News from NCHC | January 2017

In This Issue...

From the President
From the ED - The What, How, & Why
2018 Membership Renewal

From the Conference Chair
From the Research Committee
From the Nominating Committee

2018 Trainings & Travels
Call for Publications

President's Post: Four Legged Friends of Honors

The best-known member of the Loyola University Honors Program ("scholars for justice in the heart of New Orleans") is not the director. Nor is it the president of the honors student association, nor any other student, nor anyone with only two legs. It is Beau, a maroon and golden retriever who spends most of his days hanging out with honors students in Loyola's Monroe Library. A certified therapy dog, Beau has visited hospitals and schools, attended memorial services on campus, and even participated in some contentious meetings. He is also a powerful recruitment tool, with his own Facebook page. But most importantly, Beau is an understanding and comforting presence, offering compassion and unconditional support to all members of the community.

Loyola's honors program is not unique in having a support animal as part of its community. Although she is not a certified therapy dog, Scout (who goes home at night with NCHC President-Elect Richard Badenhausen) is listed as staff on the Westminster Honors College website. And Immediate Past President Art Spisak's honors program at the University of Iowa has its own "dragon," a lizard named Tiberius. Given the holistic emphasis of honors and the growing acceptance of comfort animals on campuses in general, this embrace of nonhuman members of our communities is a productive way not just to build community and mitigate homesickness, but to support the growing number of students with mental health challenges, particularly anxiety and depression.

Beau - Loyola University New Orleans Tiberius - University of Iowa Scout - Westminster College
Beau Tiberius Scout

Although the American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment of 2016 does not offer statistics specifically on honors students, the numbers of students reporting health factors affecting academic performance* in the last twelve months is staggering: added together, alcohol use (3.6%), ADHD (6.2%) and death of a friend or family member (5.9%), affected about the same number of students as those affected by depression (16.4%). All of these were far less significant factors than anxiety (26.5%) and stress (34.4%).

*defined as: received a lower grade on an exam, or an important project; received a lower grade in the course; received an incomplete or dropped the course; or experienced a significant disruption in thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work

Data from the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors show that more than half of students who visited their campus counseling centers in 2015-16 reported symptoms of anxiety (51%), while 41% reported symptoms of depression, 34% relationship concerns, and 20.5% suicidal ideation.

But you probably don't need these statistics to know that mental health challenges are a significant presence in our honors communities and on our campuses in general. At my institution, mental illness is the number one reason for students to be on honors probation or need to leave the program or university. The NCHC conference has had a growing number of well-attended sessions focused on mental health, with students and administrators alike calling for more conversation, research, and resources.

In the coming weeks, we will be creating an NCHC special interest group for those who wish to have an ongoing discussion and work together to address these challenges. While we figure out the logistics, I invite you to email me to indicate your interest in such conversation, and to share your ideas for moving forward.

And we also welcome photos of your honors dogs, dragons or other creatures! Share them here on our Facebook page.

Happy New Year!


From the Executive Director: The What, How, & Why

The New Year. It's the season to adjust to the winter sunlight deficiency, change our eating habits and maybe even mourn the lack of events with family and friends. It's when we resolve to do more things better, set boundaries, and work more efficiently for impactful causes.

Similarly, January at NCHC is the start of a new agenda for recently elected board and leadership. It's the fresh commitment of time and energy from committee volunteers. It's the work of new publications, conference proposals and professional development opportunities.

So in the spirit of resolutions for change, I've asked a lot of questions about NCHC. So many questions.

I was comfortable with the 5 W's. But to get better answers, I've delved into how each of those questions drive emotional responses; how results are driven by which question is asked; and even which questions not to ask.

From my journal:

  • "Why?" – strengthens resolve, provides the purpose, and defines our belief systems. A shared answer to this question intensifies the work of the group. However, it can lead to negative and defensive thoughts, or can trigger paralysis/inaction if we are prone to rationalize. Answers can provide context, but not necessarily a plan of action.
  • "How" should I do it? – provides the process and the tools for a template for action. It's been suggested that no "why" question should be asked without a "how".
  • "What" should I do? – provides a powerful starting point for individuals, and generates action items. For the organization or individual, words like advocate, create, support, reform, preserve, and build provide movement.

I'd like to think that now is a good time to think about "Why NCHC?", "How [through] NCHC?" and "What [because of] NCHC?"

I'd encourage you to make plans for the "what". Contribute as you can to the research, resources and network with the expertise that is uniquely you. Take action and move forward.

And then use those results, and the days when you are trying to avoid the holiday sales, to continue to refine the "why" of NCHC as we empower a stronger network.

Happy New Y*ear!

Mary Beth


Renew your 2018 Membership!

Simply log in to your Member Profile, and click the banner at the top of the page to generate an invoice or pay online!

From the Conference Chair

NCHC18: Proposals Are Now Open!

The 41-member 2018 NCHC Boston conference planning committee has been working hard this past year organizing a meeting that contains your favorite signature programming in addition to exciting new offerings.

The conference theme is "Learning to Transgress," a nod to the work of the amazing writer, teacher, and cultural critic bell hooks, who will anchor our meeting in a plenary conversation with attendees when we gather on Nov. 7-11, 2018.

In her 1994 landmark collection Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, hooks explores the manner in which a critical consciousness can lead to liberatory practices in education. As honors faculty, students, and staff, we can learn much from hooks's powerful call to resist the "unjust exercise of power" in the classroom, overcome the fear of transgressing boundaries, and interrogate the privileged positions from which we speak.

Ultimately, hooks offers a hopeful note about the transformative power of education by identifying the classroom as "the most radical space of possibility in the academy." Her work poses a key question for our community: are we living up to the promise of that possibility in our theory and practices in honors?

In addition to the usual exciting NCHC conference strands, the Boston meeting will have many new provocative features, including:

  • Saturday Night StorySLAM: interactive storytelling competition modeled after The Moth Radio Hour and emceed by award-winning author Andre Dubus III.
  • Teaching and Learning Workshop: intensive post-conference seminar for honors faculty with acclaimed pedagogy expert James Lang.
  • Professional Staff in Honors (PSIH): professional development training and networking for honors administrative staff in areas like career advancement, advising, and mental health.
  • Community Impact Exercise: an interactive, problem-based learning experience for students who will work with local Boston partners to address challenges related to education or sustainability.

I'm particularly excited about opportunities for professional administrative staff to become more involved in our annual meeting and organization, so please encourage your staff to consider submitting proposals to the conference before the March 1 deadline. With the emphasis on teaching/learning issues, the Boston meeting will also be an especially productive space for your honors faculty to engage in professional development.

I look forward to seeing your in Boston, if not before!

Richard Badenhausen
NCHC 2018 Conference Chair
NCHC President-Elect

Click here for NCHC18 proposal submission information!

From the Research Committee

First, on behalf of the Research Committee, we hope you are all happily launched on the New Year. To keep you updated on things underway, we have begun work with colleagues at NSSE to do some honors-related data collection.

And following up on last month's newsletter post, we have been discussing some topics for research related white papers. What we have in mind is developing a roster of proposed subjects and then getting colleagues together who might want to collaborate. To that end, here's a proposed list of topics:

  • Honors value added and qualitative measurement: how do our basic characteristics change our students over the time they spend in honors?
  • Honors and diversity: what do we mean by diversity, how do we measure its benefits?
  • Honors and first-generation students: what is the value added here, compared to non-honors students?
  • Honors and transfer students: does honors add value, if so where and how?
  • Honors students and majors: how does changing majors affect students' academic performance and retention?
  • Honors and housing: what's the measurable value added and how do we assess it?

Please take a look at the list and let us know if you would like to make additions or emendations, and whether you would be interested in sharing ideas and analytics with colleagues about a particular topic. To help us track your interest, click here and leave your name to collaborate with colleagues!

Best wishes for a great 2018,

Tricia Smith (
Jerry Herron (

From the NCHC Nominating Committee: Info on Leadership Positions

NCHC Colleagues:

Art Spisak

As the chair of the NCHC Nominating Committee this year, I invite you to consider serving on the leadership of the NCHC. Positions available for next year (2018) are:

  • Vice President: this is actually a four-year term – one year as VP, then transitioning at annual intervals to President Elect, President, and then Past President
  • Secretary: three-year term
  • two at-large Student Board Representatives: two-year term
  • three at-large Professional Board Representatives: three-year term

You can find descriptions of all these positions in the NCHC Standing Orders.

Kyoko Amano

For those interested specifically in running for secretary, Kyoko Amano, who currently holds that position, has this advice:

My term as the secretary of NCHC comes to an end this year, and I want to encourage members to consider nominating yourself or someone else. Taking Board meeting minutes and the Executive Committee Conference Call minutes may sound like a daunting task; however, the taking of the minutes is usually done in collaboration with the Executive Committee members and the executive director (ED). I take notes, but I share the draft minutes with the Executive Committee members and ED for their feedback and accuracy before I post it on the Board Forums for any corrections and then approval.

I admit it is sometimes difficult to voice my own opinion as a Board member while taking notes, but it can be done. I'd be happy to pass on the templates for the Board minutes, tally sheet, motion list, etc. to the next secretary and answer any questions you might have.


The NCHC Office on behalf of the Nominating Committee will send out a call for nominations early in March. The call will include instructions on how to nominate either oneself or another. The Nominating Committee will then select and recommend nominees on the basis of: experience and qualifications; geographic distribution; type of institute represented; and commitment to NCHC. The NCHC Board will vet the list of recommended nominees either at the summer meeting or in the following month (July) and determine a final listing. Nominees will be notified soon thereafter and will be able to begin developing a profile and candidate statement in time for canvassing at the 2018 NCHC Boston conference. Elections take place soon after the conference. Note that nominations are permitted from the floor at the business meeting at conference, although these candidates do not have the advantage of using the conference to canvass.

My own experience both on the Board and as an officer has been invaluable: it's changed the way I perceive honors education and made me so much more aware of the vital role NCHC plays. I highly recommend it and am happy to field questions about it.

All best,

Art L. Spisak
Immediate NCHC Past President and Chair of the Nominating Committee

Kyoko Amano
NCHC Secretary

2018 Trainings & Travels

Check out the great new offerings from NCHC in 2018, now posted on the NCHC Website!

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: With five opportunities ranging from the classic New Directors Institute to the brand new Enrollment Management or Fundraising 101 Institutes, there is summer training available from NCHC no matter your title or tenure in honors. Connect with colleagues and grow your skills in 2018! If you're looking for experiential education, try the Directors Retreat with Partners in the Parks at Highland Cove Lake, NC, or one of three amazing adventures with the NCHC Place as Text Institutes – in Barcelona, Yellowstone National Park, or Boston, MA!

STUDENT ADVENTURES: Partners in the Parks opportunities are now open for registration, and filling up fast! Send students on the adventure of a lifetime as they explore some of the most beautiful and unique parts of the national park system. With eleven opportunities from May to August, there's something available for everyone!

Calls For Publications

UReCA is now accepting Student Submissions and Editor Applications for 2018!

The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, UReCA, is nationally recognized and sponsored by the NCHC. The only student-led and peer-reviewed journal for undergraduates, UReCA showcases competitive multi-disciplinary works produced by honors students from across the U.S.

DIRECTORS: Download This Flyer and share with your students - print and post on your bulletin boards as well!

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Call for Papers: JNCHC

The next issue of JNCHC (deadline: March 1, 2018) invites research essays on any topic of interest to the honors community.

The issue will also include a Forum focused on the theme "Honors and Social Justice." We invite essays of roughly 1000-2000 words that consider this theme in a practical and/or theoretical context.

The lead essay for the Forum, available here, is by Naomi Yavneh Klos of Loyola University New Orleans. In her essay, "Thinking Critically, Acting Justly," Yavneh Klos asks readers to consider two questions: "first, how to engage our highest-ability and most motivated students in questions of justice; and second, how honors can be a place of access, equity, and excellence in higher education." She describes the ways her program has wedded traditional and experiential educational goals with justice education to fulfill the Jesuit honors mission to "embrace diversity; foster reflection and discernment; promote social justice and preferential care for the poor and the vulnerable; and bring 'intellectual talents into service of the world's great needs.'" Rejecting the notion that a student's qualification for honors can easily be identified by test scores and high school GPA, she suggests ways that admissions policies and curriculum decisions can achieve equitable and inclusive excellence for the public good.

Contributions to the Forum may—but need not—respond to Yavneh Klos's essay. Prospective authors are also encouraged to consider the issues raised by the NCHC monograph Occupy Honors Education, which is forthcoming in early November 2017.

Questions that Forum contributors might consider include: What kinds of honors admissions policies best serve the cause of inclusive excellence? Is the notion of "inclusive excellence" an oxymoron? Can virtue and social justice really be taught at all? How might honors faculty and administrators address the notion that they should teach practical skills and "book learning," leaving matters of morality and justice to parents and religious groups? Is social justice a partisan issue, part of a left-wing agenda? While diversity in an honors humanities curriculum is common practice, how might the sciences or engineering or computer science achieve a goal of inclusivity?

Forum essays should focus on ideas, concepts, and/or opinions related to "Honors and Social Justice."

Information about JNCHC, including the editorial policy and submission guidelines, is available here on the NCHC website.

Please send all submissions to Ada Long at

NCHC journals and monographs are included in the following electronic databases: ERIC, EBSCO, Gale Cengage, and UNL Digital Commons. Both journals are listed in Cabell International's Directory of Publishing Opportunities.