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State honors council to hold conference Feb. 8-9

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Undergraduate research and working closely with faculty members are key components of the honors program at the University of North Georgia and many other colleges and universities.

The Georgia Collegiate Honors Council (GCHC) will celebrate its 30th year of promoting honors education in institutions of higher learning across the state during the organization's annual meeting, set for Feb. 8-9 at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.

The organization's current president, Dr. Stephen M. Smith, a professor of psychology and honors program director at the University of North Georgia, said honors education is more vital today than ever, as the inter-disciplinary learning that has long been the hallmark of honors programs reflects the nature of today's global community.

"The world itself is increasingly interconnected, and knowledge is increasingly interconnected. Honors education traditionally has explored that through plans of study involving classes that aren't housed in just one discipline," Smith said. "As a consequence, honors students get exposed to things they wouldn't encounter in a standard undergraduate curriculum. They develop skills essential to be leaders in our global community and develop that ability to figure out answers on their own."

GCHC started as the Georgia Honors Council in 1984 at Georgia College and State University when representatives from college and university honors programs across the state gathered to create an association supporting honors education. Colleges and universities with honors programs or having an interest in offering honors education are eligible for institutional membership. GCHC memberships also may be held by other institutions, such as foundations or educational organizations, with an interest in honors education.

The theme for this year's conference, "30 Years of Honors: Culturing the Pearls of Wisdom," marks the organization's milestone and seeks to embrace undergraduate research and creativity, an important focus for honors programs along with experiential learning that takes place outside the classroom.

"All honors programs have experiences outside the classroom that supplement the students' education," Smith said. "Honors programs use lots of extracurricular activities — at UNG we provide opportunities for study abroad and field trips. Also, because of the emphasis on undergraduate research, honors students often develop a mentor/mentee relationship through working closely with faculty members."

At the upcoming annual meeting, honors program directors and students from across the state will present academic papers and share ideas. The conference also includes best paper and best poster competitions, with cash prizes given to the top two papers and posters in each of five categories: natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and professional studies (health sciences, business, etc.).

For more information about the 30th annual GCHC conference, contact Steven Engel. For more information about GCHC: http://www.maconstate.edu/gchc/default.aspx

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