In early November, 11 Suffolk University honors students took their research on the road to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in New Orleans.

This year’s conference, held from Nov. 6 – 10, 2013, focused on “Conflict, Transformation and Creolization.”

Each year, students in the Suffolk University honors program attend the National Collegiate Honors Council Annual Conference, where they have the opportunity to present original research, moderate panels, network with fellow honors students from across the country, and explore a new city and diverse culture.

Students moderated panels in line with their interests. Sophomore English major Liza Hurley moderated a discussion session about Harry Potter books as the basis for research projects, while Mohammed Hayibor, a junior global business/finance double major, moderated a talk on increasing the retention rate of honors programs.

“This experience helps to emphasize that scholarship is not reporting on something one has done in isolation, but to take part in an exciting conversation,” said Professor Lisa Celovsky, associate dean and director of the honors program in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to present research,” said Caitlin Lezell ’14. “Being a part of this program has opened doors for me in countless ways.”

Jonathan Vantassel, a senior global business/marketing double major and Ariel Wilson, a junior global business/entrepreneurship double major, led a presentation with Kim Larkin, honors program director at the Sawyer Business School. In their talk, they shared ways in which Suffolk creates a tight-knit honors community, while also building strong, supportive, and diverse relationships among all students.

A major highlight of the conference was the “City as Text” activity, which allowed students to explore New Orleans in small groups.

“We could go wherever we wanted—art museums, voodoo shops, jazz clubs. It was a great opportunity to connect with students from other schools, while also learning about a new city and experiencing a rich culture,” said Vantassel.

“Attending the NCHC Conference is a chance to expand the honors community beyond our Boston campus,” said Larkin. “Our honors community is active and energetic with a full schedule of community meetings, service, social and networking events. The objective is to provide honors students with the opportunity to make lasting connections that will translate into a vibrant professional network after graduation.”

Not only do the students reap personal benefits from the conference, but they also return to Suffolk eager to share their ideas and inspiration with their fellow honors students.

“From an administrative perspective, attending various conference sessions and communicating with other honors directors is a great opportunity to learn about ‘best practices’ that are in place at other institutions,” said Larkin. “This has resulted in the development of the Business School’s Honors Living Learning Community’s ‘Early Arrival’ Program, the Business School Honors Scavenger Hunt, and the Business School Honors Advisory Council.”

The students only returned from New Orleans a few weeks ago, but the influence of their conference experience has already been felt here on campus. The College honors committee met the week after the conference and has begun sharing new ideas for mentoring experiences and the honors curriculum.

“By gathering ideas from attending panels and participating in workshops, the students get to contribute to our program. Even though only a select group is chosen to attend, our entire program benefits from what they bring back,” said Celovsky. “Many of our best improvements to the program since it began in 2005 have come directly from the conference, including forming a student honors council, creating a weekly newsletter, and so on.”

The honors program, which currently has 600 students at the University, provides a dynamic and challenging intellectual experience for Suffolk undergraduates. Honors Living Learning Communities, as well as special academic, extracurricular, and social programming, creates a close-knit community of high-achieving students and outstanding faculty.

To learn more, visit the College of Arts & Sciences Honors Program page or the Sawyer Business School Honors page.