2017 Theme

Bridging the Divide: Contemplating Differences and Forging Commonalities

2017 Northeast Regional Honors Conference
April 6-9, 2017
Pittsburgh, PA

Last year’s NRHC conference theme, Migrations, prompted us to consider the exchange of people, ideas, and concepts across boundaries and disciplines. As a follow-up to that discussion, this year’s theme asks us to consider bridging the divides that emerge in our communities, country, and world by contemplating differences and forging commonalities. The idea of Bridging the Divide is further inspired by our conference location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With an intricate system 446 bridges, Pittsburgh is called the “City of Bridges.”

Since last hosting our NRHC conference in 2006, the city of Pittsburgh has experienced many changes. Projects in the name of progress often have short-term gains with long-term hindrances or short-term ills with long-term payoffs. How do we bridge these divides and consider the holistic impact of these different projects?

In Downtown Pittsburgh, for example, property development has erupted and new skyscrapers such as the PNC Tower have changed the city’s skyline. Some of the city’s 90 neighborhoods have seen resurgence–notably East Liberty with its Google headquarters and Bakery Square development–while poorer neighborhoods like Homewood and Larimer lag behind. Though redevelopment offers attractive opportunities for many new residents and recent college graduates, gentrification and soaring property values can cause problems for others in the neighborhood.

While these new skyscrapers and refreshed neighborhoods are emerging, how do we support some of the city’s existing infrastructure? While technology and education ventures continue to grow and the major universities thrive, bridges are crumbling and construction hampers transportation as officials try to fund the most pressing projects. How do we invest in the new while keeping our eye on preserving what exists?

Given these few examples of Pittsburgh’s recent history, and considering the theme of Bridging the Dividemore broadly, we invite students to submit abstracts of maximum 300 words. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, bridging the differences and commonalities across issues such as:

  • Disparities concerning racial, ethnic, religious, and gender identity, sexual orientation, and generational divides
  • Political, historical, geographic, ideological, linguistic, or legal divisions, both within and between cities, states, the United States, and other nations
  • Business practices and ethics, corporate social responsibility, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and globalization
  • Social fragmentation, alienation, gentrification, networking, and coalition-building, as well as the roles media and technology, play in (dis)connecting groups and individuals
  • Philosophical or psychological constructions of self and “other,” as well as representations of these in art and literature
  • Current debates or apparent incompatibilities within the fields of science, mathematics, or engineering
  • Discourse between the scientific community and the lay public concerning, for example, research ethics or applications of new findings
  • Disparate fields of study within academia (e.g., STEM and the humanities), or how academic institutions interact with their local communities, state and national governments, and the corporate sector
  • Preserving difference and valuing diversity in bridge-building situations

Proposal Strand Descriptions

Business, Economics and Technology
History and Politics
Language, Literature and Philosophy
Media Studies and the Arts
Natural Sciences, Psychology and Allied Health
Social Sciences (Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology)
Student Art Exhibit


Business, Economics, and Technology

Technology makes possible a global economy that responds instantaneously to market fluctuations, new business trends and natural and political events. Is this mostly a positive or negative development for local, regional, national and international businesses and economies?  Can technology truly help bridge the divide between the rich and poor?


When faced with growing diversity among students, widening opportunity gaps, and frequent funding shortfalls, educators play a vital bridge-building role. How can we improve communication between students, teachers, parents, administrators, and policy makers? Do current curriculum models and testing strategies adequately prepare learners for life beyond the classroom? In what ways might online classes or other technologies (dis)connect the learning process?

History and Politics

History and politics link the past to the present, connect our local, national, and global communities, and inform our decisions about the future.  We welcome studies that explore how individuals, businesses, institutions, governments, parties, community-based movements, and other organizations have sought to bridge differences and find common ground.

Language, Literature, and Philosophy

Writers and philosophers have long contemplated the figure of the “other” in society and culture, how society has produced or confronted “otherness,” and the role difference plays in constructions of the self.  Questions about difference also preoccupy scholars of the development and history of language.  We thus welcome proposals on ways differences and divides are confronted, connected or generated in literary or philosophical texts, or studies of language development/linguistics.

Media Studies and the Arts

In what ways can the arts bridge the divide between difference and otherness? Has social media helped bridge the divide between differences and peoples or has it complicated that divide further? How has the media impacted the arts and vice versa? We welcome proposals that examine ways in which media and the arts have either contributed to or hindered the various divides.

Natural Sciences, Psychology, and Allied Health

The study of science has exploded on college campuses in recent years.  Is there an increasing divide between what our next generation of scientists and health care professionals are learning and what the public knows?  What consequences do we face as a nation if such a divide exists? Is there a remedy?

Social Sciences (Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology): 

For this strand that explores sociology, anthropology and criminology, students are asked to consider instances across these disciplines where contemplating differences and forging commonalities exist. How are we adapting to migration, gentrification, immigration as the world’s borders seem to be shrinking? How do we explore human relationships over time and how different groups adapt (or don’t) to living with new neighbors. How do we as a society look upon law enforcement and our legal system to address issues of difference in objective and fair ways? We welcome work that examines the past and present implications of these varied forms of divides and/or commonalities as well as your projections and predictions for the future.


The opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion is a great way to present ideas and interact with other conference attendees.

For the 2017 NRHC Roundtable Sessions, proposers are encouraged to consider this year’s theme, Bridging the Divide, in their proposal. What topics and conversations can revolve around this theme? For instance, how can we explain bridging divides that emerge in our communities, countries, and world by contemplating differences and forging commonalities? What is the impact of changes that are happening in Pittsburgh? How do we invest in the new while keeping our eye on preserving what exists?

In addition to that, we would also like to receive proposals that have a direct relationship with Honors Programs. How has Honors brought students from all backgrounds closer together? What activities help to strengthen the sense of community in a diverse program such as this? How can Honors “bridge the divide” when catering to students of different disciplines and backgrounds?

Proposers should be aware that roundtable discussions are meant as a way of direct interaction between students. Ideas should be exchanged by using the presenters’ initial proposal to start a conversation at the table. This is a distinct difference from paper presentations.


Posters provide students a great place to showcase research in all disciplines. Students will stand beside their poster and discuss their research with conference attendees during the poster session. Posters should be prepared on a tri-fold board or a similar self-supporting framework that can rest on the tables provided by the hotel.

Student Art Show 2017

This year, in addition to presenting a poster, paper or roundtable presentation at the conference, students are invited to showcase their artwork. This can include something that is drawn, painted, photographed, sculpted, etc. This is an opportunity to share your artistry with others. Students need not be art majors to apply.

Submissions for the Student Art Show should be centered around the conference theme of ‘Bridging the Divide: Contemplating Differences and Forging Commonalities.” In the application you will be asked to include the following information in your project description:

– Description of the piece and what it means

–  How big your art work approximately is

–  What kind of art work it is (drawing, photograph, sculpture, pairing, etc.)

– any special requirements for display (easel, table, etc.)

Students who submit an art piece may also submit a paper, proposal or roundtable proposal. The two proposals do not need to be connected in any way. Please note that you are not required to submit a proposal in addition to the art piece but are encouraged to do so. Also, please be aware that you would be responsible to bring the piece to Pittsburgh with you.