Phi Theta Kappa Membership — A Golden Opportunity

I began working on a community college campus as a part-time math and chemistry tutor at the age of 20. It took me about 15 seconds to fall in love with the community college mission, and I knew that I had found the right place to invest my time and talents. Within a year, I became a full-time instructor. That was more than 25 years ago.

I, like all others who work in community colleges, embrace the value of access — a primary component of the community college mission. It’s a complicated equation for our colleges to balance providing access and the costs of providing a quality education. Colleges have responded with numerous federal, state and institutional financial aid programs to help provide access while maintaining quality, but there are still insurmountable gaps for community college students.

What is the sum of it? On any given community college campus, the Phi Theta Kappa chapter is where you will find the highest level of student success on campus — even when you compare our members to others who make the same grades but don’t join. Only one in 10 eligible students accepts Phi Theta Kappa membership. Why? Our research tells us that the cost of membership is the number one reason high-achieving community college students do not become members. Just like the colleges we serve, we must look at increasing access to Phi Theta Kappa without compromising the quality of our member experience.

In my position, I get to be a part of a lot of amazing things. Just this year, I have delivered a faculty convocation and a student commencement; awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships that will enable students to complete their educational journey; and celebrated the success of amazing members like you at our 2016 Annual Convention. But this fall, I get to be a part of something even more meaningful — the launch of a new scholarship.

The Golden Opportunity Scholarship is the first scholarship we have introduced since I became the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. It is designed to increase access to the benefits of membership by helping students pay for membership when they simply cannot afford it. This scholarship is personal to me, because I know from experience the challenges many community college students face. I also know that membership in Phi Theta Kappa greatly increases their chances of reaching their educational goals and making their dreams a reality. With millions in scholarships and important opportunities to grow as scholars and leaders, we know that students can’t afford not to accept.

I became the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa because I believe there is no better place in the world to change the lives of community college students. I have known for many years the significance of Phi Theta Kappa’s mission in the lives of students and how clearly membership makes a difference. That same connection to the mission of Phi Theta Kappa continues to inspire me today. Whether it is a financial donation or a conversation about the benefits of membership, I hope you will join me in providing the Golden Opportunity of Membership to deserving students.

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner is the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. To reach Lynn, contact Cassie Bryant, Special Projects Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the President and CEO, at

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship: “It is possible.”

Applications are now being accepted for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship — the largest private scholarship in the United States for community college transfer students.

The scholarship is worth up to $40,000 per year, and 55 scholarships will be awarded in spring 2017. If you think it’s out of reach, don’t. Of the 75 scholarships awarded in 2016, 66 went to Phi Theta Kappa members.

Alumna Elizabeth Ross was one of 73 students to receive the scholarship in 2013. It was an achievement she never thought possible — but she applied anyway.

Years earlier, Ross left high school with a highly competitive ROTC scholarship and congressional nominations to three renowned military academies. Her path to college seemed set.

Shortly after graduation, though, she discovered she was pregnant. She married, kept her high school waitressing job and embraced motherhood. A second child arrived, and then divorce. She saw her opportunity to start over.

Ross enrolled in her local university, but her plans were again derailed by an undiagnosed illness that led to her hospitalization. She left school, had to quit her job and applied for disability as she fought for the next two years to stay alive.

She eventually beat her illness, but she lost a lot in the process.

“I had lost who I was,” she said. “I was depressed, and I needed something to help me become me again.”

Help came when Ross enrolled at Northeast State Community College in Tennessee. She was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and became a chapter officer. She was regaining her self-confidence, but her dream of attending an Ivy League school still seemed out of reach.

Then, she learned about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. She applied for and received the award, which — when paired with a scholarship from Columbia University — allowed her to attend the prestigious school virtually debt free.

Now, Ross shares her story every chance she gets.

“I believe that hearing from someone who was in their shoes just a few years ago can really make a difference when they are deciding to apply for that competitive scholarship or whether or not they should apply to their dream school,” she said. “I want other community college students to know that it is possible.”

Ross graduated from Columbia University in May 2016 and is now in her first semester of a joint PhD/JD at Harvard. She is also a new Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholar — after earning a bachelor’s degree, Cooke Undergraduate Scholars can compete for a graduate school scholarship worth up to $50,000 a year for up to four years.

The deadline to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship application is noon ET on October 25. Learn more and apply today.

You can read more of Elizabeth Ross’ story in the 2015 issue of Visionary magazine, beginning on page 13.

You Could Win $2,000 by Sharing Your Story

Heads Up America is hosting a #FreeCommunityCollegeStory video competition on Instagram, and the winner will receive $2,000! The deadline to enter is Sunday, October 2.

The competition is an effort to highlight as many of community college students’ powerful stories as possible. The Heads Up America movement is a grass-roots effort to spread the word about the value of community college and to support America’s College Promise.

Entering the competition is easy.

  • Create a one-minute video about your community college story.
  • Post it on Instagram with the hashtag #FreeCommunityCollegeStory.
  • Follow @HeadsUpAmerica on Instagram and tag them in your post.
  • Vote for your favorite video on the Heads Up Instagram page October 3-9.

The winner gets $2,000, the average cost per semester of a community college education. There will be prizes for runners up as well.

Check out this previous winning video from LaGuardia Community College student Jed Sandoval.

Phi Theta Kappa has joined more than 100,000 people who have pledged their support for America’s College Promise through the Heads Up America campaign. Throughout the country, more than 9 million students stand to benefit from the success of the Heads Up movement.

Pledge your support.

Cake, Pizza, Potluck.

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Ashlynne Banks, International Vice President for Division 2.

One of the biggest obstacles chapters can face is engagement. Phi Theta Kappans are overachievers, and that usually means we leave little room for free time.

So when it comes time for membership recruitment and hosting events, how do we appeal to the ultra-busy super student? If you also happen to be on a small and relatively disengaged campus, the uphill battle seems more like scaling a mountain.

I took to Facebook and asked what chapters are doing to solve the engagement puzzle. Overwhelmingly the responses included some type of food. Cake, pizza, potluck, bake sale — I’m feeling more engaged just reading those words!

“I’ve found that many [students] are happy to listen to a spiel about PTK if you offer them cake for the trouble,” Onyx Rose of the Alpha Sigma Alpha Chapter at De Anza College in California said.

Danielle Kuper, an officer in the Pi Epsilon Chapter at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus, said her chapter hosted a bake sale and found that it was a great way to raise money for the chapter and get the word out.

Yael Sykes is an officer in the Xi Pi Chapter at Polk State College’s Winter Haven Campus in Florida. Her chapter does a monthly potluck and movie night. One of the best things about this is that they ask members to bring a friend. This truly shows how inventive and inclusive activities can lead to membership growth, not to mention fantastic opportunities for fellowship.

Other than bribing students with food, members shared ways to encourage participation in various events. Zoa Phillips from the Alpha Iota Pi Chapter in Kalispell, Montana, talked about a treasure hunt her chapter does. They send students with a map to collect coins from each department, where they learn about the different student services and become more familiar with campus. Afterword they are given a small prize and entered to win a gift card.

“Our students love it,” Zoa said.

Some chapters organize group activities like attending a baseball game; others combine the draw of food with unique events like Murder Mystery dinners.

Recognizing the achievements of students is the first part of Phi Theta Kappa’s mission, and it seems to be a great participation tool. Ryan-Rose Mendoza of the Alpha Mu Chi Chapter at Northeast Texas Community College talked to me about how her chapter increases and sustains involvement from members.

“We appreciate the effort and accomplishments of our members by doing an ‘Alpha Mu Chi of the Week’ recognition during our chapter meetings,” she said. “[This includes] posting a picture of them on our chapter page with their education goals, where they are from and [their] favorite quote.”

With social media being Millennials’ main source of news, it’s easy to see why this program is so effective.

The Beta Beta Psi Chapter at Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin goes for the long-lasting recognition of specialized graduation medals.

“Our chapter has what we call the President’s Challenge, where members can earn medallions to wear at graduation depending on the level of involvement,” Valerie Baumann said.

Along the lines of recognition, many chapters are adopting the idea of “tapping,” where members go to the classes of eligible students and recognize them in front of their peers. This personalization and extra step has made the difference in whether some students accept membership or not.

Another common denominator of successful student engagement is collaboration. Synergizing with the other clubs and organizations on campus has helped students from numerous colleges make the most of the events on campus. Allison Barthel shared that Alpha Iota Phi at Oakton Community College in Illinois gets involved at transfer fairs and their “registration rally.” Many of their officers are members of multiple organizations on campus, so they reciprocate volunteer efforts and spread the word.

Whether your campus is large and buzzing with activity or small and quiet, any of these activities could be just the boost your chapter needs. Keep scaling those mountains — you could make the difference in someone’s life by sharing all the benefits and opportunities Phi Theta Kappa has to offer.

The 50th Honors Institute will be at Loyola University

We’re excited to announce that Honors Institute 2017 will be June 5-10 at Loyola University’s Lake Shore Campus in Chicago, Illinois.

Honors Institute is a weeklong event that focuses on the Honors Study Topic and Phi Theta Kappa’s honors programming as a whole. Internationally recognized speakers examine the Honors Study Topic from their unique perspectives. Small group seminars allow participants to exchange ideas about how the presentations relate back to the Honors Study Topic.

Educational forums dive deeper into Honors in Action as a whole, breaking down the processes behind conducting an Honors in Action Project. Educational field trips let attendees see the Honors Study Topic at work in the real world.

“We can’t wait to bring Honors Institute to Chicago and Loyola University,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, Phi Theta Kappa’s President and CEO. “Honors Institute has always been a very special event. It’s intimate, it’s informative, it’s educational and it leaves a lasting impact on all who attend.”

Speakers and a full schedule will be announced in the coming months.

This will be the 50th Honors Institute, which began in 1968 at Endicott College in Massachusetts. It was launched to mark the 50th birthday of Phi Theta Kappa and to give chapters a better understanding of the Honors Study Topic, which had been developed the year before.

You can read more about the history of Honors Institute and those responsible for it in the 2015 issue of Visionary magazine, beginning on page 7.

Relay For Life is ‘part of my journey in life after cancer’

A chapter’s first-time participation in a local Relay For Life brought a bigger crowd to the event, led two chapter officers to become community leaders and raised more than $2,300 for the American Cancer Society.

“We are still raising money for it, as it’s a year-round cause,” said Judy Towers, recording officer for the Alpha Kappa Xi Chapter at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. “I love Relay For Life and what it stands for, as I am a three-year survivor of head and neck cancer.”

Phi Theta Kappa chapters have partnered with the American Cancer Society to participate in Relay For Life events for 14 years and have raised more than $3.8 million for the organization since 2002. The Top 10 fundraising chapters are recognized each year at Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention.

Chapters are encouraged to report their participation in Relay events by September 15. Our goal as an honor society is to raise $10 million for the ACS by our 100th Anniversary Annual Convention in 2018, so we hope all chapters will find a nearby event and form a team.

Alpha Kappa Xi Chapter President Angela Luna is a thyroid cancer survivor. She and Towers were asked by the Santa Fe Relay district coordinator to serve as volunteer coordinators for the event moving forward. They’ll travel to Utah in November to begin training for their new positions, and they’re already making plans for the 2017 event.

Alpha Kappa Xi members met ACS representatives while attending Phi Theta Kappa’s 2016 convention in National Harbor, Maryland, in April. The meeting led officers to add Relay participation as a new summer event for the chapter.

“For me, my passion came through for the fight against cancer,” Towers said. “I believe this direction is part of my journey in life after cancer.”

Need some inspiration? Check out these best practices from a few of the top fundraising chapters in 2015.

#TBT: It’s Okay to Say ‘PTK’

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Monika Byrd, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Leadership Development and Service Learning, and was originally published in 2010. It first appeared on The Reach blog in June 2016.

In official publications, ceremonies, events and training seminars, our name is Phi Theta Kappa. It is important to use the complete name, but it is also okay to say “PTK” in many contexts.


Of course it is preferable to say “Phi Theta Kappa” and just okay to say “PTK” — for reasons I will explain — but as a community of scholars who value things like teaching, learning, tolerance and inclusivity, I believe we have to accept that “PTK” is okay and stop vilifying anyone who says it.

To me, it is NOT disrespectful when someone in or out of the honor society uses “PTK” rather than Phi Theta Kappa. The person in question may in fact love and believe in the organization’s spirit and know little about the reasons we use Greek letters, or what the Greek letters stand for, or what those Greek words mean. But they know what’s important to the organization: high academic standards, leadership, service and meaningful, scholarly gatherings.

As I heard someone say recently, “Aren’t we glad they know who we are and what we are about?” Exactly. Think of PTK as a nickname. Nicknames do not always clearly connect to the full, original name of a person or thing, but they are learnable or catchy or memorable and somehow make sense for those who use them.

Take, for example, using “Polly” for “Margaret.”

Polly’s “real” name is Margaret, and PTK’s real name is Phi Theta Kappa. If someone wants to know more about Polly’s name, she may have the time to explain and be happy to do it. If someone wants to know more about PTK’s name, those of us who know more about it may have the time to explain and should be happy to do it. But gasping or booing is not the way to prompt someone to ask. Doesn’t that start the conversation on a rather poor note?

We can take a decidedly more scholarly approach than chalking it up to the tendency for people to shorten names and come up with nicknames, though. The main argument against saying “PTK” is that the Roman letters of “P,” “T” and “K” have nothing to do with the name of the organization, which comes from the Greek letters beginning the Greek words φρόνηση, θυμός, καθαρότηταwords for the values the founders wanted to guide the organization and form the basis of its name. So that is why it’s preferable to say “φθκ.”

But how do people who use the Roman system of letters, perhaps friends or prospective members, know how to pronounce those letters? Unless they want to take lessons in Greek that include learning the Greek letters and spellings and pronunciations for the letters and words using the Greek letters, they Romanize the words.

The practice of “Romanizing,” or transliteration from one system of letters or characters to the Roman system, has been around for a long time and has protocols that are agreed to by linguists, national governments and even world organizations such as the United Nations. Transliterations go both directions for many different systems of letters and characters.

From the beginning, our organization’s founders referred to the Romanized Greek words — phronimon, thumos, katharotes rather than φρόνηση, θυμός, καθαρότητα — and to the words in English — wisdom, aspiration, purity — probably because even fewer people can read and translate Greek in the Greek letters than can translate and read Greek in the Roman letters.

If using an acronym is efficient, or even a linguistic habit for us, and φθκ is unrecognizable to many who aren’t already members or advisors for the organization, what would the alternative be? Should we use the acronym that results from using the English words, wisdom, aspiration and purity, “WAP”? That would take us further away from the history of the organization as one named with Greek words in mind and using a model established by academic societies long, long ago.

This table makes it easier to see that “PTK” actually makes sense as a nickname since it is the letters that would be used from a standard transliteration of the ancient, mystic, Greek words.

Greek words in Greek letters

Greek 1st letters

Greek words transliterated to Roman letters

Roman 1st letters













As nicknames go, it clearly makes more sense than many do (my Uncle Pee Wee would agree). I like Phi Theta Kappa’s nickname. It’s okay to say “PTK.”