We’re thrilled to introduce you to your 2016-2017 International Officers. These five members were elected by their peers at NerdNation 2016 to serve in this highest position of leadership available to Phi Theta Kappa members.
They’ll be presiding over the 2016 Honors Institute at Wake Forest University in North Carolina in June, and you’ll likely meet at least one of them at a regional meeting at some point throughout the coming year. So let’s get to know them better.
Andrew Porter joined the United States Army Reserve in 2009. In 2011, he spent nine months on a tour of duty in Iraq, where he received both the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
“My experience was challenging, but I wouldn’t change it because it enabled me to learn meaningful life lessons, as well as to understand the value of education and leadership,” he said. “Self-improvement is important to me, and I view education as the chief component of self-improvement.”
Porter enrolled at Valencia College’s East Campus in Florida and became a member of the Alpha Gamma Omega Chapter in 2015. He later served as Vice President of Scholarship.
“I wanted to surround myself with students who are academically driven,” he said. “I believe that whom you surround yourself with influences who you become.”
Porter sought International Office because he wanted to positively impact as many Phi Theta Kappa members as possible — he is passionate about spreading word of the opportunities available to members and non-members alike. He also saw the office as a unique opportunity to develop essential leadership skills.
As he walked toward the stage at NerdNation 2016 to be installed as the new International President, Porter thought of those who supported and believed in him. He reminded himself of those who voted for him, and he thought of the other candidates who were just as qualified as he to fill this position. He silently vowed to not let them down in the year ahead.
“Many times in life, for whatever reason, we hold ourselves back from trying something,” he said. “Believe in yourself, take the opportunity and stay determined by reminding yourself why you do the things you do.”
International Vice President, Division 1
Sara Hwang was born in Santiago, Chile. Upon finishing high school in 2011, she enrolled in Bergen Community College in New Jersey; but as one of the main providers for her family, she left after three semesters.
Hwang returned to Bergen in 2013. She became a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Chapter to boost her resume — she had no intention of becoming an active member. Her induction ceremony changed that, and she later served as Vice President of Operations and then President of her chapter.
“A small group of students was making such an impact on the community,” she said. “I wanted to take an active part in a community that embraced each other in our pursuit for academic success.”
Hwang has overcome her shyness, formed lasting friendships with her fellow students and received the confidence boost she needed to see that she could accomplish more than she ever believed. She said she has grown as a “scholar-servant leader” and is eager to help others do so as well.
“Phi Theta Kappa is an organization that looks at your successes despite all of the obstacles a student has faced,” she said. “By becoming a member and getting involved in Phi Theta Kappa, we have a chance to grow academically, personally and professionally not only individually, but as a team.”
International Vice President, Division 2
Phi Theta Kappa is a family affair for Ashlynne Banks. Her mother, Dawneen, has been involved with the Society since Ashlynne was 7 years old, so she has seen first-hand the impact membership can have on someone’s life.
Banks grew up in Colorado. Her school had a Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, exposing her to students who were deaf. She learned the basics of American Sign Language in the fourth grade and enjoys using those skills to help others when she can.
Banks’ first shot at college — a four-year university in Colorado — was not good. She felt isolated.
“I really lost my love for learning,” she said.
Hoping for a fresh start, Banks moved to Mississippi and enrolled at Holmes Community College’s Ridgeland Campus. She jumped headfirst into the Alpha Lambda Sigma Chapter in February 2016.
Banks has found the “Phi Theta Kappa culture” to be the best thing for her education. She has found peers and advisors to encourage her and fuel her ambitions, and she has made lasting connections and friendships.
“Everything you put into the Society you will get back tenfold,” she said. “You will learn so many things, meet incredible people and grow in every way. You just have to jump in with expectations of greatness.”
International Vice President, Division 3
Sydney Pemberton had no plans to join any kind of student organization at Labette Community College in Kansas. She had been in several clubs and had served on multiple committees in high school, and she was ready to slow down. But a friend’s enthusiasm for Phi Theta Kappa grew her interest, and she soon became a member of the Tau Theta Chapter.
“I’m glad I joined because I have grown so much as a person and have been able to make a difference on my campus and in my community through this organization,” she said. “I have vast amounts of confidence that I would not have found if it wasn’t for Phi Theta Kappa.”
Pemberton was an officer in her chapter before being elected to chapter president. She also just completed her term as Kansas-Nebraska Region Southern District Vice President.
In her leadership roles, she often shares her personal experiences with fellow members and encourages their participation on both the chapter and regional levels.
“This is not just your regular honor society; this organization is so much more,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to join a family of people just like yourself who want to grow and learn as individuals.
“This honor society can change your outlook on life and give you opportunities to succeed that maybe you don’t know you have.”
International Vice President, Division 4
Alexa Greer didn’t seek International Office because she thought she’d be a good leader. In fact, it was quite the opposite: she didn’t think she would ever be a good leader.
“All year, I’ve really pushed myself to get to the root of that self-doubt and re-examine what being a leader means to me,” she said. “Phi Theta Kappa really helped to illuminate my unique leadership abilities, and it kind of forced me to re-evaluate the way I perceive myself.
“In my mind, running for this position just seemed like such a monumental way to kind of force that negativity out of my life.”
Greer recently completed her first associate degree from Coconino Community College in Arizona. She will continue to take classes there throughout her term in office.
For Greer, Phi Theta Kappa has set the stage for personal growth. In her freshman year, she had difficulty reaching out and making friends at her college. Upon joining the Beta Gamma Chi Chapter, the fellowship aspect of the Society began to take shape, and community service projects helped round out her college experience.
“I feel like Phi Theta Kappa is full of people to connect with and lean on,” she said. “I think Phi Theta Kappa can play a huge role in helping members to become the highest versions of themselves.”