Tag Archives: NCHC

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!

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.

Highlights from the 50th Anniversary NCHC Conference

As always, it was a full conference! There are so many good resources shared each year. Here are a few highlights:

I attended the Developing in Honors and Two-Year College Issues sessions, both led by Elaine Torda, who is receiving the Ron Brandolini Award this year for excellence at a two-year institution.

Elaine Torda

Elaine Torda

These sessions addressed important issues impacting two-year college honors programs including fewer students graduating from high school, creating physical honors space within the college, program review and certification, and the relationship between Phi Theta Kappa and honors programs. The PTK/honors discussion was useful as I would like to find more ways to connect Lane’s Honors Program and Sigma Zeta Chapter of PTK. I know that the PTK advisors, Lida Herburger and Kristina Holton feel the same way.

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I’m also a member of the Two-Year College Committee, chaired by Elaine Torda, and I attended the committee meeting. We voted on a proposal to provide peer mentors for new two-year college honors program directors, engaged in more discussion of program review and certification, discussed publishing opportunities, and brainstormed sessions for next year’s NCHC Conference.

The meeting of the Western Regional Honors Council, facilitated by WRHC President Daniel Villanueva and Executive Secretary Anne Scott included updates on 2016 conference in Riverside, CA and 2017 conference in Ashland, OR. I hope to bring several of Lane’s honors students to the Ashland conference. I also had the opportunity to meet new honors administrators from three of our transfer schools: OIT, OSU, and PSU.

The Western Regional Honors Council meeting is about to get started.

The Western Regional Honors Council meeting is about to get started.

Presenting my paper, “Assessment in Two-Year College Honors Programs,” in the Approaches to Assessment at Two-Year Colleges session was a great experience due largely to the audience. They were willing to adjust to one speaker instead of two and to no AV (challenging to discuss ePortfolios without actually showing an ePortfolio). The best part was that after my presentation, the audience engaged in a productive conversation with everyone asking questions and offering answers rather than having a “speaker” and an “audience.”

The Art Institute as a highlight goes without saying.

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Looking forward to Seattle next year!

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

NCHC Conference 2014

This has been a very busy day at the NCHC conference in Denver. Several panels at the conference have focused specifically on topics related to two-year colleges, and today there were meetings as well as panels. I am continually convinced that this organization and conference are valuable resources for anyone working in honors education.

This morning, I attended the Two-Year College Issues meeting run by Elaine Torda and Frank Provenzano.

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For two hours, we shared ideas, discussed challenges, and brainstormed solutions. The meeting was well-attended by directors of two-year college honors programs from around the country.

This meeting was immediately followed by the Two Year College Committee meeting, which also ran for two hours. The meeting was led by Committee Chair, Elaine Torda. The agenda included leadership issues, committee reports, articulation agreements, and conference planning for next year among other things.

I left a few minutes early to get to my panel, “Two-Year College Capstones: Transitioning Students from New to Established Scholars.” I was joined by my two fellow panelists: Alannah Rosenberg of Saddleback College and Bruce Thompson of Frederick Community College. Unfortunately, Melody Wilson of Portland Community College couldn’t attend the conference this year. Rain Freeman, an honors student at American University, moderated the panel.

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The panel went well and generated some good questions from the audience. I just hope that in the future, so many sessions focusing on two-year college issues won’t be scheduled opposite each other. There aren’t that many sessions on these issues, and it seems like they could be spread out over a few days or at least over the course of a day.

After a quick lunch and walk through downtown Denver, I returned to the hotel for the Western Regional Honors Council meeting.

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Much of the conversation centered on where the regional conferences will be held in the next few years (2015 University of Nevada, Reno; 2016 UC Riverside; 2017 Southern Oregon University). I’d like to see the conference come to Lane at some point. I also had a chance to talk with Mark Clark from the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT). We are both interested in a possible articulation agreement between our honors programs, and he will put me in touch with the person who handles these agreements for his institution. All in all, a great meeting!

Next up: the reception for the Assessment and Evaluation Committee, which met Wednesday evening. The reception is for this year’s graduates and alumni of the NCHC Summer Institute on Assessment and Evaluation.

I’m heading home tomorrow with a lot of ideas and plans after this year’s conference.

 

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.

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.

NCHC Conference 2013

Katie Morrison-Graham and I are heading out this morning for the National Collegiate Honors Council’s annual conference. For the next few days, I’ll be immersed in discussions about honors education, including participating on a panel focused on honors seminars at two-year colleges and meetings with the Assessment & Evaluation and Two-Year College committees. I’ll post more on these events during the week, but in the meantime I invite questions or areas of interest I can report back on after the conference.