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Honors Semesters and Faculty Institutes

2016 Projects

For information on continuing projects (CAT, Semesters, Institutes) and for these Faculty Institutes, please contact Sara Quay at

Health without Borders - a Winterim in Peru
December 30, 2015-January 20, 2016 • Iquitos/Mazan/Madre Selva, Peru
Co-Sponsored by Florida International University and The National Collegiate Honors Council

6 upper division honors credits in health administration and delivery, biology, geography, ecology, urban studies, natural resources management, anthropology or sociology (all courses cross-listed in at least two disciplines).  This cross-disciplinary study and immersion experience takes place in an area where urbanization, deforestation, resource exploitation, and global connections are growing rapidly.  The consequent impacts on environment and human health, both locally and globally, invite original research.  The city of Iquitos, one of two enormous markets bracketing the Amazon at either end of its flow; the native riverine communities still preserving their own language; and the biological station are unusual laboratories for site-specific inquiry.

$3,900 plus airfare and supplies.  Air access significantly increased this year. Some scholarships ($500-$2,000) available.

For information and application materials contact: Dr. Devon Graham at  (786) 232-2674  or Dr. Sara Quay at

Rotterdam: A Modern Phoenix
July 11-17, 2016 • Rotterdam, Netherlands


Until May 14th 1940, the city of Rotterdam was like any other Dutch city, containing an old medieval center, functional waterways, and vast living areas for the working class. In May, 1940, a World War II bombing destroyed the heart of the city. What remained seemed to be a city without a heart, but also a city filled with potential that has been realized via streets which function as communities, small villages that have persisted over time, and a harbor that has expanded across oceans. Using City-as-Text pedagogy, the Institute will explore how creativity in this urban environment has marked Rotterdam as a vibrant, progressive city even as it struggles to meet the challenges of educating and serving the people from approximately 170 nationalities that live in its borders.

City as Text Master Class Uncovering Seattle
October 9 – 11, 201

Facilitators: Sandy Farrier, Endicott College & Susan Cannata, UNC, Pembroke

An opportunity for faculty with prior City-as-Text experience (Faculty Institute or at the   National Conference) to engage in an intensive exploration of Seattle prior to the 2016 National Conference.  The only city named for a Native American, Seattle has a rich history that contrasts distinctly with the contemporary culture. Participants will engage in the principles of site-based experiential learning with the intent of taking home a deeper understanding of City-as-Text principles to bring back to their home campuses.


NCHC’s Honors Semesters Committee has generated more than twenty full Semesters that feature experiential learning through a combination of interrelated courses integrated by a focus on the specific setting of each project. Semesters are offered regularly to invite Honors students nationally into a learning experience away from their own campus to sites abroad and in the United States. Students earn transferable college credit as they combine field studies, research, internships, seminars, and a living-learning immersion that taps the resources of a Semester’s location as it builds a community of inquiry.

The Honors Semester Committee also sponsors Faculty Institutes. These Institutes provide professional development opportunities for faculty interested in understanding the underlying design and assessment principles of this form of active learning The Institutes are exercises in site-specific, place-based learning, and offer workshops to participants who want to design adaptations of NCHC’s projects for their own campus or for foreign-study sites.

Past Honors Semesters have been in Washington, D.C., the Grand Canyon, New York City, El Paso, Appalachia, the Maine Coast, Iowa, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Greece, the Czech Republic, Spain, and the Southeast coast of the United States, on topics ranging from local culture to global concerns.

A listing of past Honors Semesters participants is available here.

NCHC’s Honors Semesters Committee undertakes several related projects throughout the year. Primary among them are:

City as Text™
Sometimes called CAT, and broadened into Place as Text to encourage applications of this approach to active learning in various settings, City as Text™ refers to structured explorations of environments and ecosystems. Designed as on-going laboratories through which small teams investigate contested areas and issues in urban environments, or competing forces in natural ones, these exercises foster critical inquiry and integrative learning across disciplines. A mini-version of this approach is included at NCHC’s national conferences.

Site-specific educational projects in which students earn upper-division honors credit that applies to their graduation requirements at home, NCHC has offered 29 of these since l976, at both national and international locations. These are theme-based clusters of courses drawn from several disciplines. They include an extended field laboratory based on CAT designs, as well as term-long directed research projects on problems better analyzed at this specific site than elsewhere. The projects are presented in a public symposium at term’s end. All aspects of NCHC’s Honors Semesters are experiential, from living/learning arrangements in which students  function as a community to fieldwork immersion into local culture.

Faculty who want to acquire greater familiarity with design elements of CAT as a learning strategy, and who are considering applying these field explorations either to their own campus courses/programs or for use in international study, are invited to participate in a “short course” on CAT. Several Institutes are offered each year. Articles on the concept and uses of this methodology have appeared in JNCHC and other publications. Most recently two monographs have been published: Place as Text (2000) and Shatter the Glassy Stare (2008). For information on these and other printed materials please visit the Pub Board table at the Idea Exchange (Saturday) or the Pub Board book sales station.


2015 Projects

Land, People, Place: (Dis)Connections in New Mexico

July 14-19, 2015 • Albuquerque, New Mexico

New Mexico is home to a variety of cultures and peoples, reflecting myriad identities and qualities that have resulted from centuries of its people resisting, clashing, blending and negotiating. This faculty institute will consider questions of how the diverse peoples New Mexico connect, or fail to connect, through the natural and built places of the region. Explorations will focus on the diverse neighborhoods of Albuquerque, the contrasting pueblos of Isleta and Acoma, as well as the landscapes in and around these destinations. Questions to be considered include: How do the natural and built environments in and around Albuquerque work? How does this rapidly growing urban environment contrast with the longstanding Isleta and Acoma pueblos? How do the two pueblos register their unique histories? Who lives and works in these places? Through readings, discussions, explorations and observations, participants will explore the ways in which a range of identities, spaces, and places shape this unique part of the country. The Institute will be housed at the historic Hotel Andaluz, built by New Mexico native Conrad Hilton in 1939, with easy access to Albuquerque and Pueblo of Isleta and Santa Fe.

Food Politics: The World Food Prize and the Iowa State Fair

August 12-16, 2015 • Des Moines, Iowa

This project of NCHC’s Honors Semesters Committee takes participants to Des Moines and Ames, Iowa to investigate dimensions of food production and research. Exploring one of the largest State Fairs in the U.S. in Des Moines, and visiting the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, with sessions at the World Food Prize administration headquarters, the issues of globalized systems of food production and distribution emerge as central to examining the intersection of politics and food. The Iowa State Fair is a major campaign stop for Presidential hopefuls vying for a win in the Iowa Caucuses, drawing candidates likely to be present during this time period. The conjunction of places and people
in this application of Place as Text illustrates links between theory and practice, technical expertise and social dynamics which are pertinent to disciplines across humanities, social science and science.


June-July 2014 The New Old England - Manor, Market and Mosque, Harlaxton Manor, Lincolnshire, England
New Old England Brochure

This Faculty Institute will use Place as Text pedagogy to explore varied ways the English have constructed their sense of “Englishness” over time. The practice of constructing a sense of national self is particularly exciting to consider because England faces significant cultural changes involving social class, religion, immigration, and industrialism. Harlaxton Manor is the Institute’s base. Built in 1837, it is an ideal setting from which to consider these topics, both in itself and in juxtaposition with Grantham, Lincolnshire, an area rich in history, contradictions, and contested identities.

July 2014 Facades and Secrets of Lyon, France
Lyons Brochure
Facades and Secrets of Lyon, France

Lyon, historically important as the Roman capital of Gaul, economically and culturally dominant as a silk producer and printing center in the Renaissance, center of labor unrest in the 19th century and of resistance in World War II, is unquestionably a global gastronomic center today. Most recently it has embarked on exceptional urban redevelopment, offering a rich and acces-sible laboratory for both historic and contemporary exploration. From its hidden covered passageways or traboules, since the 4th century connecting streets from the top of the hills down to the rivers, to open markets and newly created pedestrian and park venues that accentuate the beauty of the old and the geni-us of the new, Lyon’s complex urban setting lends itself to investigation from many disciplinary perspectives. It is a model site for experiential learning.

May 2013 Preserving Place and Conserving Culture: The Challenges of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Yellowstone Brochure

This Institute provides participants with an opportunity to see Yellowstone National Park through new eyes. Using Place as Text pedagogy, participants will read our first national park and its surrounding area, paying particular attention to complex and contrasting cultures and landscapes. The Institute will facilitate a deep exploration of contemporary questions about the stewardship of public lands: How are tensions between the tourism industry and environmental preservation negotiated? What complexities are generated when differing cultures and stakeholders lay claim to a particular location? How are notions of wilderness constructed? The ultimate goal is for participants to engage with experiential-learning strategies as a way to link discovery, knowledge, dialogue, and observation.

June 2013 City Squares and Coastal Ports of Greater Boston: (Re)Configuring Public Spaces
Boston Brochure

This Faculty Institute will consider how public space is used, and re‐used, through exploration of the city squares and coastal ports of historic greater Boston. Home to some of the oldest public spaces in the country, Boston offers participants the opportunity to explore urban and coastal sites that have been re‐purposed for contemporary use. Questions to be considered include: What exists of the original space? How has the space been reconfigured? How do people interact in the current site? What commerce, if any, is connected to the place? How does the space work, or not work, to bring people together? Are there competing interests at play in the space? What is the relationship between past and present? Through readings, discussions, and observations, participants will explore how Boston’s public spaces work to shape the city and its surroundings.

December 2011-January 2012 Winterim: Living on the Edge of a Rainforest Frontier – the Peruvian Amazon
Winterim Brochure

A joint offering of The Honors College at Florida International University and the National Collegiate Honors Council Semesters Committee, this winterim is a unique opportunity for students to engage in experiential learning that emphasizes independent research projects focused on the contrast between urban and rural areas of the Peruvian Amazon. An overview of the people and environment of the Amazon will provide students the necessary background to design and implement interdisciplinary projects during their stay in Iquitos, Peru (the major city of the western Amazon) and at the Madre Selva Biological Station (Orosa River).

June 2012 Memory and Monuments: Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan
New York Institute brochure

This Faculty Institute will consider the interlocking concepts of memory, change, and time through exploration of the monuments and memorials of lower Manhattan. Home to a wide range of memorial sites—including the NaƟonal September 11 Memorial & Museum, Trinity Church/St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City Fire Museum, African Burial Ground National Monument, and the Hamilton Grange National Memorial—lower Manhattan offers participants the opportunity to consider important questions: What or who determines whether something is a memorial? What motivates people to create different kinds of memorials? What categories of memorials exist and how do we evaluate them? Do material memorials like statues and museums work differently than living memorials like trees and gardens? From small objects to vast complexes, memorials serve different purposes--to both the people who interact with them and the places where they are located.

August-December 2012 Grand Canyon Semester
Grand Canyon Semester Brochure

The Grand Canyon Honors Semester (GCS), the third to be co-sponsored by the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) and Northern Arizona University (NAU), will investigate the role of water in shaping the landscape, cultures, and politics of the Grand Canyon region. The Grand Canyon Semester is an integrated learning experience in the humanities and sciences. Students come to understand the environmental and social challenges confronting us in the 21st century through one of the earth’s most precious resources—water.  Using an interdisciplinary approach, students experience water’s economic, political, artistic, ecological, social, and spiritual forces.

On back-country field trips, in classrooms and art galleries, around campfires, in traditional hogans, and floating down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, we confront the 21st-century global challenges of managing water in these diverse natural and cultural landscapes.

July 2011 Arts, Musics, Literatures: Cultures and Identity in Albuquerque and Santa Fe
Santa Fe Brochure

New Mexico is an unusually beautiful, complex, and unique space. Home to a variety of cultures and peoples, the state reflects myriad identities and qualities that have resulted from centuries of its people resisting, clashing, blending and negotiating. The area in and around Albuquerque and Santa Fe exemplifies some of the characteristics that distinguish this large geographical region. From July 20-24, 2011, 21 NCHC Faculty Institute participants explored Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and the Acoma Pueblo, investigating neighborhoods, markets, parks, plazas, cultural centers and historic sites as a way to consider the histories, economics, languages, and artistic expressions that help to define the uniqueness of place. With a home base at the historic Hotel Andaluz, built by New Mexico native Conrad Hilton in 1939, participants had easy access to Albuquerque and its environs, including public transportation and the train to Santa Fe.

June 2011 Seeing Beneath the Surface: Kentucky Cave Country
Kentucky Brochure

From June 7th through 12th the NCHC's Semester's Committee and the Honors College at WKU sponsored Seeing Beneath the Surface: Kentucky Cave Country, a Faculty Institute held at Mammoth Cave National Park. The Institute was designed for honors faculty and administrators who wish to experience first hand City as Text pedagogy and learn how to incorporate interdisciplinary and field-based elements into their courses and programs.

March 2010 Las Vegas/Death Valley: Death and Desire in the American West
Las Vegas Brochure
Las Vegas/Death Valley: Death and Desire in the American West

In March 2010, the Honors Semesters Committee sponsored an institute in the Las Vegas/Death Valley area. Participants in the Las Vegas/Death Valley: Death and Desire in the American West Institute explored the built and natural environments of Las Vegas and Death Valley, contrasting the image and reality of these visually rich yet seemingly empty locations. In these superb venues for social, cultural, and natural exploration, participants experienced on-site exploration, readings of natural history, and analyses of literature and film. These experiences, combined with reflective and analytical writings and discussions, provided a sense of the ecological and social conflicts characteristic of extreme landscapes.

July-August 2010 Neighborhoods, Niches and Community Needs
Chicago Brochure
Chicago: Neighborhoods, Niches, and Community Needs
The “Bean,” the “Eye,” the neighborhoods.  So much to do, so little time.  At the NCHC Honors Semesters Faculty Institute “Chicago:  Community (Re)Organizing,” twenty-eight participants convened for a dynamic workshop complete with field explorations, written reflections and thought-provoking seminars.  The institute, co-sponsored by Roosevelt University and facilitated by Bernice Braid (Long Island University), William Daniel (Winthrop University), Kathy Lyon (Winthrop University) and Robert Strikwerda (St. Louis University), was held July 28 – August 1.  Colleagues from eighteen institutions from thirteen states attended, with thirteen of those schools sending representatives for the first time to an Honors Semesters Institute.  The geographic spread of the attendees ranged from California to New Hampshire, Texas to Illinois.  Everyone enjoyed the experiences using City as Text™ experiential learning pedagogy, mapping the exciting city of Chicago on foot, bus, subway and “L.”  During the daily afternoon seminar discussions enthusiastic conversations abounded about the participants’ walkabouts and explorations throughout the city, looking below the surface life of Chicago.  Their written essays catalogued their journeys through public spaces, and many reported awareness during these assignments that reflected seeing a new, or in some instances old, place through a different lens.  In the participants’ turning point essays, many reported insights where a specific scene, moment or discussion changed their perceptions on how they view their worlds often citing “I learned something about myself,” or “. . . this allowed me to move beyond my comfort zone.”   These comments truly reflect the value of experiential pedagogy the participants plan to pass on to their students.  It is noteworthy to report the attendants’ anecdotal accounts of the camaraderie, friendship and collegiality they experienced during the 3-1/2 day institute that culminated in a delicious final banquet at a popular local Asian restaurant.

City as Text™, Jungle as Text: Iquitos and the Amazon
The NCHC Semesters Committee meets twice a year (May/June and at the annual national convention at the end of October) and plans and implements Semesters programs for students, as well as Faculty Institutes. Following a successful Faculty Institute which took place in Iquitos, Peru and the surrounding jungle in March 2009, committee members voted at the June 2009 meeting in St. Louis, MO, to hold the summer 2010 meeting in Iquitos, Peru. One objective of holding the meeting at this location was that members of the committee might have the opportunity to participate in a mini-version of a Faculty Institute prior to the regular business meetings. The mini-institute gave committee members the opportunity to apply experiential learning techniques to novel locations and experiences, and to explore how to better implement this methodology in the activities of the committee as well as at the committee member’s home institutions. (more)

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