National Collegiate Honors Council


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From Internationalizing Honors, ed. Kim Klein and Mary Kay Mulvaney (Lincoln, NE: National Collegiate Honors Council, 2020)


Copyright © 2020 National Collegiate Honors Council


In July of 2013, I was appointed to lead the Honors Program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar (VCU Qatar), a branch campus of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I attended my first National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conference the following November. The location was New Orleans, Louisiana, a twentysomething hour flight from Doha, Qatar’s capital city. My goal was simple: to engage with honors directors like myself who were running honors programs outside the United States. Jet-lagged beyond belief, I stumbled through the conference in a stupefied, nine-hour time difference haze, rarely straying far from the coffee table. I managed to meet a number of individuals in a position similar to mine, but overall they were few and far between. I tried to attend every session that included the word “international” in its title, but by the end of the conference, I realized that the notion of “internationalizing honors” in the context of NCHC denoted study abroad, wherein American honors programs dispatch students outside the U.S. for temporary periods of study. While interesting and valuable, discussing study abroad was not going to help me tackle the specific challenges of leading my program in Qatar. While disappointed, I should not have been surprised. I was attending a conference in the United States dedicated largely to honors education in the United States. Branch campuses of American universities in far-flung locations like Qatar are rare. Even rarer is for them to house honors programs. In fact, according to my research, of the approximately eighty or so U.S. satellite campuses currently in existence, less than ten percent include some type of honors education. Within this select group, honors tends to assume the form of departmental, thesisdriven programs. In terms of fully developed programs, I can count them on one hand, with a finger or two to spare.1 Their scarcity, however, should not dismiss their value. Given the recent expansion of honors education outside the United States, a trend of which VCU Qatar is part and parcel, much can be learned from such programs, which live, rather than study, abroad.