2 Big Benefits of the Honors Case Study Challenge

When Tina Seifer decided to participate in the 2017 Honors Case Study Challenge, she simply sat down, chose a topic that related to a problem she saw within her own world, and thought about how she could impact it.

For her, that problem was “The War on Heroin, and Peace for the Addict,” a play on Theme 4 of the Honors Study Topic, Peace and War. Seifer will graduate from Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio in December with a degree in Human Services. She plans to become a chemical dependency counselor, and she wrote about harm reduction programs for opiate addicts.

“The case study challenged me to push myself out of what was comfortable and my typical research and writing style,” she said.

A case study is an in-depth, detailed analysis of a particular topic and its development over time. For Phi Theta Kappa, it’s an examination of an aspect of the Honors Study Topic, How the World Works: Global Perspectives. The challenge is open to both individual members and chapters, and winners receive a $500 scholarship.

“The Honors Case Study Challenge is a great companion to an Honors in Action Project,” said PTK’s Associate Vice President of Honors Programming and Undergraduate Research Susan Edwards. “An added bonus for chapters that work on both Honors in Action AND the Honors Case Study Challenge is that submitting the case study counts as collaborating with people in or beyond your region — one of the collaboration requirements for Honors in Action.”

Boost Your Resume

Conducting an Honors Case Study goes beyond Honors in Action; it leaves participants with real-world skills they’ll be able to use in their classes and on the job, which is one reason a case study is a required part of Competitive Edge, PTK’s professional development program.

(Yes, you can submit your case study from Competitive Edge to the Honors Case Study Challenge, if it ties in to the Honors Study Topic, and if it uses newspaper sources.)

Case studies reinforce soft skills Competitive Edge aims to build — skills employers look for on a resume:

  • Teamwork and collaborative learning
  • Academic investigation:
    • Showing intellectual curiosity
    • Researching a current topic and determining appropriate sources
    • Searching for and considering varying viewpoints
    • Analyzing research
    • Critical thinking
  • Writing:
    • Organizing and synthesizing research materials and information
    • Composing concise executive summaries of gathered information
    • Writing open-ended questions that guide others to consider the topic of the case study
  • Using technology to complete and submit an application

Be a More Valuable Employee

The detailed analysis in the Honors Case Study Challenge is done through reading newspaper articles. Developing the habit of staying current with trends and events makes you a more valuable employee and a more interesting person.

“Participants have the potential to learn the importance of not only keeping up with current news but also digging deeper into a topic, rather than just reading the headline of a story,” said Tria Cohen, PTK’s Student Engagement Programs Manager.

The challenge requires that the newspaper articles present a variety of viewpoints on your chosen topic. Understanding varying viewpoints helps you make stronger, more informed decisions that take into account how those decisions will impact others whose worldviews are different.

“This is a lesson on staying neutral in evaluating a topic from all sides,” Cohen said. “Even though you may have your own personal viewpoint, you may be in a future profession that demands you stay neutral when researching, analyzing, reporting, or making predictions on information.”

The deadline to submit an entry for the Honors Case Study Challenge is 5 p.m. CT on Wednesday, November 1. Submit yours now.

Fundraise Your Way to PTK Catalyst 2018

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

Phi Theta Kappa conferences and events are a membership benefit, and the cost associated with traveling and attending is not meant to be a barrier to access. Some, but certainly not all, chapters receive funding at the institutional level that can be used for these events. Others must rely heavily on creative fundraising efforts to bridge the gap.

Fundraising is a valuable skill and often allows members to engage in leadership, fellowship, and, at times, service. Attending PTK Catalyst 2018 means maximizing your membership at the international level. This #PTKPartyOfTheCentury will be one for the history books — literally.

Here are best practices from our recent webinars, Hosting a College Transfer Fair and Fundraise Your Way to PTK Centennial Catalyst. The former features leaders from the Texas Region and the New England Regional Alumni Association, and the latter features seasoned advisors with a proven track record of fundraising success.

  1. Couple your fundraiser with another activity.
  • At Mesa Community College’s Southern/Dobson Campus in Arizona, advisors Duane Oakes and Vickie Gallegos pair a silent auction fundraiser with their chapter’s induction ceremony. This pairing increases the chapter’s visibility, engagement, and excitement among prospective members, faculty, staff, and administrators. Also, check out this blog post about the Alpha Omicron Kappa Chapter’s coupling of an induction ceremony with a swing dance fundraiser!
  1. Consider having a small number of significant fundraisers annually.
  • Silent Auction: Mesa Community College’s Omicron Beta Chapter conducts a limited number of fundraisers each year. The silent auction is one of the chapter’s leading fundraisers, raising nearly $2,000 annually. Students sign a commitment fee form in conjunction with the chapter’s silent auction. The form serves as the student’s pledge to pay a pre-determined commitment amount to be applied to the student’s PTK Catalyst travel and registration expenses. A percentage of the commitment fee can be raised through the member’s silent auction fundraising efforts. Check out the Omicron Beta Chapter’s Silent Auction Time Table and Silent Auction Fundraiser Tips for details on how to organize a silent auction fundraiser at your chapter.
  • Bowl-A-Thon: Advisor Bonnie Coleman from Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester Campus, in Massachusetts organizes a bowl-a-thon, a one-day fundraiser where students, faculty, and staff pledge funds for her chapter. Typically, this event raises about $8,000.
  • Comedy Night: The Alpha Zeta Theta Chapter at Quinsigamond Community College raised about $15,000 at its comedy night fundraiser, which featured a local comedian and a local jazz band.
  1. Document. Document. Document.
  • Vickie Gallegos from Mesa Community College emphasizes the importance of Google spreadsheets, which allow real-time collaboration and color-coding organizational techniques. Members highlight information in red when they’ve asked a business for a donation, and the business has declined. Green is used when a business agrees to donate, and the students have the product(s) or funds in hand. Yellow indicates pending.
  1. Smaller-scale and/or unique fundraisers for smaller chapters work well when the initiatives are connected to the local community and/or campus culture.
  • Associate Regional Coordinator and advisor of the Alpha Sigma Xi Chapter at Columbia Gorge Community College in Oregon Michelle Gietl says her chapter partners with a local restaurant every year. In exchange for members working as servers, the restaurant offers 15 percent of profits earned. Additionally, the chapter places donation jars around the restaurant, so patrons can contribute directly. The chapter also partners with a local doughnut shop annually to raise funds, which have amounted to between $600 and $800 annually. Her close-knit community, she says, looks forward to these activities, especially the doughnuts — the nearest doughnut shop is about 75 miles from campus.
  • One of the Alpha Sigma Xi Chapter’s most significant fundraisers involves partnering with a local business that makes environmentally safe Christmas wreaths. The chapter earns 50 percent profit from this partnership and has raised more than $1,000 annually from this initiative.
  • A unique fundraiser organized by Gietl’s chapter is “Big Red.” “Big Red” is a stuffed red dog the chapter places in the offices of faculty and staff at its college. The only way to have “Big Red” removed from an office is to pay the chapter. This is a fun way to engage everyone at the college and earn extra funds.
  • Check out more fundraising tips here!
  1. Host a college transfer fair that will serve double duty as a fundraiser.
  • The New England Regional Alumni Association organizes two college fairs in conjunction with its fall and spring conferences. Representatives from senior colleges recruit PTK members at these events. In exchange for sponsoring the region’s conference(s), four-year schools have the opportunity to connect with PTK members, have their colleges’ logos on display, and promote transfer opportunities.
  • Funds raised from four-year college sponsors are applied directly to PTK member benefits. Omicron Psi Chapter advisor and District II Coordinator for the Texas Region Mary Linder said, “The worst [senior colleges] can tell me is no. I’m not going to lose anything by making that ask [for sponsorship]. … In the end, that money they’re giving us, even though it’s a fundraiser, is going to be turned into benefits for our members. … We can use it to bring in speakers or do great activities in the Texas Region. … So, [our members] are getting the double benefit of having financial resources to get great things and having the connection with those four-year institutions.”
  • Julie Larkin of the New England Regional Alumni Association says the New England Region uses funds raised from four-year school sponsorships to provide members with scholarships to Honors Institute and PTK Catalyst.
  • Check out these resources to learn more about setting up a college transfer fair at your next regional or chapter event: Hosting a College Transfer Fair Webinar; Transfer Fair Toolkit; Sample Texas Regional Fair Sponsorship Structure.

PTK Catalyst will be an unforgettable chapter in PTK’s history book, and we want you there. Fundraising at the chapter and regional levels will play a critical role in getting as many members as possible to Kansas City, Missouri, in April 2018. PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner’s remarks from her 2017 PTK Catalyst speech echo the importance of the event:

“I do like to think of a catalyst as a little bit of magic, a spark. … We hope to spark your life and the life of your chapter. We want you to leave here with a little bit of magic that brings you this much closer to your goals. We want our Convention speakers and the information you learn in Ed Forums to spark something in you. We want you to visit the college fair and connect to those four-year universities. Those recruiters might change your life forever. But, most of all, we want you to find the magic in one another, the members that you will meet from here and across the world.”

I AM PTK: Alumnus and Journalist John Sepulvado

Alumnus John Sepulvado hosts The California Report at San Francisco-based National Public Radio Station KQED. He previously served as host/executive producer of Weekend Edition at Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Sepulvado has earned four prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards and has received Public Radio News awards for investigative reporting, and he helped CNN take home a Peabody Award for coverage of the 2010 Gulf Oil spill. But now we’ve turned the tables, and he takes time to answer our questions.

Q: Why did you decide to attend community college?

A: It was a necessity. I have two children who are almost grown now, but at the time, they were very young. Their mom and I wanted to do something with our lives and knew education was key. I was accepted to two universities, but Tallahassee Community College offered daycare, academic counseling, financial aid — what we needed to get where we wanted to go.

Q: How did you first learn about Phi Theta Kappa?

A: I had a professor that I’m still friends with — Dr. Tom Waller, who taught sociology. He suggested I get into the honors program and PTK. He said it would open doors for me, that I would find it stimulating.

Q: Did you benefit from being a member?

A: It helped me keep my grades up. At times, I thought I might slack — I was tired, but I wanted to be a leader in my school and be recognized for my grades. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA.

PTK exposed me to different ideas. It was the only extracurricular thing I did, but it really expanded my world. We watched foreign films, we discussed Cuban politics — we did all kinds of activities. At the time, I was working at the Olive Garden. I was thankful for the job, but it’s hard to be intellectually stimulated by offering people all-you-can-eat soup, salad and breadsticks.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?

A: I didn’t think I could ever be one, but from a young age I liked writing. I liked going places. I’m curious to the point that I got into a lot of trouble. I questioned everything. I never accepted the standard answer. It was considered antisocial, but in the field, it is standard. Journalism has saved my life.

Q: What career path did you follow?

A: I’m originally from California, and the place I grew up in was not one where you went to college. The three ways you got out of the neighborhood were to get a state job, join the Navy or go to prison. My mom said I should get a state job, but I lucked out. I got a journalism job by accident and hung on tightly. I moved to Florida, but the newspaper I worked for was sold.

At TCC I had a friend who knew someone in public radio, who, coincidentally, also had a friend who worked at Olive Garden. I came in as a news writer for $7 an hour, working as a fact-checker for the news anchor.

I was working there during the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. After what had happened with Bush and Gore four years earlier, everyone was watching Florida. So, I just hung out, put in a lot of hours, learned how to voice and eventually got hired by the Tampa station, which is a Top 20 market. I had a brief stint at CNN, but other than that I’ve been at NPR stations. I don’t think I’ll ever leave public media.

Q: Do you have any advice for our current members who may want to pursue a career in journalism?

A: It’s helpful if you have an idea of what you want to do. Knowing that helped people get me where I needed to go. Look at your passions and be unabashed in pursuing them. If you put your mind to it, the support network at the community college will get you there. Figure out how to shape your intellectual experiences around your passions rather than thinking about money.

Q: Do you feel you’re making a difference with the work you’re doing?

A: I am in journalism because of people like me. I was one of four kids of a single mom living in a mobile home park. She struggled to feed us mac and cheese. We were not brown enough, not white enough — not represented. When I was growing up, I loved Peter Jennings (longtime anchor of ABC World News Tonight), but he wasn’t talking with people like me.

What I try to do is represent those who don’t have a seat at the table — homeless kids, those who’ve gotten cancer from power plants, parents who’ve had a child killed at daycare and don’t know what to do. I really care about the stories of those who don’t have a lot of power. The first step in taking away a person’s power is to dehumanize them. We have to humanize everyone if civil society is going to exist.

Q: What’s your favorite story that you’ve covered?

A: I covered the militant takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. I didn’t necessarily agree with what they did, but I thought it was important to look at who they are, why they did it, and present them as human beings.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?

A: I want to thank my community college and Tom Waller. Even though he was a sociology professor, he taught me more about journalism than anyone else. He taught me how to recognize the humanity and the flaws of human beings. I still think about what I learned from him. I was lucky to have a professor who, at that critical time, was able to take me from a knucklehead-know-it-all to a focused and serious person.

Some people think that community college teachers are less qualified than others, but in fact, the opposite is true. And they don’t do it for recognition, they do it because they care.

Sepulvado encourages members interested in journalism to reach out to him on Twitter @JohnLGC.

‘Chasing Genius’ through Honors in Action

The members of Alpha Zeta Eta at North Lake College in Texas found a larger platform to broadcast their Honors in Action Project: National Geographic’s Chasing Genius Challenge. Although they didn’t win, thousands of people from all over the country got a first-hand look at the work one Phi Theta Kappa chapter is doing in its community.

Chapter officers and members conducted research — including a nationwide survey — on air quality during the spring and summer and found a need to educate the community on what poor air quality is and how to handle respiratory health under poor air quality conditions. Roughly 58 percent of survey participants suffer from asthma or have a family member who suffers from asthma.

“Once studying the results of our nationwide survey, we focused on the Air Quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and realized that 51 percent of the people residing in our area knew less about Air Quality Index and how to interpret the information than the others who took the survey,” said Susan Moorthy, vice president of communications.

Chapter members plan to educate the community about air quality through their Honors in Action Project, Breathe. But, they also hope to go a step further and develop an Air Quality Sensor Strip, which they’re calling “Breatheware,” a micro-sensor that would wirelessly connect to smartphones.

The strip would pair with a free app that would give a detailed description of air quality of the surrounding area indicated through color codes. The program is targeted at those with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“We believe this innovation would greatly help those who suffer from asthma, but it would also help alert innocent children and elderly patients with some knowledge to be safer,” Susan said.

The chapter submitted its project to National Geographic’s Chasing Genius Challenge with hopes of taking home one of four $25,000 prizes for funding. Thousands of projects were submitted, and the chapter finished as a finalist in the Global Health category, receiving more than 870 votes. See their entry.

“We received votes from all around the country and even had people contacting us to see if we could create videos on the information to send their way,” advisor Candace Eldridge said. “It was really great for our students to do this.”

The chapter is now looking at next steps for getting publicity for their project and “Breatheware” product. They were recently approved to present and hand out information at the upcoming Texas State Fair, which boasts an attendance of more than 2 million people.

New Transfer Scholarship: Arizona State University

Arizona State University is a public university in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area. It is regularly ranked as a leader in higher education, and it now offers a transfer scholarship exclusively to Phi Theta Kappa members.

Check out this brief Q&A with one of ASU’s transfer admissions specialists to learn more.

Tell us about your college’s new transfer scholarship for members of Phi Theta Kappa.

This scholarship is for Arizona residents who are part of Phi Theta Kappa. The award is $1,000 per semester ($2,000 for an academic year) and is renewable for up to a total of four semesters. Students can find this scholarship through Arizona State University’s scholarship portal at scholarships.asu.edu.

Why does your college feel that it is important to offer a scholarship opportunity for members?

Arizona State University is dedicated to academic excellence and to helping scholastically driven students have access to a high-quality education. Phi Theta Kappa students are some of our highest-achieving students. They have a strong commitment to academics, service, and leadership. ASU wants to provide students who possess these qualities the opportunities of the largest public research university in the country.

Are there other transfer scholarships that could be stacked with your Phi Theta Kappa award? If so, please explain.

This scholarship may be combined with other institutional merit scholarships such as the New American University Scholarship or Transfer Achievement Award. This scholarship is not stackable with the All-Arizona Scholarship.

What other opportunities are available for transfer students at your institution to assist them in successfully transitioning from community college?

Transfer students are encouraged to attend ASU’s Welcome Week, where we feature celebrations across all ASU locations to help students meet and learn about ASU and resources. Students can find these free events through eoss.asu.edu/welcome.

We offer Transfer Student Orientation for our new students, which can be found through eoss.asu.edu/orientation/transfer-students.

ASU 394 is a Transfer Success Course that is offered for one credit online. Students are able to learn more about ASU and their specific campus. Students can learn more about this class through tutoring.asu.edu/success-programs/transfer-success.

In your opinion, what is one of the most impressive things about your college?

For the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks ASU #1 on its “Most Innovative Schools” list, putting us in the company of such elite schools as Stanford (#2) and MIT (#3). The ranking is based on a survey of college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans across the country. ASU is a leader in student entrepreneurship, knowledge delivery, and student support services and is continually offering new degrees in emerging fields.

The W.P. Carey School of Business ranks in the Top 25 among the Best Graduate Schools for Business in the nation. On the 2018 list, W.P. Carey ranks #25 for full-time MBA programs, the best ranking for any Arizona school.

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College continues to rise in rankings of the nation’s top education graduate programs. U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 rankings lists Teachers College as #11 among 255 public and private graduate education programs reviewed nationwide. Teachers College serves all four ASU campuses.

Are there any special events or deadlines on your recruitment calendar that Phi Theta Kappa members need to know?

Experience ASU (Daily Visits) — year round
Experience ASU is an opportunity to hear valuable information about admission, financial aid, academics, and the student experience, followed by a student-led walking tour of campus. On select days, academic sessions and residence hall tours are also offered by colleges and Residential Life following the tour at each campus. See more at visit.asu.edu.

More to Explore — February 19, 2018
More to Explore is a conference-style event where students create their own agendas for the day. There are presentations about admission, scholarships and financial aid, academics, getting involved on campus, and more. Students can tour the residence halls, academic buildings, libraries, fitness centers, museums, and other ASU facilities.

Transfer Friday Appointments — year round
At Transfer Fridays, students can visit any of Arizona State University’s four metro Phoenix campus locations and meet with a transfer specialist who can answer any questions they have about the transfer process. Appointments are held Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments can be scheduled at transfer.asu.edu/friday/week.

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

Apply Now for Fall Scholarships

The new Fall Scholarship Application is now open, and applying for more than half a million dollars in Phi Theta Kappa scholarships has never been easier.

Students will find a more streamlined and user-friendly online submission process, allowing them to upload letters of recommendation that are replacing the previous assessments.

Available scholarships include:

  1. All-USA Community College Academic Team
  2. Coca-Cola New Century Scholars
  3. Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team,
  4. Guistwhite Scholarships
  5. Hites Transfer Scholarships
  6. Regional Scholarships
  7. Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship
  8. All-State Academic Teams (offering an additional $41 million in scholarships)
  • Other Scholarships
  1. MEME 4 Money: GEICO’s Creativity Scholarship — Deadline: October 4, 5 p.m. CT
  2. Hurst Review NCLEX® Scholarship — Deadline: November 1, 5 p.m. CT
  3. GEICO Pathway to Completion Master’s Degree Scholarship — Deadline: December 1, 5 p.m. CT

Nominations from colleges regarding their selections for the All-USA and state academic teams are due December 1 by 5 p.m. CT. Get more information, and don’t miss this opportunity — apply now!

Here are eight tips to get you started:

1. Tie It All Together

Before starting your scholarship essays, think about how your past, present and future tie together. What led you to your current passion? What made you decide on this career path?

2. Lead vs. Participate

You don’t have to be a chapter president to ace a scholarship application, but write about opportunities where you led a special project or planned an event versus simply participating.

3. It’s in the Details

Explain your involvement thoroughly. Use numbers when possible, include examples, and don’t fudge on the facts.

4. Use Action Words

Use active phrases like “I facilitated,” “I founded,” or “I implemented.” Don’t be shy about expressing the amount of work and leadership you’ve put into your activities.

5. Don’t Overshare

Show your personality and share your challenges, but don’t write a sob story. Judges are looking for resilience and success, not just misfortune.

6. Fill in the Blanks

Make sure you answer every part of every question. A complete application is much more likely to be competitive.

7. Ask for Recommendations Early

Professors get busy closer to finals, and you don’t want to be scrambling to find someone who will write a letter for you at the last minute. Don’t delay in asking those who know you best.

8. Double Check

Ask at least two other people to look over your application — don’t rely on Spellcheck. Errors will impact your score, and you want to present yourself in the best possible way.

Need more help? Check out these scholarship resources.

DiversiFive Files: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Student Populations

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Don Koch, International Vice President for Division 1.

There are many different populations in our colleges. Understanding their needs — and, in some cases, lack of opportunities — is important if you want to increase access and opportunity for each group on your campus.

The PTK chapter at Frederick Community College in Maryland had a unique approach to illustrating this with its College Project. The Alpha Delta Sigma Chapter created a video, entitled “I am FCC,” to showcase how a group of diverse students would look at the end of their college journey. This was a great example of Stephen Covey’s phrase, “To begin with the end in mind.”

Students of all ages and nationalities repeated the phrase, “I am FCC.” The students in the video wore attire indicative of the career they were seeking.

We can provide equity to students by first identifying their needs. This will enable them to leave college with the goal they had when they started their journey.

Awareness of more diverse student needs will increase inclusiveness in our colleges. How do you do this? To meet the needs and the challenges more diverse student populations face, we will first have to identify the demographics. Some examples of groups of students that face extra challenges are:

  • Veterans
  • Non-Traditional and Aged Students
  • Disabled Students
  • International Students
  • Online Students

The Alpha Eta Kappa Chapter of Midlands Technical College in South Carolina may have touched on a solution. For its College Project, the chapter created an ongoing diversity and inclusion committee; its original focus was on veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, international students, and students with disabilities.

They recognized the importance of ongoing education and training about respecting others’ differences. This chapter also created a college-wide awareness piece about diversity. The college’s executive council is considering an ongoing diversity committee. This is proof of this chapter’s accomplishments and has the makings for continued growth.

It is important for us to understand diversity and inclusion on campus. We should also be aware of our differences and be empathetic to the challenges others face. We will learn more about ourselves as we learn about others.

My fellow International Officers and I challenge you to seek out students that are unlike yourself and discuss your differences. Be aware of their challenges, and see their lives from a different perspective.

We look forward to seeing and hearing from you at the next Synergy Session on Tuesday, October 3, at 4 p.m. CT. Let’s discuss some of the diverse groups and what we can do to promote diversity and increase inclusion. This could be an opportunity to increase self-awareness and promote creative thinking.