Hallmark Awards in Depth: Honors in Action

Among the Educational Forums held during Phi Theta Kappa’s 2017 Honors Institute was a session on the Honors in Action Project Hallmark Award. It was presented by Monika Byrd, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Vice President of Leadership and International Education.

In general, Honors in Action provides you with the opportunity to DO something; your Honors in Action Hallmark Awards entry should demonstrate that you achieved these things. Also, because the Honors Study Topic changes every two years, it’s important to show that your project, from start to finish, is designed and intended to accomplish the general purpose of the program. Additionally, there are six intended outcomes:

  1. Interdisciplinary Inquiry
  2. Dialogue
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Global Awareness
  5. Experience Breaking the “Complexity Barrier”
  6. Deep Learning

The Foundation

Part one of the forum focused on the foundations of the Honors in Action Hallmark Award. A good Hallmark Awards entry begins with a good Honors in Action Project as well as a good understanding of the Honors in Action rubric.

A key step in the process is to get organized:

  • Find resources online
    • Application deadlines
    • Link to application and rubrics
    • Link to FAQ’s
    • Link to Tips
  • Understand the deadlines for different Hallmark Awards categories:
    • Administrator Awards — early December 2017
    • Individual Awards — mid-January 2018
    • Chapter Awards — late January 2018
  • Applications open in mid-October
  • Develop a communications plan — will your team use Google Docs, DropBox, etc.
  • Define roles and assignments
    • Writers
    • Proofers
    • Someone to review with the rubric
  • Develop a timeline
    • Deadlines for first and later drafts
    • Editing sessions
    • Proofing sessions

The rubric isn’t only for the judges; use it throughout your project’s life cycle as you plan, implement, adjust, and reflect, and as you prepare your Hallmark Awards entry. There are seven categories on the rubric:

  1. Academic rigor
  2. Resourcefulness
  3. Exercise of leadership and leadership development
  4. Persistence
  5. Action
  6. Cooperative effort/outreach
  7. Impact

Reflective Practice is also useful throughout your project. This is a process by which you stop and think about your practice, consciously analyzing your decision-making and drawing on theory — in this case the purpose of Honors in Action — and relating it to what you do in practice. This process provides focus and generates new knowledge and ideas, and analyzing your project critically and thoroughly is important when writing your Hallmark Awards entry.

The Execution

Part two of the forum looked at the execution of your Hallmark Awards entry — writing it, using the rubric, and best practices. There are 10 categories on the judging rubric, but four are weighted:

  1. Academic Investigation
    1. You’ll want at least eight academic sources representing multiple perspectives for your research
  2. Exercise of Leadership and Leadership Development
    1. Show that you intentionally sought opportunities to grow and improve as scholars and leaders
    2. Demonstrate resourcefulness
  3. Action
    1. If your academic investigation is thorough, and if your topic is of interest to your chapter members, you will inspire action
    2. Seize this opportunity to apply new knowledge of global issues to impact yourself and your community
  4. Outcomes
    1. Cover both quantitative and qualitative outcomes
    2. Consider all parts of the project

When it’s finally time to write your entry, keep in mind this advice from author Dan Pink:

  • Show up
  • Write every day
  • Don’t do anything else until you’ve written 500 words
  • Move
  • Have someone read out loud to you
  • Remember that writing, though usually solitary, is also social

Also, keep in mind these best practices for writing Hallmark Award entries specifically:

  • Use the rubric — before, during, and after your project
  • Understand quality differentiation — i.e., what is the different between exercising leadership skills and advancing leadership skills?
  • Provide concrete evidence and examples
  • Ask at least three outside readers to “grade” the entry using the rubric — revise your entries based upon their feedback

7 Highlights from #PTKHI Regional Officer Training

More than 90 regional officers attended a special training session this week at the 2017 Honors Institute at Loyola University’s Lake Shore Campus in Chicago.

The training focused on the various responsibilities, including member recruitment and ambassadorship, that come with serving in the unique position of regional officer. The general session was led by Headquarters staff members, with a special welcome from PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, before organizing into small group breakout sessions. Each group chose a representative to give a brief presentation to share tips, tricks, and best practices on the topics outlined below.

Attendees also heard from Michael Usher, Assistant Director of the Adult and Transfer Center at Loyola University Chicago. His presentation, “Making the Move,” walked students through the transfer process and questions. Loyola University Chicago currently offers a $1,500 transfer scholarship to Phi Theta Kappa members.

Here are highlights of the seven topics discussed in the small group sessions:

1. If you’re presiding over a regional meeting:

  • Start on time.
  • Be confident – make eye contact and dress professionally.
  • Fake your way through your nerves – the audience will never know if you don’t let them see you sweat.
  • Model leadership.
  • Teach yourself to breathe.
  • Decide what kind of script you’re comfortable with – full, outline, notecards, etc.
  • Take time to make sure you’re prepared.
  • You don’t have to read the entire lengthy bio for your speaker – edit it down to just the highlights.
  • Practice your part out loud to be sure it makes sense and to be sure you can pronounce everything.

2. If you’re speaking at an induction ceremony:

  • Ask the advisor what time to arrive and dress appropriately for the event.
  • Research the school and chapter – talk with the advisor about their goals and ask for advice on what to say and what NOT to say.
  • Find out if the induction is also a chartering ceremony or if your speech will happen to fall on the anniversary of the chapter’s chartering date.
  • Recognize the chapter for significant achievements – achieving REACH Rewards, completion of a successful service project, or earning regional/international awards.
  • Be sure to reference the Phi Theta Kappa mission statement.
  • Prepare your speech in advance and practice timing and pronunciations.
  • Congratulate the inductees and thank their family and friends, as well as the college administrators, for their support.
  • Use simple terms to explain Phi Theta Kappa and its Hallmarks – jargon can be overwhelming to new members.
  • Keep it concise – an ideal speech is five to seven minutes.
  • End with an inspirational quote or action item.
  • Congratulate the inductees one more time.

3. If you’re leading a workshop:

  • Choose a topic such as Competitive Edge, Honors in Action, College Project, or the Five Star Chapter Plan.
  • Identify the expectation of your audience, and find an expert to help you prepare.
  • Use visuals in your presentation – acquire resources from Headquarters staff, your advisor, or the Regional Coordinator rather than reinvent the wheel.
  • Keep your presentation short, and leave time for questions.
  • Include an interactive activity to engage the audience.
  • There’s no excuse for not preparing.
  • Have someone keep time for you – or time yourself with your watch or phone – to ensure you stay on track.
  • Provide contact information or a business card.
  • Stay on topic – that’s what people came to hear.

4. If you’re setting regional goals:

  • The principle of setting goals matters; the specifics of setting goals vary.
  • SMART goal setting – goals should be:
    • S – specific
    • M – measurable
    • A – achievable
    • R – relevant
    • T – time-based

5. For effective communication within your region:

  • Select a medium that allows you to reach a wide group of people, such as the GroupMe app, Facebook Messenger, Zoom video chat, Twitter, or your website.
  • Consult with your regional coordinator to strategize on how to offer support to inactive chapters.
  • Set up a sister program within your region to pair Five Star and One/Two Star Chapters.
  • Before you reach out to another chapter in your region, talk with your Regional Coordinator and your Headquarters Divisional Membership Services Specialists you need to get all details about the chapter, as you may not know the full situation.
  • Consider offering a registration fee waiver for a regional conference.
  • Share best practices on fundraising.
  • Be genuine.

6. For effective teamwork among regional officers:

  • Learn everyone’s personalities and assess their strengths.
  • Talk to others to learn their stories – develop empathy so you can be thoughtful of words and actions.
  • Develop respect to build trust, resolve conflicts, and increase teamwork.

7. Effective membership strategies:

  • Personalize the membership invitation.
  • Hand-deliver an invitation if you can – it makes the prospective member feel “selected.”
  • Hold a brief “tapping” ceremony in classrooms or other public places to grab attention.
  • Follow up with students who have been invited to join.
  • Explain the benefits, and how to maximize the benefits through involvement on the local, regional, and international levels.
  • Show your pride and market your chapter by wearing matching branded t-shirts to events.
  • Offer additional incentives – you’ll get a t-shirt or pin.
  • Explain financial benefits such as scholarships.
  • Form an alliance with student government or other organizations – develop a feeder program.
  • Use your college’s technology to promote Phi Theta Kappa on your campus.

People of PTK: Robert Blank and Gayle Wyatt

So, who’s responsible for Honors Institute, the crown jewel of Phi Theta Kappa’s honors programming? Robert Blank and Gayle Wyatt.

Combined, their experience with Phi Theta Kappa spans half a century. For Wyatt, it was two decades as Associate Director; for Blank, it was nearly 30 years as an advisor, a regional coordinator, a member of the Board of Directors, and the Honors Institute Coordinator.

Wyatt joined the English faculty at Navarro College in Texas in 1960, where he first heard of Phi Theta Kappa through its very active Zeta Omicron Chapter. He would later become an honorary member of that chapter and serve as an academic dean at the school.

It was through the chapter’s advisors — two of Wyatt’s best friends on the faculty — that he met Phi Theta Kappa’s first Executive Director, Dr. Margaret Mosal, In the mid-1960s. Then, when Phi Theta Kappa was seeking an Associate Director, Wyatt found himself moving to Canton, Mississippi, to join the staff.

His primary responsibility was the Honors Program, so he was charged with developing an honors topic, researching it, and preparing it for use by the chapters. With that came planning speakers for the then-National Convention and later Honors Institute.

“(The honors topic) gave the chapters a focus,” Wyatt said. “They were somewhat at loose ends trying to pursue the (then) three goals of Phi Theta Kappa, scholarship, leadership, and service, but they needed suggestions of how they might make these things happen on their campus.

“I think it was a good thing for them. Necessary, even.”

The birth of Honors Institute occurred in the most unlikely of places — on a cross-country train ride Wyatt and Mosal were taking to the then-American Association of Junior Colleges National Convention in San Francisco, California, in 1967.

Mosal was famous for never flying, and so the pair had three days to watch the landscape blur past and discuss the future of the organization. She wanted to do something big for the Society’s 50th anniversary the following year.

Wyatt described to Mosal the format of a school he’d attended in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. She liked the idea, and Honors Institute was born.

The first Honors Institute was held in 1968 at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. That’s also the year Robert Blank first served as a workshop leader at the National Convention. He had met Mosal and Wyatt the previous year at a regional convention in New York — his second year as advisor to the chapter at the State University of New York in Farmingdale.

Following his presentation at the 1968 National Convention, Blank was asked to become the New England/Middle States Regional Coordinator. Then, at the 1969 National Convention, he was elected to Phi Theta Kappa’s Board of Directors. He held his seat on the board for 16 years and served as chair for six.

Blank’s first Honors Institute was in 1969 at Marymount College in Virginia. Wyatt had written an outline of the program, and Blank began to plan it. This was the springboard into his role as Honors Institute Coordinator.

He was charged with selecting speakers, and among the presenters he landed in that initial year was Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American Congresswoman, elected in 1968. He was also instrumental in setting up the seminar groups, a key piece of Honors Institute.

“Breakout groups, I thought, were very effective,” he said. “I just took what I had experienced in my own academic career and tried it out here.

“You get these diverse opinions, and that’s a great learning experience. That’s part of education.”

Wyatt and Blank would continue to work together for the next 20 years planning Honors Institutes. Today, both have endowed lectures for the event, which has changed very little in its 50 years, aside from attendance: the first Honors Institute welcomed 123 attendees; today in 2017, more than 500 members and advisors are attending.

Blank’s nearly 30 years as an educator and a chapter advisor saw Honors Institute — and Phi Theta Kappa as a whole — endure while the world of higher education and its students evolved.

“(Phi Theta Kappa) enabled the four-year colleges to recognize that here we have built-in talent,” he said. “It played a very important role in giving the two-year college student recognition and showing the four-year college that a two-year student has great potential.

“Phi Theta Kappa gives people an opportunity in the early years of their college career to be recognized as scholars, and that’s important.”

Wyatt too has watched as Phi Theta Kappa reacted to a changing world. When he first joined the Headquarters staff, he was one of three employees. Today, there are more than 65 serving a worldwide membership that’s 3.2 million strong.

“It really borders on the miraculous, when you look at it,” he said. “But I think it answered a need. I think people were hungry for the kinds of things that such an organization had to offer.

“We developed the Phi Theta Kappa Hug. People understood that they really were cared about. I think so often who we are as people is so much more important than what we do.”

Follow Us at #PTKHI!

Next week, June 5-10, we’re heading to Loyola University’s Lake Shore Campus in Chicago for the 50th Honors Institute!

We’re expecting a full house — more than 500 members and advisors will be on site to learn more about the Honors Study Topic, How the World Works: Global Perspectives, explore Chicago, and receive specialized training on Honors in Action.

Coming? Check out these event highlights.

Speakers — Our lineup includes a Chicago historian, a polar explorer, a fashion designer, and a ragtime pianist. Each will bring their own perspectives to the Honors Study Topic. Meet them.

City As Text™ — Seminar groups will be assigned specific Chicago neighborhoods to explore in the City As Text™ walk-abouts on June 7.

College Transfer Fair — Nearly 50 four-year colleges and universities will be participating in our College Transfer Fair on Tuesday, June 6. See the list.

Educational Forums — Four rounds of Educational Forums will be held during the week, and each round will have five different sessions — all focused on Honors in Action.

Regional Officer Training — This exclusive training session will focus on the unique duties of regional officers and how they can successfully lead their regions and chapters.

Explore More! Day — Explore Chicago and the surrounding area on your own on June 9. If you plan to participate, please make sure you’ve added the “Explore More! Day” to your Honors Institute registration. There’s no extra charge; this simply guarantees that you have lodging that night.

Can’t make it? Follow us on social media!

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @phithetakappa to see posts, pictures, and videos from the week. We’ve invited 12 students to serve as Social Media Interns and take over our feeds with their own highlights. This year’s Social Media Interns are:

  • Ja’mour Allison, Eta Gamma Chapter, Coffeyville Community College, Kansas
  • Tara Brown, Tau Iota Chapter, Ocean County College, New Jersey
  • Joseph Adam Cassidy, Alpha Psi Tau Chapter, Ozarks Technical Community College, Missouri
  • Nick Gorman, Alpha Epsilon Omicron Chapter, Trident Technical College, South Carolina
  • Kyle Kerlew, Upsilon Eta Chapter, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Florida
  • Camila Silva Monroe, Sigma Phi Chapter, Arapahoe Community College, Colorado
  • Michael Onuchovsky, Alpha Gamma Omega Chapter, Valencia College, Florida
  • Jamaan Parker, Beta Beta Tau Chapter, Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Georgia
  • Roxana Resendiz-Garcia, Theta Chi Chapter, Pensacola State College, Florida
  • Jessica Rich, Alpha Theta Iota Chapter, Monroe Community College, New York
  • Jose M. Rodriguez, Alpha Xi Pi Chapter, Motlow State Community College, Tennessee
  • Tiffany Thanh, Alpha Iota Eta Chapter, Community College of Allegheny County – South Campus, Pennsylvania

Follow #PTKHI to keep up with all the posts.

Be sure to subscribe to The Reach, our blog, for recaps of the Honors in Action Educational Forums and the Regional Officer Training Sessions.

“PTK Changed Everything for Me”

Rashida Jones grew up fast in the East Side of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

She was raised by a single mother who often worked multiple jobs, so she was home alone a lot. She witnessed gang violence and shootings. She graduated from high school in 1998 but received a five-year suspended sentence in 2000 for selling drugs.

“I always did good in school, but I didn’t plan to go to college,” she said. “People said I wasn’t smart enough.”

Rashida believed them. But, she would go on to prove them all wrong — even herself — and rise to be a leader in Phi Theta Kappa and a college graduate.

It took some time. In 2000, Rashida was a mother to a young daughter. She wanted more for her family, so she tried her hand at classes in local for-profit colleges. She finished in 2002 with certificates in medical assistance/phlebotomy and information management.

“I couldn’t find a job,” she said. “They wanted experience, so it was a waste of money.”

Nearly a decade passed before Rashida decided to check out Oklahoma State University at Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC). Now with four daughters at home, she began taking classes in 2011, and her invitation from Phi Theta Kappa came her second semester.

“I scraped up some money and joined PTK, and it completely changed everything for me,” she said.

Rashida joined the Alpha Pi Nu Chapter, and soon her advisor, Catherine Palmer, noticed how outspoken she was and asked if she’d like to be a chapter officer. She began over leadership and moved up to chapter president.

After attending her first Oklahoma/Arkansas Regional Convention, Rashida ran for and was elected regional president the next year.

“Phi Theta Kappa made me know that I could do it,” she said. “I was surprised and real excited to see where I would go from there.”

She next ran for International Vice President for Division 3 in 2014. She was runner-up for the position, and she was selected by the International Officer candidates to receive the Orlowski Award, which honors the candidate who best exemplifies PTK’s hallmarks of scholarship, leadership, fellowship, and service.

Rashida took advantage of every opportunity afforded to her through PTK and her college. She completed Competitive Edge and a Leadership Development cohort on Facebook. She volunteered with her chapter at the local Salvation Army — something she continues today — and received the SHINE Award for completing more than 200 hours of community service.

She was a Martha Burger Mentor at OSU-OKC, an honors graduate, and Student Government Association President. She was an Oklahoma Newman Civil Civic Leader and the Black Student Association Vice President.

She did all this while working full time and raising her daughters.

“It was very tough,” she said. “There were days I felt like giving up, but I knew I had to keep pushing for me and my girls. I wanted my kids to see me working hard so they would know they’d have to work hard too.”

Rashida completed two associate degrees at OSU-OKC, in enterprise development and early care and child development. She didn’t have to worry about her next steps — those plans were already made.

During a Phi Theta Kappa convention, Rashida attended the Senior College Transfer Fair and met a recruiter from Jackson State University (JSU) in Mississippi. The historically black university offers one of the best scholarship programs to PTK transfer students: a full tuition scholarship that includes room and board and an additional $1,000 for books.

“Transfer students — particularly Phi Theta Kappa students — are so strong academically that we know they’re going to do well and graduate,” said Paul Scott Sr., Community College Recruiter at JSU.

Nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) offer transfer scholarships exclusively for Phi Theta Kappa members. The details of each scholarship vary but are available at CollegeFish.org.

JSU has an active PTK alumni association on campus, and all Phi Theta Kappa members are invited to join the DuBois-Harvey Honors College. Approximately 800 community college students transfer to JSU each year.

Unable to leave Oklahoma, Rashida joined JSU’s wide online community. Paul said the college has as many services and resources available online as possible to keep its online students engaged, and they are regularly invited to on-campus events.

At JSU, Rashida was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Chi, Tau Sigma, Alpha Kappa Mu, and Golden Key honor societies. In early May, she traveled to Jackson with her mother, her daughters, and a friend to walk in her graduation ceremony at JSU, where she received a bachelor’s degree in early care and family services.

Rashida plans to get her master’s degree and hopes to one day own a childcare facility for children with special needs.

Rashida is clear that she didn’t do this alone. Her Phi Theta Kappa advisors were key supporters, as was former Oklahoma/Arkansas Regional Coordinator, Dr. Jim Mauldin. And, she developed a wide network of friends and cheerleaders among the PTK members she met at regional and international events.

“They motivated and inspired me,” she said. “It’s always good when you have people like that. I never really had people like that before.

“Without PTK, I wouldn’t have a bachelor’s degree. I might not have finished my associate degree. But there are so many people pushing you to do better.”