The post below is shared by Honors Former Student Nicole Guentzel ’19.
Last November I attended the National Collegiate Honors Conference (NCHC) in Boston, Massachusetts with LAUNCH: Honors with the goal of learning how to meet the demands of a growing Honors Student Council (HSC) and how to improve the honors experience for students across campus. The theme of the conference was “Learning to Transgress” or learning to go beyond boundaries. A fitting theme since honors students are constantly encouraged to break out of the mold, be creative, and go the extra mile to solve current and future problems.
My favorite session of the conference was City as Text. We chose a location in Boston and were told to immerse ourselves in the city by observing our surroundings and talking to locals.My group went to the Public Garden and the Boston Common. I learned that Boston has scattered skyscrapers because they have to be built on stilts to reach the bedrock and they cannot be put near the numerous historical markers. Tourists stood out because they would duck when the hordes of pigeons swooped overhead while the locals wouldn’t flinch. We ended up wandering around a neighborhood near the Public Garden and found a Greek restaurant that seemed to be a popular quick stop for the locals. We had Gyros and Greek style donuts, which were delicious! I also learned from some locals about the best place in town to get cannolis and had to fight off a hungry squirrel.
Another noteworthy session I attended was Taking the Guesswork out of Civic Engagement: How to Participate in Ways that Make a Difference. If you go near the MSC around election time you will be bombarded with people asking you if you have registered to vote, but civic engagement is so much more than just voting. The speaker at the session told us to identify problems in our homes and communities, list the roots causes of these problems, and share our personal stories and experiences with newspapers and politicians to elicit change. She told us to never underestimate the power of narrative.
I found this session particularly relevant because we were in Boston in the middle of the Mariott Hotel Green Choice labor protests. To give a bit of background, employees argued that the Mariott’s Green Choice rewards program led to less hours and pay for housekeepers. It was interesting being exposed to potential consequences of environmentally friendly practices and made me think about how to implement these practices while maintaining sustainable employment procedures. I never would have thought about the impact of Green Choice on housekeepers if these housekeepers hadn’t shared their stories.
Overall, NCHC helped me learn how honors programs work at different universities and how these programs have been successful. I learned the benefits of pushing study abroad and second language learning programs, how to improve HSC officer transitions and build an organization legacy, and how to make honors education more accessible across socioeconomic and demographic barriers. Furthermore, being able to walk around a city as historic as Boston was awesome. I walked the Freedom Trail, found where Paul Revere rode his horse to warn “the British are coming” and learned a lot about the Irish Famine. I also had the chance to try Ethiopian and Tahitian food for the first time and attend a conference with thousands of participants.
I hope this year’s participants have as great of an experience as I had and are able to bring back even more knowledge to improve the honors experience at Texas A&M!