We drank coffee. We enjoyed world-famous donuts. We did downward-facing dogs. Some of us were even brave enough to perform our hidden talents. And, of course, we recycled! Badge inserts, chapter packet envelopes, coffee cup sleeves—they all made it to those recycling bins throughout the Portland Downtown Hilton, and intentionally so. This year’s conference theme—“Our Green Planet”—brought sustainability, environmental ethics, and stewardship front and center.
But most of all, in Portland for the 2018 Alpha Chi National Convention, we enjoyed hundreds of presentations of original scholarly and creative work conducted by the best and brightest students from around the nation.
Watching this year’s National Convention unfold, we were amazed and inspired by the sheer scale of accomplishment put on display. More than 275 students and groups presented their work (enough to fill three levels of our hotel buzzing with concurrent sessions). In all, 415 attendees representing 79 chapters made the trek to Portland. And during the conference, $85,700 was awarded in scholarships, fellowships, prizes, and grants for the best papers, presentations, projects, and plans for future study. For three days in Portland, we truly created our own world of scholarship and intellectual curiosity.
Creativity and Breadth
While environmental science and sustainability may have been our theme, even a casual observer of this year’s conference would have noticed the staggering number and range of student posters and presentations. We were struck by the outpouring of creative presentations at this year’s conference. The message was loud and clear: today’s college students wish to change the world through research—and they also seek to inspire through artistic expression.
We had the pleasure of seeing Alpha Chi members sing (from a capella to opera), act, paint, and read from short stories, poems, and novels. Creativity and breadth comprise a pillar of Alpha Chi scholarship, and this year’s conference crackled with self-expression and impressed with multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary collaborations. It was a joy to watch students from across the disciplines asking probing questions during presentations, and, after the sessions, making connections between one another’s work.
Who said Alpha Chi was all scholarship and no fun? Portland was our playground. From sightseeing and coffee shops to yoga sessions and the talent show, the entire event, start to finish, was a shining example of community building, of scholars networking, but also of people who respect, enjoy, and learn from one another. Our faculty sponsors (who could be doing many other things) deserve our appreciation. Not always recognized, Alpha Chi sponsors put in overtime in organizing their chapters’ trips. If any image lingers from this year’s conference, it was seeing our sponsors dashing from session to session, proudly cheering on their students.
Achievement and Pursuit of Excellence
For all the play and team building in Portland, serious academic scholarship dominated the three days. Suffice it to say, we did not shy away from the tough subjects like climate change, #MeToo, and sanctuary cities. In this year’s conference, Scholarship for Good—a key pillar of the Alpha Chi experience—was truly embraced by our students. A sampling of presentation titles include:
- “Implications of Climate Change on Respiratory Health”
- “Quality Gap Between Public and Private Schools”
- “Concrete Filtration of Lead in Water”
- “Human Trafficking: An Emerging Epidemic”
- “Opioid Epidemic: Should We Care?”
- “Before Segregation, Now Gentrification: A Case Study in Dallas”
Alpha Chi represents a university’s very best scholars. Simply being a member is an accomplishment. Traveling to Portland and delivering a poster or paper reveals an even higher level of achievement and conviction. And then there are the National Scholarship Competition winners. During the awards banquet, we recognized the truly elite scholars among us (as well as their faculty sponsors). Those students who won scholarships and fellowships will undoubtedly continue to take their intellectual pursuits to the highest levels of academia—and beyond.
2018 Distinguished Alumnus John Pistole (President of Anderson University) captured this point in his keynote: “Everyone in this room is already a leader, at the very least an academic leader on their campus.” With so much intellectual prowess and raw potential assembled in Portland, our students truly possess the ability to make the world a more enlightened place.
Now we’re looking ahead to the 2019 National Convention set for April 4-6 in Cleveland, Ohio. In the weeks to come, we’ll be unveiling our theme. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we would like to thank all who flew across the country, delivered papers, helped organize, and worked the tables. The 2018 National Convention was a tremendous success because of each and everyone one of you.