National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


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In: Place, Self, Community: City as Text™ in the Twenty-First Century, Edited by Bernice Braid and Sara E. Quay. National Collegiate Honors Council, 2021.


© 2021 NCHC.


And you may find yourself in another part of the world . . . And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” —Talking Heads,1980

I have been wrestling with that question since I was first asked how a National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Honors Semester led me into public high school education and how I use that Semester’s experience in my life and work. When I first participated in the NCHC United Nations Semester in the fall of 1984, I did not imagine myself anywhere near a public school classroom. I was focused on changing the world and working for social justice. I did my independent study project working with the Riverside Church Disarmament Program, regularly checked in at the old War Resisters League office,1 and in the spring returned to my home college of Oberlin to participate in and eventually lead the Lorain County Peace Education Project. The community we had developed at LIU Brooklyn during that semester was inspiring and action-oriented, and it set me on a course that I imagined then was of global impact. In 1985, I went to the Soviet Union as part of a national study tour. I served as an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives. I participated in national demonstrations, getting arrested at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in 1987. That summer found me in China as part of a “peacemaking tour.” I moved to Corvallis, Oregon, doing volunteer work and landing a brief stint as an adjunct instructor in the Oregon State University Honors Program, teaching classes on the cultural impact of the Cold War and Post-Reagan America. On Mother’s Day, 1988, I participated in demonstrations to close the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. I returned to China that summer, leading a group of teenagers for the YMCA in one of its first ventures to China as part of the International Camper Exchange Program. At that point, I probably should have realized my true trajectory. Instead, I moved back to New York and began a short stretch at the New School for Social Research with the thought of earning my PhD in international relations. In 1990, I returned to the Soviet Union and saw the coming changes initiated through Glasnost and Perestroika. I met with representatives of Birlik in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and Rukh in Kiev, Ukraine, prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union. I moved to Washington, D.C., canvassed for SANE/Freeze out of the Washington, D.C., office, and then went to work for a small independent school at their Nature Studies and Outdoor Education campus in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. After two years there, I eventually found my way to the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies.2 Somewhere in the midst of all that came the rest of life, those moments that weave us further into the human fabric—finding love, creating family, raising children, breakups, redefining family, and navigating age. When I was asked to reflect on how I use the experiences of my NCHC Honors Semester as a public school teacher, I took the opportunity to explore exactly how I had arrived here as a high school teacher some thirty years later.