The Resilience of Mercy’s Honors Students

NRHC’s annual conference assembles students to present academic presentations inspired by the theme of resilience



The city of bountiful bridges that overlook streams of sparkly water. A city where it is acceptable to eat raw pizza and put fries on everything. A city where the railroads are endless. 

Mercy College’s Global Honors Program traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during spring break for the annual Northeast Regional Honors Council Conference.

The Northeast Regional Honors Council, NRHC for short, is an organization that works to bring together honor students and embrace honors learning. The NRHC brought together honors students for a conference at Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square from March 30 to April 2.  

NRHC hosts an annual conference to bring together honors students in the northeast region to present academic presentations inspired by the year’s theme. This year’s theme was building resilience from tragedy: understanding hate, violence, loss, and reconciliation. 

Eight students from Mercy, from four schools and six majors, 75% BIPOC, and all Freshmen through Seniors, attended this year’s conference, according to Honors Co-director Dr. Irina. She said, “Our students did an excellent job presenting their research and were able to learn from and network with nearly 400 honors peers from around Northeast US.” 

The conference even allowed students to not only network with honors students from other colleges but with fellow Mercy honors students. First-time attendee and observer Josiah Silverberg ‘27 said, “Meeting new faces from the honors program was a great experience.” 

For some students, this was their first time attending and presenting at an NRHC Conference. Mercy student Daniela Blum ‘25 attended for the first time as a presenter.

Blum was hesitant though, saying “I will admit there were some doubts about going because I didn’t think it would be that eventful. But from the very first speaker to the last, I was proven wrong.”

One of the non-academic events that occurred on the first night in Pittsburgh, the Movie Trivia Night, set the tone for Blum’s rest of the experience. She said, “It was really fun and funny seeing other people get mad when our group ‘Burnt Dawgz’ won 2nd place.” The group name stemmed from a debate over if a hot dog is a sandwich or not. It’s not!

Melissa Barresi ‘26 attended for the first time as an observer of the presentations and said, “I felt so inspired by all the presenters and am hoping that next year I will be able to present as well.” Barresi was fascinated by one presentation regarding investing in the stock market as a college student. To invest $10,000 and get back $60,000. Sounds like a dream for college students!

Another first-time Mercy attendee Ginellys Reyes ‘26 was also inspired by the presentations as an observer. She said, “Listening to each of them was incredible to open my mind to learn about what they have to show to the world.” Her favorite memory was the City as Text event where students explore the city together. The Mercy Students and Honors Directors took the time to dine together at a restaurant that served lavender lemonade, gooey biscuits with jam, and fried chicken galore. 

Apart from student presentations, Dr. Irina recalled “powerful presentations from renowned memoirist Brian Broome (“Punch Me Up to the Gods”), journalist Tony Norman (who covered the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre), Dr. Tom Morton (who discussed his role in the removal of the figural representation and name of Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson from Pittsburgh’s East Liberty Presbyterian Church’s monumental ‘History of Presbyterianism in North America’ stained-glass window) and Veterans (through Pittsburgh’s Veterans Breakfast Club).”

Academics don’t consume the entire conference. The students were able to freely mingle and enjoy social events with each other, such as Open Mic Night. From Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” to screaming Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” on stage.

Mercy attendee Amrit Munir ‘23 said, “It’s interesting to see students coming together through music and freely expressing their talents.” This is Munir’s second experience at the NRHC Conference and as she said, “It did not disappoint.”

There was even a red carpet-themed gala. Students walked along a red carpet into the biggest ballroom with a dance floor, DJ, flashing neon lights, and trays of cookies, hot food, and jars of candy. The gala was the perfect place for the students to meet new friends or reconnect with friends from the previous conference. It even had a Hollywood photo booth for those perfect paparazzi pictures. 

The Mercy Global Honors Students were well supported by their Honors Directors. From submitting proposals to get accepted into the conference, to the long ride in the Mercy van across Pennsylvania, to the time it came to present. Honors Co-director Dr. Fazioli said, “I think our role there is really to support you guys because the NRHC conference is a very student-focused conference, and the reason that we’re there is for you, the students, so for faculty members like us directors we’re just there to cheer you on to give you any help that you need.”

Dr. Irina also said, “As one of the program’s co-directors, it is an absolute joy to watch our students expand their worlds by brilliantly sharing their scholarship and bravely engaging in new experiences.”  She added, “We are so very proud of our five upperclassmen student presenters and our 3 freshmen who participated in the conference!”

The students look forward to attending with their Honors Directors and presenting at next year’s NRHC Conference to occur in Albany. The capital of New York. Another city is full of endless railroads and endless opportunities.