2020 Annual Report National Collegiate Honors Council

What do we see when we look back on 2020?

You evolved.

At the start of 2020, our organization had high hopes for a progressive year with plans for annual events and trainings to support our member needs. As COVID-19 grew into a global pandemic, it quickly became clear that our resources had to evolve to match the new needs of our honors professionals.

NCHC got to work compiling a toolkit of its resources on virtual honors learning, and created its very first series of online trainings to discuss honors in the digital world. As a supportive community, you encouraged mental wellness and self-care in each other by sharing resources on meditation and breathing, connection offline with nature, and community building outside the classroom.

Though our plans for an in-person conference were set aside, the NCHC team was able to renegotiate contracts and pivot the submitted content for conference sessions into a groundbreaking virtual events series. You showed your support by showing up 1,200 members strong to interact and network with our honors community over the six-week series.

You learned.

2020 required adaptation of learning styles, structure, and speed – and honors excelled at it! Through the efforts of staff, board, committees, facilitators, and event attendees, NCHC was able to create powerful professional development opportunities that supported our membership, even during challenge and crisis.

10 independent online trainings, including adaptations of Signature Programming like the New Directors Institute and Place as Text Faculty Institutes, served 947 attendees:

  • Developing Online Courses: Sharing Resources Among Experts
  • Honors Community Building in a Time of Social Isolation
  • Honors in the Time of Corona: A Community Conversation about Teaching & Learning
  • Coming Up with Alternative Summer Plans for 2020
  • Supporting the Mental Health of Academically High-Achieving Students
  • Visual Thinking in Honors Education
  • Leading Honors in the Digital Age
  • Cultivating a Virtual Honors Environment within Two-Year Institutions
  • Reading the Local in the New Now: A Gateway City as Text™ Institute
  • Virtual Connections: 2020 New Directors Institute

You connected.

When the coronavirus pandemic rendered our Annual Conference impossible, our members still expressed the need for connection and unity through whatever means available.

With proposals submitted on the theme of "Big Hearts, Big Minds", paired with the global issues brought forth in 2020, a series of events emerged that focused on diversity and inclusion in honors, empathic conversation, and cultivation of community in virtual environments. Tracks were built to support three primary groups of attendees: honors students, faculty and directors who are new to honors education, and our more experienced honors professionals. Through keynotes, interactive workshop sessions, webinar presentations, networking mixers, and an on-demand library of additional presentation content, you showed up to connect, teach, and absorb the best that our honors community has to offer.

Our Fall Virtual Event series contained 262 online presentations, 567 presenters and facilitators, and 56 reviewers and committee members, serving 1,256 event registrants over a six-week series of sessions.

As we look back on our first-ever virtual conference event, we are proud to see that 90% of those who responded said they would recommend the event to others. For the first time in trackable history, we saw higher numbers of registrants who were non-presenters than those scheduled to present - showing that while our conference is an excellent place to show your research, it's also an excellent place to learn. You sought out new ideas, new colleagues, and new approaches in a year that required ingenuity to get it done.

You created.

NCHC has long prided itself on its library of available honors publications, and you advanced our work in 2020 without disruption. Because of your authorship and contributions, we released new issues of both JNCHC and HIP. Two important new monographs were also completed and released. Building Honors Contracts: Insights and Oversights leads readers to reframe honors contracts as collaborative partnerships for experiential learning. Internationalizing Honors highlights how honors has gone beyond short-term experiences for students and made global issues and experiences central features of curricular and co-curricular programming.

The NCHC Publications Board collected submissions for future editions of JNCHC (with a lead essay focused on teaching from the heart) and HIP (including a special section on the coronavirus), as well as future monographs on digital honors classrooms and honors college development.

You led the way.

Leadership in uncharted territory is a huge undertaking – and in 2020, you stepped forward in a big way. Your own campuses required creative approaches and much dedication, and leading a professional association like NCHC required the same. In 2020, NCHC more than doubled its average number of volunteer hours in meetings to accomplish the goals we set out to achieve. We hosted our first virtual board meetings, first virtual annual business meeting, first virtual committee meetings, and first virtual candidate interviews – all because of your commitment to the cause.

Through all the structure shifts, NCHC’s leadership continued to forge ahead on our goals. We passed an informed decision-making policy, continued efforts to expand organizational research, made progress on committee structures and roles, and began projects that will move forward our strategic plan. Ad hoc committees were created to review and update our constitution & bylaws, to review our Basic Characteristics of Honors Programs and Colleges documents, and to study honors articulation agreements.

You stood up.

More than ever, this year required us as individuals and as an organization to closely examine our thoughts and relationship with racism, diversity, inclusion, and equity. Social unrest due to injustice stoked conversations across the nation, and inspired the honors community to act as well. Beyond public statements denouncing racist and violent acts, NCHC took action by compiling and providing honors-specific resources on the topic of diversity and inclusion to our members. We completed our organizational statement on diversity and fostered conversations on the state of diversity in honors today. During our Fall Virtual Events, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt and Megan Phelps-Roper brought expertise to our conversations about implicit bias and empathetic conversation. Your conference submissions shared information about empowering diverse voices, collaborating with students on diversity initiatives, modeling productive disagreement, and facilitating inclusion in classroom coursework. A cohort of NCHC members also created and released a position paper with valuable information to develop inclusion in honors admissions practices.

Within our organizational structure, NCHC successfully renewed and reprioritized efforts to recruit leadership from diverse backgrounds for 2021 and into the future.

You celebrated.

2020 took much away from us as individuals – but it didn’t stop us from finding ways to connect and celebrate together! As events and in-person gatherings both large and small were canceled, we had to get creative to congratulate those who deserved recognition for their achievements. To give our graduates a send-off and celebrate all their hard work in their honors careers, we hosted a worldwide YouTube Premiere of a special Virtual Commencement Video from award-winning filmmaker Brett Culp, accompanying other celebrations of our honors graduates on NCHC’s social media. NCHC continued to distribute awards and grants to incredibly worthy recipients throughout the year, and capped the year with a Virtual Awards Ceremony to show our appreciation for all our winners.

Director & Faculty Awards and Grants

  • NCHC Founders Award
  • NCHC Fellows Awards
  • NCHC Award for Administrative Excellence
  • NCHC Spring and Fall Portz Grants
  • NCHC Consultant Grants

Student Awards and Scholarships

  • NCHC Student of the Year: Four-Year Institution
  • NCHC Student of the Year: Two-Year Institution
  • NCHC Newsletter Competition Winners
  • Portz Interdisciplinary Fellowship Awards
  • NCHC Portz Scholars
  • Freddye T. Davy Scholarship
  • John J. Hanigan Scholarship
  • NCHC Community Engagement Award

You supported.

NCHC went into 2020 anticipating the sole change of a transition to tiered membership dues. This new dues structure came after nearly two years of discussion, and more than a decade of static fee schedules. However, because many of our members pay annually and in advance, your renewals were part of the funding base that allowed us to remain available to the membership throughout a particularly tumultuous year. Those membership dollars, in addition to a Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Plan forgivable loan, allowed for continuity in providing the quality publications, training, and networking expected from the organization.

And while we did see a dip in membership this year, many of you continued to support NCHC through your attendance at the virtual conference or one of several institutes. In a traditional year, our conference is both significant revenue generator and expense: in the transition to virtual, the organization benefitted from many institutions who continued to support an online event, taking advantage of reduced registration fees and no travel costs, even when their own budgets were in flux. We’re grateful to the members and sponsors who provided valuable sessions, uploaded content, and provided sponsorship funding for this event.

NCHC values giving back to its members through scholarships, grants, and fellowships each year - and your membership support makes that possible. Though adapted for virtual environments, the organization still managed to provide over $43,000 in scholarships to students and conference attendees; funding grants for assistance in underwriting the costs of program reviews or innovative classroom projects; and Portz Fellowships to student projects in interdisciplinary research.

In a difficult year, NCHC connected honors professionals to a network of peers, introduced new activities and solutions, and maintained financial solvency, something many member associations were unable to do.

Thank you for being a part of the National Collegiate Honors Council and its mission to support and enhance honors education.


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