By Colette Gannon
As a first-year honors student in the Van D. & Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, I was thrilled when I was extended an invitation to attend the 2021 National Collegiate Honors Council conference in Orlando, Florida, in late October.
As an honors student, I expected to have unique opportunities, but I had never imagined that I would be presented the opportunity to attend a conference where a former NASA astronaut and National Geographic primatologist would be speaking.
Held at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando’s Walt Disney World, I had the opportunity to host a workshop with another SDSU honors student and a graduate teaching assistant. Our topic was on enhancing the honors experience for first-year students, with a special focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the honors experience.
After months of preparation, the day came to travel to the conference Oct. 28. We arrived to downpouring rain in hot and humid Florida, but we didn’t mind.
The opening reception was not only time to eat our first meal after a long day of travel, but it also allowed us to connect with other honors students from around the country.
Connecting with other honors students and faculty would become a central theme at the conference. This theme played out in workshops and presentations that I attended, specifically in a session called “Fixing the Leaky Pipeline Between Institutions.”
Although I had only a vague idea of what the presentation would be about, I quickly became aware of the impact that it would have. The session was hosted by two instructors: one each from Lake-Sumter State College and Stetson University, both located in Florida.
These instructors formed an agreement between their institutions: If students graduated from the two-year honors program at Lake-Sumter State, a college with a largely underprivileged student body, they would be able to attend Stetson, a private university, free of charge.
The alliance the instructors had formed between their schools was inspiring. Even more, it reinforced the benefits of connecting, as hearing the stories of others is key in inciting constant improvement in the honors college.
When it came time to co-host my workshop on enhancing the honors experience, I was in awe of the participation and interest by our attendees.
Not only did faculty and students from other honors colleges walk away with new ideas to implement, but I also came away with some from our audience members, something that I wasn’t expecting!
Other activities provided opportunities for me to connect with SDSU honors students. Our adventures included an eventful trip to the world’s largest entertainment McDonald’s, time in Disney Springs and a night at Disney’s Epcot theme park.
Attending the NCHC conference has been the highlight of my honors experience. Inspiring new ideas and an opportunity to connect with my peers, I am thankful to have this experience.