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Taking Honors to new heights in Seattle

| Sydney Schoeberle

UW-Eau Claire Honors student Anneli Williams presented her poster at the 51st Annual National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference held in Seattle, Washington, in October. Thanks to a grant from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP), Williams and Honors Program Director Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch were able to make the trip and attend the conference. 

Williams is a German and Geography double major as well as an Honors student staff member. She collaborated with English Professor David Jones on the project, Inclusive Excellence and Student Success in an Honors Program: a Data-Driven Approach. Their poster was recognized by the NCHC for Revitalization in an Honors Program, one of only three awards given for poster presenters in their category at the conference (others awarded for Development of an Honors Course and Innovation in an Honors Course).

The NCHC is a professional association of Honors programs across the country with the mission to support and enhance the community of educational institutions, professionals, and students who participate in collegiate Honors education around the world. The theme of their conference this year was Know Yourself—at a personal level, in regards to Honors education and the NCHC, and in relation to the city of Seattle. 

“I loved Seattle!” said Williams. “In between attending NCHC workshops I saw the famous flying fish at Pike Place Market, viewed outstanding art at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibition, and ate incredible noodles, sesame balls, and bubble tea at the International District.”    

The real high point for Williams though was the great interest many Honors directors and other presenters had in her research. Her poster focused on a faculty-student data collection project tracking student achievement from 2003-2016, with the continuing goal to discover which characteristics are most predictive of success in Honors. 

“Specifically, we analyzed retention rate, graduation rate, and diversity using data from a number of internal and external resources,” Williams said. “We are now applying these new mechanisms to determine how the University Honors Program supports UW-Eau Claire’s Guidepost Goals. These measures will help us improve advising and curriculum.”

This data project is based on the compelling need for Honors programs and colleges to equitably serve students from all communities. As Williams and Jones noted in their poster, “it is important to pursue inclusive excellence within the Honors Program because the typical process of Honors admissions by way of algorithms and standardized test scores overlooks many outstanding candidates.” Therefore employing measures such as the UW-Eau Claire Honors holistic admissions process enables the program to find students with potential for success who otherwise would have missed out on such an opportunity.

Williams attributed the success of this project and others to the support of Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch and Honors Program Associate Pamela Golden. Thanks to the work of Anneli Williams and Dr. David Jones the Honors Program at UW-Eau Claire, and now hopefully Honors programs and colleges across the country, will continue to strive for inclusive excellence.