U.S. students attend honors courses and classes across the country and around the world. Whether they are enrolled in an honors college, an honors school, or an honors program, these superior students pursue honors education in order to enhance the classic education they are receiving and prepare for a lifetime of achievement. Their unique honors college or honors program offers challenges and enrichment keyed to the specific goals, approaches, and subject matter of their respective institutions.
But honors education almost always extends well beyond a local campus, and that extension is often supported by the people comprising the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC). NCHC is a professional association of persons involved with undergraduate honors programs and colleges, and it offers exciting opportunities for honors students. Dr. Bernice Braid, a member of the NCHC Board of Directors, shares the following about what awaits many of America's honors students.
Why even consider an honors college program?
Honors programs everywhere offer enhanced educational experiences, designed to deepen and broaden the insights of students with imagination, energy, and a sense of adventure. The chance to be an active representative of your own honors program in one of the many adventures hosted or cosponsored by the National Collegiate Honors Council is an opportunity not to be missed!
Let’s take meetings. Regional meetings are scheduled in the spring, and your university belongs to one of six regional honors organizations that are NCHC partners. National conferences take place in the fall. Both meeting circuits move around a lot. Attending conferences, whether to pick up ideas for your own program, participate on a panel, or present a paper or poster, gives you the chance to not only meet students from up to forty-nine other states but also to explore new cities and sites throughout the country.
Some sessions are designed to help small teams of students and faculty members map new territories. NCHC calls these adventures City as Text©. They are regular features of meetings structured to introduce methods of exploration that students can pursue both in their own Programs and in many NCHC projects. New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia—cities large and larger—have offered honors students and faculty members an invitation to hit the streets, eat new food, find out about neighborhood treasures and resources, and talk to local folks to get behind the public rhetoric of each site. In this process, teams begin to discover what REALLY makes these places tick and what it feels like to live, work, and play in each of these cities.
If you participate in an honors program, expect intense experiences
Extended programs built on such principles of exploration are continuing projects of NCHC, which cosponsors and hosts semesters and mini-semesters, opening doors to the world in places such as Greece, the Czech Republic, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, New York City, Washington, DC, Appalachia, El Paso, Maine, and London. Twenty-seven of these extraordinary invitations-to-discovery have taken place so far and many more are in the works. Each provides a chance to probe a theme—world hunger, local culture, city planning—and/or a way of probing a theme—uncovering, as in being a detective, and testing, as in seeing how “systems” work when embedded in the environments they are meant to protect. Each provides field laboratories in which participants chart a course and figure out how to follow it to interesting conclusions. Each setting presents new challenges—snorkeling off the East Coast or folklore studies conducted while snowed-in among the North Carolina mountains—and reveals secrets as students ask: What are the real boundaries between neighborhoods and cultures?
These are intense and heightened experiences for all who undertake them. Everyone who has been in an NCHC semester has talked about the challenges, adventures, and triumphs. Above all, they talk about change—change in how they see the world and themselves by the end of the experience. NCHC provides a meta-experience for undergraduates through these projects. Students take all they can from their home setting into this new and foreign one. And then they take a new self and lots of fresh perceptions back into their home setting.
An NCHC honors program offers exploration
As one student from the 2001 “Reinventing Urban Culture: A National Collegiate Honors Council Honors Semester” at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, put it:
Nowhere is normal here. No two communities are alike. Chinatown is as different from nearby Greenwich Village as Forest Hills Gardens is from midtown Manhattan. There is no epitome district here. If anything, I’m surprised that I haven’t completely come to expect the unexpected, since that’s what it’s been so much about: the bizarre, the random, the unexpected.
What NCHC promises you is that if you join one of these experiments in exploration, you will not see the world the same again, ever, and it will feel as though you yourself have been reinvented.
Opportunities abound with honors participation
As Dr. Braid explains, participation in honors classes and programs provides outstanding opportunities for America's talented students. Through its personal attention, top-flight faculty members, and challenging curricula, an honors college or honors program offers some of the finest educational experiences available. If you are a superior student, hundreds of colleges and universities can offer you a fine undergraduate education. But when all things are considered, attending an honors college can put an even finer edge on your preparation.