Honors students and faculty joined together for the 2019 National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in New Orleans. At the conference, faculty and students had the opportunity to attend keynote speeches, workshops, and discussions revolving around the theme “Disrupting Education: Creativity and Innovation in Honors.” Because our honors students come from all walks of life, the theme held different interpretations for everyone.
For Kristin Haes, before education could be disrupted, the willingness to listen to one another is a prerequisite. After participating in the City As Text, an activity where students were encouraged to explore a section of New Orleans with students from other universities and have conversations reflecting what each person saw, Haes participated in a discussion where she first listened to others’ reflections of the Garden District. Then, she shared her experience by weaving in what others had previously said. By doing so, Haes noticed how the conversations nicely layered on top of each other, creating productivity and depth.
What stood out for Tassos McCarthy was the “importance of free speech and open dialogue between opposing groups.” McCarthy attended the opening keynote by Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, where a discussion on how students expressed their views and opinions was presented videos of student protests. The disruption of education was evident, and it caused McCarthy to think about the effectiveness of those disruptions and if they would improve tensions between those who held different opinions.
As for Olivia Madigan, she was thrilled to meet faculty from various four-year institutions. Madigan was ecstatic to talk to Christina McIntyre, who is with the Honors Program at Virginia Tech, and from whom she was able to receive insights regarding the planning and execution of the conference. Through her conversations with McIntyre, Madigan came to fully appreciate the efforts that made the conference possible and available to those who wished to attend.
For Julian Santos, he was drawn to the cultivation of friendships at the conference. He realized that although many differences existed between individuals, many similarities also existed. Santos learned that in order to find bridges and build on those similarities, one must be willing to go on a journey because “everything is a process.”
For Jessica Wu, she came to the conference prepared with a notebook to note down the themes that were discussed so that she could add them to her “tree hierarchy of ideas.” Wu also came to the conference hoping to not only hear about the challenges and issues that face higher education but also to take note of possible solutions for them. To her dismay, no one talked about the solutions to any of the issues. However, Wu left the conference eager to brainstorm possible solutions for these concerns.
As a group, students were grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference. It was a great place to discuss the many challenges and issues that colleges campuses face, but it also prompted the mind to outline possible solutions for them, much like the process of puzzle-solving where one has the option to start building the edge pieces. Overall, the conference has taught students to continue saying “yes, and…” to opportunities because they provide not only the possibilities to learn but to grow on an educational journey.