The National Collegiate Honors Council named first year graduate student in the clinical psychology program Michael Chambers as the winner of their Student of the Year award during their Chicago conference. Selected from a pool of eligible honors students from all over the country, Chambers, who is also a veteran and transfer student, said that winning the award was a surreal moment—especially given that his wife and children were there to see it.
“So at the time, during the award ceremony, it was actually my wife and I were doing a little juggling act with the kids, ” Chambers said. “… But then the presenter got up and started reading the nomination. And it started to click. They’re talking about me. And I was caught off guard. Not because I didn’t think that I deserved it. It was that I was at a national conference of every Honors College.”
According to their website, NCHC is an educational organization designed to support and promote undergraduate honors education since 1966 with 900 institutions and hundreds of individual members, impacting over 330,000 honors students all over the country. The Student of the Year distinction is awarded to two students who made an impact on their honors program and who have participated in honors at regional or national levels. Eligible students must be nominated by their honors program director to be considered for the award. Executive Director of the Ron and Laura Strain Honors College James Williams said that nominating Chambers for the award was an easy choice given his experiences and work at UIndy.
“His story is unique in many ways because he had additional challenges,” Williams said. “He’s a non-traditional student. He came here as a transfer student. He’s one of our first of really sort of transfer students from a two year program coming into our Honors Program, which is pretty significant, too. But he didn’t let that be an impediment to him sort of both getting his honors degree and seeing the value in that as well as you know, immersing himself in the community here and at the regional level with honors.”
According to NCHC’s website, one student from a two-year institution and one student from a four-year institution are named Student of the Year. Williams said that this could mean the candidate pool was as large as tens of thousands of students from every state, but that this pool is narrowed closer to the time the conference takes place. Then, according to NCHC, finalists are announced prior to the conference.
“I knew that I was nominated.” Chambers said. “Near the end of my senior year Dr. Williams sent me an email to check out this link. It was the NCHC website. He said we have a unique opportunity here because I had participated with a the Mid-East Honors Association through a regional affiliated conferences that allowed me to qualify for this this award so we put our heads together and he gave me some time to think, ‘Would you be willing to to pursue this?’”
Winning this award is not only impactful to Chambers but to the honors college at UIndy as a whole. NCHC awards $500 to both the winner and the honors program they originate, and, according to Williams, indicates how the honors program at UIndy has been able to attract students who push themselves and do exceptional things.
“The other thing that it does is it signifies the quality of the program that we have….” Williams said. “And all of those things signify a quality that is really important for us to be able to share with our students to also hopefully be able to inspire them to follow in the footsteps of Michael in that sense of being able to do hard things and difficult things in order to achieve great things because that’s usually how it works. In order to achieve great things, you’ve got to do some hard work and take some steps in the process.”
Chambers said that three mentors shaped his experience at UIndy: Williams, Interim Program Director of UIndy’s Masters Psychology Program and Associate Professor Katie Boucher and Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences Michael Poulakis. From the moment they met, according to Chambers, Williams continuously encouraged him to push and challenge himself as well as serving as a valuable mentor for his honors project. This is a self-chosen project all honors students must complete in order to graduate with an honors distinction. Chambers said that his honors project, focusing on research about imposter syndrome in transfer students coming from community colleges, helped him not only build his resume but also taught him valuable skills he can use further along in his education.
“[Poulakis] was a great inspiration for me to understand that while operating in this very professional realm of academia and research and you don’t have to give up the things that make you laugh.” Chambers said. “You don’t have to. You don’t have to be all buttoned up suit and tie. You can enjoy what you’re doing and still make an impact on others. So across the three of them throughout the whole honors project. Those are my three big ones. But then again, my wife, my kids, every other honors student that I’ve interacted with, it’s all been great.”