Northeast News and Notes – The Official Student Blog of NRHC
May 15th, 2017
Presidential Address: “Honors and the Universal Citizen”
In 1971 the great Hannah Arendt published her monumental and last book The Life of the Mind, a book (which is much more than a book) that analyzed the act of thinking in the contemporary world. Of course, our conception of the contemporary has evolved greatly since 1971, but Arendt’s analysis still holds up today. In the beginning of that work she states:
“Living beings, men and animals, are not just in the world, they are of the world.” Let me quote that again: “Living beings, men and animals, are not just in the world, they are of the world.[i]
What, exactly, does it mean to be of the world? I think we come closest to an understanding of this when we begin to really investigate what it means to think, and think deeply, which means reflectively and not in terms of data. If human beings are of the world then it stands to reason that our capacity to think places us simultaneously inside and outside a hermeneutic circle. One can be, one must be, in the world and of the world, simultaneously. This is perhaps what Samuel Schuman was reaching for when he wrote that honors students were people too. In other words, we need to re-think the concept of student (and, indeed honors itself) holistically, and not solely from a disciplinary perspective.
In his series of lectures on thinking Martin Heidegger makes the following declaration:
“Most thought-provoking in our though-provoking time, is that we are still not thinking.”[ii]
Heidegger was writing in the 1950s, but he could have been commenting on contemporary society. Heidegger’s statement may seem more than a little odd given the velocity with which technology is “improving” our lives. Through technology we are more connected than ever, and the world has indeed grown smaller, more intimate. But, I fear, that technology has also made us less aware of the differences that divide us. Specifically, given the recent turn toward the far right in the global political arena, those divides are increasing, growing ever wider. It has also made us a lot less self-aware. In other words, I fear we have become less aware of ourselves and our place in society. With the advent of social media we have reduced ourselves to avatars, to personas with no souls. In Arendtian terms, we are no longer of the world, just in it.
And yet, as I walked around the various panels this morning, I was amazed by the work that is being done by you. As young scholars you are certainly reacting to and reaching toward the larger intellectual conversation. You are all doing good work. But is this enough? Is it enough to conduct your research, take part in the odd conference here and there, and perhaps even publish on occasion? Is it enough to want to succeed in a world that is already so preoccupied with success? One wonders about responsibility and commitment, especially in the age of the selfie.
A few years ago I was sitting right where you are now, listening to Margaret Roman deliver her own Presidential address in Philadelphia. I remember how inspired I was listening to her words, and that I wanted to do more, that I felt inspired to do more. On the morning we were to leave, I had about an hour to kill so I decided to walk around Liberty Hall one last time. It was a clear and cool morning, and as I threaded my way up from the hotel I came across two homeless men sitting on a bench chatting away. All of their worldly possessions were lying on the ground next to them. I heard once again Dr. Roman’s call to action. Not being in a position to do much, I went across the street to a café and ordered two large coffees. I gathered up enough cream and sugar, and then made my way back to the homeless men sitting on the bench. I was hesitant to approach them because I didn’t want to offend them. I sheepishly went up to them and offered them the coffee. They looked at me for a second, only a second, and said, “No thanks.” I was left with two large coffees and a bag of sugar and cream. I was dejected, or perhaps a better word is rejected! Okay, so things didn’t go as planned, but it was not enough to deter me from trying again. My feelings became irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things.
The reality is that we often do good deeds because we know that it will make us feel good, or, worse still, it will look good on a resume. You may argue that the intention is irrelevant given the overwhelming need for such deeds, but, again, we may tell ourselves this in order to feel good about what we do. Honors, especially in this region, has always been an organization with a strong sense of commitment, of attempting to bridge the various divides that separate us from one another. But is it enough? The answer is no, but then, we can only do so much in a world that needs so much. As an educational organization we are first and foremost interested in academics, in scholarship. But I would ask that we ponder the words of Arendt and Heidegger over the coming year. To re-consider why it is we do what we do, both academically and civically. I want to be clear: I am not trying to dismiss these things, nor am I asking you to give them up, I’m simply asking you to re-think the divide that separates thinking and action.
Last year the theme of our annual conference was “Migrations,” and we explored that concept on a number of levels. At the time Europe was under a deluge of migrants attempting to reach a promised land. We recall the images. This year our theme is “Bridging the Divide,” a theme as important and timely as migrations was last year. With all of the political rhetoric concerning walls, I am proud to stand here among you taking part in a conversation about bridges. Moreover, this year’s theme is a wonderful continuation of the conversation that began last year. All of which brings me to my theme: an honors community that also strives for a universal citizenship. I use the word “universal” rather than global because the concept of globalism has been corrupted by the free market and as such has become bankrupt. The term universal also transcends the geopolitical boundaries of nations, nationalisms, and passports. By taking part in the thinking that goes on in conferences like this, indeed, in our respective programs, we are acknowledging the fact that we are engaged with others in a conversation that seeks to further develop that conversation. But let is not keep this within our regional or national honors organizations. Instead, we must extend our thinking in various ways and in various modes, we must aim to go beyond the borders of our own comfort zones.
The fabulous Elena Ferrante remarks:
“Borders make us feel stable. At the first hint of conflict, at the least threat, we close them. The border serves to gather us into a unit, to diminish the hidden centrifugal thrusts that undermine our identity. But it’s purely appearance. A story begins when, one after another, our borders collapse.”[iii]
The interdisciplinary nature of honors is itself resistant to the concept of borders, and I would caution this region about staying within the safety of its own borders; be it disciplinary or regional. Let me offer another personal example.
In 2012 I traveled to Prague to take part in an interdisciplinary conference whose theme was suffering. For three days about twenty people from various disciplines, some academic, but most not, met to discuss this common theme. For three days I sat next to an intellectual from the University of Tehran in Iran. We chatted, mostly small talk, nothing political, and it was pleasant enough. On the last day of the conference we each were asked to say what we liked most about the sessions. Everyone had interesting things to say, but when my turn came I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: “I loved the fact that an Iranian and an American can sit next to one another for three days and actually get along.” It was simple, yet effective. We all clapped. And this is my point: I see honors as a bright light illuminating the darkness of oppression and intolerance, to say nothing of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia to name only a few. As I write these words gay men are being rounded up, arrested, and killed in Chechnya. As I write these words chemical weapons have once again been used in Syria, killing so many innocent men, women, and children. As I write these words one of my son’s best friend, a 12 year-old legal immigrant from Bosnia is afraid that the current U. S. government is going to deport him for being a Muslim. As I write these words our current President is working to stifle the freedom of the press. As I write these words the people of Flint, Michigan still lack access to safe drinking water. As I write these words women are still not being paid as much as men.
Our true calling, our true mission, if we can call it that, is to strive to become universal citizens, citizens of a shared and engaged humanity. The essence of our universal citizenship is the concept of care, of compassion, of a willingness to speak the truth to power, in the way suggested by Edward Said. My hope for you, for all of you, is that you transcend the current that would force you to become nothing more than thoughtless consumers in an age of unprecedented greed. There is hope here, there is intelligence, and there is determination. In one of my classes this semester we are currently reading Cesare Pavese’s brilliant novel The Moon and the Bonfires. One of the characters, Nuto, a peasant from the north of Italy, remarks that “The world is badly made and you have to remake it.”[iv] It’s a refrain that seems to carry on generation after generation. Nevertheless, I find the sentiment to be true. “The world is badly made.” But, with all of you doing the work you do, by continuing to engage in the world and to resist the ghettoization of the world (in the way that Salman Rushdie defines the term), I see a bright spot on the horizon. But what we do at conferences is not enough. We must remind ourselves that we are just as much of the world as we are in the world.
I would like to leave you with some words from Margaret Atwood’s astounding 1988 novel, Cat’s Eye:
“Now it’s full night, clear, moonless and filled with stars, which are not eternal as once was thought, which are not where we think they are. If they were sounds, they would be echoes, of something that happened millions of years ago: a word made of numbers. Echoes of light, shining out of the midst of nothing.
It’s an old light, and there’s not much of it. But it’s enough to see by.”[v]
[i] Arendt, Hannah. The Life of the Mind. Orlando, Florida: A Harvest Book. 1978. (page 20).
[ii] Heidegger, Martin. What Calls for Thinking? Trans. J. Glenn Gray. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1968.
[iii] Ferrante, Elena. Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey. Trans. Ann Goldstein. New York: Europa Editions. 2016. (page 326).
[iv] Pavese, Cesare. The Moon and the Bonfires. Trans. R. W. Flint. New York: New York Review Books Classics, 2002. (page 33).
[v] Atwood, Margaret. Cat’s Eye. New York: Doubleday, 1988. (page 446).
April 10th, 2017
Thank you to everyone who attended! We enjoyed another wonderful conference and look forward to seeing you next year in Rhode Island!
Here are some links Dr. Withers has asked us to share with you:
- Mark Horvath piece: https://medium.com/@hardlynormal/giving-money-to-homeless-people-is-okay-41361adfe2fa
- Jack Preger: http://mediaindia.eu/tv-video/in-conversation-with-dr-jack-preger/
April 5th, 2017
Please remember to bring in donations for Operation Safety Net!
March 7th, 2016
A Message from Your Student Leaders:
When I first wrote my statement running for Student Representative for the Northeast Regional Honors Council after my very first conference, I had doubts about whether I would get elected or not. I knew that there were many other suitable candidates running for the position. That is why I was surprised when I got the news about officially getting elected as Student Rep, I could not be more excited!
Immediately I started brainstorming ideas for the ice breaker on Thursday, the Talent Show on Friday, and the gala on Saturday. I have worked with a team of individuals in planning these events including Erika Caires from Merrimack College and Hilary De Silvia, who is also from Monroe College.
Planning and preparing for conference has not been an easy task, and I knew that it would be a very challenging once when I signed up for it. Nonetheless, it is not a decision I regret as I have learned immensely from it. I have learned more about leadership, preparedness, team work, creativity, as I have grown more as a person to being more responsible and developed even more the interpersonal skills I had.
There is much is store for you when you arrive in Pittsburgh. Thursday evening will be full of some fun and games with a competitive edge. We will announce winners of the first ever NRHC Battle at our Friday event, the Talent Show. For Friday, we hope you will sign up in advance. But feel free to come on stage the night of the conference! Finally, our biggest event, Silver and Gold Masquerade Ball will be on Saturday evening. Please dress in your finest silver and gold attire, and bring a mask!
Reflecting on the past, going to my first conference, NRHC in Cambridge, MA, has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had so far in college. My goal and hope is for all who are coming to this conference to have an extraordinary experience just as I had.
Valerie J. Robles-Rios
Hello out there! This is Hilary De Silvia, Criminal Justice major, Honors student, Afrocentric fanatic and literature enthusiast. I truly hope you readers are enjoying every minute of your Honors experience. College can surely be a pain in the keister, but let’s not forget all the silver linings.
As honors students, I’m sure you can relate—all the work, classes, clubs can be overwhelming. Throw in the need to sleep, and forget about it. It seems impossible. But we are able to do it. It is this ability to go farther and push harder that makes us honors students. And I look forward to meeting you during NRHC 2017, where we can celebrate our successes, make new connections, and have fun.
Being given the opportunity to work on the Northeast Regional Honors Council Conference’s Student Events is rewarding in itself, as it has made me more eager to bring on the entertainment. I am happy to be working with all the students participating in the Art Show, and I hope I will see you at all the events on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This has been an interesting process and I’ve learned so much. I cannot wait to see how my journey concludes in Pittsburgh.
Hilary De Silvia
Novemeber 14th, 2016
Why should I apply to the NRHC Conference?
Video credit by Kelly Tran, Point Park University
October 22nd, 2016
Northeast Student Awarded NCHC Student of the Year Honor
By Kathryn M. MacDonald, Professor, Monroe College
I’m sure many of our regional directors, staff, and students who were able to attend the 2016 NCHC Conference in Seattle are still riding the “idea high” of the conference! It is always a pleasure to be amongst likeminded people with wonderful energy and passion for Honors education.
My Seattle experience was amazing. My roundtable presentation with Helen Fallon of Point Park University on intercollegiate joint honors projects was fantastic and engaging. The poster I presented on some new honors courses at my institution was well-received. My students who presented their research via posters were on top of their game. And it was so much fun!
However, this conference was particularly special for me as the Honors Coordinator of the Monroe College Honors Program (located in Bronx and New Rochelle, NY) because one my students was named NCHC Student of Year (at a four-year institution)—Nathalie Waldschmidt. We had no idea that she would receive this recognition and actual tears of joy were cried when we found out that she received this honor. I am grateful to NCHC for recognizing Nathalie.
I wanted all of my northeast colleagues to know this news because Nathalie has served our region well—both as a Student Rep for NRHC 2016 and now as Conference Assistance for NRHC 2017.
Furthermore, I know that I would not be as productive in my mission in leading my honors program without Nathalie and students like her. I would like to share with you excerpts from my nomination letter:
I met Nathalie in January 2014, when she first joined the Honors Program. She was in her second semester of study, working toward her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. From the beginning, Nathalie was an exceptionally hard working student. She contributed eagerly to classroom discussions and demonstrated a superb work ethic. She is an international student from Germany, and her writing skills have always impressed me. Her comfort level in the classroom and amongst her peers is above average—she is a natural mentor and leader.
After taking her first Honors course, I encouraged Nathalie to run for our Honors Student Board. She agreed, and was elected to be the President. In this role, Nathalie really excelled. She demonstrated unparalleled leadership skills, compared to the students who served in this position prior. She implemented several new activities, such as a freshmen mentorship program, Trivia and Game Night, Tea Talks with professors, Movie Nights, and more. She also launched our program’s first Honors Olympics. All of these activities have breathed new life into the sense of community amongst students in our Honors Program.
Nathalie has also been actively engaged in making proposals to the Northeast Regional Honors Council (NRHC) conferences and NCHC conferences. She has successfully received accepted proposals at two regional conferences (2015 and 2016) and two national conferences (2015 and 2016). Her presentations have been exceptional, grounded in research and creative in concept. When travelling as a representative of our program, she is a role model to the other students. She carries herself in a mature, confident, and professional manner.
She took her leadership role to a new level in 2015, when she chose to run for the NRHC Executive Board as a Student Representative. She was elected, and brought new energy and ideas to the 2016 Cambridge conference. In addition to organizing the student events for all three evenings, she also launched an Honors Olympics prior to the conference, an Honors Parade and Slideshow during the conference, and stepped up to secure sponsors to help fund the conference. As a result of these initiatives, she was asked to return as Conference Chair Assistant for the 2017 Pittsburgh conference. This is an amazing feat, considering she is still a student!
I could continue to write about Nathalie (she has done so much more than this letter begins to describe), but I will draw this nomination letter to a close. She is the most deserving honors student of this award. She is active within her honors program every single day and has expanded her involvement in honors on the regional and national levels. She does plan to return to her home country of Germany one day, and she has told me that she plans to implement collegiate honors programs in Germany. If nothing else, this shows her dedication to the ideals of honors and making sure that gifted students have a community in which to share their talents.
Nathalie is not someone who likes being the center of attention, but I know she will use this honor to further her reach in leading our honors program. I am so, so proud of her.
I hope that all of you—directors, staff, and students—consider working toward this achievement. I truly believe that our region is bustling with talent, creativity, and potential. My honors program is small, just over 200 students, but we have been able to achieve so much at the regional and national levels. It is through teamwork, networking, and dedication that any of our institutions can receive this kind of recognition. Our efforts, along with the efforts of NCHC, can bring honors education to the forefront of higher education.
Congratulations, once again, Nathalie!
October 11th, 2016
The Honors Traveler
As I reflect on what was the most impactful aspect of my college career, I undoubtedly can say it was joining the honors program at The College of New Rochelle (CNR). Although I got a late start and joined in my sophomore year, I quickly caught up and hit the ground running.
The honors program gave me the challenge and academic rigor I yearned for. I often was pushed to think outside of the box and to explore views that often were different than my own. The honors program also pushed me outside of the classroom and even outside of the state. With every travel opportunity that was offered, I was enthusiastic and ready to go. Whether it was Niagara Falls, NY; Gettysburg, PA or Cambridge, MA, I always had my proposal submitted to attend the annual Northeast Regional Honors Council conferences!
My travel didn’t stop with conferences. On July 7th, 2014, The College of New Rochelle’s Honors Director, Dr. Amy Bass, sent me an email that changed my life. She asked me if I was interested in studying away for the Fall 2014 semester to attend the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies program in Mystic, CT. At first, I was quite unsure being that I have never been away from home for an extended period of time and was afraid of leaving my responsibilities both on and off of campus behind. Dr. Bass assured me that CNR and New Rochelle would still be there when I returned and will continue to operate in my absence.
In exact words, the email said, “You should do this for you. Truly. It’s one semester. But I guarantee you’ll never be the same.” Dr. Bass couldn’t be more right. Williams-Mystic was without a doubt the highlight of my college career and the best experience of my life. In this one semester, I had the chance to sail for 10 days in the Pacific Ocean, explore the bayous of Louisiana and the Californian coastline. I also had he chance to have a real college experience by moving away to Mystic, Connecticut and having a roommate for the first time.
As I reflect back on my college career, it is the memories and friends that I made through the honors program that I will forever remember. Honors has empowered me to step outside of my comfort zone and to always be prepared to take on opportunities that will help me grow personally and intellectually. If I were to give another honors student some advice, it would be to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. I mean who else can say that they have TRAVELED APPROXIMATELY 15,000 miles and have explored six U.S. States, The Gulf of Mexico, Canada, and sailed in the Pacific Ocean for free? Now that’s doing college right!
The College of New Rochelle
Communication Arts, Class of 2016
October 10th, 2016
The following video about the 2016 NRHC Conference in Cambridge, MA was submitted by Maria Capozzoli of The College of Saint Elizabeth. The College of Saint Elizabeth is always looking forward to the conference. It is a great place to network and share ideas with students from all over the northeast.
August 29, 2016
Have you ever wondered what other colleges do in their Honors Programs? How are their programs different from yours? What activities/classes do they offer and how do they manage to keep students involved?
That is the reason why we created this blog. We want to hear all your stories about YOUR Honors Program!
Some of the topics can include, but are not limited, to:
- Your favorite Honors moment
- Things that your Honors Program does well
- Issues that should get more attention in Honors
- Your proposals for NCHC/NRHC
- General overview over your program
- Honors activities
- Your favorite Honors class/professor
- Handling Honors and general college requirements at the same time
- Honors Trips
- Honors abroad
- Honors work that you like to share (poem, articles)
- Any topics that you would like to discuss with other students
This blog, published on the NRHC homepage, will serve as a platform for students in the Northeast to express their opinions and personal Honors moments, as well as to interact with other students and learn more about other programs in the region.
You can write about anything that includes Honors, even if you are just curious about other programs and you just want to post a question.
This blog will also be promoted on our social media channels – not only will NRHC attendees be able to read your work, you can also share it with your friends and your home institution.
We are looking for submissions that have 350+ words, and you are more than welcome to include photos/any other way of digital media.
Please reach out to Nathalie if you have any questions. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are looking forward to receiving your work!