2016 Nota Bene Entries Due April 1

Middle of August — the air is filled to the brim with blister-inducing Carolina heat. Swarming in the dust around your dirt-caked knees, the fire-red ants send you running out of the ditch where you and Lucia Faye have been playing “Bless His Heart,” jumping out at cars driving past before disappearing again into the ditch. You know that Lucia Faye is the real brain behind this and all other games you play with her. She knows everything: which side the moss grows on and what “state of the art” means and how lovemaking works. She’s even seen mountains out in Asheville, a place you’ll likely never see as you’re stuck living here in a place as flat as your old Meemaw’s corn cakes.

This is the opening paragraph from “Liars & Thieves,” the short story by Caitlin Vander Meulen of Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan that took the top prize in the 2015 Nota Bene literary competition. View the 2015 issue.

As a recipient of the Nell Ewing Citation Award, Vander Meulen received a $1,000 scholarship. Three other Phi Theta Kappa members received Reynolds Scholarships of $500 each.

“I wasn’t able to attend college right after high school, so deciding to go back to school after being married has been difficult financially,” Vander Meulen said. “The Nota Bene scholarship will help me make the last stretch for my associate degree, and then I can transfer to a four-year school. I have always loved writing, and having the opportunity to work on my craft while getting an education has been an immense blessing.”

Nota Bene showcases exceptional writing among community college students. Since its founding in 1994, $63,000 in scholarships have been presented to members, and more than 300 students have had their work published.

Research papers, short stories, poems, essays and works of drama are all accepted for the literary competition. There is a 2,500-word limit, and no more than five works may be submitted by any single member. Read all of the rules.

Between 20 and 30 works will be selected for the 2016 Nota Bene issue. Submissions are due Friday, April 1, by 5 p.m. CT. Submit your work.

The Will to Rise Above

As a child, Adam James lay awake at night, consumed by thoughts of one day finding a caring family and becoming a success. With an absent father, a substance-abusing mother and little in the way of resources, the odds seemed to be stacked against him. But in those wee morning hours, James decided that perseverance was the key to success, and he refused to give up.

After graduating from high school, he seized the opportunity to enlist in the U.S. Air Force — a choice he said changed his life forever.

“The Air Force pushed me beyond my physical and mental capabilities,” James said of his training and membership in an elite Pararescue unit. “I learned how dedication and hard work influence success on and off the battlefield, and I want to teach as many people as I can about work ethic, determination and perseverance to encourage my countrymen to build stronger communities and a stronger America.”

Having served two tours of duty, James was awarded medals for Air Force Achievement, Humanitarian Assistance and Joint Service Accommodation, as well as others for assisting mud slide victims in the Philippines, recovering the body of an F-16 pilot shot down in Iraq and carrying an injured service member to an evacuation helicopter in Afghanistan. He said serving in the military taught him two important lessons: “teamwork and a ‘never quit’ attitude.”

After returning to the United States in 2008, James was conflicted about the next chapter in his life — education. But everything changed when he stopped at a rest area in Amarillo, Texas, while driving from Florida to Arizona. There in the trash, he found a copy of Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown Jr. After taking out the book and wiping it off, the inscription he found when he opened the cover brought him to tears:

“This book is a gift to my son, Adam. It is intended to guide you on your new life as a college freshman.”

Overwhelmed by the discovery, James admitted he was unbelievably scared and sad to be pursuing his educational journey alone. But he knew the book was a sign that he should move ahead by attending college.

“As absurd as it may be, this book has essentially become my mentor,” he said.

Adam James’ remarkable story of triumph continues on page 7 in the 2016 issue of Visionary magazine. Learn more about how you can support members like Adam through the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation.

GoodCall: New Study Shows Phi Theta Kappa Members Have Higher Degree Attainment Rates

Phi Theta Kappa is making national headlines again — this time on GoodCall, a website devoted to making data-backed information on education news, scholarships, college rankings and beyond more accessible, more digestible and more adaptable to users’ unique needs.

From the story:

“Getting through college can be hard, especially when that road means transferring from a community college to a four-year school. And when you’re struggling financially, that can make things even harder. First in your family to get to college? Yet another challenge. But for those worried about their prospects of ever earning a bachelor’s degree, there is some positive news.

High-achieving community college students whose grades qualify them to participate in Phi Theta Kappa are finishing bachelor’s degrees just fine.”

The story goes on to cite a recent study showing that 85 percent of 11,000 students who joined Phi Theta Kappa in the 2008-09 school year went on to earn some kind of degree — a bachelor’s or an associate — in the next six years.

Read the full story.

Apply Now for Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship

In 2012, Jason Glynn was earning a decent living working as a welder. But the work was too physically challenging thanks to injuries he’d sustained in a car accident a few years prior. Plus, he kept topping out as a team leader due to his lack of a college degree.

The economic recession had left instability in his field. He knew he needed to make a move, so he enrolled at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC).

“Because of my dismal high school track record, I had few other options,” he said. “I never expected to be offered membership in an honor society. That began a huge transformation.”

Quitting his job to return to school was a “huge leap of faith” for Glynn. He excelled and was inducted into the Alpha Chi Nu Chapter, serving as its president. But money was tight — he earned $9 an hour as a campus tutor and received Pell grants, but real-world expenses kept him in dire straits.

Glynn led efforts to open a food pantry on his campus. He also applied for and received several scholarships, including the 2015 Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship.

“Everybody likes to be recognized, and I truly believe success begets success,” he said. “Scholarships let you know that you’re being noticed for working hard, and they keep pushing you further.”

The Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship gives financial aid to students who have been faced with an unanticipated financial barrier that could keep them from completing their degree or certificate. Up to 15 scholarships of $1,000 each are awarded annually.

“At a community college, we know it doesn’t take much to throw students off the track to completion,” said Lou Oberndorf, who with his wife Rosemary established the scholarship. “Completion is critical to me. Completion is the signal to the world that you’ve achieved something, and it will stay with you the rest of your life.”

Applications for the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship are being accepted now through May 2. Apply today.

Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application is also now open and gives members the opportunity to apply for more than $250,000. The application closes May 2.

Read more about Jason Glynn’s story in the 2016 issue of Visionary.

Meet the New AAC Members — and Elect One More

Three alumni have been appointed to serve on the Alumni Advisory Council (AAC), and alumni will elect one more at NerdNation 2016.

Kenneth Ruemke, Feifei Zeng and Lindsay Moore have been appointed to serve two-year terms on the AAC. They join Kevin Braden, Sara Oswald and Jeffrey Romeu on the council and will act as liaisons between alumni, alumni associations and Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters.

“It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to continue to work with alumni and Headquarters staff as part of the council,” Ruemke said. “I continue to stay involved with Phi Theta Kappa as an alumnus because of the experiences and growth that I received as a member. I want to make sure that the generations of students that are joining now and in the future have these same experiences if not more.”

Ruemke, an alumnus of the Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter at Lone Star College-North Harris in Texas, was first elected to the AAC in 2009. He served a one-year term and was then reappointed to the council in 2012. In 2013, he was named AAC co-chair, and his term was set to expire in 2016.

Ruemke was also honored at NerdNation 2015 as the recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors Alumni Achievement Award.

Zeng was a member of the Alpha Delta Lambda Chapter at Carl Albert State College in Oklahoma, where she served as chapter president. She is now attending Mississippi State University.

“I am really excited to bring my experience as a first-generation, transfer and international student to the Phi Theta Kappa community,” she said. “Phi Theta Kappa empowered me to reach out for opportunities and gave me the opportunity to serve and to lead.”

Moore was a member of the Beta Zeta Nu Chapter at Cañada College in California. She was the International Vice President for Division IV in 2005-2006. After earning degrees from Cambridge University, Harvard and Williams College, she now works as a Performance System Analyst in the Colorado governor’s office.

“Phi Theta Kappa was an integral part of my community college experience, so continuing to be involved as an alumni is just one way I can give back to the Society,” she said. “I believe a strong alumni network can provide support and institutional knowledge to current students, can champion Phi Theta Kappa’s and the Foundation’s mission and programs, and can provide academic and professional development for thousands of alumni long after we’ve left community college.”

AAC co-chair Barbara Wolf Ebert will rotate off the council this year. Because the AAC is a seven-member council, an election will be held during NerdNation 2016 to fill her seat. Listed below are the six candidates with their chapter and college names:

  • Carlos Acevedo, Mu Epsilon, Miami Dade College, Florida
  • Ebonee Carpenter, Alpha Lambda Alpha, Hillsborough Community College, Florida
  • Heather Clippinger, Alpha Nu Lambda, Clark State Community College, Ohio
  • Julie Gore, Beta Theta Xi, Des Moines Area Community College, Iowa
  • Courtney Rice, Alpha Delta Mu, Atlantic Cape Community College, New Jersey
  • Jessica Supinski, Alpha Lambda Nu, Community College of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Alumni — learn more about the exciting opportunities available to you during NerdNation 2016, including the annual Alumni Business Meeting, the Alumni Social and Educational Forums exclusively for you! Register today!

2016 Honors Institute Registration Opens Mar. 21

Registration for the 2016 Honors Institute opens on Monday, March 21! This year, we’ll be at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, June 20-25.

Register early for the lowest rate of $895 per person. This fee includes lodging on campus for a week, all meals beginning with Monday’s dinner (except R&R Day) and the Honors Institute program.

“Little did I know that my decision to accept my advisor’s invitation to attend the weeklong institute would be a transformational experience, as I would not be the same person when I returned home,” said Hannah Kiraly, an alumna of the Chi Omega Chapter at Cuyahoga Community College, who attended the 2014 Honors Institute and is now a student at Baldwin Wallace University.

“The dynamic and motivational speakers brought topics to my attention that were explored in engaging seminars and group discussions that taught me to begin to ask relevant questions and not accept everything at face value. I deeply wanted others to have what I had experienced. The experience spurred personal growth that would prove life changing.”

Honors Institute features a full lineup of renowned speakers who will address the 2016/2017 Honors Study Topic, How the World Works: Global Perspectives, in interesting and innovative ways. Speakers and their topics include:

  • Eman Mohammed, Photojournalist, How the World Works: Documenting Gaza
  • Dr. Carmenita Higginbotham, Art Historian, Look Hoos Talking: Why We Can’t Let Disney Go
  • Stephanie Coontz, Family Expert, Author and Researcher, How Love Conquered Marriage
  • Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman, Choir! Choir! Choir!, How the World Works: The Power of Leadership, Collaboration and Community
  • Helen Papagiannis, Augmented Reality Expert, Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Reality
  • David Kwong, Harvard graduate, Illusionist, Puzzle Creator and Problem Solver, Two Nerdy Obsessions Meet — And It’s Magic!

The lineup will also include a Reader’s Theatre Performance, written and directed by chapter advisor Steve Schroeder, introducing the eight themes of the Honors Study Topic, as well as a visit to Old Salem. View the schedule.

“The Honors Institute experience augments student understanding of learning as multidimensional and not restricted to the classroom,” said Rob Carey, advisor to the Alpha Beta Chi Chapter at Pima Community College in Arizona. “It helps them comprehend connections between their personal beliefs, values and actions.

“These opportunities are important because they break down isolationist barriers to intellectual exchange that may exist within their own communities and regions, even if those areas are culturally and ethnically diverse.”

Attendees will also get a day off — R&R Day — to explore Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas. See what there is to do.

Morning Yoga for Nerds

Start your mornings at NerdNation 2016 off right with yoga led by alumni Jessica Supinski and Cheryl Betten. The pair will lead a 45-minute yoga session on Friday and Saturday mornings, April 8 and 9, at 6:15 a.m. in room National Harbor 3.

You’ll learn simple yoga poses leaders can use to reduce stress and promote wellness. Come as you are — no prior experience or special attire is needed. All abilities — and all NerdNation attendees — are welcome!

Supinski is a former International Officer from the Alpha Lambda Nu Chapter at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. She is currently a chapter advisor of the Beta Phi Delta Chapter at Renton Technical College in Washington.

Betten is a former International Officer from the Chi Iota Chapter at Burlington County College in New Jersey.

The pair will also lead an Educational Forum on Thursday, April 7, at 1:30 p.m. on “Leadership Lessons from Yoga.” The workshop will explore the lessons of leadership yoga can teach us that can be used at school and throughout our lives. You’ll stretch your mind, your heart and maybe even your body!

A complete list of Educational Forums will be available soon. View the full NerdNation schedule.

Registration for NerdNation 2016 is still open, but hotel rooms are filling up fast! Reserve your room today!

We’re the Cover Story on Community College Week!

We’re thrilled to share this story about Phi Theta Kappa, the success of our members and our potential for growth that was featured this week on Community College Week. Some highlights:

“To glimpse at the numbers that define Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, is to see an organization that is helping students thrive and prosper in a big way.”

” ‘We have great potential to grow,’ said George Boggs, the former president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges who recently was elected chair of PTK’s Board of Directors. ‘We want more students to be successful. That will be our focus going forward. If we could get half of the students who are eligible, we’d have a lot more students getting involved and being successful.’ “

“There is little doubt that PTK students are smart, but there are other reasons that account for the group’s success — particularly the emphasis on getting students deeply engaged in their own academic careers.”

” ‘I have wondered for a long time why colleges are not more proactive about PTK, given its track record,’ said John Roueche, who led the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas for 41 years. ‘It would make no sense for colleges not to promote and market Phi Theta Kappa.’ “

Read the full story.

Congratulations to the NerdNation T-Shirt Design Winner!

Kudos to Beverley York for submitting the winning design for the NerdNation 2016 T-Shirt Design Competition! Her design inspired the official NerdNation 2016 shirt, which will soon be available in the Phi Theta Kappa Store.

More than 75 designs were submitted for consideration. Headquarters staff members narrowed the field to the Top 10, and then we opened voting to you!

“I was quite aware of the amount of other awesome designs entered this year, and to be selected as first place is truly an honor,” York said. “To be inspired by the owl, a true representative of wisdom and intelligence for all ages, was undeniably my reason behind the creation of this particular design.”

York is a member of the Beta Zeta Epsilon Chapter at Scott Community College in Bettendorf, Iowa. She will receive a $500 scholarship and a complimentary 2016 NerdNation T-Shirt, and she will be recognized on stage during the Fourth General Session on Saturday, April 9, at 11:30 a.m.

Nolan Havig of the Beta Kappa Chi Chapter at Cerro Coso Community College in California received second place and a $250 scholarship for his design. Third place and a $50 Phi Theta Kappa Store gift card went to Carter Ruff of the Omicron Beta Chatper at Mesa Community College in Arizona. See their designs.

Thanks to everyone who submitted designs and voted! We can’t wait to see everyone wearing this shirt at NerdNation 2016!

Webinar on March 15: International Honors Certificates

Make plans to attend an informative webinar on our International Honors Certificates (IHC) program on Tuesday, March 15, at 2 p.m. CT.

The IHC program partners with four-year universities to offer community college honor students high-quality, online international curricula that will help develop a global mindset and better prepare students to work in and serve a growing global economy.

“The development of global awareness and global competencies in the workforce is more important to collaboration and other soft skills that employers are increasingly expecting,” said Monika Byrd, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Leadership Development and Service Learning.

Read the full story about the program.

Students — the webinar will show you how you can take advantage of member-only discounts to obtain an International Honors Certificate.

Advisors — come see how you can advocate for your institution to offer this unique program to your student body.

Join the webinar.