Tag Archives: NCHC

HSC Reports – NCHC 2017

Honors Student Council continued a tradition of representing TAMU at the annual national conference for Honors this year with three members attending: Sarah Kilpatrick ’18, President; Luke Oaks ’19, Vice President for Activities, and Megan Whitlock ’18, member-at-large.

The purpose in having students attend this conference is two fold:

  1. We want our students to get valuable perspective about what Honors education looks like nationally, to make connections with students from across the country and around the world, and to have an appreciation of how Honors opportunities at Texas A&M stack up to those offered elsewhere.
  2. We want our students to bring their broadened perspective back to Texas A&M and use the energy gained from these interactions and the ideas gleaned to improve our programs.
Texas A&M contingent at NCHC 2017 (left to right): Megan Whitlock, Benjamin Simington, Dustin Kemp, Luke Oaks, Jonathan Kotinek, Sarah Kilpatrick

Read below to hear what each of these students got out of the conference and the ideas inspired by this conference that they’d like to see take root at Texas A&M:

Sarah Kilpatrick

Luke Oaks

Megan Whitlock


Sarah Kilpatrick
This past November, Honors gave me the opportunity to go to the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Conferences in the past that I have attended were very topic-specific, from a specific industry to national affairs. However, this conference felt so unlike others that I have attended because it covered so many different aspects of honors education, personal development, organization development, and even seeking adventures in any situation.

The first major program that I went to was called “City as a Text”. There was not much description given to the event before it began, the only thing that we could know was where in the city we would be exploring that day. Eventually the coordinators explained what the premise of the event was– to discover how a neighborhood formed and exists today based on observation of social norms and by talking to those who live in it. As someone who generally enjoys the art of wandering an unfamiliar place, it sounded like a perfect match. My group ended up in the Buckhead neighborhood and spent the afternoon walking around old, multimillion dollar homes surrounded by parks established in the early 1900’s and high-end shopping. Even more fascinating than the actual wandering was the analysis of the area at the end of the day by different groups. Some groups saw how the area subtly discouraged poorer groups of people from being seen on their streets and the “acceptable aesthetics” of some old buildings while others were torn down to make room for more acceptable looking buildings. Other groups were fascinated with the friendliness of the people of Atlanta and fell in love with the affluent charm of that area. The sharing of perspectives that is a hallmark of many honors programs shone through during this time.

The rest of the conference was spent in different panels and discussion groups. My goal was to come out of the conference with ideas on how to improve Honors Student Council programs and to hear how other schools fostered their communities for the full four years. I also learned more than expected from the presentations that were selected on a whim, like the value that is found for honors programs in nontraditional college students or how countries like China are creating honors colleges. Altogether these topics will lead to radical improvements on Honors Student Council representation, events, and expectations.

In the end, the value of any conference is the ability to hear and speak to individuals in similar circumstances that have explored different ways to solve problems or challenges. I highly encourage anyone who can to find a way to go to at least one conference that you are interested in before graduation, because it expands perspectives in such a unique way and creates memories and friendships that will last for years. These perspectives can be found both inside the conference or even while exploring the city itself. The world is full of people that can teach you something new about life, and I highly recommend putting yourself in the situation to find and to learn from them.

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Luke Oaks
On November 11th, I was sitting at a diner counter in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The museum staff directed me to put on a pair of headphones and place my hands on the counter. A surround-sound recording indicative of the atmosphere at lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement began to play. I listened to two minutes of hate, and was overwhelmed with emotion. First, there was shame for historic injustices and a continued lack of social equity in the United States. But hours later, there was hope. In February of 1960, four black college students tactfully sat at a whites-only lunch counter after purchasing items in same department store. They brought national attention to the Civil Rights Movement, and lunch counters were desegregated en masse following over four months of protest that grew out of their initiative. These men met during their freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University, and none were pursuing the same undergraduate degree; their legacy has nothing to do with their undergraduate specialty. What role do our K-12 and college education systems play in promoting informed multi-disciplinary efforts that impact the public? This question has been on my mind since attending the 2017 National Collegiate Honors Council’s Annual Conference (NCHC 2017) in Atlanta, Georgia. Both are worth addressing from an academic’s lens of research, teaching, and service.

Through my undergraduate education, I have had the opportunity to conduct research with physiologists, biomedical engineers, and industrial engineers. Bringing these experiences together, my intention is to pursue a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering. I currently work with a multi-disciplinary cognitive ergonomics research group to increase the accessibility of medicine for individuals with reduced access to primary care alongside a consortium of university, industry, and government partners. While at NCHC 2017, I heard from MacArthur Fellow and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson on the significance of being proximate to those in need. I also enjoyed visited with Dr. Cristina McIntyre of Virginia Tech; we discussed the logistics of becoming a public intellectual and she directed me towards Dr. Patricia Raun – a colleague who teaches science communication. I look forward to continued conversations with our National Fellowships Advisor, Ben Simington, on how my multi-disciplinary efforts to impact health care and education can further develop.

My engineering degree here at Texas A&M includes courses on physiology, bioresponse, nanotechnology, human factors, and sociology. To my own surprise, my favorite classes have been taught in the department of sociology. I’ve had the opportunity to take Intro to Sociology as well as Sociology of Death & Dying with Dr. Alex Hernandez. He has inspired me to analyze culture and is now collaborating with me to teach a new class on the sociology of cultural change. The goal of this elective course is to provide students with the tools to properly handle difficult situations in leadership and activism, overcome obstacles to enacting change, and impact those they serve. I enjoy sociology because it challenges me to view life as a system, and it inherently promotes multi-disciplinary thinking. For example, the sociology of change affects every major social, political, and economic institution in the world. I met the University of Florida Honors Dean, Dr. Mark Law, at NCHC 2017, and discussed the role of Honors programs in preparing students to teach at the university level. I will be working with our Capstones Advisor, Dustin Kemp, to prepare for teaching my first course with the support of Dr. Hernandez.

How do we promote multidisciplinary learning and outreach at the university and K-12 level? What was a Cohort-based program for researchers to become public intellectuals look like?

As this academic year’s Vice President of Academic Affairs for our Student Government Association, I have been extensively engaged with promoting an improved student academic experience across all college disciplines. I serve as the chair of a faculty subcommittee for the development of plenary event at a teaching conference at Texas A&M in April of 2017. I work with the Provost’s Office on a effort to improve student success through a centralized application that improves advising. I co-lead an award program that recognizes and incentivizes the usage of open educational resources over costly textbooks. Further, I have directed a student-run volunteer afterschool tennis program called “Serve it Up!”, served a resident advisor, and remain an ambassador for our university’s Honors program. Service is an integral component of my life, and my time at NCHC 2017 further informed my perspective on the subject. Ben Reno-Weber of Mobile Serve discussed efforts to use decision science for deeper student engagement. Dr. Jose Rodriguez at Florida International University shared his study of personality and motivation within Honors. Tom Matson of Gallup talked about strengths-based leadership. My futurist and activator strengths are alive in my thinking about what it would look like to develop a cohort-based program for researchers and faculty to be trained as public intellectuals. I am excited for future conversations with Associate Director of LAUNCH, Dr. Jonathan Kotinek, on how a university would translate such an idea into a reality.

Multi-disciplinary research allows me to freely work at the intersection of fields. I intend to have a faculty career built upon collaborating with leaders from biomedical engineering, public policy, and beyond to increase the accessibility medicine for individuals with reduced access to primary care. It is also a goal of mine to work with teachers, parents, and politicians to broaden participation in STEM and promote more high-impact learning experiences from kindergarten through higher education. These are engaging multi-disciplinary efforts, but certainly not what I initially expected out of my college experience. While at Texas A&M, I changed my major to pursue my dual interest in biomedical and systems engineering. As an interdisciplinary engineering major, I am developing a foundation for a lifetime of multi-disciplinary work. And yet, if it were not for the support of the University Honors program, I may not have changed majors. I am employable in that I create value through the collaborative integration of fields – biomedical and systems engineering, sociology and education, etc. As our world grows increasingly more complex, we need more multi-disciplinary research, teaching, and service efforts to think systemically about our cities, schools, and world. Since attending the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Annual Conference, I have grown all the more excited to take on this charge. Thanks & Gig ‘Em.

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Megan Whitlock
This November, I had the opportunity to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After a long road trip to Atlanta (14 hours in the car-yikes), plenty of road trip games and bathroom breaks in sketchy bathrooms (Buc-ee’s, where you at?), and being told “there’s no room left in the inn” (literally, but that’s a whole other story), the four days of the conference began, which boasted a variety of speakers, sessions, and experiences. For an introvert like myself, this was super daunting at first and exhausting at the time, but super rewarding afterwards.

Close to the beginning of the conference, as part of the City As Text experience, we explored part of Atlanta in my favorite way: wandering and getting lost. We were tasked with observing the neighborhood of Buckhead and everything it had to offer, as well as the issues we perceived there. It is fascinating to discover a city in this way, having no preconceived notions of what it would be like. There was time to explore the city on our own as well; we found good coffee at Café Lucia, because like any good college students, we don’t go long without coffee. And after the conference was over one night, I suggested a trip to the local natural history museum, because what else does a good science nerd do with free time, amiright?

All these experiences were enjoyable, but the real reason we were there was to network and learn from faculty, staff, directors, and students from other honors programs and colleges. Because there were so many sessions offered, I was able to find topics I was passionate about applying to our honors program. A few of my favorites include addressing student mental health concerns in high-achieving honors environments, making honors courses and course contracts more accessible and less intimidating, and making creative, non-research capstone projects as appealing and prestigious as the research capstone. But before this conference, I would have assumed that these issues would have to be addressed and solved by the “real adults” that work in the LAUNCH office. As students, we often don’t feel like we have influence in the way our University and its programs run. But if there is one thing this experience taught me, it’s this: Students have power. If we want something to be changed, it is possible for us to initiate and advocate for that change. So a small piece of advice from an outgoing senior who feels old at this point: Don’t underestimate the power of your voice. Find things you’re passionate about and speak up about them. Eventually, people will listen. Gig ‘em, Nerds.

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Megan Whitlock ’18

 

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Katie Ferry – NCHC 2016 Report

HSC President Katie Ferry '18
HSC President Katie Ferry ’18

Honors Student Council (HSC) president Katie Ferry ’18 recently attended the annual conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) to network with Honors student leaders from across the country, think about what successes and struggles they have had that can help us improve HSC, and share those insights back to campus.

In the coming weeks, Ferry plans to share the ideas that she brought back from conference with the HSC leadership. If you’re interested to take part in these exciting projects, check out the HSC meeting schedule at http://tamuhonorsstudentcouncil.weebly.com/.

While at the conference, Katie kept a blog of her experiences. Here’s an excerpt from the first post:

I’ve been at the NCHC conference for about a day and a half now, and, to be frank it feels like Howdy Week 2.0: inwardly I feel tired, excited, and like my blood is slowly turning to coffee, but outwardly I look like a pristine representative for the best University on this planet. It’s hard not to have a touch of imposters syndrome while listening to students talk about how they have gone beyond the call of service and really pulled their honors program up by its bootstraps all while being an excellent student and person. It’s both inspiring and worrying.

I’ve tried to come up with some great and philosophical thing to write here about how my peers from across the country have filled me with this awesome energy to make Honors Great Again, but I can’t. I keep thinking about what I can do with HSC and how I wish I had more time to do it. I have six months left as my term as HSC president I’m realizing that if I want to make any of these long term projects achievable then I need to start thinking of how I can set this up for the future honors students.

To read more of Ferry’s reflections on the conference, visit http://katies-nchc-2k16.tumblr.com/.

HUR Staff Spotlight: Jonathan Kotinek

Jonathan Kotinek ‘99 serves as Associate Director for Honors and Undergraduate Research, where he has advised students since 2003. He holds both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Texas A&M University and earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in 2013. His dissertation title was “A Narrative Examination of the Experience of Early Entrance to College.”

Kotinek was born in Colorado and grew up in Arlington and Grand Prairie, TX. As a student at South Grand Prairie High School, he was a three-year letterman in football, competed in UIL Literary Criticism, and participated in choir and theatre. Kotinek was not an Honors student while an undergraduate at Texas A&M, but he did take an Honors history course his first semester as a freshman. It was the only “A” he made that semester. He likes to use his poor decisions as learning opportunities for advisees.

Kotinek did not consider attending graduate school until encouraged to do so by Dr. Finnie Coleman. After taking an Introduction to African American Literature course with Dr. Coleman, he was convinced to pursue an M.A. in English. Coleman previously served as Associate Director for Honors Programs at Texas A&M.

While completing requirements for his master’s degree, Kotinek took “Issues in Child and Adolescent Development” with Dr. Joyce Juntune and was introduced to scholarly work on gifted education. Dr. Juntune encouraged Kotinek to pursue his doctorate.

Kotinek has been active with the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), serving as a member of the Board of Directors from 2011-2014, and as co-chair for the Diversity Issues Committee since 2006. Kotinek was co-editor of the monograph Setting the Table for Diversity with Dr. Lisa Coleman (Southeast Oklahoma State University) and authored a paper in that book entitled “Passing for Black: White Privilege and Black Identity Formation.” He is working with Dr. Lisa Coleman and Dr. Alan Oda (Azusa Pacific University) to co-edit a second monograph on diversity titled Occupy Honors Education.

Outside of work, Kotinek is an active member of the St. Silouan the Athonite Orthodox Church parish, established the Aggieland Beard & Moustache Club (now known as the Brazos Valley Whisker Club), and is an avid runner. He spends his time with his family, pictured below.

A man with long red hair and beard sits with a woman and two boys in a field of wildflowers.

Jonathan Kotinek (left) with his family.

Post #200: 2014 Year in Review

It is sometimes difficult to convey the impact that the additional challenge and enrichment offered through Honors and Undergraduate Research has for the students, faculty, and staff that make up our community. In part, this is because these experiences impact each person differently, and each person then goes on to change the world in her or his own way.

We have used this news blog to help share these rich stories, and look forward to continuing to do so. Please help us out by sharing these stories with others, and let us know when we can help tell your story!

Blog Highlights for 2014
This year, our news blog was recognized in the National Collegiate Honors Council newsletter contest with a second place prize!

2nd Place NCHC Newsletter Contest 2014 Faculty/Administrator Electronic
2nd Place NCHC Newsletter Contest 2014
Faculty/Administrator Electronic

WordPress has generated a summary of our most-widely seen posts over the last year. Here’s an excerpt from the 2014 year in review:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Congratulations to 2013 Portz Scholar, Cecilia Morales!

By Hayley Cox

In August, HUR’s Cecilia Morales was announced as a 2013 National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Portz Scholar. The NCHC Portz Scholars Program began in 1990 to enable NCHC to acknowledge John and Edythe Portz’s many contributions to honors education. The NCHC continues to honor their memory by selecting the top research/creative papers by undergraduate honors students who have been nominated by their institutions for their outstanding work.

Cecilia Morales - Best Thesis Award & Portz Scholar
Cecilia Morales – Best Thesis Award & Portz Scholar
Cecilia Morales, a senior English student at Texas A&M University, was nominated by Honors Director Dr. Sumana Datta. Morales wrote a research paper entitled “Creating Mother: Mother’s Legacies in the Context of the Conduct of Literature of Seventeenth-Century England,” which had already been selected for the Best Thesis Award at Texas A&M. Each collegiate Honors department in the country is allowed to submit only one thesis to nominate its author for the Portz Scholarship (The University of Nevada at Reno and The University of Arkansas at Little Rock were also awarded with Portz Scholars).

In Morales’s words:

“This paper examines the genre of 17th-century Mothers’ Legacies in relation to the conduct literature written during the same period. It discusses the manner in which the women writers of Mothers’ Legacies both confirm and deny the ideal form of womanhood laid out by conduct writers. By writing from the place of the mother, these women were fulfilling a socially prescribed role, but by publishing for a wide audience, they stepped out of their traditional domestic domain. The paper ends by delineating and explaining the gap between what 17th-century women were told to do and what they actually did.”

The three NCHC Portz Scholars will present their papers at the National Collegiate Honors Council conference in New Orleans on Saturday, November 9th. Morales is excited to meet other undergraduate researchers from around the country, as well as to present her own research. She said, “I am extremely honored to receive this award and to have the opportunity to represent A&M at such a prestigious conference. I put a lot of time and energy into my research project, so it’s quite gratifying to have it recognized nationally.”

Post-undergrad, Morales plans to attend graduate school in order to receive a PhD in literature and hopes to become an English professor. She is grateful for the research experience she gained at Texas A&M because it will help her further down the road in her career pursuits.
Morales’s advice to her fellow students was to pursue undergraduate research, even if you do not plan on attending graduate school. She said it is “a great opportunity to make the most out of your college education.”

Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) would like to congratulate Cecilia Morales on becoming a Portz Scholar. We wish her luck at the NHCH conference in November! HUR is so proud of its students for the positive impact they make at Texas A&M University.