Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2021, 22(2):27–35
The 2020–2021 academic year presented many challenges to honors educators, including their ability to support honors education as a community of opportunity in virtual learning environments. This study considers how remote learning platforms emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated previously underutilized resources, such as alumni. Authors describe programming that emphasizes opportunities for interpersonal engagement between students and alumni and maximizes potential for relationship building and communal longevity. Intersections for alumni/student virtual connection in classrooms are identified, as are co-curricular events and recruitment initiatives for prospective students. To assess impact, a survey instrument was designed according to a conceptual model of student engagement and satisfaction level and distributed to enrolled honors students. Beyond simply assessing the value students experience in the moment, researchers also evaluate how virtual experiences with alumni motivated students to attend similar events, promote such events to peers, and engage as alumni participants post-graduation. The survey provides an opportunity for students to share free responses; and subsequent content analysis of student response identifies common themes. Results reinforce current literature, suggesting that alumni participation in the curricular and co-curricular life of an honors community illustrates the value of human capital. Alumni provide a motivational force that challenges students to critically reflect on issues such as vocational discernment, networking, embracing undergraduate experiences, and resiliency. Authors conclude with ideas on future collaborations between honors alumni and students.