The National Collegiate Honors Council exists to support and promote undergraduate honors education at its nearly 900 member institutions that represent more than 330,000 honors students.
That number includes students of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Honors College, a council member that has brought students to the National Collegiate Honors Council conference almost every year of UTC’s decades-long affiliation with the organization, according to Honors Dean Linda Frost.
In fall semester 2022, UTC Honors College faculty, staff and students at Epcot, the Florida theme park within the Walt Disney World complex.
“NCHC conferences are great fun, offer great personal and professional development and put all of us who attend in a central position to contribute to the ongoing national conversation about honors education,” Frost said.
Twenty UTC students made presentations in panel discussions, on posters and from the podium.
“UTC is a very active member of the National Collegiate Honors Council,” Frost said.
Poster presentation subjects included:
- “Differential Selective Pressures in Mitochondrial Protein-coding Genes Between Electric and Non-electric Fishes”
- “Analyzing the Survival Rate of Clinically Pathogenic Bacteria on Occupational Therapy Devices Used During Full Hip Replacement Rehabilitation”
- “Women in America: The Pink Tax and other Legal Forms of Oppression
- “The Debated Authorship of””
In addition, Oluwadamilola “Lola” Oke, a political science major, was elected to a two-year term on the NCHC Board of Directors, on which just six students serve nationwide. The board discusses usage of the multi-million dollar budget of the NCHC, the format and content of future conferences and publications and oversight of the organization’s overall operations.
Honors College students Marcella Rea and Jude Keef joined a panel discussion on introducing podcasting into an honors program. Both shared their experiences and reflections on the conference.
Marcella Rea, sophomore majoring in English: literary studies
“While this was my first college conference experience, I had attended conferences in high school, so I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect. One thing that surprised me was how comfortable the experience was. Everyone there was engaged with others and truly interested in learning about each other’s research.
“Since this conference was for the National Colligate Honors Council and not a specific field of study, I was able to engage with students from a multitude of disciplines. I enjoyed this aspect of the conference, as it allowed me to learn more about the interests of others. One of my favorite sessions I attended was about scientific research methods, something I rarely think about as an English major.
“At UTC, the Honors College offers a seminar taught by Professor Will Davis where students collaboratively work to create a podcast about an issue relevant to the city of Chattanooga. The specific podcast we shared at this panel debuted this spring and is titled ‘We Care Now: A Podcast for Ed Johnson,’ a Black man lynched in 1906 on the Walnut Street Bridge when he was wrongly accused of raping a white woman. As someone who moved to Chattanooga for school, this project was especially engaging as it allowed me to explore the city’s history.
“As a presenter, I was able to calm my nerves of public speaking by reminding myself that the other member of the panel and I were simply there to share our experiences and inspire others to pursue these same kinds of projects. Everyone who engaged with our panel was genuinely interested in the topic of incorporating podcasting into their programs. This shared curiosity for podcasting transformed this experience from something I was worried would be very stressful to something exciting.
“While I enjoyed engaging with students from other universities, I more so enjoyed becoming closer with fellow students within my program. Conferences are a great opportunity to build a community of students and faculty passionate about research and idea-sharing.
“I believe everyone should try and attend at least one conference in their undergraduate career. It is a great opportunity to strengthen professional skills, relationships, and get out and see the world. Students interested in participating in a conference should reach out to faculty and staff for opportunities and also consider past/current projects they are a part of and their potential as conference material. I loved my first undergraduate conference experience, and I am already looking forward to the next.
“Through the conference, we were actually given free admission into Epcot. This was an exceptionally exciting experience for me, as I have never been to Epcot. There we got to experience different cultures through their food, architecture and music. I am not a big fan of rollercoasters, but the Soarin’ ride was fun.”
Jude Keef, junior majoring in creative writing
“The conference was really good. Probably the highlight of my semester. The only other time I’d gone to a conference was Junior Beta Conference in middle school, so I had some subconscious ideas about how structured it would be, but I forget that I’m an adult now.
“That’s the weird thing about college, that for most students you start as a kid and somewhere in it something snaps and you realize you’re an adult now. I definitely had some of those moments during this trip, where I felt like I was a real human with responsibilities and not just someone doing something for school.
“In my head I was expecting this small school thing where I’m kinda just walking about with my group and going to events and panels here and there, but it was really so much more. It’s this weird microcosm of academia where everyone walks in the hotel doors on the same day and, by the end of Day Three, everyone has shared all their knowledge with each other, and they go home strengthened and renewed.
“I wouldn’t say it was daunting to present. Mostly because presenting is the easy part of it all. I had already done the hard part of doing the thing we were presenting about months ago. This is where we get to do our victory lap and see the fruits of our labor. It was so lovely to sit at the front of that panel room looking at a full crowd and tell them about the time we created something that we were really proud of.
“What I will say was daunting, however, is the second reason I was there. I am technically the editor-in-chief of NCHC’s undergrad research journal: UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. Every interaction I had with someone, I had to make the decision of if I would say at the end, ‘Hey, have you heard of ‘UReCA, NCHC’s journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity’?”
“But I did enjoy getting to dress up and share the journal to others around the country. It was weird being a student and a classmate and an editor in chief and a vacationer at the same time during the trip. There were times that I got lunch with my friends on the boardwalk, and I was the only one wearing a suit because I had to go to a publication board meeting right after. Or times where I had to leave a Zoom meeting with some admin early to go to the student party hosted by the conference that night. In all, it’s really just a whirl of a time where everything happens at once and then it’s over, and you have to try and sort through those memories and that knowledge.
“I did get to go to Epcot. The conference paid for everyone’s entrance one night. I’m not a theme park person, but come on, it’s Disney World. You have to enjoy it, right?”