News from NCHC | February 2017

Your February News Update!

President's Post

Dear NCHC Friends and Colleagues:

I hope your semester (or start of the year) is going well. Here at the University of Iowa we're looking at a decrease in State funding for the upcoming fiscal year, but this is certainly not unique to us, and it's at a relatively minor level compared to what others have faced or are facing. My sympathy and support to all who have gone or will go through this process. All I can say is thank goodness for donors. Besides beginning the semester and budget issues, I've been spending time preparing for the upcoming Board of Directors meeting (Feb. 16-17) as well as the continuation of our search for a new executive director. More on those below.


The NCHC Winter Board meeting will take place in Tampa, Florida on February 16-17, 2017. Most notable agenda items:

  • Third and Fourth Quarter Financial reports. The Fourth Quarter report is especially significant because it includes the 2016 conference. NCHC conferences typically have about a $750,000 budget, and they generate 55-60% of NCHC's annual revenue. So, they're big-ticket items and can have a major impact on our overall budget. The good news is that we are projected to be in the black for the 2016 fiscal year, which comes as a great relief after several years of substantial deficits. Thanks to the NCHC staff, and especially Alana Giesemann, NCHC Director of Finance. Thanks also to Steve Engel, NCHC Treasurer, and all members of the NCHC Finance Committee. We much appreciate your oversight of our multimillion dollar budget.
  • A discussion on "Political Action/Appointments Affecting Higher Education" that will include things such as the recent Immigration Ban. In the days right after the immigration ban the home office fielded many calls on that action. There was also discussion on our listserv and among the Executive Committee members (we have monthly conference call meetings). The Executive Committee hence decided to make time for discussion at the Board meeting on how such actions might affect us. For what purpose, you may ask? Since the NCHC is the major organization that represents honors education, people look to us for help and guidance on issues and public policy that may affect honors education. We are, in fact, expected to have a position on anything that may affect honors programs and students. This will not be a discussion of politics, nor will it result in position statements that are partisan. Rather, I see our role as responding to challenges or threats by special interest groups, regulatory enactments that can affect our population, unprofessional and unethical practices, or anything else that can affect the NCHC's mission statement and values.
  • Further definition of our three strategic priorities: research, advocacy, and professional development. A full scale session on strategic planning will happen at our summer Board meeting (as is typical), but we'll review progress made on the three strategic priorities that were developed at the Summer 2015 Board meeting. Our three strategic priorities are broad, and, although they have been implemented in specific ways, they need more focus so that we can be more intentional and effective. An example of that type of focus is that the Board discussion will include a proposal to create a new standing committee (i.e., a permanent committee) on advocacy. We already have standing committees on research and professional development, by the way.


You may recall from my last post that neither of the two finalists we interviewed in Lincoln, NE worked out and that the committee did not feel that any other of the applicants in the current pool were viable. The Search Committee recommended we start a new search and also use a search firm this time. We got approval from the Board for that and are now in the process of selecting a firm that best fits our needs. As I write this, the ED Search Committee is in the process of selecting a search firm. Our intent is to have a firm selected and representatives from that firm at the Board meeting. Then the entire Board can give those representatives feedback on just what we need in a new executive director. Meanwhile, Mary Beth Rathe, NCHC Deputy Director, and the rest of the NCHC staff are keeping the home office running smoothly. My thanks to them for keeping us on track while the search continues. I've learned from my own experience in a NCHC leadership role that running a multimillion dollar business such as the NCHC takes much time and care. Please give them a word of support if you see or correspond with them – they deserve it!

All for this month. My post in March will include a debriefing on the February Board meeting.

These posts are intended to keep you informed on selected issues and decisions that your leadership is facing and making. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I'm happy to give you feedback and respond to questions.

All best,

Art L. Spisak
President, National Collegiate Honors Council
Director, University of Iowa Honors Program

Conference News

Like many of you, I am sure, I am frequently asked by potential students, what makes Honors different, and will it be a lot more work? I usually respond that the difference is in the type of work, rather than the amount. That is, the distinction between an Honors seminar and a regular class is not that you read ten books in honors and only five in the other, but rather that you read those five books more closely, with a critical eye and an open mind to the different perspective each brings, as you, in conversation with your classmates, analyze evidence and question assumptions.

Whatever their majors, I believe that Honors students should graduate with the critical thinking skills to find solutions, the ability to listen to and engage with divergent opinions to effect a workable compromise, and a moral compass attuned to the ethical implications of actions. Nurturing these skills in our Honors communities is more important than ever at a time when not only is the nature of "fact" called into question, but when neither side in our increasingly polarized debates seems capable of even listening to the other. And so I call you to join NCHC in Atlanta this November for civil debate, engagement and celebration. Our theme, "Just Honors," is an invitation to reflect on what it means to be "just," how we teach and work for justice, and how Honors itself can be a place for access, equity, excellence and justice in higher education.

To enhance opportunities for discussion and interaction, this year we have added a "workshop" option for proposals. And we will also have more dedicated space in the hotel for schmoozing and informal conversation. In addition to our regular activities such as City as Text, DIH, poster sessions, Forum on Diversity, etc., we expect to have speakers from the CDC and CNN. And, for the first time, we will share a plenary with the National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP), as MacArthur "Genius" award-winner Bryan Stevenson speaks about the work of the Equal Justice Initiative in combatting wrongful incarceration.

We are hoping to coordinate some discussion of Mr. Stevenson's book, Just Mercy, among those Honors programs and colleges that have used it as a common read. If this applies to your institution, will you please let me know? And if you have not yet read the book, your purchase via Amazon Smile can benefit NCHC, or the important work of another nonprofit in your community.

I look forward to hearing from you, and I can't wait to see y'all in Atlanta!

Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D.
Director, University Honors Program, Loyola University New Orleans
President-Elect, National Collegiate Honors Council

Proposal Submission Closing Soon for #NCHC17!

Proposal submissions for the 2017 NCHC Annual Conference open on January 18, and close March 13. For details on the conference theme and proposal submission guidelines, visit the conference event page here.

Black History Month Resources

February is Black History Month, and NCHC is proud to support honors programs at many HBCU institutions. In 2017, the history and impact of HBCUs in America is being featured in a new documentary film:

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities spans 170 years of American history. The two-hour film and multi-platform project by award-winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, explores the pivotal role HBCUs have played in the ascent of African-Americans and their families – from slavery to the present day. The film also examines the impact HBCUs have had on American history, culture, and national identity.

The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in January, and will be debuting on PBS this October. For more information about the documentary, visit

Looking for more resources to spark discussion in your honors classroom? PBS NewsHour Extra has created an excellent resource page for classroom discussions about race and civil rights. Although the pre-designed lesson plans are created for 7-12 Grade curriculum, these collected materials could serve as building blocks and foundational materials for discussion in your own coursework.

For an interactive honors take on the Civil Rights movement in America, an NCHC Faculty Institute is exploring Birmingham and Montgomery this March. Registration is now closed, but we look forward to sharing the stories and feedback from this project with our members after the trip has concluded!

Explore Yellowstone Border Towns with NCHC Faculty Institutes

Yellowstone Border Towns: Intersections Between Public and Private
NCHC Faculty Institute
June 2-7, 2017

Participants will read the five gateway communities of our first national park, paying particular attention to complex stewardship issues that arise at the intersection of public and private lands. The Institute will provide the opportunity for a deep exploration of contemporary questions about our public lands: How are tensions between the tourism industry and environmental preservation negotiated? What complexities are generated when differing cultures and stakeholders lay claim to a particular location? How are notions of "wilderness" constructed?

Click here for more information on how to register!

All Place as Text Institutes use pedagogy that engages participants in experiential learning strategies as a way to link discovery, knowledge, dialogue, and observation. Learn how to apply these concepts on your own campus.

DIRECTORS: Hike Bryce Canyon with Partners in the Parks!

July 10-15, 2017

Partners in the Parks brings students outside the classroom to learn in our nation's most beautiful natural spaces. Want to learn more about how these projects work beneath the surface? Sign up for this year's PITP Faculty Retreat in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Registration is now open, and we want to see you this summer for an experiential learning opportunity like no other. Bond with other honors directors and grow your NCHC community! Register Here!

Partners in the Parks student projects are filling up quickly. If you have students looking for an adventure this summer, share this link with them to learn more about PITP. See what learning outside the classroom can look like with NCHC. Scholarships for 2017 Projects still available!

2nd Annual Summer Honors Faculty Institute

May 18-20, 2017
Texas Christian University
Registration opens February 20

Sponsored by the NCHC and the EHC (European Honors Council), this intensive workshop grounded in honors pedagogy research is aimed at university or college professors, instructors, lecturers, and researchers who aspire to teach academically talented (honors) college students. The institute will equip its participants with knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to design and implement effective honors courses

See the brochure here! For more details on how to register, contact Dr. Beata Jones at

NCHC Dates & Deadlines

NCHC Grants & Awards Applications Open:

  • Portz Grants for Innovation (close March 15) Details Here
  • NCHC Portz Fellowships (close March 15) Details Here
  • Consultant Grants (close March 15) Details Here
  • NCHC Fellows Nominations (close March 1) Details Here
  • Sam Schuman Award for Excellence at a Four Year Institution (close June 15) Details Here
  • Ron Brandolini Award for Excellence at a Two Year Institution (close June 15) Details Here


Summer Honors Faculty Institute at TCU - Registration Opens


NCHC17 Proposal Submissions Close


Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference (Brookings, SD)


Southern Regional Honors Conference (Asheville, NC)


Great Plains Honors Conference (Beaumont, TX)


Northeast Regional Honors Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)

4/7-4/9Mid-East Honors Association Conference (Ypsilanti, MI)

4/7-4/9Western Regional Honors Conference (Ashland, OR)

4/10NCHC 2017 Conference Registration Opens