An Insider’s Look at Running for International Office

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by 2016-17 International President Andrew Porter.

Hey, everyone! The International Officer Candidate Application is now available, so I wanted to give you an inside look at running for one of the five International Office positions of Phi Theta Kappa.

Here’s why I think you should run for International Office. Even if you aren’t elected, you are still a winner. The campaign process itself will allow you to push yourself further and have new experiences you won’t forget. The lessons I’ve learned about myself have been tremendous, and it all started with the self-confidence to step outside my comfort zone.

Self-confidence is one of the most important qualities for success. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right. So go ahead and think you can.

Yes, You’re Eligible

First off, I want to clear up some misconceptions about eligibility. A member of Phi Theta Kappa does NOT have to hold a position as a Regional Officer to run for International Office. In fact, I have never held Regional Office. I served as Vice President of Scholarship at my Chapter, Alpha Gamma Omega, before serving as International President.

It is also true that one does NOT have to hold a Chapter Office position either. Simply having knowledge of and a passion for Phi Theta Kappa can help you to shine through.

Being a great leader is more than just having served in leadership positions, and our International Vice President of Division II, Ashlynne Banks, is an excellent example of that. Ashlynne had not held a leadership position in Phi Theta Kappa before being elected; however, she continually exemplifies leadership qualities and is a valuable member of our International Officer team.

If you have not held a leadership position in Phi Theta Kappa, do not let that turn you away. Believe in yourself.

Choose Your Position

All right, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Each interested member must decide between running for one of two positions: Vice President of his or her division, or International President.

How does one decide? You will find a description of each position on the Phi Theta Kappa website, but ultimately you will have to decide for yourself. I can say that all five positions are equal in importance, and each team member is involved in decisions regarding the Society.

Once you’ve decided which position you would like to hold, now comes the campaign process. It all starts with a declaration of intent in the form of filling out the International Officer application. In the application, you will answer some straightforward questions and learn more about what the positions entail.

Assemble Your Team

By this point, you need to be seriously considering what might be the most important factor of your campaign: the campaign manager. He or she will be your lifeline, literally reminding you to eat and drink, as well as keeping you on schedule and taking care of all the unexpected things that happen. Make sure that this person is 100 percent on board with the responsibilities of this position; the campaign manager can make or break a campaign.

Your campaign manager is considered the linchpin of your campaign team, but I would recommend making sure you have at least a few people on your team. Although, keep in mind that a larger campaign team is not always best.

The team will often answer questions on your behalf when you are unavailable to speak with members. A word of caution here: make yourself available to speak with members as much as possible, and do not rely too heavily on your team to answer questions on your behalf. Members want to get to know you, and talking directly to you is the most efficient way for members to form a perception of you.

Let the Campaign Begin

On to the actual excitement: being at Annual Convention and setting up your campaign booth. The campaign booth is the hub where members can visit you and learn about you.

During my campaign, each candidate was provided with an area that had a six-foot table with a Phi Theta Kappa tablecloth and space on either side of the table. This area is where you can decorate and share your personality. Some candidate booths will have extravagant detail; others will go a more minimal approach. Either method works — just make sure it represents you. During the “booth stage,” candidates will have a chance to interact with members face-to-face in both small and larger groups.

Also during this stage, the live candidate caucus takes place. In my campaign experience, during the live candidate caucus, candidates spoke on stage in a one-on-one interview in front of attending members, and the interview was broadcasted live throughout the facility. The interview format gives members a chance to see how the candidate thinks on his or her feet and handles being in front of the crowd. Two things I want you to remember here: you will be nervous, and that’s okay.

On to the Finals

After the members cast their votes, the first big reveal happens and the finalists are announced for each position. If you are not selected, do not let this bring you down. Instead, realize how much you’ve gained just by undertaking this endeavor in self-improvement. And most of all, be proud of yourself — for what it’s worth, know I am proud of you just for believing in yourself enough to go for it.

As a finalist, you will have the chance to give your speech to the audience. At the annual convention during which I campaigned, there were about 4,000 people in the audience, so bank on about that number. The speech itself is just under three minutes in duration. Practice it to be sure you get your timing right, and I’d suggest trying to end with three to seven seconds to spare. If you want to crush your speech, know it to the point where you can go up on stage without anything printed out.

Speaking in front of thousands of people is something new to most all of us, so I’d recommend practicing your speech in a way that puts you outside your comfort zone. Stand a few inches in front of a wall in your house and give your speech out loud. Why? Well, how often do you speak in front of a wall? Hardly ever. And how often do you speak in front of thousands of people? Hardly ever.

The point is to get you to give your speech in uncomfortable — but not painful — ways so you get used to being uncomfortable. Then, when you get up there in front of all the people, and you are uncomfortable, you are more comfortable being uncomfortable. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

After you’ve done all of this, the official campaign is over. Relax. You’ve done all you can up to this point, so no need to stress. No matter the outcome, congratulate the other finalists and candidates, and thank everyone who made this possible.

Back to You

I hope this has helped shed some light on the official International Officer campaign process. All you have to do now is decide if you are going to run, which is the hardest part. Just remember: don’t hold yourself back, believe in yourself, and know your “why” — the reason you are running. Know your “why” and share it.

There is an adage which helps with self-doubt: know that you are better than no one, but especially know that no one is better than you. Don’t hold yourself back by thinking that others are better than you or that you are not good enough. Get rid of that mindset and expel those thoughts. And, if you are elected, do not let this honor blind you into thinking you are better than others. Always stay humble.

Great leaders are open, vulnerable and confident. The time is yours. Choose wisely. No matter what, have confidence in yourself.

Interested in running for office? Join the 2016-17 International Officer Team for a webinar focused on the application process at 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday, November 1. Register now.

Hey Phi Theta Kappa — It’s Time to FAFSA!

If you are a community college student and believe that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is only about determining federal Pell Grant eligibility, you are not alone. Most people believe that they either do not qualify for a federal grant, or they think the FAFSA is only for low-income families. As a result, many leave Pell and other funding resources untapped.

Last year alone, high school seniors left nearly $3 billion in unclaimed federal grant aid, and guess what? Leaving Pell behind is only the tip of the FAFSA iceberg. The FAFSA is a tool used not only for deciding Pell Grant eligibility, but it is also used by colleges and universities to help determine eligibility for state, local and institutional financial aid — essentially all financial aid decisions spring from the FAFSA.

The FAFSA provides important information on college costs and completion outcomes. It allows you to enter up to 10 college choices. At the completion of the application, you are provided with detailed information summarizing both the costs of attendance and graduation rates for each institution. The FAFSA allows you to explore, compare and contrast individual public and private colleges in your area and beyond and gives critical information you need to make the right decisions about your future.

If you are in college or looking to transfer and trying to balance the wants of where you want to go with the costs and benefits of attendance — it isn’t easy. But what I know is that Phi Theta Kappa members have many options when it comes to paying for college. In addition to our transfer scholarships (see CollegeFish.org), our nation’s community colleges awarded over $460 million in state aid and over $180 million in institutional aid to first-time, full-time students last year alone. Many of these awards are for students who excel — either inside or outside the classroom.

Already filled out the FAFSA before? Know that you have to renew it every year. Your college needs to know if what they are giving you is still appropriate, and they also need to know if your situation has changed — things such as job loss or loss of income will matter to your college’s financial aid officer.

Don’t let the name fool you — the FAFSA is not just about determining federal aid eligibility, as the name implies. The FAFSA is also a tool for choosing colleges and, more importantly, a map to help you navigate the complex landscape of college admissions.

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner is the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. If you want to get in touch with Lynn, please contact cassie.mendrop@ptk.org