Honors College continues to churn out scholars

GCU President Brian Mueller addresses the crowd Saturday at the National Society of Collegiate Scholars induction ceremony in Antelope Gymnasium.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller had read through the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) website and noticed that it stressed scholarship, leadership and service.

It inspired him to stress a combination of those ideals.

Mueller urged the inductees to apply their knowledge to service.

“When scholars decide that they can lead through service,” he told the assembled scholars and their families Saturday morning in Antelope Gymnasium, “they can change the world.”

And he added one more challenge:

“Look for opportunities – because they’re everywhere.”

GCU’s Honors College certainly is embracing every opportunity, such as the induction ceremonies for NSCS and the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society.

In keeping with its status as the largest NSCS chapter in the country, even though it was founded just seven years ago, the Honors College inducted in person 67 new members with GPAs of 3.4 or better into that organization. Many of them are online students who traveled long distances to be there – one even brought her suitcase because she had to leave soon after.

The fact that it was in person motivated Kealani Turingan, the NSCS operations manager for the region, to make the trip from San Bernardino, California, and speak at the ceremony.

“Not a lot of chapters are taking the initiative to host big induction ceremonies anymore because the national office has been hosting virtual ones,” she said. “GCU showing a love for their members really shows that they are one of our greatest chapters. It’s a big arena. There’s a reception. There’s networking.”

Dr. Breanna Naegeli, Associate Dean of the Honors College, has made it a point to make sure online students are included in the push for more inductions into honors societies.

And it didn’t stop there. Inductees also could watch a livestream if they couldn’t be there, and 1,351 had taken advantage of that option as of Monday morning. The Honors College has inducted more than 5,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students into NSCS since the previous ceremony in 2019.

“We’ve been working really hard to make sure online members have always felt like they’re included in our organization,” said Dr. Breanna Naegeli, Associate Dean of the Honors College and advisor for the NSCS and Alpha Chi chapters.

“For many, it’s the first time they’ve been in an honors organization or been able to say they’re an honors student. To come back, start a degree and do it with such excellence straight out of the gate, that’s a huge accomplishment.”

Earlier this year, the size of GCU’s commitment to NSCS earned Platinum Status,  accorded to only 10 of the more than 300 chapters, for the second time since 2014. But only one gets diamond. “We’re in the hunt for diamond,” Naegeli said.

That quest extends to the students who serve as officers. NSCS is such a big deal for the chapter’s president, Callista Mendoza, she flew in from Texas for the ceremony. She’s working this semester as a field representative for the Leadership Institute but still is helping run the chapter with the help of Executive Vice President Amara Murray-Bell, who was president last year.

Callista Mendoza, president of GCU's chapter in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, flew in from Texas for the ceremony.

“We love interaction,” Mendoza said. “When we had the opportunity to have one in person, we took on the opportunity. This is something that we wanted to do as a community to network with each other and see our entire team coming together.”

Mendoza was offered the Leadership Institute position three days before she was scheduled to move in at GCU and had no choice but to give up her other on-campus leadership positions. But she couldn’t bear to surrender the NSCS presidency.

“I told Dr. Bre they would have to take me from this role kicking and screaming,” she said. “I love NSCS so much.”

An even larger gathering – 78 honorees in person and more travel tales – was welcomed Saturday afternoon for the inductions into Alpha Chi, the oldest and most exclusive honors society on campus.

Candidates must have at least 60 credit hours and rank among the top 10% of their class, which at GCU translates to a 3.9 GPA.

“It’s more than one good semester,” Naegeli said. “The eligibility criteria for an Alpha Chi induction invitation is more stringent than summa cum laude.”

Despite those rigorous requirements, more than 1,500 GCU students have been inducted into Alpha Chi since June, most of them online. But one of the visitors to campus was Larrisa Archuleta, who made the 500-mile trip from Espanola, New Mexico, with her family.

“I’d never seen the campus before, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get this award and see the campus,” said Archuleta, an early childhood education major.

In the last two years, GCU has inducted more than 5,000 new members into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and more than 1,500 have qualified for the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society.

Her reaction upon seeing the facilities and vibe:

“It’s awesome. I wish I could have come here when I graduated high school.”

The Alpha Chi ceremony, which had been viewed 2,223 times on YouTube as of Monday morning, included a motivational talk by Sasha Simmons, who told the story of how she emerged from a highly restricted childhood simply by saying one word to those restrictions: “No!”

“I am greater than any statistic in this world,” she told the audience, “and so are you.”

Dr. Heidi Boldway, Assistant Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and an Alpha Chi alumna, gave a testimonial in which she told the inductees, “You didn’t relax. You worked. You worked hard.”

That’s what employers want to see, she added. It’s also what university presidents want to see. There’s a world out there that could use some positive changes, and service by scholars is a great place to start.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Honors College expands service to community

GCU Today: Collegiate Scholars chapter one of best in nation

GCU Today: National Honor Society inducts 1,212 GCU students


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