Over 400 Chapters Earn REACH Rewards

Congratulations to the Alpha Theta Omega and Beta Rho Lambda Chapters from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas for boasting the highest member acceptance rates in 2016—81.7 percent!

These are two of 422 Phi Theta Kappa chapters that met or exceeded a 15 percent membership acceptance rate in 2016 and will be receiving free regalia through the REACH Rewards program. The hard work of these chapters combined with that of all PTK chapters led to an overall acceptance rate of 13.2 percent—the highest in the Society’s history.

“We couldn’t be more proud of these chapters and their impressive recruitment efforts,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, PTK President and CEO. “They have set a true example for their peers, and their achievements and leadership will guide us well as we look toward the next 100 years.”

More than 4,700 free graduation stoles are on their way to these chapters. Each chapter meeting or exceeding the 15 percent acceptance rate automatically receives four graduation stoles, and additional rewards are based on a chapter’s size.

The Iota Zeta Chapter at Northeast Mississippi Community College is receiving the most rewards—more than 240 graduation stoles.

The REACH Rewards program was launched in 2016 to recognize and reward PTK chapters excelling in membership development.

“We did this because we believe strongly in the mission of Phi Theta Kappa and want as many students as possible to receive the benefits of membership,” Tincher-Ladner said. “These benefits include scholarships and increased opportunities for engagement with their peers and key faculty members on campus, which lead to higher rates of completion among our members.”

The Alabama Region had the most chapters earning REACH Rewards. The Mississippi/Louisiana Region had the highest average regional acceptance rate at 22.94 percent.

All chapters are automatically enrolled in the program, and rewards are based on the calendar year.

“To find the acceptance rate of each chapter, we divided the number of students accepting membership by the number of students eligible for membership during 2016,” said Sumati Thomas, PTK’s Coordinator of Institutional Research. “The acceptance rate is also weighed based on each individual college’s enrollment, in an effort to keep an even playing field.”

To further the recognition, advisors and members of these chapters will also receive REACH Chapter Ribbons upon arrival at PTK Catalyst 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Special thanks to E-Group for sponsoring this program and recognition.

Back to the Basics of Recruiting … With Some New-School Swag

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Dr. Aariel Charbonnet, Phi Theta Kappa’s Manager of Member Support and Outreach

In this month’s installment of best practices, I am going “back to the basics” of recruitment and marketing, highlighting word of mouth, snail mail, personal contact, high-quality customer service and tangible rewards. Take a look at these three tips for boosting membership in your chapter!

1. Diversify your communication methods.

Recognize the power of multiple methods of communication. After PTK Headquarters emails invitations to eligible students at Jefferson State Community College’s Shelby-Hoover Campus, Beta Lambda Delta Chapter Advisor Dr. Liesl Harris follows up with mailed letters reminding students to check their email. Interesting mash-up here: While today’s college students are savvy social media users, Harris reminds us that students may not check email regularly. Email, as the older medium among newer technologies, may sometimes fall through the cracks of students’ school and work schedules, SnapChats, tweets, Instagram feeds and Facebook timelines.

Similarly, Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter Advisor Michelle Coach stresses the importance of additional methods of invitation distribution. Her chapter keeps it very old school: hand delivery of invitations. Faculty members personally deliver invitations to eligible members at Asnuntuck Community College’s Enfield Campus. By acknowledging these high-achieving students in class, professors add value to Phi Theta Kappa membership. Following emailed invitations from Headquarters, eligible members receive personal emails from Coach and her co-advisor, as well as the chapter’s vice president of membership.

Old-school and new-school techniques collide again with social media recruitment and word-of-mouth marketing. (Although this post focuses on “the basics,” no 21st-century recruitment plan is complete without social media presence.) As digital media natives, millennials and Generation Z (those born after millennials, beginning in 1996) communicate instinctively and frequently on social media platforms. Advisors and Officers: Amplify your presence on SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Students will appreciate your willingness to meet them “where” they are. Couple your efforts with the original social media platform—word-of-mouth marketing—to boost membership.

Both Harris and Coach highlight personal contact and short presentations by current members and supportive faculty in classes as highly effective recruitment strategies. To that end, garnering the support of faculty and administrators on your campus is ideal for word-of-mouth marketing. Take it one step further: Ask members of the Admissions team at your school if you may accompany them on recruiting visits to local high schools. Wear your PTK swag, and talk to potential future members on site! (Your PTK chapter advisor can order free Membership Recruitment Cards that offer compelling statistics and highlight the benefits of membership from the PTK Store to distribute at the recruiting events.)

2. Make high-quality customer service the foundation of your recruitment efforts.

A patient, positive attitude goes a long way in solidifying rapport among members, eligible members, local chapter advisors and regional coordinators. Here at Headquarters, we strive to do the same: retain a high standard of customer service for our valued PTK constituents. Our philosophy is excellent service at every level: on the phone, via email and in person. Just as you represent Phi Theta Kappa on your campus, we at Headquarters also represent Phi Theta Kappa ambassadors who work on your behalf.

As you serve your members with timely, accurate information and offer opportunities for engagement and growth, we seek to do the same. Our ears are open to your suggestions, concerns and accomplishments. The mutually beneficial relationship we have with you—our members, advisors and regional coordinators—is invaluable. The same is true of the relationship among members, officers, advisors and potential members on your campus.

Prioritizing your members by actively listening to your constituents’ concerns and recommendations and responding to inquiries with timely and accurate information—while offering friendly and patient service—will go far in your quest to recruit members and enhance your chapter’s engagement.

3. Incentivize students who join PTK with tangible benefits.

In the short term, your chapter will receive complimentary graduation stoles if you’ve earned a REACH (Recognizing Excellence in Acceptance and Completion with Honors) Reward. Our REACH Rewards program encourages membership by rewarding chapters who achieve or exceed 15 percent for their membership acceptance rate. This is our way of encouraging membership growth and chapter engagement, as well as honoring our students on a significant milestone—graduation. Learn more about REACH Rewards here.

*We are proud to announce the return of the REACH Rewards program for the period of January 1-December 31, 2017. Enrollment and reporting is automatic for all chapters. Set a REACH goal for 2017—your chapter’s members will benefit by receiving free graduation stoles, more students experiencing PTK benefits and greater overall chapter engagement.

In the long term, reward your students with a visit to PTK Headquarters: the Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi. Tour our facilities. Network with local PTK chapters. Meet our staff. Attend in-house breakout sessions on professional development, scholarships, membership recruitment and more. This trip will give your chapter an opportunity to focus on setting a Five Star Chapter Plan goal and set your sights on being an award-winning chapter (who doesn’t love trophies?) at our very special centennial celebration of annual convention in 2018. We would love to have you in Jackson and to see you again in Kansas City!

I encourage you to try these three tips—1. Diversify communication methods; 2. Prioritize high-quality customer service; and 3. Incentivize students with tangible benefits—in your recruitment efforts. If you have any tips that have worked well for your chapter, please share your experiences with us! We’re always looking for new ways to promote membership. As always, our Headquarters staff is here to serve you! “REACH” us M-F, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. CST.

Your PTK Catalyst Survival Guide

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

Last year was my very first international convention, and I had no idea what to expect. I tried to prepare as much as possible, but I was still blown away when I got there.

Because PTK Catalyst will be a first-time experience for many of you, I’ve put together a sort of guide for what you can expect. Convention veterans, I challenge you to share this guide on social media, add your insights, and assist those who may look a little lost in Nashville.

Survival Essentials

For starters, if you are introverted or have introverted tendencies, I recommend getting a roll-on aromatherapy anti-anxiety or stress relief essential oil, or bring with you whatever portable stress relief works well for you. (I have been loving the Wyndmere Anxiety Release.) Don’t let this little disclaimer scare you, though—the energy at convention is absolutely electric, everyone is excited, and the sense of community and belonging is wonderful.

There are also many different areas inside the convention center to relax. Benches by fountains, walks through the indoor garden, and a boat ride (yes, there is really a little boat inside the hotel) will all do wonders if you ever feel overwhelmed.

The next important thing that applies to absolutely everyone is footwear. The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is massive. It’s like a little city in there, so be prepared to do a lot of walking.

Speaking of the size of the convention center, it will be easy to get lost, so stick with a buddy and watch the color of the carpet, as it changes according to which section of the hotel you are in or entering. Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow nerds for help—find strength in numbers and make a few friends along the way.

Attire was another big question for me as I prepared for my first convention. I knew it was an academic convention, but I didn’t know how casual or professional to dress. Most people will be in business casual, and a few people in dressy casual.

It is a professional event with college presidents and celebrity speakers, and last year we had a White House representative there. Don’t break the bank buying a whole new wardrobe; just find what you feel confident and professional in, and rock it.

What to Expect

The first thing you should know is that the main point of PTK Catalyst is to recognize and celebrate the hard work we have done all year long. The convention is divided into different segments called General Sessions. This is where we hear from the keynote speakers, and various awards and recognitions are given out.

Between these general sessions we have workshops, breakout sessions, regional meetings, and more. If this sounds like a lot to keep track of, don’t worry. There’s a ton of info online, including a detailed schedule. And when you get to the convention center, you will get a lanyard and all the important information will be in a packet; there will also be instructions given at the end of each general session.

Also, look for info coming soon on our new PTK Catalyst app, which will give you full details of all convention events and even allow you to make your own schedule.

Another facet of the international convention is the campaign for International Office. Each year we elect five students to represent the members and bridge the gap between Phi Theta Kappa headquarters and the students they serve. This process involves a live Candidate Caucus on April 6 and the candidates campaigning in booths set up in a large convention hall we call the Marketplace.

While you’re in the Marketplace, visit with convention sponsors and partners, shop the PTK Store, get your questions about scholarships and PTK programs answered at the Resource Booth, and sign the giant C4 College Completion banner. See when it’ll be open.

If you’re planning to transfer to a four-year college, then you’ll want to visit the Senior College Transfer Fair and Lunch on April 7. It’s the largest transfer fair in the country, and a full list of participating colleges should be available soon.

Each chapter has a voting delegate who goes around (usually with the help of the rest of the chapter) to hear from each of the candidates in every race and decide who to vote for. It is very important to note that every chapter votes in every race: International President and International Vice Presidents for Divisions 1, 2, 3, and 4.

At the very end of the convention, we have the Hallmark Awards Gala, where we’ll name the Most Distinguished Chapter and induct the 2017-18 International Officers. Most people dress up for this—some even wear formal attire—but it isn’t required. After that, there is typically a farewell dance, and then everyone goes home with renewed passion and excitement.

There’s nothing quite like Phi Theta Kappa’s International Convention. I hope this guide serves you well as you prepare to join us in Nashville, Tennessee, April 6-8. Register now!

Dr. Jennifer Arnold: Thinking Big

Dr. Jennifer Arnold is used to being in the public eye. She and her husband Bill Klein are the stars of TLC’s docu-drama “The Little Couple,” which is now in its eighth season.

Jennifer has also stood out in public for another reason—she has a rare type of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia Type Strudwick and stands at just 3 foot 2. The condition has necessitated more than 30 surgeries, but it has in a way prepared her for life on-screen.

“As a little person, you are used to people looking at you when you’re out in public because people are constantly staring or asking questions,” she said in a 2013 interview with Glamour magazine. “I think being on-camera wasn’t as hard because [of what we were used to prior].”

Bill has a similar form of skeletal dysplasia called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia and stands at 4 feet. Through “The Little Couple,” they’ve shared adventures of all sizes with their viewers, including Jennifer’s battle with cancer and the adoption of their children, Will and Zoey.

“The biggest joy from the show is those moments where somebody sends a message or tells us that the show has helped them in some personal way, whether it’s going through the physical challenges or the medical challenges of being little people or the fertility changes and adoption challenges of starting a family,” Jennifer told Glamour.

“They share their own personal challenges and the fact that watching the show helps them keep moving forward, honestly that’s what makes the show worthwhile.”

We’re thrilled to host Jennifer as the keynote speaker in the first general session of PTK Catalyst 2017, April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee. Registration is open now, and the regular rate ends March 14.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami, a Master’s of Education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Jennifer is the Medical Director of a state-of-the-art simulation center at Texas Children’s Hospital. She develops curriculum for the center, which uses a life-like simulated environment to train pediatric health care professionals to react and respond to high-risk scenarios.

Jennifer has received an array of awards, including the Ray E. Helfer Award for innovation in medical education from the Academic Pediatric Association, Compassionate Doctor Recognition in 2010 and 2011, and the Patient’s Choice Award four years in a row from 2008-2011 from Vitals.com.

In 2016 the couple published Think Big: Overcoming Obstacles with Optimism, a guide for dreaming big, setting goals and taking the steps to achieve them. They give readers a glimpse into their personal and professional lives and describe touching scenes the cameras weren’t there to capture.

Don’t miss Dr. Jennifer Arnold at PTK Catalyst 2017. Register today!

Portraits of Power

“It started off as a crazy notion that occurred to me at the beginning of what we now call ‘The Great Recession.’ It became apparent that there are very few problems a country can solve in isolation anymore—that countries have to start working together in a new and unprecedented way—almost forming something like a global administration. Imagine if there were, who would be at the table of power?

“We’re presented with our world leaders under a shroud of branding, marketing and propaganda. So I thought, under these strained times, we should see our leaders as human beings, up close and personal. And then we should take all these individual character studies and bring them together to show a group dynamic. What happens as a communal spirit when they’re all put together?”

This idea prompted world-renowned photographer Platon to set up a small, makeshift studio at the United Nations in an effort to photograph as many world leaders as possible.

The result was the 2011 book Power, which features portraits of more than 100 of the world’s most powerful leaders. Platon has also published China: Through the Looking Glass, in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Service, dedicated to the men and women in the United States Military.

A communicator and storyteller, Platon has served as the keynote speaker for a number of events, including the recent World Economic Forum. In addition, he has appeared on television programs including Charlie Rose (PBS), Morning Joe (MSNBC), Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (CNN) and the BBC World News.

Platon’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums both domestically and abroad. His Civil Rights photographs are part of The New York Historical Society’s permanent collection. Other permanent collections are featured at The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, The Westlicht Museum for Photography in Vienna, Austria, and the Scotland National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

In 2013, Platon founded a non-profit foundation named The People’s Portfolio. The foundation aspires to create a visual language that breaks barriers, expands dignity, fights discrimination, and enlists the public to support human rights around the world.

He serves as the Creative Director at Large for the Center for Civil and Human Rights, on the board for Arts and Culture at the World Economic Forum, and as a steward for the Economic Growth and Social Inclusion Initiative.

Platon will be featured as one of eight artists in “Abstract: The Art of Design,” documentary series from Netflix that premiered last week.

Learn more about the speakers for PTK Catalyst 2017 and register online!

People of PTK: Ekeme Ekanem

A role in a church play. Hearing in passing about a career as a linguist. These two small events set Ekeme Ekanem’s life on two completely different courses, but Phi Theta Kappa has helped her keep them connected.

Ekeme was born in Buffalo, New York, to a Nigerian father and American mother. Her parents divorced, and she moved with her mother and older sister to Phoenix, Arizona, when she was 2 years old.

Growing up, Ekeme was the “school kid.” Her love of learning was strong, and her father’s heritage and culture gave her an early interest in anthropology.

She also developed an interest in languages, but it felt more like a hobby until her mother told her about a woman she’d met—a linguist who could speak more than 30 languages. Ekeme was intrigued and believed she had found her calling.

“I have learned the true power of communication and what it means to myself and others,” she said. “With every language comes access to another culture and, therefore, perspective.”

Ekeme felt her path was set until her role in a church play. She was bitten by the acting bug at 8, but again it seemed to be more of a hobby. Meeting a friend who had an agent, however, gave her a new drive.

She begged her mother to let her start acting. She got an agent and booked a local commercial almost right away. This was easy, she thought, and she was hooked.

“I fell in love with becoming a character,” she said.

Ekeme attended a performing arts high school. She was initially drawn to ballet—a good combination for her love of dancing and acting—but she was told she “didn’t have the feet for it.” She shifted her focus to drama and completed her high school proficiency exam at 16 so she and her family could move to Los Angeles, where she would pursue acting full time.

Still, her love of education pulled at her.

“I knew I wanted to do acting, but I knew I wanted to pursue an education too,” she said.

Ekeme enrolled at Los Angeles Pierce College so she could work on her degree in linguistics while going on auditions. She joined the Anthropology Society to meet students sharing her major, but she still felt disconnected.

“I was doing well in my classes, but I felt like acting was keeping me away from connecting with my campus,” she said.

In the spring semester of her freshman year, Ekeme joined Phi Theta Kappa. She wanted to be a more eligible and attractive transfer student, and she was drawn in by the scholarships and other opportunities—Ekeme was selected to the Pearson Student Advisory Board in 2016.

She also saw it as a way to both get more involved on campus and give back to her community, which she views as “one of the most important things you can do.”

“If you want to see a better place and more of a community, it makes sense to be a source of that,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed with the students I’ve met and how focused they are.”

At 20, Ekeme has been focusing on her acting career for three years now, and she’s had roles in the FX series “Married,” Lifetime movie “Stalked by My Doctor,” and ION Television movie “Merry Ex-Mas.” She admits she wasn’t entirely prepared for the roller coaster ride that acting has been, but she said it’s taught her a lot about who she is and how resilient she can be.

“It’s a balance,” she said. “You have to expect to hear no, but you don’t let it stop you.”

She remains focused on her education as well. She’s learning Spanish and French, and next up is Mandarin. She’ll graduate this spring.

And because Ekeme plans to stay in the Los Angeles area to continue acting, she’s applying to four-year colleges like UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley so she can work toward her doctorate in linguistics.

“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to go as far in education as I can go,” she said. “It’s always been what I’ve loved.”

Photo provided by Pearson

Give the Gift of Membership

Portland Community College student Ariel Larson had received two invitations to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa, but she couldn’t accept either because she faced financial hardship.

“I would love to be a member, but I can’t afford the membership fee,” she explained, adding that she had also turned down a membership invitation previously for the same reason while attending Umpqua Community College.

“I’m a full time student, disabled, and unable to work right now. I don’t have a car, I don’t have any scholarships…I have nothing,” Ariel said. “If I somehow had the money to spend, it has to go to pay bills. I can’t justify spending it on a membership even though I want to.”

But thanks to a membership scholarship, she’ll get to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa after all. Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus chapter, Beta Pi Rho, has a membership scholarship in place to help students just like Ariel.

“Our campus has the highest diversity rate in any college in the state of Oregon and also has a very high population of students from a low socioeconomic background,” said advisor Nicole Seery. “Our chapter, much like our campus, tries to provide and serve our students to the best of our ability and give assistance when needed.”

She said the chapter had established the scholarship in 2009, but it was never utilized or supported financially. So when Nicole became the chapter advisor 14 years ago, she made restoring the member scholarship a priority, although it took more than a year to build up the funds.

“Now, we have enough members joining every term to easily maintain our scholarships,” Nicole added. “We set aside $420 a year from our membership fees that go toward membership scholarships and also fundraise over the summer and fall terms to help support our budget.”

The chapter’s membership scholarship has been covering the international and regional fees and waiving the chapter fee for four students annually. However, due to the success of their membership enrollment, Beta Pi Rho added an additional membership for both the winter and spring terms for a total of six membership scholarships each year.

Portland Community College is in line with other colleges and foundations making membership affordable for students, including PTK’s own Golden Opportunity Scholarships.

Dr. Joe May, who serves as chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas, set aside $100,000 in the annual budget to cover anything that may be seen as a barrier to Phi Theta Kappa membership for the students in his colleges.

Similarly, Dr. Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College in Oklahoma, helped his college establish a membership scholarship through its foundation in an effort to make membership more affordable to students.

The Golden Opportunity Scholarship is Phi Theta Kappa’s first scholarship designed to increase access to the benefits of membership by helping students pay for membership when they can’t afford the fees.

Nominations for the Golden Opportunity Scholarship will be accepted now through March 15. Only advisors may submit a nomination, and you may now do so through your Eligible Student Roster. Simply click on the name of the student you wish to nominate and check the nomination box.

5 Tips for International Officer Candidates

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

Serving as an International Officer has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life. When I decided more than a year ago to run for this position, I had no idea what to expect from the campaigning process or the office itself.

As we approach the deadline for International Officer applications on February 22, I want to share a few tips for campaigning and then some things we’ve accomplished over the past year. My hope is that, if you’re still deciding on whether to run, an inside look at what you can expect may help you commit.

Five things to keep in mind when campaigning this year at PTK Catalyst:

  1. People think you must have a certain type of personality to be an International Officer—outgoing, funny, personable, charismatic, etc. While these characteristics are great, they might not be defining traits for you. Just be yourself. Members will be able to tell if you’re faking it, so just show them how awesome you are.
  2. Remember to eat. Keep snacks with you to munch on between scheduled events. You’re going to be so busy that you won’t even realize you’re hungry.
  3. Ladies, make sure you stock up blister band aids and keep a pair of comfortable shoes with you to walk in. The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is a large place, and you’ll be on your feet a lot.
  4. Have an elevator speech ready—just a quick two- to three-minute introduction of yourself and why you want to run. You’ll be meeting with many members, and you won’t always be able to speak with them as long as you want.
  5. Have fun. I know you’ll have a packed schedule, but enjoy your time with fellow candidates and get the full experience.

It has been truly amazing to be at the pinnacle of student leadership for Phi Theta Kappa. There are many benefits of serving as an International Officer, and they aren’t always what you expect.

I think the moment of realization that this would be a unique experience came at the beginning of my term, when our team was contemplating what goals we should have for the year. We were asked to come up with a list of goals we wanted to reach, so we were thinking about how each goal would benefit the Society. Then, our coordinator asked us, “How do you as individuals benefit from these goals as well?” Our positions were not just to help the Society, but for our own personal development as well.

Our goals 2016-2017:

  1. Increasing access to membership: We worked with the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation to support the new Golden Opportunity Scholarship. Through handwritten letters to advisors emeriti, past regional, national and international officers, and others, we have supported 160 new members so far.
  2. Increasing communication: Through promotional videos and blog posts, we used student voices to tell our stories of membership benefits.
  3. Increasing engagement: For the first time, the International Officers teamed up with social media interns to increase social media engagement at the 2016 Honors Institute. Because of the event’s success, we are planning to continue this at PTK Catalyst 2017.

I look forward to seeing you all April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee, for PTK Catalyst, and I’m especially eager to meet our next group of student leaders. See you soon!