51 Certified to Teach PTK’s Leadership Program

Duane Oakes has seen an increasing need to teach leadership to college students, so he created a new leadership course to be taught this fall to honors students at Mesa Community College (MCC) in Arizona. To hone his own leadership skills, he came to Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) Instructor Certification Seminar.

“I think the most important thing we should be doing as Phi Theta Kappa advisors is teaching our students the leadership skills they need to become leaders in their communities,” he said. “We can teach them academic disciplines, but if we also teach them skills to impact their societies, then we really succeed.”

Fifty-one people attended instructor certification seminars in July at the Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi, qualifying them to teach PTK’s Leadership Development Studies curriculum on their campuses. The program uses great leaders portrayed in books, films, and history to guide students through the development of their own leadership philosophies.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has recognized the program as one of only eight exemplary leadership development programs in higher education.

“The skills, knowledge, and experience I’ve gained have me very excited to teach the class,” Duane said. “It has renewed my sense of the importance of leadership.”

He typically teaches courses on volunteerism in his role as Faculty Director for the Center for Community and Civic Engagement at MCC, giving students service learning experiences. He sees the new honors class as a way expand on the importance of this — and to tell more high-achieving students about Phi Theta Kappa.

And, the seminar was his first opportunity in his 20-plus years as advisor to the Omicron Beta Chapter to visit PTK Headquarters.

“It reinvigorated the importance of Phi Theta Kappa for me,” Duane said. “I think it should be offered at Headquarters every year, and I think every advisor should take advantage of this opportunity.”

Two certification seminars were held in July. The 2017 certified faculty members are:

Seminar held July 10-13

Paul Belue, College of Western Idaho, Idaho
Dr. Parvathy Bhooshanan, Calhoun Community College, Alabama
Madelyn Bowman, Tarrant County College, Texas
Phyllis Brewer, Calhoun Community College, Alabama
Cassie Bruner, Brazosport College, Texas
Dana Burton, Calhoun Community College, Alabama
Dr. Sheila Byrd, Calhoun Community College, Alabama
Terri Easley-Giraldo, Johnson County Community College, Kansas
Dr. H. Jessica Hargis, Collin College, Texas
Mareta Iosia-Sizemore, Palm Beach State College, Florida
Luanne Johnson, Lane Community College, Oregon
Amy Laughter, Augusta Technical College, Georgia
Robin Lowe, Itawamba Community College, Mississippi
DeLinda Martin-Huggins, Portland Community College, Oregon
Mike McCloskey, Delaware Technical Community College, Delaware
Marcella Montesinos, Palm Beach State College, Florida
Necia Nicholas, Calhoun Community College, Alabama
Duane Oakes, Mesa Community College, Arizona
Dr. Dennis Rittle, Cowley College, Kansas
Kim Russell, Delgado Community College, Louisiana
Janet Samuels, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Florida
Sarah Scott, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Canada
Julie Sneed, Calhoun Community College, Alabama
LaVitta Williams, Tarrant County College, Texas

Seminar held July 20-23

Julie Atwood, Jones County Junior College, Mississippi
Robert Brandon, Cleveland State Community College, Tennessee
Dr. Victoria Bryan, Cleveland State Community College, Tennessee
Karen Dale, Cleveland State Community College, Tennessee
Lucy Ferguson, Meridian Community College, Mississippi
Amy Fleming, Northshore Technical Community College, Louisiana
Jennifer Gasparino, Passaic County Community College, New Jersey
Linda Gronberg-Quinn, Community College of Baltimore County, Maryland
Tamika Harrel, Coffeyville Community College, Kansas
Janine Harris, Guttman Community College, New York
Randy Hines, Waubonsee Community College, Illinois
Allison Horseman, Somerset Community College, Kentucky
Dr. Connie Huber, Southern State Community College, Ohio
Dr. Sarah Iepson, Community College of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
James Johnson, Pearl River Community College, Mississippi
Vicky Knickerbocker, Inver Hills Community College, Minnesota
Ryan Martin, Paradise Valley Community College, Arizona
Gwen Matuszewski, Jones County Junior College, Mississippi
Dr. Suzette Overby, Riverland Community College, Minnesota
Heather Owen, Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, Alabama
Lupita Ramierz, Coastal Bend College, Texas
Heidi Schara, Riverland Community College, Minnesota
Dr. Michael Shell, Jefferson Community & Technical College, Kentucky
Mina Sommerville-Thompson, Tarrant County College, Texas
Jennifer St. Pierre, Harrisburg Area Community College, Pennsylvania
Dr. Annie Tuttle, Onondaga Community College, New York
Amanda Waterstrat, Somerset Community College, Kentucky

The ABC’s of Fundraising for Convention

Some of the top fundraising chapters are sharing their secrets with you for earning big bucks that will take you all the way to Kansas City, Missouri, for Phi Theta Kappa’s centennial celebration and annual convention, PTK Catalyst 2018. So here’s your chance to learn their ABC’s of Fundraising.

A

Apparel Sales
“Our chapter sells t-shirts…LOTS of t-shirts,” said Gigi Delk, advisor for the Alpha Omicron Chapter at Tyler Junior College in Texas. “It’s a great way to get everyone involved!”

She said the group started small, designed one shirt, sold them all and put the profit back into more inventory. Members, alumni, and faculty also wear the t-shirts around campus to raise awareness for Phi Theta Kappa.

“It’s important to find a vendor that buys in to Phi Theta Kappa initiatives and will work with the chapter on pricing and ways to cut costs so they can make as much of a profit as possible,” Delk added. “Alpha Omicron uses the t-shirt money to purchase food, pay for travel expenses, and provide member scholarships for students who can’t afford the fees.”

Auctions
Duane Oakes, advisor to the Omicron Beta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Mesa Community College in Arizona, said hosting silent auctions has raised nearly $2,000 annually for the chapter.

Oakes has carefully documented the process, providing a calendar, to-do list, and best practices, so information can be easily passed on from one group of chapter officers to another.

Accounts
Linda McFate, advisor of the Eta Gamma Chapter at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, said their chapter maintains three accounts — a chapter activity account from funds they raise and receive from the Student Government Association; the administrative board account, which represents Phi Theta Kappa as a line item in the college vice president’s budget; and the college foundation account, which provides funding to send members to the Honors in Action Conference and PTK Catalyst.

B

Books
McFate said her chapter also partners with the college bookstore on Better World Books projects.

“We sent over 50 boxes this spring, so hopefully that will be a nice check,” she said. “We try to do fundraising projects that require no ‘start up’ investment other than our time and effort.”

Bouquets
In Pennsylvania, Jennifer St. Pierre, advisor at Harris Area Community College, said her chapter is assisted by its Alpha Nu Omega Alumni Association and generous funding from the HACC Foundation.

“Members also sell wooden roses at inductions and commencement,” she said. “They are especially popular in the spring because graduation is usually close to Mother’s Day, so they buy them for multiple purposes.”

Bald Heads
Last spring Portland Community College advisor DeLinda Martin-Huggins, who also serves as Rocky Mountain-Cascade Regional Coordinator, found herself in a position to make a very unique contribution to the chapter’s fundraising efforts.

“Our raffle sales were running a little slow, so I volunteered to let one of the members shave my head if we made at least $500 from the raffle,” she said. “We raised $760, and it has definitely shortened my morning routine!”

C

Cleaning
McFate said there is one major fundraiser the chapter really cleans up on, netting about $2,500 per semester.

“We clean the football stadium after Saturday games for $150 per night, and we clean the gym after basketball games,” she said. “The clean-ups go quickly and we usually have adequate help from our members.”

The chapter earns an additional $500 for cleaning up the block-long area of concession stands at the inter-state fair and rodeo.

Chili Sales
Are your students tired of campus food options? Consider providing an alternative. Vickie Taylor, advisor for the Upsilon Phi Chapter at Danville Community College in Virginia, said her chapter has hosted successful chili fundraisers on campus.

“We buy the chili at Sam’s Club for a very low price,” she said. “All we need is somewhere to heat the food, so this is easy to do.”

Color Run
Beta Iota Epsilon advisor Becky Baird said their chapter’s Color Run fundraiser may have gotten off to a slow start, but it ended in a photo finish on campus at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home.

“We were supposed to run on St. Patrick’s Day, but had thunderstorms,” Baird said. “But, two weeks later we went ahead with the event and had 35 runners, including our college president.”

D

Drawings
Taylor said another favorite fundraiser for her chapter is doing 50/50 drawings, and drawings for baskets of goodies donated by various businesses and faculty.

Raffle tickets normally sell for $1 each, with an incentive for multiple purchases. The ‘take’ is tallied and one-half awarded to the holder of the lucky number. In a 50-50 raffle fundraising, your group gets to keep exactly 50% of all the money raised.

People are always happy with a chance to win a cash prize, and it’s usually easy to get people to spend a little bit of money when they have a chance to win quite a bit more.

Department Store Gift Wrap
Mary Linder, advisor of the Omicron Psi Chapter at Grayson County College in Texas, said her chapter developed a relationship with the local Belk department store and offers gift-wrapping services for 3-4 days during the holiday season. Chapter members don’t charge, but invite donations.

“We easily raise over $1,000,” she said. “We just schedule our officers and members for different shifts throughout the day.”

Duck Dash
The Alpha Epsilon Epsilon Chapter at Delaware Technical Community College-Owens Campus hosted a “Duck Dash” fundraiser in which participants purchased rubber ducks to compete in a floating race.

E

Events
California advisor Myriam Moody’s chapter at Southwestern College hosts a car show on campus annually, presenting prizes for the best cars and charging vendors $25 for booth space. Some of Moody’s other fundraising suggestions include restaurant nights in which the chapter receives a portion of each sale.

Entertainment
Alpha Omicron Omicron at Mid-Michigan Community College showed the movie “Beauty and the Beast” on campus for local families in the community. While admission was free, the chapter profited from concession sales and dressed up like the characters to meet and take photos with guests.

Everlasting Love
No one wants to forget their loved ones on Valentine’s Day, so why not make your chapter a convenient campus shopping stop for this holiday? The Alpha Nu Epsilon Chapter at Northwestern Connecticut Community College sold greeting cards and valentine candy in addition to themed baked goods and raffled off a $50 gift certificate provided by a local salon.

F

Faculty Pie in the Face
Your college faculty could be one of your best fundraising targets — literally. Both Huggins and Taylor said their chapters had benefitted from “Pie in the Faculty Face” fundraisers. Taylor said the faculty at Danville Community College pay not to be “pied.”

Huggins said the Rocky Mountain-Cascade does a pie in the face fundraiser at both the fall Honors in Action Conference and spring convention. Raffle ticket purchasers vote on the top three regional team members to get pied.

“It’s a lot of fun, the members enjoy the experience, and the regional team has a friendly competition — we consider it an honor to get pied,” Huggins said. “The money raised pays for registration/travel grants for our chapters that may not be able to attend the conferences due to financial hardships.”

Flocking Flamingos
The Alpha Epsilon Epsilon Chapter uses flocks of flamingos to raise funds. Members get pre-orders from supporters to have one or more of their friends “flamingoed.” In the dead of the night, members place the flamingos in the yards along with a note explaining how a friend of theirs paid to have them flocked. For a donation members will remove the flock and send it to the yard of any friend they choose, allowing the fundraiser to continue to feed on itself as the flamingos migrate.

Fruit Farming
Obviously McFate and the Eta Gamma Chapter in Kansas do a lot of fundraising, but they may be one of the only PTK chapters to use fruit farming as a moneymaker in addition to all their other efforts.

“We pick sand hill plums and sell them to a winery in Oklahoma where they make honey, jam, and jelly,” McFate said. “This usually nets about $600.”

Put some of these fundraising ideas to use in your chapter, and register now for PTK Catalyst 2018. We can’t wait to see you there for the #PTKPartyOfTheCentury!

Using ‘Zoom’ to Grow Your Chapter

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

Every academic term, chapters — and PTK Headquarters — send thousands of emails to prospective members of Phi Theta Kappa, inviting them to accept membership. And every academic term, thousands of emails go unopened or unanswered.

Two reasons come to mind:

  1. Students do not check email, especially their school email accounts, regularly. For many digital natives, email is a floppy disk in a Cloud-based world; a disposable camera in a galaxy of high-definition smart phones; a VHS tape in a streaming sea of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. You see where I’m going.
  2. Often, our emails go directly to students’ spam, or junk, folders. So, for students who regularly check their email, Phi Theta Kappa’s invitations go unanswered.

How can chapters and Headquarters connect with prospective members to communicate the lifetime membership benefits of Phi Theta Kappa? One method is to meet students where they are — online (but not in their inbox).

Both in and out of the classroom, digital technologies are pervasive in the lives of today’s college students. One glance at Pew Research Center’s 2017 Social Media Fact Sheet, and it is clear social media connectivity is omnipresent for American adults. For example, 80 percent of Americans between the ages of 30 and 49 use at least one social media site. That figure increases to 86 percent for adults ages 18-29. Moreover, research suggests that the majority of college students prefer elements of a digital learning environment.

Using Zoom, a platform for video and audio conferencing, advisors, officers, and your Headquarters Divisional Specialist can co-facilitate a highly tailored, interactive webinar for your chapter’s prospective members. This customized, online discussion will enable your students to ask questions and get answers from PTK Headquarters staff AND YOU, the leaders of their prospective local chapter.

Your Divisional Specialist will customize a presentation for your chapter — complete with your chapter’s eligibility criteria, common reasons why prospective members at your chapter do not accept membership, and professional development and fellowship opportunities on your campus. Additionally, your Divisional Specialist will include information about Phi Theta Kappa’s mission and structure to provide a holistic take on what membership in Phi Theta Kappa entails on the international, regional, and local levels.

During the webinar, prospective members will be able to “meet” both of you — local chapter leaders AND Headquarters staff members who will work with you to create and foster opportunities for continued success.

A Zoom webinar has a maximum capacity of 500 participants. I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity. If your chapter is currently participating in summer enrollment, this webinar may serve as your final outreach to prospective members. If your chapter is not participating in summer enrollment, use this opportunity to spearhead marketing efforts to promote this webinar in the fall.

Keep in mind: Diversifying your outreach methods could be just the fix you need to bring you one step closer to earning distinction as a REACH chapter.

After your collaborative Zoom webinar with PTK Headquarters staff, I encourage you to continue using Zoom to engage with your members and prospective members year-round. Any individual can create a Zoom basic user account and host a meeting with three or more total participants (up to 100) lasting up to 40 minutes. Use the webinar you co-facilitated with your Divisional Specialist as a model, and start to implement Zoom meetings on your own for prospective and current members alike.

This collaboration between Headquarters staff and your chapter’s leaders can serve as the launching pad for your chapter’s membership and communication goals. Invite a chapter officer to serve as a panelist. Promote the webinar on your chapter and school’s social media pages. Amplify your digital presence, and increase your chances of converting prospective members into actual members by partnering with us. Click HERE to view a sample webinar registration page, and click HERE to view some of PTK’s recent webinars.

Given today’s college population of digital natives, it makes sense to meet students “where” they are. Zoom technology is a simple, innovative way to connect with your audience, bridge the gap between Headquarters and your local chapter, and enhance your chapter’s presence both online and offline.

Chapter Uncovers HiA Success

For the Beta Lambda Delta Chapter at Jefferson State Community College’s Shelby Campus in Alabama, it was a long journey from looking at the Honors in Action Guide for the first time to receiving its Honors in Action Project Award onstage at PTK Catalyst 2017.

Here, the chapter shares the inside scoop on how they built an outstanding project – literally from the ground up.

Research

Beta Lambda Delta’s “Digscovery” Honors in Action Project began with an extensive academic study of the role of myths in reflecting and even creating truth. From their research, the chapter landed on this finding: “Instead of myth and reality being oppositional, myth can actually serve as a vehicle for preserving and representing truth.”

Key corollaries emerged, including:

  • Historical myths can be discovered through careful, respectful archaeological expeditions.
  • Archaeological expeditions not conducted with care can damage the past they seek to preserve.
  • Like previous people, modern individuals express the values found in their myths through creating utilitarian and artistic objects.

The last insight that led them to a provocative question: Could a historical study of myths reveal truths about current culture?

Action

The answer to their question was to create “Digscovery,” an interactive archeology project pairing Phi Theta Kappa members with fifth grade students from two local elementary schools.

Digscovery was by no means an easy, last-minute operation, but one that required careful study, planning, and execution over several months. Advisor Dr. Liesl Harris said the chapter spent most of the year working on the project.

“After visiting the Birmingham Museum of Art together, each school dreamed up a culture, complete with rules and values, and then made artifacts representing their cultures,” Harris explained.

Phi Theta Kappa students then buried the artifacts and created an archaeological grid at each dig site. The Cornerstone and Hilltop students excavated the other school’s artifacts and interpreted the culture they “digscovered.” Findings were presented at a grand finale celebration at Jefferson State in November, and artifacts were displayed museum style for students and parents to view.

Throughout the project, Jefferson State students served as tour guides, consultants, and advisors for the children.

The Digscovery project was designed to encourage students to think about how different people represent themselves and reflect on similarities and differences of things such as customs, clothing, and items culturally.

Collaboration

The chapter collaborated with Jefferson State’s Community Outreach Division, Cornerstone and Hilltop Schools, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and received a grant from Wells Fargo to sponsor a luncheon at the museum. In addition, the Shelby County Reporter newspaper ran a three-part series on the project.

Leadership Roles

Chapter leadership roles created specifically for the project included:

  • Two lesson plan specialists, who wrote lessons used with fifth-grade students
  • Six education specialists, who taught the plans to the fifth graders
  • Two grant writers, who secured crucial funding from Wells Fargo Bank
  • One logistics manager, who coordinated museum visits, school visits and the final presentation
  • Six artistic directors, who assisted students in creating their cultures and artifacts
  • Two site directors, who prepared the dig sites and supported the students during their digs
  • One videographer who documented the project
  • Two data analysts, who analyzed pre-/post-project surveys and documented what was learned
  • One media liaison, who wrote press releases and worked with the media covering the project

Leadership Training

Chapter Officers and members participated in the following training especially for the project:

  • Education symposium
  • Grant-writing workshop
  • Birmingham Museum of Art training
  • Archaeology symposium
  • Data analysis training
  • Media training

Overcoming obstacles

Chapter leaders became frustrated when numerous schools did not return their messages. Yet, something even better emerged.

After reaching out to more than 20 schools, they were able to work with Cornerstone School, a private inner-city school, and Hilltop School, a well-funded Montessori suburban school. Bringing together such culturally different students created a “metanarrative” to the project.

Results

As students created cultures, they also learned about cultures very different from their own. The artifacts confirmed the chapter’s hypothesis about relics revealing truth. For example, the economically poor students created a world where food was plentiful and expensive things were abundant. The culture created by more affluent students had the luxury of being peaceful, as most had never known violence. The project allowed these students to gain insights into each other’s lives and for their educators to better understand the challenges they face.

The chapter shared survey results demonstrating the success of the project, and their lesson plans were combined into a published textbook, which will be used to help others replicate the project.

“With Digscovery our college students learned and practiced important skills like research, project management and public speaking,” Co-Advisor Libby Holmes said, “But I believe the real lifetime lessons they learned were about serving their community and the joy of mentoring energetic young spirits.”

Beta Lambda Delta member Hoang Phan agrees.

“Digscovery was the most amazing and unforgettable project I have ever done,” he said. “It has helped enhance my leadership and teamwork skills, and the children’s creations are treasures!”

In addition to learning about myths and cultures, the students at Cornerstone and Hilltop gained invaluable lessons about teamwork, and made great friends with each other in the process. Hilltop faculty member Janet Lewis said the students benefitted from working with others they did not know beforehand.

“It was good to see the kids interacting with the kids from another school and learning about other cultures,” she added.

Harris said the project provided an outstanding opportunity for these elementary students to get an idea of what it feels like to be archeologists, historians, and curators.

“We also believe it was a fun way to expose them to concepts like understanding and acceptance of differences and learning to celebrate similarities at a young age,” she said. “Most importantly, they learned more about each other and about themselves as well.”

Hilltop students Cleo Moore and Hazel Jackson shared their thoughts on the teamwork required for the Digscovery project, advice that might just apply to all chapters working on Honors in Action:

“Sometimes it can be tough, but it’s fun,” Moore said.

Jackson added, “If you work together, you can get stuff done.”

Find resources for your chapter’s Honors in Action Project and visit the Hallmark Awards page for Honors in Action best practices, tutorial videos, and writing tips. The 2018 application is coming in fall 2017.

People of PTK: Willie Chavez

Willie Chavez was 15 years old the first time he was shot.

Raised by a single mother on the South Side of Chicago amid gangs and violence, he fell in with the wrong crowd and was in and out of prison starting at age 15, a cycle that continued until his early twenties. He was shot again when he was 20.

“I pretty much experienced all the bad things in life,” Willie said. “I drifted toward the wrong people, and I made some really bad decisions.”

His is a story of struggle and survival, and it’s one that is clearly divided into two sections: before the birth of his son, and after. Both have made him the man he is today — a 29-year-old student at Saint Xavier University — and both continue to shape him: he’s working to prevent others from following his path, and he recently found out that his son has leukemia.

All About Survival

Despite repeated incarcerations, Willie received his GED in boot camp in 2006 and enrolled at Harold Washington College as a first-generation college student with his 18-year-old peers in 2007. Financial troubles led to him dropping out in 2009, so he began finding work through temp agencies.

His son, Julian, was born in 2010.

“It completely changed my life,” he said. “I started trying to find myself.”

In 2014, Willie was working in a freezer packaging cold vegetables for distribution. The physical demands were difficult, given his prior gunshot wounds. He thought of his son, and of his own childhood. He decided to give college another try.

He quit his job and went straight to Richard J. Daley College. He didn’t have a plan; he didn’t even know what he wanted to major in.

“At that point, it was all about survival,” he said. “I was lost in life. I had no sense of direction, had doubts, was scared of criticism, and had enormous fears of failure.”

Willie was also alone. He’d lost most of his friends when he decided to turn his life around. He was nervous but determined; and at Daley, he found the support group he needed.

He didn’t think much of his invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa at first — he wasn’t familiar with the organization. But a girl in class told him about it, so he went to check out the room where the PTK members on his campus hung out. There, he met advisor Cassandra Powell and, soon after, became a member.

Willie also started finding direction. He chose to major in psychology and served as Vice President of the Psychology Club.

“I wanted to know more about why I did the things I’d done in my life…everything that played into it,” he said. “And, I wanted to keep others — especially youth — from drifting into that same lifestyle.”

A Better Person

Willie graduated from Daley in 2016 with a 3.8 GPA. While there, he participated in the work study program, was on the Dean’s List, and was in the Chicago Scholars program.

He also received an $18,000 per year renewable Phi Theta Kappa transfer scholarship to Saint Xavier. After his first year there, he has a 4.0 GPA and is on track to complete his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in political science in May 2018.

“It’s been hard, but my son is worth it,” he said.

Willie spent the spring 2017 semester interning with Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) in Arlington, Virginia, where he served as a case manager for 60 juvenile and adult offenders completing community service hours. He also went to school one day a week at the Washington Internship Institute in Washington, D.C.

He found it rewarding and “surreal” to be on “the other side of the aisle” in court. It was also his first time traveling that far from home, being on his own, and meeting other people from around the country.

“It’s exactly what I want to do career-wise in Chicago,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m a better person for it.”

Willie still lives in Chicago’s South Side. The neighborhood hasn’t changed, but he has — he shares his story with local youth to keep them away from gangs, and he helps old friends get their GEDs and find jobs.

He’s working to get his record expunged and hopes to get pardoned from the Illinois governor — while he readily admits that he’s made mistakes, he doesn’t want them to haunt him the rest of his life.

Willie is also working nights so he can be with Julian for his chemo treatments. He’s worried about his final year of school, but he’s determined to find a way to finish — again, for his son.

“I’m trying to stay positive, because I’ve come this far,” he said. “We’re going to fight this together.”

Why Soft Skills are Essential to a Successful Career

Editor’s note: This post was written and submitted by Stephen Twum Barimah, Vice President of the Ohio Region and Vice President of the Alpha Zeta Delta Chapter at Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus.

In today’s academic environment, students are all taught basically the same way. Go to class, watch the professor go over the material, ask a few questions, and then take your homework home and teach yourself to assimilate and apply the concepts in the academic material.

What ends up happening is that students gain a ton of hard skills, which may get their foot in the door with an employer. However, people forget that once you’re on the other side, it is your soft skills that open additional doors to come. Simply put, your emotional intelligence, ethics, attitude, and communication skills are essential to being successful in your career.

Soft skills are increasingly becoming the hard skills of today’s workforce. It is not enough to be highly trained in conventional workplace skills. Things like emotional intelligence, personnel management, conflict resolution, communication skills and adaptability are becoming fundamental requirements for employees.

It is now widely accepted that developing the softer interpersonal techniques and relationship-building skills are extremely crucial, otherwise growth becomes difficult in an employee’s professional development. Organizations are not looking for mindless drones that they can bark orders at all day.

Rather, employers are looking for leaders that can inspire other employees into taking ownership of the company’s tenets and ideals — making them more productive and happier employees.

Five Star Competitive Edge, Phi Theta Kappa’s exclusive online professional development program, has been designed to practice and strengthen these soft skills. Tasks such as team building, problem solving, motivating, and delegating are all the much easier if you have well-developed soft skills.

Displaying a positive attitude and knowing how to get along with other people are crucial for success. The problem is, the importance of these skills is often undervalued — there is minimal or no training provided for them.

These skills alone help people communicate and collaborate effectively with others. The skills you gain in Phi Theta Kappa’s Competitive Edge program are more crucial than ever.

Completing the Five Star Competitive Edge program has helped me gained real-world experiences that are invaluable in today’s work force. I have become a better student, a more efficient mathematics tutor, and a more effective leader.

Initially, I was very hesitant about starting the course, but the program quickly allayed any fears. The first skill I learned from the Competitive Edge course was how to properly harness my innate creativity. The ability to think up new ideas while presenting them in an aesthetically pleasing way has become a skill that has made me an outstanding student among my peers. This skill has benefitted me not only in my academic career, but also in my job as a math tutor.

The second thing I learned from the course was the development of teamwork skills. Of all the skills, this is the one that has changed my life in the most positive way.

Before I participated in the Competitive Edge course, I was a bit of a lone wolf who liked to get things done all by myself. After I finished the course, I realized that no man is an island and that, to achieve great things, I would need the skills of people around me.

My attitude changed from “I can do it” to “WE can do it.” In other words, it takes the right kind of independence — as well as willingness to take responsibility — to make good things happen when trying to achieve a goal. This skill is invaluable at work, where I am required to team up with other tutors and teach mathematics to students from different walks of life.

Finally, the ability to critically analyze and solve problems is a skill that I developed from the professional program. The ability to solve real-world problems is crucial to thriving not only in the present, but also in the future. This is a necessary skill because in this ever-changing world, we will always be faced with different situations.

We must become flexible thinkers who can react effectively and efficiently to any potential issues. Therefore, having the ability to analyze, tackle and solve problems is an important skill that every student must learn.

Creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving are skills that are reinforced by the continuous development of soft skills. These skills act as a catalyst that transform any normal individual into an extraordinary person that can transform an organization from its root to its head.

Soft skills allow an individual to tap into their sense of purpose and realize their self-worth. I urge all members of Phi Theta Kappa to take advantage of the Five Star Competitive Edge program. Each one of these skills is an essential element for the organizational and your personal success.

3 Ways to Recruit More Members

The Iota Zeta Chapter at Northeast Mississippi Community College got a big surprise at one of its meetings this spring — Phi Theta Kappa President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner showed up with balloons and a really big box.

Inside were 244 free graduation stoles the chapter had earned through the REACH Rewards program. It was the most regalia earned by any chapter in the Society.

The REACH Rewards program recognizes chapters that meet or exceed a 15 percent membership acceptance rate. Each chapter hitting the mark earns four free graduation stoles, and additional rewards are based on a chapter’s size.

More than 4,700 free graduation stoles were given to 422 REACH chapters this spring. See the full list.

Iota Zeta boasted a 59 percent acceptance rate in 2016, ranking it sixth among all PTK chapters. Here are three big ways they reached success.

1. Make the Invitation Personal

Advisor Dr. Ray Harris said the Iota Zeta Chapter has found success in making recruiting new members as personal as possible.

“We issue a personal invitation from the chapter and ask the students to come to the advisor’s office to join,” Harris said. “We take time to meet each candidate and talk with them.”

He added that the chapter has a presence at freshmen orientation so that incoming freshmen learn about the organization early. In addition, senior colleges recruiting at Northeast often include the benefits of PTK membership in their presentations.

But, it doesn’t stop there. Harris follows up by contacting applicants to make sure that they received and understand the material sent to them and offers a thorough orientation about what Phi Theta Kappa means, both locally and internationally.

2. Make the High School Connection

The chapter also doesn’t wait until students are enrolled to expose them to Phi Theta Kappa.

Members participate in “Northeast Now,” a college activity that invites high school seniors from area schools to tour the college and be introduced to different programs available to Northeast students.

Iota Zeta sets up an exhibition booth so they can talk with future incoming freshmen about the organization, explaining the impressive benefits that come with being a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

3. Make Membership Affordable and Accessible

Finances are also a part of the picture for students on limited budgets, so the chapter keeps local fees as low as possible.

“Our Development Foundation offers scholarships/loans for those who don’t have the financial means to join,” Harris said. “We have also worked to get permission to allow eligible students to use school financial aid to pay membership fees.”

The chapter also uses PTK membership to “encourage and incentivize students to develop themselves academically and intellectually,” fellow advisor Dr. Deborah Kehoe said.

“We try to show students that the life of the mind is not exclusive to an ivory tower setting,” she said. “I think we do a good job of using our members as down-to-earth ambassadors of the PTK experience.”

And what they are doing seems to be working, because potential members are definitely noticing.

“Phi Theta Kappa at Northeast is active and highly visible,” said new member Lainey Stevens. “It made me want to join.”

Learn more about REACH Rewards.

New Transfer Scholarship: Roanoke College

Roanoke College is a liberal arts college in the heart of historic Salem, Virginia. It was founded in 1842 and is the second-oldest Lutheran-related college in America.

The college has about 2,000 full-time students, making the student-teacher ratio small at 13:1. There are students from 43 states and 31 countries, and 85 percent of them receive some form of financial aid.

Some key facts from Roanoke College’s website:

  • #4 US News & World Report’s Up-and-Coming National Liberal Arts Colleges
  • One of only 286 institutions that houses a Phi Beta Kappa honor society chapter
  • Top 9 percent The Princeton Review’s Best 381 Colleges
  • Top 10 percent Forbes magazine’s “America’s Best Colleges”

Learn more about Roanoke College and its transfer scholarship for PTK members in this brief Q&A.

Tell us about your college’s new transfer scholarship for members of Phi Theta Kappa.
We have a new transfer scholarship specifically for Phi Theta Kappa members. With proof of Phi Theta Kappa membership, you will earn an additional $2,500 per year scholarship on top of your merit transfer scholarship (up to $20,000).

Why does your college feel that it is important to offer a scholarship opportunity for members?
Phi Theta Kappa students are important to us because we know that they work really hard and like to succeed. They have a lot to offer our campus both academically and socially. We welcome transfer students, especially PTK members, with open arms!

Are there other transfer scholarships that could be stacked with your Phi Theta Kappa award?
Yes, we offer Transfer Merit Scholarships based on cumulative transfer GPA that range from $11,000 to $20,000 per year. Additionally, we have a $1,000 visit grant if you come to campus for a tour and a $1,000 Lutheran scholarship for Lutheran students.

In your opinion, what is one of the most impressive things about your college?
We just turned 175 this year! Also, our small campus size fosters a very strong community feel.

Are there any special events or deadlines on your recruitment calendar that you would like to share?
Transfer admission is rolling, and we are always accepting applications for spring and fall semesters. We do not have an application fee, and you can apply online at roanoke.edu/apply. You do not need to have an associate degree to transfer. Housing is guaranteed for all who need it. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the transfer coordinator, Valerie Collignon, at collignon@roanoke.edu.

Find more transfer scholarships exclusively for Phi Theta Kappa members at CollegeFish.org.

A 4-Day PTK Crash Course

Editor’s Note: This story was written and submitted by officers of the Alpha Zeta Eta Chapter at North Lake College in Texas.

Becoming a chapter officer in Phi Theta Kappa is an important accomplishment and incredible milestone requiring a considerable amount of responsibility, which is why offering training sessions for your officer team is key to its success.

At North Lake College in Irving, Texas, our officers attend a four-day training session hosted by our Texas Region Alumni Association trainers. All chapters in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) are invited to attend this free training, where we learn about leadership duties, setting goals, building teamwork and planning events, as well as specific programs like Honors in Action and College Projects.

It is a chance to meet new people, make new friends, learn, and bond. All current and potential officers, committee chairs, and members interested in taking leadership positions in their chapter are invited to attend the training.

Officers from PTK chapters at DCCCD college campuses in Brookhaven, Eastfield, El Centro and Cedar Valley attended this year’s training, which started with “Phi Theta Kappa 101.” This session covered the basics of what Phi Theta Kappa means and what chapter officers need to know about the organization.

Next, we discussed protocol within our chapters and district. Sessions on hosting successful meetings, delegating responsibilities, building vitae and resumes, and applying for scholarships followed — and that was just day one!

One day of the training was dedicated to Honors in Action. We went through the Honors Program Guide, we discussed and researched themes, and we learned the ins and outs of how the Honors in Action Project works.

One day — the annual Spring Fling — was spent networking and simply having fun with the other chapters.

On the final day of training, each officer team learned its chapter’s bylaws. We examined the Hallmark Awards program. And, we explored the Five Star Competitive Edge program under the leadership of our trainers, who were Five Star members.

A Phi Theta Kappa crash course in four days — it was completely worth it, and we are now prepared to help our fellow members this upcoming term. We connected with members from other chapters and cannot wait to see them at the Texas Honors Institute in July. We are now prepared to lead our chapters to success!