Honors Council President, Laura Hearst, and Social and PR Chair, Kamakshi Dadhwal, accompanied Honors Program Director, Dr. Ryan Cragun, on a trip to the 2016 National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Seattle from October 12-16. NCHC provides a national collegiate platform for honors students and faculty members to present their respective research, brainstorm ideas for enhancing honors experience, and showcase artistic talents in master classes. We asked Dr. Cragun and the two students what they thought about the NCHC conference. Here’s what they told us.
Q. What did you think of the conference and the overall experience?
Dr. Cragun: As it was my first NCHC Conference, I found it very helpful. I’m in the process of re-thinking the entire Honors Program at The University of Tampa and hearing about other Honors Programs, their curricula, their activities, and their efforts to build a strong sense of community among their Honors Students was all really helpful. I learned a lot and came away with many ideas for how to make UT’s Honors Program even better.
Laura: I thought the conference was an overall wonderful experience that was eye opening to all of the opportunities honors student have and can take advantage of.
Kamakshi: The NCHC conference opened the door to a whole new world of Honors, which I didn’t realise existed until I was immersed in the various sessions ranging from how to improve your Honors Program experience for first-year students to how to make the most of your Honors Program as a senior. Besides, who wouldn’t like to spend time getting to know professors, from all over the United States and abroad, outside of the classroom?
Q. What did you gain from the conference?
Dr. Cragun: I met and had a chance to talk with about half a dozen other Honors Program Directors. Speaking with those individuals about their programs and getting their thoughts on the Honors Program at UT was very helpful. All of them were very nice and I’m sure moving forward they will all be willing to provide helpful feedback when I need it. The professional connections I developed will, no doubt, prove to be invaluable in the future.
Laura: I learned a lot about how to improve the Honors Council and make a difference at UT.
Kamakshi: Although the conference was more geared towards faculty, it served us well to attend it because we have come back with wonderful ideas- some our own, but most of them courtesy of the various presenters at the conference- to make UT’s Honors Council events more inclusive of students from various disciplines.
Q. What was the best part of the trip for you?
Dr. Cragun: The best part of the conference for me was hanging out with the two Honors Program students from UT. Traveling with students provides a great opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level. I learned a lot about both of the students and gained an appreciation for just how great UT Honors Program students are. Of course, what I loved the most is that I learned about some of the quirks of the students, too, like the fact that Laura won’t step on grates on sidewalks (even if it means getting wet in the rain) and Kamakshi is an Indian princess who flashes gang signs. Awesome!
Laura: My favorite part of the trip was seeing the first Starbucks store in the world. [Laura and Kamakshi ran in the cold rain and harsh wind to make it to Starbucks 9 minutes before it closed on their last night in Seattle; just in time to get themselves “First Starbucks Store” mugs.]
Kamakshi: The chance to visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was my favourite part. The Gates family is inspirational in their intelligent altruism, which not only funds countless projects that help alleviate global crises in many domains, but also sponsors research to find definitive solutions specifically to worldwide health problems. They’re currently working on injecting infected mosquitoes with a bacteria, Wolbachia, in an attempt to find a cure to Zika. Just knowing that they care to put their abundance of wealth into improving health, reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Cragun and Laura’s company. I had expected to get to know them better, but I hadn’t expected them to find a place in my heart, as friends.