Phi Theta Kappa Members Serve Higher Ed Through Pearson

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Serving as president of her Phi Theta Kappa chapter exposed Derya Demirtas to conversations about higher education, sparking a desire to make a difference using her own voice. Her opportunity came when she applied for and was accepted to join the 2013-2014 Pearson Student Advisory Board.

Derya Demirtas

The Pearson Student Advisory Board (PSAB) is comprised of undergraduate students seeking to implement change and impact college classrooms across the country and world. Board members work directly with Pearson executives and product development teams to make real changes to products and services that in turn affect student success.

Dianna Blake

“It is consistently amazing to me how much Pearson as a company truly cares about the student voice and making sure that voice is incorporated into their products,” Demirtas said. “Being able to see the tangible effects of my input into key Pearson products and initiatives is truly incredible.

“I am constantly amazed by how much Pearson listens to my voice and makes sure that voice is heard.”

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services to teachers and students of all ages. Pearson has been a valued friend to Phi Theta Kappa over the years, sponsoring the Community College Completion Corps (C4) Toolkits and the advisor luncheon during Honors Institute and sharing a listing of free webinars to help support and educate Society advisors.

Pearson is currently accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Student Advisory Board. The deadline to apply is January 31. Between 10 and 15 students representing North America will be selected.

“It is critical that Pearson put the learner at the center of all that we do to affect student success,” said Andrea Shaw, Director of Student Programs and Partnerships for Pearson who also serves as the Director of the PSAB. “Involving these students in our product and services development stages, to help us develop the best, most outcomes-focused offerings, is critical to improving education worldwide.”

PSAB members collaborate and provide insights to mission-critical Pearson initiatives while gaining real world experiences and networking with high-level executives. Members must be able to travel during the term of service. They also receive a $1,000 stipend and complimentary copies of Pearson textbooks and learning products like MyMathLab.

Shaw said that three of the 11 students currently serving on the PSAB are Phi Theta Kappa members and that they represent perhaps the most beneficial part of Pearson’s partnership with Phi Theta Kappa. She said it is critical to hear the voice of the community college student, as it allows the organization to do what it can to increase completion and success rates for these students as well.

“Phi Theta Kappa students continue to show us that they have proven leadership and analytical skills, outstanding written and verbal communication skills, and are self-motivated team players,” Shaw said. “The biggest differentiator though is their passion for making a difference and impacting the future of global minds.”

Demirtas, from Branchville, New Jersey, is the first in her family to attend college. The 20-year-old began her education at Sussex County Community College, where she was inducted into the Alpha Upsilon Pi Chapter. After receiving her associate degree, she transferred to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she is an English major.

While reading the “Community College Success” blog, run by Phi Theta Kappa alumna and author Isa Adney, Demirtas found a post about the PSAB. As she grew excited about the opportunity, she also grew doubtful that she would be selected —members of the board hail from both two-year and four-year colleges across the United States and Canada.

“I wanted to gain the experience of working with Pearson to see if I wanted to continue engaging in these conversations (around higher education),” she said. “I was so shocked and amazed when I got the call saying that I was selected! Surrounding yourself with other talented and bright individuals will motivate and inspire you.”

Demirtas now writes a weekly guest blog for “Community College Success.” She plans to attend graduate school after receiving her bachelor’s degree.

“Serving on the Advisory Board has further reinforced these goals, as I began to realize how passionate I am about education and student success,” she said. “Gaining the experience of working within education and having the opportunity to shape and implement tools to further enhance every learner has made me more passionate about making sure every student has the opportunity to succeed.”

Fellow 2013-2014 board member Dianna Blake of Chino, California, is also a first-generation college student passionate about being a part of the change in education. The 34-year-old wife and mother of three recently received her associate degree from Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, where she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. She is currently attending California State University in Fullerton and majoring in English.

“Once I researched the program, I knew I had to apply,” Blake said. What did she hope to accomplish? “To give valuable input to the company, to gain knowledge of the education system, to become a better person. And to help make a difference in education.”

Since being named to the advisory board, Blake has started a blog, “College Success for Moms,” and is planning to write a book by the same name — an idea born from the board’s first summit meeting. She said working with a company like Pearson — which is focused on educating the “whole student” and made up of many people collaborating for that single purpose — has been very inspiring.

“You get to network with other students and executives; you get to be part of this major company that is helping improve education; you get to help change the face of education…I think that is a big deal,” Blake said.

Learn more about the Pearson Student Advisory Board and apply to join the 2014-2015 team. And be sure to check out board member Dianna Blake’s “5 Reasons to Apply for the Pearson Student Advisory Board.”