57th NCHC Annual Conference

NCHC22 - Centering Community

In 2017 the renowned educational theorist, Vincent Tinto explained, “The result of a sense of belonging is often expressed as a commitment that serves to bind the individual to the group or community even when challenges arise... students who perceive themselves as belonging to a specific group or the institution generally are more likely to persist.” In short, students are far more likely to succeed when they feel they reside in communities that value and understand them. While universities have always attempted to create such communities, honors colleges and programs are uniquely well positioned to build and maintain deep, lasting connections and to foster environments in which students can come to value difference rather than merely understand or acknowledge this difference. Community is what we do.

It is appropriate, then, that the theme of NCHC22 is “centering community.” What are honors colleges and programs doing to create and center communities? How are we building up diverse groups of engaged learners in a moment when many forces seem to divide us? What pedagogies support us in crafting communities? How can we look forward and think creatively and imaginatively about communities and inclusion? If we do not form communities, what does it do to us as learners?

Honors education can forge connections locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. How do we in NCHC create communities that are inclusive of all of us? How do we model community creation in a nation that struggles to gather and connect? How do we balance notions of community with those of individual freedom? How do we forge inclusive communities for our students and our faculty, and center them at our institutions? And if we do nothing, what does this do to us as learners? What does it tell people in marginalized communities, and how does it structure our thinking about our collective future? How do these narratives from the powerful deprive us all of a space to contemplate ourselves and our communities? What research-based solutions can we draw upon to create a world composed of interconnected communities?

The second part of our theme, “centering” acknowledges that we live in an era of exceptional (if not unprecedented) political polarization and nativist politics. To this end, this conference will consider our obligation, as centers of belonging and community. How should honors respond to state mandates where certain content (be it either liberal or conservative) must be taught? Does academic freedom empower university scholars (or communities) to opt-out of equity and inclusion programming? Does academic freedom empower scholars to opt-out of nativist or nationalist pedagogical mandates?

NCHC22 will provide honors professionals and students with the opportunity to explore these questions, perhaps encouraging others, but more importantly providing solutions and opportunities for some spirited discourse in taking the honors community from campus to world.

- Susan Dinan
NCHC22 Conference Chair