News from NCHC | May 2017

In This Issue...


From the President
From the ED – Buzzwords
Online Guide
Budget and Resources Survey
Thank A Teacher


2017 Conference News
Registration Details
Awards & Scholarships Now Open


New Directors Institute
PITP: Bryce Canyon Directors Retreat
Program Reviewer Training
NCHC Faculty Institutes: An Inside Look

President's Post

Dear NCHC Friends and Colleagues:

Greetings for the end of the academic year, which I hope has been a good one for you.

The NCHC Board of Directors will meet next on June 22-23. The agenda for that meeting is nearly finalized, and I'll likely publicize it with my June newsletter post. For this month's post I want to focus on a topic that is regularly part of our summer board meeting – namely, strategic planning. Many of us have been through this process as part of our universities, colleges, or programs. My own experience with strategic planning in general over the years has been, I'm sorry to say, not always the best. Typically, I've seen it as many people spending much time on something that ends up so general or generic that it's not terribly useful to those in the trenches.

That said, you have voted in a very good board of directors: many people highly experienced in honors, committed to the NCHC, and able to work well together. So, I expect we'll get a good result from our own strategic planning at the June meeting.

My own thoughts on current and possible future directions for the NCHC are below.


NCHC's Current Strategic Priorities, which were set at the 2015 summer board meeting. These are followed by my own take on what they entail:


  • Better define honors education and its most effective implementation by adding to the existing body of knowledge, with particular attention to data-based research and studies that are collaborative efforts across institutions.
  • Continue building NCHC's database on the number and structure of honors programs/colleges and how they deliver an honors education.


  • Promote NCHC in the broader community, including government and legislative bodies, regarding what honors education is (and what it is not); also what role honors programs and colleges play in the higher education landscape.
  • Support issues in higher education that have a positive impact on honors students.
  • Develop and cultivate connections to individuals, foundations, and other organizations that have the ability to support NCHC and honors education through services and funding.

Professional Development:

  • Define professional development specifically for honors education.
  • Expand professional development for honors education to include all aspects and perspectives (i.e., not just for directors/deans).
  • Develop professional development training/workshops/institutes that are offered at times and in formats that make them affordable and accessible, as well as effective.

These three strategic priorities support one another. For example, data-based research on the effects of an honors education will help us to be better advocates for what we do as honors professionals: by documenting the value of an honors education we can justify, protect, and get more support for our programs. For example, I had the sad job last month of helping craft a letter on behalf of NCHC to dissuade members of a board of education who were considering cutting an honors program altogether because of severe institutional budget constraints. Sadder still is that we've decided to keep a copy of that letter on file, since we fear we'll need it again as a model.


By the time of the summer board meeting we will have had worked on our three current strategic priorities for two years. We certainly have made progress, but typically strategic plans are not designed as short-term initiatives. Thus, I'm not sure if we're yet ready to make major changes in our direction.

That said, strategic plans should be open to adjustment and refinement. So, I look to board members to develop more specific objectives for our three priorities as well as a timeline for each priority. Have we made equal progress on all three, or are we farther along with one or another of them? Is this a five-year plan or a ten-year plan? Also, do we need to make adjustments to one or another of them because of changes in the political climate?

Keeping in mind the letter NCHC recently sent to try to prevent the cutting of an honors program, my point is that advocacy takes different forms; also, that our research efforts can and should be directed to specific areas for practical purposes. Likewise, professional development, in addition to covering the basics, also needs to be focus on current challenges – e.g., how to get financial support for your honors program via donors, since tax support has only diminished. I look to board members to use their experience and judgment to adjust our three priorities according to progress already made and in anticipation of need.

All for this month. More updates on current NCHC happenings in my June post.

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 at I'm happy to get your feedback and respond to questions.

All best for the summer,

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

From the Executive Director: Buzzwords

Buzzwords permeate the social media, news and television programming, and advertising campaigns.

Storytelling. Bubble. Big Data. Growth. Authenticity. Common Sense. Accountability. Relevance. Augmented reality. Disruptive technology. Datafication.

The NCHC office and organization has taken a step into the world of advocacy, setting it as a strategic priority in 2015. And while the term may trigger visions of policy and lobbyists, it also has the ability to help us recommend and promote the value of honors- the value of NCHC- to those outside our own cause.

Some of the conversations about advocacy have triggered philosophical questions about mission and purpose and vision. Buzzwords float through emails and across staff meeting tables.

How do we tell the NCHC story? Is NCHC more relevant today than it was 50 years ago – considering changes to campus funding, policy changes? How does NCHC promote itself outside the 'bubble' of higher education? What data are we missing that might help us grow our internal advocates? Does the increase in technology negatively impact membership growth?

The answers to these questions will drive how the board conducts its work for the strategic planning session in June at its meeting in Lincoln. The answers will also resonate for each of the members as renewal notices for 2018 membership dues are sent in the next months.

The answers are, frankly, bigger than buzzwords.

The answers drive why some institutions and professionals have been members of NCHC for decades. But the answers also keep some from joining, driven by needs to match organizational purpose to institutional dollars, or to realize professional benefits from national unity.

Because even as answers to the questions are written and approved in one setting, the environment changes. Government budgets reflect priorities that aren't our own. Generations adapt to new online tools for communication and entertainment. The world gets smaller as international cultures interact and realize shared commonalities.

And with each change, NCHC must maintain its integrity of mission, and find a way to maintain membership and direct the course of the work of a national collegiate honors council.

We must answer the questions with the very model of inquisitiveness and thoroughness that is encouraged of honors students. Deductive logic. Inductive reasoning. Set-based reasoning. Modal logic. We must consider all the angles and look for approaches that we hadn't considered before, possibly in part because they weren't options before.

Because in the end, we're going to need to keep answering the questions in order to maintain NCHC's visibility and authenticity and relevance among other options for our members.

Because in the end, it would be the best advocacy outcome possible if "NCHC" became the buzzword for 2018.

Mary Beth Rathe
Executive Director, National Collegiate Honors Council

NCHC Online Guide: Are You In?

If you're trying to recruit the best and brightest students to your honors program or college, make sure your profile is up-to-date in the NCHC Online Guide! The only comprehensive listing of all honors programs and colleges in the country, the NCHC Online Guide is a useful tool for students when considering their options for honors education in their area. As a member of NCHC, your institution is entitled to a Featured Listing! Spell out all the benefits of your program, including honors scholarships and special experiences.

If you've had a change of directors, grown from a program to a college, or had any other big developments in the last year, now is the time to review and update your entry. Click here for complete instructions and claim your listing today!

Budget and Resources (BAR) Survey Now Open!

Help complete the picture of today's national honors landscape.

On May 12, we launched the NCHC Budget and Resources Survey. The Budget and Resources Survey is the final survey in a series of three projects including last year's NCHC Census of U.S. Honors Programs and Colleges as well as the 2015 Admissions, Retention, and Completion Survey. Results from those earlier surveys already appear on the Research page of the NCHC member site, and together with the Budget and Resources Survey we hope we will provide a better picture of the landscape of honors education in the United States, the students we serve, and the constraints within which we all labor.

If you are the head of honors at your school and did not receive an e-mail invitation to participate in this groundbreaking project, please contact NCHC Research Director, Andrew Cognard-Black at

Thank a Teacher!

In May we celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week. Is there an honors faculty member with exemplary teaching skills that you'd like to thank? Consider nominating them for the Ron Brandolini Award for Excellence at a Two Year Institution, or the Sam Schuman Award for Excellence at a Four Year Institution! Both awards were created to recognize outstanding honors faculty who give their all in the classroom and are committed to expanding the minds of their students through honors education. Nominations close June 15, so submit your information today!

Ron Brandolini Award for Excellence at a Two Year Institution

Sam Schuman Award for Excellence at a Four Year Institution

Visit Atlanta this fall with NCHC, and you'll experience...

  • Hundreds of sessions and workshops for honors, by honors! Learn from national experts and colleagues as they share best practices and collaborate on topics for the whole honors communitiy: administrators, faculty, staff, and students included!
  • A thought-provoking and inspiring plenary session from Bryan Stevenson, a criminal justice lawyer and social justice activist.
  • A history-making partnership with the NAAAHP for our plenary speaker, and for joint museum tours at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
  • Exploration of the theme, "Just Honors": How do we teach "justice" in honors? How is it part of the conversation, and what are we doing in terms of studying the history of justice?
  • Sponsors and vendors sharing information about graduate program and internship opportunities, classroom technologies, honor societies, study abroad excursions, and more!
  • A new view of the city of Atlanta, through excursions by Partners in the Parks and City as Text
  • Networking with old friends and new colleagues, to grow your community of honors professionals and contacts!

...and that's just the beginning!

Register Today!

#NCHC17 Registration Information

Dates & Location
November 8-12, 2017 | Atlanta, GA | Westin Peachtree Hotel
Conference kicks off with registration check-in on Wednesday evening, November 8. Take part in the popular Student Open Mic Night, or just settle in and plan your event schedule for the next few busy days! Conference sessions begin bright and early on Thursday morning, so be sure to get check-in for you or your group out of the way on Wednesday.

Hotel & Travel
See our Conference Travel Page for all the details on our hotel block, and member discounts on airfare!

New Member Registration Process
Because our member registration software is all new this year with YourMembership, here are a few tips to get you (or a group) registered for NCHC17.

  • You can access the Conference event registration through the Conference Event page on the website, or the Calendar at the bottom of your member login page.
  • Each conference attendee in your group will need to be added as a "contact" into the YM member database. (Your institutional contact should already be in the YM system, as well as any additional professionals or students who hold a paid membership.) This will link them to your member institution in our database, so they can access member prices for conference registration. Sign Up Your Contacts Here They'lll receive an email notification, and THEN you may start registration for #NCHC17.
  • If one person is registering your entire group, you'll complete a full registration for each person by selecting "Save and Add Another" at the end of the process. When you're finished, you will receive an invoice for the whole group.

Conference Programs:
Did you know that Americans use an average of 749 pounds of paper per person, per year? In an effort to reduce our conference footprint (as well as your conference costs!), we are now including a print program request as a part of your conference registration. If you would like a printed copy of the conference program when you arrive in Atlanta, please select that option as you register each individual attendee. Printed programs will only be available until the Early Bird Deadline, to allow for printing time, so register early if you're a lover of the printed page! We encourage you share within your group, or go paperless for 2017.

If you do pass on the printed program, try our Mobile App! The NCHC conference app provides a full event schedule with the ability to build your own custom schedule. You can also view our sponsors and speakers, receive notifications and updates in the app, and much more! The app will be free to download in the App Store, with a code for the NCHC event coming this summer. Watch for details as our schedule develops!

Scholarships and Awards Now Open!

NCHC has many Scholarship and Conference Award applications now open! Check out the details for the following:

Looking for a Summer Adventure? Try one of these NCHC Events!

As a member benefit, you can save up to 10% on your airfare by booking with United! Just visit, and check the "All Search Options" box located to the left of the search button on the United home page. This will connect to a new booking screen. After entering the required information, scroll to the bottom of the page and enter NCHC's discounted meeting code.


NCHC Summer Institute:
Honors Advising

June 25-27 :: Lincoln, NE

Flight Discount Code: ZYJP320790

NCHC Summer Institute:
New Directors Institute

July 9-11 :: Lincoln, NE

Flight Discount Code: ZYJP320790

Partners in the Parks:
Bryce Canyon
Directors Retreat

July 10-15 :: Bryce Canyon, UT

Flight Discount Code: ZYJS827788

NCHC Summer Institute:
Program Reviewer Training

July 12-14 :: Chicago, IL

Flight Discount Code: ZYJS827788

NCHC Faculty Institutes: An Inside Look

On March 15-18, the NCHC Honors Semesters Committee sponsored a Faculty Institute on The Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. One of the fifteen participants was Bobby Hom, Coordinator of the Honors Program and Professor of Humanities at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. Here is the opening section of the Turning Point Essay he wrote about the Faculty Institute:

Sponsored by the National Collegiate Honors Council, "Birmingham & Montgomery: The Civil Rights Movement Reimagined" was a Faculty Institute that used City as Text™ methodologies to help participants recontextualize the 1950s and 60s Civil Rights Movement. We've all seen the historic photographs and television footage of Civil Rights marches and protests in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama. We're all aware of the historical figures (Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks) and historic sites (16th Street Baptist Church, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Edmund Pettis Bridge). We've watched feature films—The Long Walk Home (1990), The Rosa Parks Story (2002), Selma (2014)), and documentaries (Eyes on the Prize (1987), Four Little Girls (1997), The Freedom Riders (2010)—that dramatize the events and help us understand their significance. And we've seen the monuments and memorials that bear witness to individuals and events related to a specific location.

As a culture, we feel that we "know" and "understand" the Civil Rights Movement, that we've "learned" its lessons, and that as a society, we've "moved on" past this dark time in our nation's history. This NCHC Faculty Institute dispelled these notions, demonstrated our ignorance, and suggested that not only have we not learned our lessons from the past but our past still colors and shades our present. Unlike a conference, where experts present papers that digest content and meaning for us, City as Text™ allows its participants to explore "familiar knowledge" in ways that make it new through a recognition of one's own preconceptions and a combination of background readings, small group experiential explorations of place and space, and reflections via large group discussions, debriefings, and individual writing.

Read the Full Essay Here

For a visual tour of this NCHC Faculty Institute, check out their Instagram Feed!

Join NCHC in Atlanta this November to continue the conversation about the civil rights movement and social justice in today's world.