Category Archives: Honors Leadership Team

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!

Delivering on Our Promise

My colleague, Stacey Kiser, recently shared an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Honors Colleges Promise Prestige, but They Don’t All Deliver.” While the Lane Honors Program is not focused on prestige, aspects of the article do relate to our program. The article accurately claims that some honors colleges may promise a lot to students but not fulfill their promises.

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Honors colleges are not always fully supported by their institutions, and without that support, they simply can’t provide all the services and opportunities to the students who attend them.

The same can be said of honors programs. Without adequate support, and as my colleague Elaine Thompson has pointed out, a clear sense of where the program fits within the institution’s organizational framework, it is challenging to offer the necessary academic and co-curricular opportunities to students.

The Lane Honors Program has had support from the college, but the amount and form of this support has changed several times over the past five years. The result is that our enrollments have decreased and many honors students transfer before they colhp_logo_color_version_2_0mplete the program. The students who complete the program and transfer report back that the program had a significant impact on their success at their university, which makes those of us working on honors at Lane even more determined to see this program thrive.

In fall of 2015, the college demonstrated its increased support of the program by creating the full time faculty coordinator position that I now hold. This spring, the Honors Leadership Team and a special work group are overseeing the restructuring of the program to help students more successfully navigate the program and to ensure that they are able to complete the program before transferring. We are exploring several possibilities: instituting a version of the guided pathway model, offering honors classes during fall and spring, and running the honors seminars in the winter.

I’m excited about the growing energy around honors education at Lane. I appreciate that colleagues are stepping up to offer new honors classes and to participate on the leadership team and work group. With the college’s commitment to increased marketing, we will be able to raise student awareness of the program. With the changes to the program’s structure, more students will be able to complete the program and take advantage of its transfer agreements with four-year schools.

And Then There Were Two: The New Configuration of the Honors Program’s Administration

We are in the fifth year of the honors program, and after several iterations of honors administrative leadership, the college has settled on a tentatively permanent structure: a dean and a faculty coordinator. This may not sound like a significant decision, but we have built this program with an ever-changing team. It is exciting and anxiety-producing to think we have some stability now even with fewer people working on the program.

We began with two faculty coordinators (Nadia Raza and me), each working on the program part time. Then Nadia stepped down and Katie Morrison-Graham came on board, although for a time the three of us were working on honors together.

Nadia, Katie, and me working with then Vice President, Sonya Christian.

Nadia, Katie, and me working with then Vice President, Sonya Christian.

Then we switched to one coordinator. Even though I was the only coordinator, I was still working on the program part time. We originally had an administrative support person, as well, who also handled advising and marketing. Then we lost that position and replaced it with a new administrative support position minus the advising component and some of the hours. We had no academic dean initially, although we have had one for the past few years. So many starts and stops. So many changes. There were moments when I felt like our program resembled the blackberry bushes I saw while hiking at Mount Pisgah yesterday in this unusually warm November: clusters of dried berries with a few new red and black berries mixed in.

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What season are we in again? Are we winding down, starting up, or carrying on?

Fortunately, we’ve had a leadership team comprised of intelligent, motivated, thoughtful people who have helped support what we called “the core team.” I know the leadership team will continue helping honors to thrive. Our “core team” is now comprised of me and my dean, Susan Carkin. Susan has been on the Honors Leadership Team from the program’s inception and attended the National Collegiate Honors Council conference with me.

Susan Carkin

Susan Carkin

The Language, Literature, and Communication Division’s Lead Administrative Coordinator, Linda Schantol, has generously taken on some of the administrative support that had been provided elsewhere.

Linda Schantol

Linda Schantol

Having a permanent faculty coordinator position with 75% of its workload dedicated to directing the program, and having the coordinator work one-on-one with the academic dean, will provide the stability and continuity the program needs. It’s a sign that the college is committed to serving all of our students.

Thinking this morning about the program’s history and this new opportunity to dedicate so much of my focus to coordinating this program, I found myself recalling Jorie Graham digging her hands into the absolute (“The Visible World”). The seeds are planted.

Student Member on Honors Leadership Team

The Honors Leadership Team (HLT) finalized its charter last year, and the charter states that we would add one or two student members to the team by fall 2013. While everyone on the team supported this addition, the addition itself proved to be slightly difficult. We began the academic year without a current student on the team, so I am very appreciative of the synchronous events that led to our adding our first student member at the start of winter term 2014.

Cheyne Dandurand took the honors Invitation to Inquiry seminar last year, and he approached me about being a peer mentor in the class this year. He said that he had a positive experience in the class and felt that he could both contribute to this year’s seminar and also gain something himself by participating again.

I team-teach this seminar with my colleague, Katie Morrison-Graham. Katie and I both thought that having Cheyne join the class as a peer mentor was an excellent idea. We also encouraged him to talk to Tamara Pinkas. Tamara is the Cooperative Education Coordinator for Lane’s Advanced Technology and Language, Literature and Communications Divisions. She also oversees the honors experiential learning requirement and teaches the honors cooperative education class. Katie and I recognized that being a peer mentor would be a good form of experiential learning, and we thought that Cheyne could get co-op credit for his work.

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Tamara, however, saw the larger picture and recommended that Cheyne have his co-op work involve the entire Honors Program rather than just one honors class. She suggested that he join the leadership team and come up with other ways to both learn more about the program and contribute to it.

Cheyne decided that he would not only join the HLT and be a peer mentor in the Inquiry seminar. He would also assist with our social media, organize social events for the honors students, and help plan other honors events.

Last week, Cheyne attended the first HLT meeting of the term. We still need to determine the best way to find student members in the future. Fortunately, HLT member and math instructor Jessica Knoch, is working on a process for the team to consider, and I’m confident that we’ll have a plan in place soon. In the meantime, we now have a current student’s perspective informing our discussions, plans, and projects – a perspective that is very much valued by those of us working on the Lane Honors Program.