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Candidate Finalists Spark Additional Giving by Oberndorf Family Foundation

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Jackson, MississippiPhi Theta Kappa member Christina Urbina recently ran for Division II International Vice President, and although she was a finalist for the position, she did not win. However, that’s not the way Urbina sees it — she came away with a $500 scholarship from the Oberndorf Family Foundation and may have found her life’s calling in the process.

The 10 Candidate Finalists celebrate at NerdNation 2014.

Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf

As an International Officer Candidate Finalist at NerdNation 2014, Phi Theta Kappa’s Annual Convention held in Orlando April 24-26, Urbina and nine other finalists of the 27 who ran for office had the opportunity to present a speech on the Society’s Honors Study Topic, Frontiers and the Spirit of Exploration, to more than 4,000 attendees.

In the audience philanthropist and Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Trustee Lou Oberndorf and his wife, Rosemary, were incredibly impressed — not just with the five candidates who were eventually elected, but with all 10 of the students who gave speeches. By the end of NerdNation, they announced they would fund a new scholarship that would award $500 scholarships to each of the 10 International Officer Finalists for the next five years, a $25,000 commitment.

Lou Oberndorf was a founder of METI, a world leader in medical education technology. As CEO of METI, he was responsible for establishing the Frank Lanza Memorial Scholarships for community college students in health care fields. He and his wife Rosemary helped establish the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship, matching Foundation contributions one-to-one to provide a $500,000 endowment for the scholarships, which are directed to community college students at risk of dropping out due to financial hardships. Last year, $20,000 in scholarships were presented to members in need.

“Receiving the scholarship was unexpected, yet thrilling,” Urbina said. “I will be able to spread out my final classes between two semesters thanks to the $500 scholarship.”

Following the 2014 Annual Convention, the five new International Officers and the five finalists were awarded $5,000 in scholarships, each receiving a check of $500. The 2014 recipients were:

Finalists

For International President - Eric Mueller of Coffeyville Community College in Kansas

For Division I Vice President - Megan Sims of Southwest Virginia Community College in Virginia

For Division II Vice President - Christina Urbina of Polk State College in Florida

For Division III Vice President - Rashida Jones-Frazier of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City in Oklahoma

For Division IV Vice President - Sheena McPeek of Central Community College-Grand Island in Nebraska

2014-15 International Officers

International President - Ebonee Carpenter of Hillsborough Community College in Florida

Division I Vice President - Megan Giles of Harrisburg Area Community College in Pennsylvania

Division II Vice President - Jesus Tovar of El Paso Community College in Texas

Division III Vice President - Trevor Mileur of Illinois Central College in Illinois

Division IV Vice President - Ivette PiƱa of Phoenix Community College in Arizona

Upon successful completion of their terms, the five International Officers will receive an additional $10,000 in scholarships — $2,000 each plus a stipend to cover expenses associated with serving. Learn more about them and their year ahead online.

Chief Student Engagement Officer Jennifer Stanford said the International Officer Campaign is an extraordinary leadership opportunity in itself. 

“Out of 130,000 members inducted every year, usually less than 30 seek out the highest position of leadership we call International Office. Furthermore, only 10 of those will become Candidate Finalists,” Stanford said.” To give a speech on our Honors Study Topic in front of 4,000 audience members is quite an accomplishment! How wonderful it is to have Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf recognize the hard work and courage of these individuals with a scholarship.”

“Campaigning was a great experience for all members involved. Phi Theta Kappa provided another unique opportunity at leadership development and scholarly fellowship through the election of international officers,” said candidate Eric Mueller, who plans to use his scholarship to buy a laptop computer needed for classes. “There are no losers among candidates. Running for international office introduced me to so many inspiring people that I believe will change the world.

“I appreciate Mr. and Mrs. Oberndorf's continued dedication to Phi Theta Kappa and its aspiring leaders. They truly recognize the effort required of all finalists and the influence this organization has had on our lives.” 

Urbina said the campaign was an eye-opening experience for her.

“After speaking in front of over 4,000 Phi Theta Kappa members, I realized that I want to be a motivational speaker. With the help of my college President Dr. Holden, I am starting my own business as a public speaker,” she said. “I never would have thought it was possible, until I ran for this position.

“I might not have been chosen for the position, but I won because I found my true calling. I have received letters and messages from members who heard my story and said it changed their way of thinking. I helped make a difference in others’ lives, and that is truly what I wanted out of this endeavor.” 

Urbina said she would encourage others to take the opportunity to run for a Phi Theta Kappa International Office.  

“The experience will change your life and open new doors,” she said.

Learn more about running for International Office online.

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, is the largest honor society in higher education with 1,285 chapters on college campuses in all 50 of the United States, plus Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, Peru, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. Nearly 3 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 131,000 students inducted annually.