.

Other meetings during the conference that were especially helpful were the Beginning in Honors and the Developing in Honor sessions that I helped run. Newer directors attend these sessions to ask questions and get advice. The conversations focus on issues that we all face in our own programs, and so they offer great opportunities to help other directors and to think about ways to improve the Lane Honors Program, as well.

These conversations continue in the Two-Year College Issues meeting and the Two-Year College Committee meeting. More seasoned directors attend these two gatherings, and a lot of useful advice gets shared. For instance, my leadership team suggested I check in with other directors about adding a link on the college application that goes directly to the honors application. We’ve had very little success with the check box that allows students to request honors information when they apply to the college, even though dozens of people request that information each week. My peers were unanimous in their support of the direct link to the honors application, and we’re currently looking into setting that up.

One panel session that I found especially helpful was on the visibility, growth, and control of an honors program. Karen Kortz and Lynne Andreozzi from the  Community College of Rhode Island and Jeremy Trucker from the Community College of Baltimore County presented.

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They emphasized that there is a roughly ten-year arc for programs during which the first few years focus on visibility, the next few years address growth, and the final years improve quality control. Based on this timeline, our program’s current emphasis on growth is right on target, which was good to learn.

I also presented at a session undergraduate research.

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This topic is receiving increasing attention and support at our college right now, and it has been a focus of our program since the program began six years ago. I learned a lot from my co-presenter, Rochelle Gregory, including the idea of offering a scholarship prize to the best poster at the undergraduate research fair.

I’m looking forward to implementing much of what I learned in Seattle. Next year, Boston!

Undergraduate Research in the 2016 Capstone Seminar

Each spring, students in the Honors Capstone Seminar conduct group research projects and share their findings with the appropriate audience. They choose the topic/s, conduct the research, and determine the best means of presenting their findings.

In the past, topics have ranged from the Take Back the Tap movement to gender inequality in higher education to rainwater harvesting to housing stability for the chronically homeless.

Poster for the Honors Research Symposium

Poster for the Honors Research Symposium

This year, the students explored Oregon’s success at reducing recidivism. They examined the economic impact of recidivism, recidivism for adults and juveniles, and the success of specific programs in Oregon. They ultimately argued that the most successful means of preventing recidivism is through programs that focus on altering the behavior of ex-inmates and on providing support for ex-inmates, as well as using a cooperative approach to offering these services.

They shared their findings through a PowerPoint presentation and a research poster that will be displayed in the Learning Commons in the fall. Their presentation was also filmed by Dean Middleton and Randal Painter.

Completing this project supported not only the course learning outcomes but also all five of Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes:

  • Think Critically
  • Engage Diverse Values with Civic and Ethical Awareness
  • Create Ideas and Solutions
  • Communicate Effectively
  • Apply Learning

I look forward to seeing, and learning from, the research findings of next year’s seminar students!

OSU Honors Thesis Fair

Each spring, we take honors students enrolled in the Capstone Seminar up to Oregon State University to visit the University Honors College and attend the Honors Thesis Fair. Last Friday, we made the trip, and I once again witnessed the positive impact this event has on the students and on me.

At the annual NCHC conference, I’ve heard from other honors program coordinators in the two-year college group about the importance of having organized field trips. Not only do they provide learning opportunities for the students, but they create chances for the students to bond and for students and faculty to get to know each other better. Most of our field trips are in town (museum tours, academic conferences, pizza dinners, etc.); however, the OSU trip requires a 45-minute drive each way and several hours of time together on the campus. It is our one out-of-town field trip, and the benefits are immediately visible.

Highlights from this year included a tour of the University Honors College’s new space. We saw the new classrooms. We also saw the student lounge and work space with the free printing and office supplies.

Honors Workspace

We saw the computer stations.

Honors Computers

We saw places for students to relax and talk or read, possibly from The New York Times, daily copies of which were available in the lounge for free. They gave us a copy at the end of the tour.

Honors Reading Area

The Honors Thesis Fair is always impressive. It’s inspiring to see what undergraduate honors students are doing with their research.

Thesis Fair Welcome Sign

It’s equally inspiring to think about the research our students conduct and to know they will be in familiar territory when pursuing their upper division research at a university. Our students took pictures and notes and prepared to apply what they had learned from the honors posters to the poster and PowerPoint presentation they are currently working on in the seminar.

After the thesis fair, we walked around the campus. In the Memorial Union, we encountered a free, lunchtime, classical music concert.

Lunchtime Concert Sign

Music a la Carte Musicians

Spending the day together allowed us time outside of class to talk about a variety of things. As we walked through downtown Corvallis and then had lunch, we discussed shared interests, our opinions about what we had seen at OSU, and how the day’s events might impact their work this term, next year, and farther into the future.

As I drove us back to Lane’s campus, the car became quiet while the students read The Times.