Honors Graduate Anna Nissley Wins National Portz Scholar Award

Anna Nissley photo

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – Kutztown University graduate Anna Nissley ’20 has been selected by the National Collegiate Honors Council as one of four 2020 Portz Scholars. This national award is given to four students for outstanding undergraduate honors papers.

Nissley's award-winning, 110-page paper is titled, "Stories of the Appalachian Trail."

"The Appalachian Trail has been a central part of the identity of the East Coast and the United States as a whole for almost a century," Nissley said. "On one hand, it has represented an escape from ever-modernizing American culture - a more-than-2,000-mile-long strip of land offering safe haven to the restless.

"On the other hand, it represents a cultural paradox in the U.S.: while outdoor enthusiasts seek natural spaces, it is typically to return to the creature comforts of home and to a society which prefers to sideline "wilderness" until frustrated by its own civilization," Nissley continued. "The aim of this project is to question Western conceptualizations of outdoor spaces - in part through the critique of the very terms used to refer to land like "wild" versus "developed" - through multi-genre storytelling ranging from critical analysis to personal narratives and poetry."

Nissley, from Elizabethtown, Pa., graduated summa cum laude from KU in Spring 2020 with two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in English education and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She also minored in women's and gender studies.

"Anna's work exemplifies Honors work: integrative, interdisciplinary, visionary, creative and well-researched; it is true scholarship," said. Dr. Jennifer Schlegel, director of KU's honors program. "Her paper documents an integrative and interdisciplinary journey, literally and figuratively. This multi-genre work is an exploration of the Appalachian trail, of hiking, of wilderness. What struck me about the work is the interactions between the smallest details and macro issues of contemporary concern. Anna takes the reader on her journey and invites the reader to explore with her the intimacy of hiking a large expanse of land."

In its 30th year, the Portz Scholars program began in 1990 to acknowledge John and Edythe Portz’s many contributions to honors education. These two altruists have also been the inspiration for the creation of Portz Grants for innovation in honors programs and colleges, and Portz Fellowships designed to support original and extended interdisciplinary research projects.

This year's Portz Scholars include Nissley, Molly Ke‘alohilani Miyamoto, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Genevieve Verville, University of Mississippi and Adam Weiner, Millersville University.

The four Portz Scholars will present their papers in a virtual session as part of the NCHC20 Virtual Events at 5 p.m. Eastern, Friday, Oct. 9. Winners are awarded a $350 stipend and free registration to the Virtual Events, as well as recognition in the NCHC Award Ceremony later this fall.