People of PTK: 2017-2018 International Officers

Five Phi Theta Kappa members have an incredibly exciting year ahead after being elected as International Officers during PTK Catalyst 2017.

International Officers are elected by the delegate body attending the annual convention to serve one-year terms. Throughout the year they will represent Phi Theta Kappa at Honors Institute, regional meetings, and at the 2018 Centennial Catalyst in Kansas City, Missouri.

Let’s get to know them.

International President

Amanda Karpinski
Alpha Epsilon Phi Chapter
Bergen Community College
New Jersey

Amanda started her education at Bergen Community College following her high school graduation, receiving a full-tuition scholarship through the New Jersey Stars program.

She describes attending the information session about Phi Theta Kappa as “the first time I had that moment of ‘I belong here.’ “

After being inducted as a member, Amanda was elected president of her chapter and is an advocate for community college education and Phi Theta Kappa membership. She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and wants to attend law school.

During her term as International President, Amanda hopes to destigmatize community colleges and promote further involvement among advisors and members.

“Phi Theta Kappa has the ability to transform you into a person that you never thought possible,” she said. “The biggest benefit is realizing your own potential.”

Vice President, Division 1

Don Koch
Alpha Omicron Alpha Chapter
Lehigh Carbon Community College
Pennsylvania

Retired from the workforce, Don is a part-time student at Lehigh Carbon Community College, who received his first associate degree in business management in 2012. He plans to continue his education and hopes to have a second career as a psychologist.

Don is actively involved in the advocacy of returning adult students and is co-founding the National Association for Returning Adult Students. He also serves as president of the Returning Adult Student Association and the Photography Club on campus.

Since his induction into Phi Theta Kappa in November of 2011, Don has served three successive terms as an officer in the Alpha Omicron Alpha Chapter at LCCC, two of them as chapter president. He recently completed his term as Pennsylvania President for the Middle States Region.

At the age of 61, Don said he wants to be an example to all students that you can accomplish anything.

“How far you go with Phi Theta Kappa is only limited by how far you are willing to go,” he said.

Vice President, Division 2

Jay Fritts
Nu Upsilon Chapter
Meridian Community College
Mississippi

Jay Fritts said that in the past he would always settle for “good enough,” but that changed when he began attending Meridian Community College. A bio-chemistry major, Jay made a promise to himself to do his best, both inside and outside the classroom.

“Phi Theta Kappa picks the best and brightest students in the nation and tries to make them better,” Jay said. “If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you will see your own life beginning to change for the better.”

Although he was born to Korean immigrants in Redwood, California, Jay has lived in Mississippi since he was an infant.

He previously served as co-vice president of his chapter and Vice President of the Mississippi/Louisiana Region of Phi Theta Kappa.

Jay hopes to attend medical school and someday operate his own clinic.

Vice President, Division 3

Obinna Muoh
Alpha Zeta Gamma Chapter
Highland Community College
Kansas

Born in Nigeria and raised in Benin Republic (West Africa), Obinna graduated high school in 2013 but could not immediately pursue his dream to study abroad. He worked for two years to save money, but was rejected for a student visa twice.

Today, Obinna is majoring in pre-engineering at Highland Community College and plans to focus on chemical engineering when he transfers to a university. He serves as president of his chapter, a student peer tutor, resident assistant, and works in the college cafeteria as a dishwasher.

At PTK Catalyst 2017 Obinna’s fellow International Officer candidates elected him as the recipient of the $1,000 Orlowski Scholarship for the candidate who best exemplifies the spirit of Phi Theta Kappa.

“Joining Phi Theta Kappa has been a source of blessing, strength, and hope to never give up,” he said. “Being a part of this great honor society has taught me that true leaders are meant to use their platform to support others.

“PTK gives you a chance to give back to your community and experience leadership at a different level.”

Vice President, Division 4

Tasha Estein
Sigma Phi Chapter
Arapahoe Community College
Colorado

A self-described science nerd, Tasha has always valued knowledge, but attending Arapahoe Community College brought her future into focus.

After joining the Astronomy Club, she became more passionate about STEM and declared physics as her major. She visited the Kennedy Space Center as part of the 2016 NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program and eventually wants to earn a Ph.D. and work at NASA.

“I look at every day of school as a blessing and something that I will do everything to maintain.” she said. “Knowledge is the only thing that no one can take from you, and with it you can change the world.”

A former martial arts instructor, Tasha is the only member of her family who has pursued a college education, and membership in Phi Theta Kappa was one of her top goals.

“Imagine the most amazing student at your school—the one who is focused, driven, helps you when needed and has inspired you,” she said. “In Phi Theta Kappa everyone is that same kind of student.”

New IOs, Most Distinguished Chapter Named

Here’s the big news from the Hallmark Awards Gala at PTK Catalyst 2017, sponsored by Mississippi College!

2017-2018 International Officers

These students will serve in the highest leadership positions available to Phi Theta Kappa members. They are:

International President

Amanda Karpinski
Alpha Epsilon Phi Chapter
Bergen Community College
New Jersey

Vice President, Division 1

Don Koch
Alpha Omicron Alpha Chapter
Lehigh Carbon Community College
Pennsylvania

Vice President, Division 2

Jay Fritts
Nu Upsilon Chapter
Meridian Community College
Mississippi

Vice President, Division 3

Obinna Muoh
Alpha Zeta Gamma Chapter
Highland Community College
Kansas

Vice President, Division 4

Tasha Estein
Sigma Phi Chapter
Arapahoe Community College
Colorado

2017 Most Distinguished Chapter

The Beta Lambda Mu Chapter from Lone Star College-CyFair in Texas has been named the 2017 Most Distinguished Chapter!

This is the highest honor given to a PTK chapter. Advisors are Dr. Blake Ellis and Veronica Martinez. Congratulations!

Awards for College Project, Honors in Action Project, Honors in Action Theme, and Distinguished Chapter were also presented during the Hallmark Awards Gala. And, Beta Alpha Awards went to chapters that have received a Distinguished Chapter Award for three consecutive years.

View the 2017 Awards Program to see all 2017 Hallmark Award winners.

It’s been an amazing few days. We can’t wait to see you all again April 19-21 in Kansas City, Missouri, for Phi Theta Kappa’s Centennial Celebration!

Friday Funday in Nashville

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Lionel Barzon, a member of the Sigma Lambda Chapter at Calhoun Community College in Alabama.

For a first-time Phi Theta Kappa student attending PTK Catalyst 2017, the Friday experience here at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center was a perfect nutshell of what these annual international conventions offer for any of those privileged enough to attend these life-changing events.

From chapter and officer recognition on the grand stage in front of 3,700-plus Phi Theta Kappans, to prestigious international officer candidates giving their powerful campaign speeches, to networking and making new friends amongst a sea of friendly faces, PTK Catalyst 2017 offered a plethora of memorable experiences for any Phi Theta Kappa member in attendance.

One of the first events to kick off the Friday schedule was the open recognition of distinguished chapter members, individual chapter officers and chapter officer teams for their academic, community, and Phi Theta Kappa projects of the previous year. Officers and select chapter members walked across the coveted front stage with their hands waving in excitement to the roaring audience while also having their names and chapter shown across the big screen to emphasize their well-deserved success.

Next were the international officer candidate speeches that allow Phi Theta Kappans to better understand and then vote for the international officers who will represent them for the next year. Talented candidates gave passionate and motivational three-minute speeches about what the concept of beauty and vulgarity meant in a world that struggles to define such elements in their respective belongings. A true showing of incredible talent and sincerity was on display by all the candidates who participated in the international officer speeches.

For the remainder of the day, convention attendees used their free time to do something that almost seems natural for those in the Phi Theta Kappa family: make new friends! Many educational forums put on before and after the main general sessions allowed members to break the ice in meeting other members for the first time in a small group setting. Thousands and thousands of convention attendees mixed and mingled and shared their personal convention experience in ways that truly reaffirm how wonderful and life-changing PTK Catalyst 2017 was for everyone involved.

Being, and Becoming, at PTK Catalyst

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Melinda Dourte, a member of the Rho Zeta Chapter at Big Bend Community College in Washington.

It’s the PTK twilight zone.

Time and place fall away, and we become the living organism of learners together, curious and joyful with hugs and shrieks to share in the Gaylord Opryland jungle.

The heart-pounding music and energized rays of light bounce around us. My heart skips, and I step a little lighter with my eyes wide seeing the pulse of PTK in all those sparks around me.

Here, we cast off worries and judgements—we do fit, we are smart, and we are learning how to change the world by considering the “health of the team, before individual achievement,” as International President Andrew Porter shared with his heart on his sleeve and tears in his eyes.

“Value, Aspire, Listen, Understand, and Empathize,” he urges. I see he is, like the rest of us, becoming.

I hug the sister I met at the 2016 Honors Institute at Wake Forest University as neonatologist and television personality Dr. Jennifer Arnold beams her shining smile from the stage under the lights. “Think Big” is her lesson title, and her question resounds—while considering our limitations, are we “lacking ability, opportunity, or understanding?” I will continue to ask myself this reflective question often.

We can find the understanding then the opportunity and finally the ability to change our world. It takes puncturing our bubbles to embrace others; it takes our individual excellence blended together.

T-shirts, postcards, and protein bars get to know each other in our purple Lipscomb bags, and award medals jangle. We are fused by more than the frenzy of rock concert-style general sessions.

For just this time, the stats, chapters, and essays will wait an extra day. We are busy being PTK.