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January 2014

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2014 Membership Renewal

2014 Renewal Notices were sent December 3, 2013.  Your NCHC membership is on a calendar year basis and expires December 31, 2013.  If you prepaid your 2014 membership, you will not receive a renewal notice. If you have any questions about your membership status, please contact the NCHC office at or call 402-472-9150.

PLEASE note the January 31, 2014 deadline for all memberships.  As a courtesy to those institutions not able to process a membership renewal during the current membership year, NCHC grants a grace period for the month of January.  If your institution needs to pay in January, please pay by credit card or make sure your check reaches NCHC before January 31, 2014.

Our database does not allow extensions so all unpaid/non-renewed membership accounts will be closed on January 31 unless payment has been processed by NCHC.

We appreciate you renewing and thank you for your continuing membership in NCHC.

Your NCHC office is available to assist you Monday-Friday, 7:00 am to 5:00 pm CST.

From the President


2014 promises to be an interesting year. The plans for the Denver conference are afoot and you should have already received the notice of submission deadlines.

There are various important issues before us, which need to be dealt with by the Board. We have come to a watershed year in the history of our organization. What I’d like to do in this message is to trace what I believe to be the important events and trends that have led us here. I believe that we are reaping the rewards of our own goals and intentions over the past 15 years (at least). The summative way to put all this is that we are now more intentionally and pointedly defining ourselves as an organization, and as a profession for which the organization stands. I will try to be as brief as possible, though the message is longer than usual.

In 2000, I attended my first NCHC conference. The President of NCHC that year was Joan Digby. In her presidential address, she called for an aggressive, intentional, and articulated national presence, advocacy and leadership in education through honors: letters to editors, position papers, op-ed pieces.

Over the next few years the crucial issue for the organization was establishing a national office - this reflected the sense that for NCHC truly to be a national (and, as it has developed, international) voice, a stable, continuous national office would be indispensable.

During these same three to five years, I first heard John Grady give a series of important presentations, to me it seemed annually, on the question, “What is the value-added component of honors?” – How do we find evidence that we can present to doubtful administrators or hostile legislators that an official honors program makes any difference on a campus? How can we know that more students benefit than the select few who receive a lot of attention? How can we prove that bright students would not simply perform better with or without an honors program? The evidence available at the time was mainly anecdotal. There were a couple of dissertations related to this subject, but these were confined to the data on specific questions at specific institutions and the questions posed were limited.

During this same period, a nationwide educational movement was insisting upon outcomes-based assessment of learning; it had begun about a decade earlier, but universities were now responding to demands from their stakeholders, Boards of Trustees, and legislators to measure what was learned, not just explain what was being taught. I was one of many in my former university who decried this movement, which I thought trivialized the classroom process. I thought that measuring content outcomes would artificially limit understanding of what actually happened in a classroom, at least in my classroom. How, I asked, do you measure or plan serendipity? Honors was almost entirely out of this conversation until about five or six years ago. It was only in summer 2008 that past-President Greg Lanier and Jane Halonen offered the first of a series of now wildly popular faculty institutes on honors assessment.

The issue of “certification” meanwhile had arisen (or re-arisen) in 2004 when last we were in New Orleans. We learned from an email on the Hermes listserv by Bob Spurrier that the question had actually been posed long before (1987), and that the results of an informal poll were published in 1991. Early discussions in 2004 and following at NCHC produced various reactions. There was some strong opposition at that 2004 discussion, but frankly, not a lot of it. But a clear sentiment emerged that “accreditation” (the “A” word) was neither feasible nor desirable and the discussion moved to some other form of measure.

In 2006 the Board of Directors, still picking up the challenge issued by Joan Digby and the momentum of the now newly established national office, decided to hold a press conference at the Philadelphia meeting at the Independence Visitor Center. The hope was for some press coverage and some favorable publicity for the organization by reading the NCHC Declaration of Interdependence, a document that can still be found on the NCHC web site.

What these strands and events have in common is an undefined sense, for which we were groping, of who we are: by “we,” I mean both we who have adopted honors as a profession, and “we” the membership of the National Collegiate Honors Council. To a lesser extent, I also mean the organizational identity that drives the Board of Directors. As an organization, we have been calling for ourselves to stand as a rudder for honors education and for education in general; we have sought to make ourselves the spokes-organization for questions relating to honors; we have sought public arenas for others to consult us on our expertise; we have challenged those who take lightly the positions we advocate.

And this has worked. At an increasing rate of inquiry, we have been asked and challenged by those we never imagined at the time, “What is honors?” We have had questions from commercial providers of online education, both for-profit and not-for-profit; also from international partners, who seek guidance on the development of honors programs in nations throughout much of northern Europe: England, Germany, The Netherlands.

The year 2010 is significant. I want to emphasize that many of these contextualizing pressures were becoming urgent, or felt as urgent, in 2010 and a bit before. It was in 2010, not coincidentally, that the Board of Directors charged the committee on Assessment and Evaluation to create a model for a possible form of voluntary certification. This action was consistent with all these other developments. Although I was not a member of the Board that year, when I was elected the following year, the convergence of all the questions was evident to me. We have been asked questions to which we do not have concrete, data-driven, persuasive answers. Persuasive, that is, to the kinds of publics that we have invited to ask us: those formal organizations of interests who are not by nature academics, or – if they are – are not familiar with honors education. But the larger issue raised by these challenges to our educational paradigm is, indeed, the question of who we are.

Without a working definition, we have been vulnerable to all manner of assaults upon honors, and our claim to the position of leadership in education and as the upholders of integrity in honors education is materially undercut if we can’t say – and on the whole agree to –what we are talking about. We had little to provide in the way of a concrete response to requests for guidance that would be recognizably in line with the premises of NCHC, while respecting institutional and indeed cultural differences. The Basic Characteristics, which focus on infrastructure, are inadequate to this task.

This was the position of the Board of Directors about a year ago. We came to recognize that we needed a definition, or if you will, delimited description, of honors in the “NCHC sense.”  As a result of that November 2012 conversation, President Scott appointed a Task Force, chaired by Immediate Past President Greg Lanier, to create a working definition that could be presented to the Board at its June 2013 meeting, to be revised and edited for discussion and (ideally) approved for dissemination by the time of the Board’s meeting in New Orleans. From the outset, the crucial point for the Task Force was to ensure that the definition was not only recognizably accurate, but that member institutions could recognize themselves within that definition. This definition must be inclusive, not exclusive, and general enough to be conceptual, not descriptions of what we each individually do on our campus in favor of how we can recognize the distinctive honors difference on many campuses.

The definition document was approved as emended in New Orleans, then reviewed and revised by the Pub Board in late November and approved on December 6, 2013. Right here, its details are not the principal concern, though this document will soon appear in the Member Forum and elsewhere for public dissemination. What matters most is that this definition moved through a relatively small Task Force to a Board of 24; in that process there was a lot of discussion, but very little dissent. It appears that the idea “we know what honors is when we see it, even if we can’t define it” can in fact be translated into something written down and recognizable by a wide range of Honors programs and colleges, including some who have rejected membership in NCHC.

This definition, if it proves generally acceptable to the membership, as I believe it will, will provide a conceptual basis for our member institutions for understanding and describing what we do, and a reflection of unity of purpose within a wide range of member institutions.

Finally, the issue of voluntary certification. Because of my view of the history of this question, I believe discussion of the core idea has merit and that we have benefited from the thorough discussions and responses with which you are doubtless familiar. As I understand the original movement toward certification, the intent was not to create a differentiated form of “status” within the organization; it was to establish a process and a set of measurements by which a given honors college (or honors program) could establish (a) that it had a clearly articulated mission and vision that was appropriate for its local campus; (b) that it was carrying out that mission in concrete ways; (c) that it was measuring its claim to do so; and (d) that all three of these factors were formally validated by the national organization. It is this latter point that is by far the most controversial.

One of the implicit questions lying at the root of our current discomfort, or perhaps anxiety, remains the identity of the organization. We have come a long way with various specific actions, some of them incomplete and some ready for prime time. Within the past decade, we have increasingly articulated a vision of ourselves as a profession, if not a discipline (still to be argued). As the international organization of this profession, we have been exploring the limits of how we act as guardians of the profession, as well as sustainers of our organization: while the annual conference remains the membership’s first choice among member benefits, we have long ceased to be a group that exists primarily for the purpose of having a conference, and this has begun to change the nature of the conference itself. Some of our (many) committees and task forces and ad hoc committees are in fact vehicles for carrying out aspects of the organization that are necessary for the organization’s survival and well-being; some are vehicles for promoting honors education in concrete ways through signature NCHC programs; others either are or are becoming ways for us to professionalize the organization and to develop it along those lines. Our growth into a professional organization, the focus and defender of honors as we believe we embody it, has begun but is not over. These factors, directly embedded in the trajectory of the organization since I first became a member in 2000, I believe to be the impetus and focus of all these movements, including certification. Our paradigm has, in fact, already shifted.

Finally, and briefly, I urge you to have patience over the next few months, and confidence in your Board of Directors as they deliberate these matters. This is a group of thoughtful, hard-working professionals elected by you to represent your interests. 25% of them are replaced each year, soon after we return home from our annual meeting. No one on the Board wishes harm to the organization and – as a group – they are not likely to be deluded into carelessly doing so. I am in fact confident that resolution of the issue of certification will be forthcoming in a way that will calm our fears and re-assert the unity of our purpose and our evolving identity.

Facades and Secrets of Lyon, France
July 14-20, 2014
Registration Deadline: February 20, 2014

lyon-5-festival-of-lightsSnow day reprieve!  Seize the day and register now.  The deadline has been extended to register for the exciting Lyon, France faculty institute scheduled to take place this summer. The institute is sponsored by NCHC's Honors Semesters Committee

Lyon is historically important as the Roman capital of Gaul, as the economic and cultural center of labor unrest in the nineteenth century, and as a locus of resistance in World War II.  Today, Lyon is a global gastronomic center that has recently embarked on ambitious urban redevelopment projects, offering a rich and accessible laboratory for both historic and contemporary exploration.

A few of the many sites participants will explore include the Quai Saint-Antoine market, the Crois Rousse hill and traboules, the Museum of Resistance and Deportation, and Montluc Prison.

The cost for the institute is $1,789 which includes a non-refundable $500 hotel deposit.  The registration deadline has been extended to February 20, 2014.

Please note: This cost includes Institute reading materials, instructional fees, activity fees, opening reception, single accommodations with breakfast at Hôtel des Célestins from July 14 until the morning of July 20, and a final group dinner.

Space is limited so reserve your spot today.

More Information 

Questions?  Contact the office at 402-472-9150 or with questions regarding registration.  Contact Bernice Braid at with questions about the institute.

2014 Conference Proposals

Happy New Year everyone!

Proposals are now being accepted for the 2014 NCHC Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado, November 5-9, 2014. Proposals are welcome in the following categories:

  • Forum on Diversity
  • Forum on Teaching and Learning
  • General Sessions
  • Idea Exchange
  • Master Classes
  • Roundtable Discussions
  • Faculty Poster Session
  • Student Poster Sessions
  • Student Interdisciplinary Research Panels
  • Student Moderators 

In order to submit a proposal, your institution must be a current member of NCHC. Complete details, restrictions, and further information are available on the Proposal Guidelines page: .  To submit a proposal, begin here.

All proposals must be submitted on-line no later than Monday, March 5, 2014 at 11:59 CST.  Late proposals will not be accepted.

If you need assistance with the proposal submission process, please contact Trish Souliere at or 402-472-9172. If you have questions about conference proposals, please contact me at

We look forward to receiving your proposals!

Barry Falk
2014 Conference Chair

 NCHC Honors Program & Curriculum Assessment Institute, Chicago
July 10-12, 2014
Registration Deadline: May 15, 2014

Are you an administrator or faculty member who is responsible for writing assessment plans, curriculum maps, and student learning outcomes for your honors program or honors college?  Are you an honors dean, director, or coordinator considering or preparing for an external accreditation visit (SACS, WASC, NEASACS, etc.)?  Are you an honors dean, director, or coordinator considering or preparing for an internal review or self-study?  Are you an honors administrator interested in sharing various models for honors programs and honors colleges assessment?  If you belong in any of these categories then this is the institute to attend.  The NCHC Assessment & Evaluation Committee is pleased to sponsor the NCHC Honors Program and Curriculum Assessment Institute in Chicago this summer.  Veteran honors directors Michelle Hawley, California State University Los Angeles, and Greg Lanier, University of West Florida will serve as facilitators for this institute and will guide participants through the process of designing and developing honors curriculum and discuss strategies for data analysis.

For complete details, visit the online brochure on the NCHC website. To register, complete the online form.

Call for DIH Topics

Dear NCHC Colleagues,

Thanks, one more time, to all of the NCHC members who shared their expertise during the 2013 Developing in Honors (DIH) Workshop--and to Jim Ruebel and everyone involved with putting together an outstanding conference in New Orleans.

Believe it or not, the time has come to solicit topic ideas for the next edition of DIH that will be part of our 2014 national conference in Denver.

On behalf of Trisha Folds-Bennett, Ricki Shine, and myself (2014 DIH co-chairs), I would like to invite you to send your DIH topic ideas to me at  This is your workshop, and we look forward to receiving your topic suggestions.

If you have participated in DIH and have any general thoughts or suggestions about the workshop, please feel free to pass them along as well.

Please complete the electronic form by February 3, 2014.

Thanks in advance for your help in structuring Developing in Honors for 2014 in Denver.

We hope to hear from you soon!
Jessica Roark

Call for JNCHC Submissions

The next issue of JNCHC (deadline: March 1, 2014) invites research essays on any topic of interest to the honors community.

The issue will also include a Forum focused on the theme “Honors for Sale.”  We invite essays of roughly 1000-2000 words that consider this theme in a practical and/or theoretical context.

The lead essay for the Forum, attached to this message and available on the NCHC website (, is by Gary Bell of Texas Tech University. His essay—titled “The Profit Motive in Honors Education”—sounds the alarm about creeping privatization that raises costs and reduces quality in public services, including education. Bell warns against the takeover of honors education by for-profit companies whose primary purpose is making money, not serving and educating students.  Contributions to the Forum may—but need not—respond to Bell’s essay or the issues he addresses.

Questions that Forum contributors might consider include: Do for-profit companies like American Honors ( have value to add to honors programs, educators, and students, or are they trying to cheapen the honors experience and enrich their own coffers? Similarly, will MOOCs expand honors opportunities or depersonalize honors education and reduce faculty to teaching assistants for celebrities? Are these new developments in higher education designed to enhance education or increase cost-effectiveness, and are these two goals compatible or mutually exclusive? Is there something special about honors that will be lost if it is put on the auction block? Should honors programs be entrepreneurial to assure their survival and keep pace with the broader culture? Is the pressure for large number of honors students and higher graduation rates coming from a profit motive or from concern for good education? To what extent are profit motives in honors being driven by forces outside of honors and to what extent by inside forces? What are the effects of the professionalization of honors, e.g., the shift from volunteer administrators to high-paid deans and directors, the proliferation of honors administrators, the increased focus on fundraising, the transition of honors directors/deans from scholars/mentors to managers/salesmen? Are similar changes within the NCHC, as it has shifted its focus from students to administrators, making it a more effective advocate for honors education or for self-advancement?

Forum essays should focus on ideas, concepts, and/or opinions related to “Admissions and Retention in Honors.”  Examples from one’s own campus can be and usually are relevant, but essays should not simply be descriptions of “what we do at our institution.”

Please send all submissions to Ada Long at

Call for Fellows of NCHC Nominations
The NCHC Awards and Grants Committee is pleased to invite nominations for Fellows of the National Collegiate Honors Council. This award will be given annually to distinguished members exemplifying a commitment to honors education. Fellows will be selected based on:

• NCHC, regional, and/or state honors organization leadership
• Scholarly activities relating to honors education
• NCHC regional and/or state honors special events, institutes, etc.
• Recognition for outstanding honors teaching on the home campus
• Assistance provided to honors programs/colleges (site visits, consulting, etc.)
• Content of the nomination letter
• Demonstrated record of sustained commitment to honors education
An individual must be nominated by three (3) current NCHC members in order to be considered for selection as an NCHC Fellow.

Please consider nominating as many NCHC members as you believe to be deserving of this recognition. The deadline for nominations has been extended to 5 PM (CT) February 14. Nomination materials are available at For more information contact Kate Bruce or Ann Eisenberg, co-chairs of the Awards and Grants Committee.

Call for Portz Fellowship Applications
Application Deadline: February 15, 2014

The Portz Fellowship Committee of the National Collegiate Honors Council will be accepting applications in January from undergraduate honors students for Portz Fellowship Grants. This award is named for Dr. John and Mrs. Edythe Portz, pioneers in honors education, whose support of imaginative ventures in undergraduate education has benefited college students in Maryland and throughout our nation since the late 1960s. The highly competitive award is open to students at NCHC’s 800+ member institutions in the United States and beyond. Previous Portz Fellows have presented their work at NCHC annual conferences.

The Portz Fellowships support original and extended interdisciplinary projects for up to eighteen months.  If you would like more information about the Portz Fellowship, please contact Dr. Patrice Berger by email, or 402-472-5425.  The deadline to submit applications is February 15, 2014

Applications and information about the Portz Fellowship are available online.

Consultant Mini-Grants
Deadline March 31, 2014

The National Collegiate Honors Council is pleased to announce that the applications for small grants that support honors program reviews and campus consultations by NCHC-recommended Program Reviewers (Site Visitors) are now available.  These mini-grants will help fund the costs for NCHC member institutions that would like to bring one or more seasoned NCHC professionals to their campus to assist with honors program review or honors educational development.

Honors education implies the highest standards for quality.  Therefore, a consistent cycle of meaningful assessment, program review, and strategic planning is important for program growth.  The National Collegiate Honors Council offers these mini-grants as a way of assisting honors programs and colleges to implement widely recommended and well-known best evaluative practices.

A typical program review consists of 1) the preparation of advance documents by the host institution that are sent to the external reviewers (these most often include a self-study as well as other materials like budgets, annual reports, strategic plans, etc.), 2) the on-campus visit, and 3) the preparation of a report by the reviewers that provides recommendations for strategic growth and program development that can be extremely useful in capturing precious on-campus resources.

New Honors programs or colleges, or those programs or colleges that have undergone recent leadership changes, are especially encouraged to apply. Mini-grant recipients submit a brief report to the Assessment & Evaluation Committee following the site visit.

Applications are available on the NCHC website.  For more information, contact either Art Spisak at or Greg Lanier at, the Co-Chairs of the Assessment & Evaluation Committee.

2014 Application Link:


Jim Ruebel, Ball State University

President Elect
Barry Falk, James Madison University

Vice President
Jerry Herron, Wayne State University

Immediate Past President
Rick Scott, University of Central Arkansas

Kyoko Amano, University of Indianapolis

Douglas Peterson, University of South Dakota

Board of Directors
Lauren Bach*, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Lopa Basu, University of Wisconsin-Stout
Suketu Bhavsar, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Joe King, Radford University
Soncerey Montgomery, Winston-Salem State University
Mary Kay Mulvaney, Elmhurst College
Barbra Nightingale, Broward College
Fatima Ojeda Rojas*, Paine College
Marjean Purinton, Texas Tech University
Jordan Rutland*, Paine College
Zachary Samples*, Eastern Illinois University
Mike Sloane, University of Alabama Birmingham
Laurie Smith Law, Iowa State University
Art Spisak, University of Iowa
Mara Steven*, Loyola University New Orleans
Anna Wiegand*, Ball State University
Naomi Yavneh-Klos, Loyola University New Orleans
John Zubizarreta, Columbia College, South Carolina

*Student Board Member


Hallie Savage, Executive Director

Carolee Martin Brink, Membership Director

Teri King, Finance Manager

Amber Klaus, Project Coordinator

Trish Souliere, Technology Manager

Betty Talley, Director of Operations


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