This year the editors of Scribendi, Tirzah Reeves, Faith Montano, and Bettyjane Hoover, got to attend the 54th annual NCHC (National Collegiate Honors Council) conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. I asked them all some questions about the 4 days they spent at the conference titled “Disrupting Education” and their thoughts on it. Here’s what they had to say.
Q: What did Scribendi do at the conference?
Tirzah: Scribendi participated in the conference not only by attending panels and doing the City As Text (CAT) excursion, but we also presented at the Idea Exchange and hosted a panel. On Saturday morning, the Scribendi editors went to participate in the Idea Exchange Breakfast. We had a table where we displayed our magazines, our totebags, and some other swag. We handed out copies of the magazine to people who were interested, as well as explained what Scribendi is. We passed out flyers that had information about our Staff Exchange Program, where students from other NCHC schools could apply to the National Student Exchange (NSE) program to be a part of the Scribendi staff for a year. We sold a few totebags, which helped us to fundraise more for our magazine. Scribendi was one of the few tables at the idea exchange that had a tangible object to pass out to people that wasn’t a flyer. We got lots of compliments on the design of the magazine, some assumed that it had been designed by a faculty member and they were surprised when we told them that the students designed it ourselves. We handed out two boxes (about 34 magazines in each box) at the Idea Exchange alone.
Saturday afternoon, Scribendi collaborated with the NCHC Journal UReCA–the NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (https://nchcureca.com/)–to host a panel. The panel was titled “The Thin Line Between Acceptance and Rejection: A Student Publications Panel.” The editors for each magazine talked about the different processes and structures of each journal, going into detail about how staff members are chosen, what kind of things each journal publishes, what rubrics are used in evaluating pieces, and what each publication looks for when choosing pieces.
Through the discussion, it was easy to tell just how different the two magazines were, with UReCA being an online-based journal that publishes research and creative works, whereas Scribendi is a print magazine that focuses on the creative. UReCA has rubrics they use for each piece and they use a rating system, taking the top 15% of pieces in each category and then discussing them amongst the publication team. Scribendi takes a different approach, with each staff member reading all of the pieces, and creating their own top lists for each category that then get sent to the managing editor. After the editors have decided on a comprehensive top list, the staff is able to make additional petitions of pieces to add to the top list, and then everyone engages in round table discussions where the strengths and weaknesses of each piece are talked about and people argue for their favorite pieces. From there, everyone votes again and a top list is formed.
The panel went exceedingly well, each team was prepared for discussion and was able to articulate the points of difference between each publication. The audience was able to ask questions afterward, which was beneficial to both the listeners and the speakers.Scribendi hopes to collaborate with UReCA again in the future, whether that’s hosting more panels or engaging in other means of collaboration.
Q: How was New Orleans? Did you see anything that excited/ intrigued you?
Faith: New Orleans is very very cool and interesting! It has a very rich, intriguing history — the product of fusing multiple cultures over the course of centuries. In that way, it reminded me of Northern New Mexico, which was surprising. There were also a lot of parts of the city that are culturally and historically important that seemed sort of dormant now (particularly Louis Armstrong Park / Congo Square), or at least appeared that way during our visit.
Bettyjane: Meh. Eating beignets was definitely a highlight.
Q: What was your favorite part of the convention?
Faith: Lynda Barry! She gave the closing plenary speech and talked for about 80 minutes on the importance of creativity, what an image is and what it can do, and allowing ourselves to re-access the deep, natural creativity we practiced regularly as children.
Q: Was there anything (a lecture, a speaker, etc.) that surprised you or made you think differently about something?
Bettyjane: Lynda Berry. I had not really thought much about how as children writing and drawing are the same but become separate as we get older. I really liked the idea of having children working with grad students on their research. It was such an interesting way of reintroducing the creativity of young brains to the work process of college students. I could use a research assistant like that.
Q: What did you take away that you can/ want to incorporate into your work?
Faith: In the spirit of Lynda Barry, hope I learn to stop beating myself up over creative projects and allow myself to simply imagine and create and play. I want to allow myself to create without needing to meet some sort of goal. I think that, over the course of college, I’ve stifled my creativity by thinking that everything I make must be exceptional or it isn’t worth making, or thinking that I shouldn’t spend time drawing/painting/writing because I won’t have time to make a complete masterpiece in that one moment. I think that will influence the creative work I do that does have a goal, because I won’t feel as stuck or pressured to create and will have been using those muscles more consistently.
Q: What didn’t you enjoy? What could have been improved upon for the future?
Faith: The conference was pretty run-of-the-mill in terms of content and structure, and I wish that it would have been a little bit different. I think this was exasperated by the conference theme being “Disrupting Education: Creativity and Innovation in Honors.” Also, we were in such a culturally and historically rich city, but our setting was never really addressed by the conference, which made it feel like the conference and the city were disconnected in a way that meant our location and presence in New Orleans wasn’t important. The juxtaposition of being in New Orleans (which is a low-wealth, majority Black city with a fusion of very different cultures) and being at an Honors conference (which is a very White, upper / middle-class space) was jarring, and I wish it had been addressed in a meaningful way.
Bettyjane: Personally didn’t enjoy New Orleans as a whole, but that’s mainly due to my personal preferences. Like Faith mentioned I thought that the theme of the conference did not really match the actual content of the conference, besides Lynda Berry. I also, agree that the conference could have literally been anywhere and been the same. New Orleans was only really worked into the city as text activity, and even that was not carried out to full potential. They just sent us out in groups to observe the city and make assumptions based on what we saw or who we talked to. It would have been a much more valuable experience if they had given us historical context for what we were going out to observe beforehand.