2014 NRCH Conference in Niagara Falls
By Wai "Kat" Lam, with assistance from her fellow convention delegates
Honeymooners have been traveling to Niagara Falls for more than 500 years. This April, 3rd -6th, four members of the Honors Student Advisory Committee (HSAC), David Cardona, Jordan Hadani, Wai (Kat) Lam, and Xavier Medina represented LaGuardia at the 2014 Northeast Regional Honors Council (NRHC) conference: “Standing on the Edge: Challenging Boundaries & Power.” Five hundred Honors students from 4- and 2-year colleges in the region participated, which is a record-breaking number of attendees at NRHC’s annual event. And all found the Niagara Falls trip very special - unexpected yet enriched with rewarding realization.
David recalled the shuttle bus ride to the hotel. Passing by the abandoned fields and empty industrial buildings at the speed of 60mph on the highways and bridges, he could not help noticing the quietness and emptiness of the area. He added that when the group arrived, there were no cars or people on the street, only sound coming from the roar of the Falls. Nonetheless, the delegates happily welcomed the quietness so they could have the town to their own. But on the next day, the group visited different places to understand the city by “reading” the architecture, environment and people’s interactions in an activity called “Places as Text.” The LaGuardia Honors students quickly learned about the rich history and the hardships that the city had gone through and realized what their presence meant to the local community.
Coming back from the outing, Xavier lamented that the few high-tourist months out of the year cannot hide the struggles that the town is going through. In contrast to the well-developed and commercialized Canadian side, essentially a miniature of Las Vegas, the American side of Niagara Falls is “still trying to dig itself out of a tough economic situation and severe loss of population,” Xavier notes. Meanwhile, he was stunned by the gigantic waterfalls roaring and cascading down on the rocks and iceberg so powerfully that a visitor at the observation tower would be surrounded by the mist that the Falls produced. Kat agreed that although the New York side was less developed, it possessed the breathtaking scenes that still remained natural and organic, and which are the valuable part of the Falls. She continued, “our understanding of Niagara Falls would have been skin-deep if not the conference that opened up our dialogues and stimulated the exchange of thoughts.”
On the third day, the four LaGuardia Honors students showcased their research to faculty and students at the conference. Jordan, presenting his interdisciplinary research on "Binary Mindsets" for his first time, found it frightening initially. But multiple rehearsals and his peers’ feedback prepared him so well that his presentation evoked many faculty and student audience members’ interests and the discussion kept on even after the session. For Kat, the experience of presenting was different, though equally amazing. She presented her alcoholism research at the "Alternative Healthcare Approaches" panel, which exposed her to many like-minded presenters from different states. “There was so much to learn from their presentation skills and novel insights in improving the healthcare system and well-being," she exclaimed. Also, Xavier, who presented his research on “Boundaries & Immigration: The Bracero Program”, competed for one of the two Student Representative positions on the 2015 NRHC Executive Board. David's presentation went by without a problem and you could see how immersed he was in what he had written. His paper, “How I Learned to Look the Other Way and Love Petroleum,” was well received by the crowd. The experience of representing LaGuardia Community College at a regional level was amazing and the delegates were very grateful for being given the opportunity to show off our hard work.
In all, the group thanks their chaperone, Prof. Bojana Blagojevic, the Honors Program, professors and members of the LaGuardia Foundation for the valuable support and opportunities that urge students, who are passionate about their research and willing to step up, to challenge themselves at future conferences, and to take on leadership roles in HSAC. Students are encouraged to visit to check out the videos of the four LaGuardia students’ presentations at NRHC and come by the Honors House (M-222) to get more information!