National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2022, 23(1): 117–19


Copyright © 2022 Grace Anne Cunningham


As part of the National Collegiate Honors Council’s (2022) collection of essays about the value of honors to its graduates (1967–2019), the author reflects on the personal and professional impacts of the honors experience.

In the early weeks of my undergraduate experience, I sat down with the Director of the Honors Program and told him I wanted to go to Oxford for graduate school, or an Ivy at the very least; then asked what I’d need on my résumé to get there. I was an ambitious but naïve 18-year-old. Fortunately, I found my way to the Honors Program at Texas A&M University, where I was supported, mentored, and shaped into a more well-rounded, open-minded individual. My advisor did take me seriously during that first meeting, exemplifying the first value I gained at Honors: the value of listening to people and responding thoughtfully. He laid out a comprehensive list of accomplishments that a competitive résumé would have. But he also asked how I was acclimating to the Honors Living Community and encouraged me to explore all the extracurricular opportunities the Honors Program had available. After living in the community for a year, I applied to be a live-in peer mentor and Teaching Assistant for incoming freshmen. I discovered the importance of contributing to my community and a joy in mentoring. My relationships with my students and the other mentors were enriching and lasting. When my students knocked on my door at all hours needing help with classes, an advocate, or a shoulder to cry on, I learned more about empathy and crisis management at 20 years old than many people learn in a lifetime. I found incredible support in the other mentors; we leaned on each other emotionally, academically, and socially. I learned the necessity and beauty of community building. An activity that was initially just a great addition to my résumé became an integral part of my life and a support system to this day.