Category Archives: NCHC

Students Present at Regional Honors Conference

Last weekend, two honors students presented at the Western Regional Honors Council’s (WRHC) conference in Ashland, Oregon at Southern Oregon University (SOU). The following members of SOU’s Honors College organized the event: Ken Mulliken, Executive Director; Liesa Morrow-Bratcher, Office Specialist; Prakash Chenjeri, Faculty. SOU Honors WRHC Interns Lauren Aldana, Riley Evetts, Briana Morgan, and Micaela Saling also worked on the conference.

The WRHC is our regional chapter of the National Collegiate Honors Council, and I attend the chapters meetings each year at the national conference. I’ve been waiting for a conference to be held near enough to our college that we could afford to send students.

Tonyae Meeks presented, “Human and Environmental Health vs. The Waste Management System,” based on the research she conducted in Eileen Thompson’s honors WR 121 class.

Gus Smith’s presentation, “Production, Adaptation and Iconography of the Oresteia and Greek Theatre,” shared his research findings from Aryn Bartley’s honors Introduction to Drama class.

His historical research was also shared with the college drama department to inform this year’s production of the The Oresteia Project.

Poster for The Oresteia Project

Honors faculty member, Aryn Bartley, accompanied the students to the conference. The Honors Program provided tickets to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) production of Julius Caesar on Friday night.

The OSF’s director, Cynthia Rider, gave the conference’s keynote speech on Saturday evening.

Gus is currently enrolled in the Honors Capstone Seminar. I’m sure his experience this weekend will inform his group research project and the symposium he will help organize later this term, and I’m also sure that Tonyae’s experience will impact her work in the seminar next year.

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.

Sharing Lane’s Work on Honors Assessment

This week I head to Chicago for the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference. It’s the NCHC’s 50th anniversary celebration.

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I’ll be co-presenting at the session, “Approaches to Assessment at Two-Year Colleges,” with Sheila Stepp from Orange County Community College (SUNY).

My presentation focuses on three types of assessment: student learning of course outcomes, student learning of Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes, and program review. I’ll draw on honors assessment work I’ve done with my colleagues: Sarah Lushia, Katie Morrison-Graham, and Eileen Thompson.

Some of my presentation will focus on Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes. Watch the student video produced by Sarah Lushia to see the impact the CLOs have on students.

Some of it will address the use of ePortfolios in assessing student learning. Again, watch the video Sarah produced featuring students discussing the value of ePortfolios. Students and faculty together can engage in authentic assessment of student learning.

The final part of my presentation will concern program review. I’ll draw on the NCHC’s recent development of a program review process, the parallel development of Lane’s program review process, and the Honors Program’s adaptations of both of these processes to best determine our strengths, the areas where we need improvement, and the support we’ll need to make those improvements.

More posts to come during and/or after the conference!

 

 

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.

Blackberries

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.

Collaboratively-Created, Task-Specific Rubrics

This week, the latest issue of JNCHC arrived in the mail. It included my essay, “Collaborative Design: Building Task-Specific Rubrics in the Honors Classroom,” which is part of the issue’s forum, “Rubrics, Templates, and Outcomes Assessment.” In the essay, I focus on how students in the honors seminars help create the task-specific rubrics we use for different assignments and argue that this activity enhances learning and empowers students.

I did not come to this approach in isolation. Sarah Ulerick and I engaged students in creating rubrics during the first Invitation to Inquiry Seminar in the spring of 2012. My participation in a Faculty Interest Group on critical thinking, led by Siskanna Naynaha and Kate Sullivan, introduced me to an invaluable resource that I used to further develop this approach: Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, by John C. Bean.

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My co-instructor in the honors seminars, Katie Morrison-Graham, and I continue to refine our approach to developing rubrics with our students. We are planning to work with Lane’s Assessment Team this year to develop more ways to incorporate Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes into our collaboratively-produced, task-specific rubrics.

 

 

Honors For Sale

The latest issue of the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council features a forum, Honors For Sale, that considers for-profit honors organizations.

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The essays in this forum approach the topic from various perspectives and with a range of pros and cons. While there is general consensus in the essays (and in the honors community) that it is financially challenging for two-year colleges to create and sustain fully developed honors programs, there is disagreement about whether for-profit organizations such as American Honors is the best way to address this challenge. I personally am not persuaded that it is the right response for Lane.

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In reading the lead essay, “The Profit Motive in Honors Education,” I share Gary Bell’s concerns that “the company will be offering, for a hefty price, a stripped-down version of the honors experience while, if more is offered at all, local personnel will be arranging the variety of activities associated with honors while the company profits from their efforts” (25). And the dollar amount is definitely a concern. Benjamin Moritz of American Honors says that their program adds an average of $2800 per year to a student’s tuition (32), although Moritz also states that the “increase is usually low enough to keep the overall tuition close to the maximum Pell Grant amounts (emphasis added)” (32).

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Most of our students are already using their full allotment of financial aid and working to make ends meet. If we only provided an honors education to students who could afford almost $3000 extra in tuition, then I would have to concede that honors education truly is the elitist enterprise that some critics have claimed.

Nevertheless, there are aspects of American Honors worth examining, especially as our college faces decreased funding and our honors program faces challenges in the very areas that American Honors addresses. Two areas in particular, recruitment and advising, have been difficult for us. I found Lisa Avery’s discussion of the benefits experienced by Community Colleges of Spokane especially important to consider. It is one of the only actual examples of what happens when a college works with this organization, and she addresses recruitment and advising specifically. She notes that the assistance with recruitment resulted in 147 students enrolled in the program in the first year after the pilot program launched in 2012-2013, and she states that more than 700 people applied for admission to the program (36). She also describes the advising, explaining that “From the day students enroll, they are paired with an honors mentor, provided by American Honors, who is their single point of contact throughout their duration in the program” (36). Furthermore, the “mentors provide academic, personal, and intensive transfer support in a ratio of less than 100:1” (36). Moritz also describes the advising, noting that it involves “weekly contact with each student” and interventions “when red flags arise from low attendance, low grades, or financial aid issues arise” (31). These appear to be excellent benefits to the students and to the college.

As much as I would like to see our students receive more one-on-one advising, and as much as I would like to see higher numbers in response to our recruitment efforts, it is important to remember that students bear the cost of the recruitment and advising provided by American Honors. Avery acknowledges that honors students pay approximately 40% more in tuition (36), a cost that would certainly have prevented some of Lane’s best honors students from participating in the program.

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Spokane’s relationship with American Honors is also still very new, and it remains to be seen how it will evolve and what student population it will end up serving.

After reading through all of the essays in the forum, I concluded that joining with an organization such as American Honors is in conflict with our mission statement. We are the community’s college yet we would be asking students to pay a company to provide services, such as advising, that our college should provide. This isn’t partnering, as American Honors would like us to describe it. It’s outsourcing. And it’s paid for by students. It limits the people who would receive a “Lane” honors education to those who could shoulder almost $3000 more in tuition rather than including many of the exceptional people who are currently in our program or who have graduated from it. That’s a financial cost for the students and an ethical cost for the college I don’t think either can afford.

Rethinking Honors Research Papers

After a library workshop for the Honors Invitation to Inquiry Seminar last week, the honors librarian, Jen Klaudinyi, sent me a link to an article by Marc Bousquet in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Keep the Research, Ditch the Paper.” Jen said it resonated with the approach to research we were taking in the honors seminar. It did, and I agreed with many of Bousquet’s points. He encourages faculty to have students “address real research questions, and to compose in the same wide range of media actually used by scholars and professional writers.” He also notes that, while this doesn’t require throwing out the research paper altogether, it “might mean elbowing it to the side, and reimagining it as part of a broad band of complex, carefully composed professional communications.” This certainly is consistent with the approach we are taking in our honors seminars.

While the seminar students do pose research questions, write prospectuses, find and evaluate sources, create annotated bibliographies, and ultimately answer their research questions, they do not write a research paper. Instead, they write a thesis-driven reflective essay and participate in a two-hour round table discussion. In both of these activities, they address not only the research process but ALSO the critical thinking they engaged in while undertaking academic research.

Much of Bousquet’s article is actually his response to a piece published last December by Rebecca Schuman on Slate, “The End of the College Essay, An Essay.” Schuman (who it turns out is the daughter of my former Clark Honors College colleague, Sharon Schuman, and the niece of honors educator, Samuel Schuman, whose work informed the design of the Lane Honors Program) satirically argues that we should throw out the traditional college paper: “We don’t have to assign papers (emphasis hers), and we should stop. We need to admit that the required-course college essay is a failure.” Instead of papers, Schuman argues for a “return to old-school, hardcore exams, written and oral (emphasis hers).” She states that students plagiarize, buy their papers, or write papers with a focus on page count rather than on constructing thoughtful arguments. According to Bousquet, Schuman’s ideas so outraged academics around the country that many of them began calling for her termination from her position as an adjunct instructor.

I have to say that not every instructor or program takes the approach to writing Schuman criticizes, and Bousquet accurately points out that the fields of rhetoric and composition are ahead of many other fields in designing new approaches to the college research paper.

In terms of honors education, rethinking how to teach research without the traditional paper is an area in which honors classes can and should make a contribution. Honors classes are places where faculty can try out new pedagogical approaches and engage students in discussions about the old and new approaches. We’ve taken that step in our honors seminars by creating interdisciplinary research classes that, without the traditional paper, contribute to students’ ability to meet Lane’s five Core Learning Outcomes: Think Critically, Engage Diverse Values with Civic and Ethical Awareness, Create Ideas and Solutions, Communicate Effectively, and Apply Learning. They also engage the students in conversations exactly like the ones taking place on Slate and The Chronicle, which is why the Invitation to Inquiry students will be reading both the Schuman and the Bousquet pieces next week. If the ensuing discussion goes the way of our past discussions, I suspect they will have some pretty cogent ideas about how our future seminars might want to approach scholarly research, ways that will probably build on and diverge from what we’ve asked them to do this term.

 

NCHC Two-Year College Committee and American Honors

There were several sessions at the NCHC Conference this year that dealt with issues faced by honors programs at two-year colleges. In fact, one session was titled “Two-Year College Issues.” In addition to the different sessions, there was also the annual meeting of the Two-Year College Committee. One of the topics addressed in this meeting was American Honors (AH). This program is a for-profit organization that works in conjunction with two-year colleges to offer services that the colleges can’t or don’t offer through their honors programs. The debate about the AH was very heated last year and, while somewhat less heated this year, still made it clear that there is no unanimous decision on whether AH is beneficial or detrimental to honors education.

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Two-Year College Committee Co-Chair Elaine Torda and outgoing NCHC President Rick Scott at the meeting. Rick Scott shares the NCHC Board of Directors’ statement regarding American Honors.

Several people voiced their concern about schools spending money on AH that could be spent on their own honors programs. Others expressed a vehement opposition to for-profit education in any form. Some honors program directors, however, explained that AH allowed them to offer opportunities across multi-campus colleges that they simply could not otherwise offer. Still other directors said that they were in conversation with AH and were undecided about whether or not to partner with them.

When I first looked into AH, there was little information available on their website, and it was difficult to determine what exactly they could offer. More information is available now, and the two representatives from AH who attended the meeting emphasized that their goal was to provide whatever individual two-year college honors programs needed. They also stressed that there were programs that didn’t need them at all.

While the NCHC’s Board of Directors could not legally advise honors programs to avoid or accept partnering with AH, it did issue a statement: colleges considering partnering with AH needed to involve the director of their honors program in the discussions.

I am still undecided about this organization, but I plan to watch how well it works for those two-year college honors programs who do partner with it. The current version of AH would not benefit Lane’s Honors Program, but I’m still interested to see how AH develops and to think more about the impact it could have on honors education.

Honors Seminars Panel at NCHC

This morning I participated on a panel discussing honors seminars for two-year colleges. Each of us described the seminars offered by our schools and considered the pros and cons of these approaches.

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Preparing for the panel with (from left) Al Golden, Patricia Jones, and Erik Ozolins

The following are brief overviews of the presentations:

Al Golden (Joliet Junior College in Illinois) explained that their seminars are listed as forums. These optional seminars are designed to work with and around the many things two-year college students negotiate in addition to coursework (families, jobs, etc.). They range from an initial orientation in August to a wide range of field trips held at different times and days during the semester to make them accessible more students. Families are welcome and the school covers much of the cost of the trips.

Patricia Jones (Polk State College in Florida) described her program’s 1-credit seminars. They offer three different seminars each term. They run sequentially for five weeks each and are one credit. Students can take any or all of the seminars. Many students in her program join in their second year at the college, and she explained that the seminars not only provide fun, intellectual content. They also make it possible for students to earn the required 18 credits to complete the program even if they start later in their time at the school.

Erik Ozolins (Mt. San Jacinto College in California) presented information on the 3-credit seminars that are divided into three categories: science, social science, and humanities. They are interdisciplinary, once-a-week classes that are only open to students in the program. They are also the only honors-only classes at the college. Half of each session is a lecture by the instructor of record or often a lecture from another faculty member on campus. The second half of the class is small group discussion.

The panel presentations concluded with my description of Lane’s seminar sequence that I’ve discussed in an earlier post. Our sequence of two 4-credit seminars is open only to honors students and focuses on research. Invitation to Inquiry emphasizes thinking critically about the research process and involves individual research projects. Honors Capstone Seminar focuses on group research projects and culminates in a student-led symposium where the students present their research findings and invite experts in the field to participate.

Listening to the different presentations and the questions posed by audience members reinforced for me the need to tailor honors seminars to the needs of the specific college and its students. Each of my colleagues had clearly thought through what was needed at their institutions and what would best benefit their students. We were also reminded by our various challenges and successes that these classes are works in progress that benefit from continual review, and there were elements from each seminar structure – field trips, working with students who don’t have the full two years to complete the program, and guest lectures – that I think we could incorporate, or already do incorporate, into Lane’s seminars.

Honors Advising Panel at NCHC

I’ve just returned from an excellent panel at the NCHC Conference. “Conflicts and Solutions in Community College Honors Advising” was divided into two parts. The first half of the session focused on advising from an honors advisor’s perspective. The second half focused on advising from honors students’ perspectives.

Kathleen King (Hillsborough College, Florida) gave an informative and very helpful presentation that covered ten issues addressed through honors advising. These issues include completing the required coursework (HCC’s program requires full-time honors students to take a minimum of two honors classes per term and part-time students to take at least one honors class per term), choosing a transfer school (broadening their perspective to include select universities around the country), and making sure they are prepared to successfully transfer in 2 to 2-1/2 years (fulfilling the pre-reqs for the programs and schools they are considering).

King emphasized the importance of having a dedicated honors advisor to ensure persistence and completion. The advisor needs to work with the students throughout their time in the honors program. In fact, HCC honors students are required to meet with Kathleen once per term, and they cannot register for honors classes without having met with her. If they enroll in an honors class without meeting with her, they are purged from the class list at the start of the term. She advises 250-300 students and is their only advisor, addressing both their honors needs and their general college needs.

After Kathleen King’s presentation, a panel comprised of four students (LaGuardia College, New York) described their college’s Honors Student Advisory Committee. This panel was exceptional both for the professionalism of the presentations and for the work that HSAC performs on behalf of other students at the college. While the honors program has been in existence for more than 20 years, HSAC was created in 2010 to make sure that students realized they could choose from excellent colleges all over the country. They cited the NY Times article, “Better Colleges Failing to Lure the Talented Poor” as incentive.

The four presenters (Vincent Sanchez, Edward Joseph, Raven Gomez, and Ronald Moore) described in excellent presentations and an engaging shared Prezi their organization’s website, year-round workshops, and transfer guide.

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(from left: Raven Gomez, Vincent Sanchez, Edward Joseph, Ronald Moore — many thanks to the students for written permission to share the photo on this blog)

They emphasized the importance of alumni, noting that alumni offer first-hand experience, they return to campus for an alumni fishbowl, and they also share syllabi from their 4-year schools so that students can see what the actual course load is like.

This group is incredibly organized. It has an office where students can come by and review the transfer guide, and the 15 members hold regular office hours. They have also arranged college campus trips so that students can see first-hand some of their options.

The panel was joined by other members of HSAC and their Honors Program Director, Karlyn Koh. For more on LaGuardia’s Honors Student Advisory Committee, find them on Facebook, visit their website, or email them at honorsprog@gmail.com.