I AM PTK: Melinda Dourte

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Melinda Dourte, co-advisor to the Rho Zeta Chapter at Big Bend Community College in Washington.

I am a college dropout. I am a divorced and remarried mother of three. I was afraid.

I am a fulltime employee and have always been someone else’s assistant. I put other people’s needs before my own.

I am a proud mother of two college graduates.

I am a wife, a cook, and a grocery shopper. I am not a math whiz.

I wanted to be a Park Ranger.

I am occasionally whiny.

I wanted to be a botanist.

I love words, art, stories, and where they take me.

I am a college student. I want to teach.

I am younger at 53 than I was at 40.

I have found my voice and some of the chords of my song are scratchy but oh, some are so strong. Married at 18 and divorced by 25, I have walked from fearful to fearless, from wallflower to bold speaker. I sing sometimes softer, and often smarter, and always with the tenor of discovery.

I am an artifact. I am evidence. I am a journal of flowing thoughts that fit snuggly, break apart, and fly freely. I am an individual who joined a collective.

I am learning. I am evolving. I look back just enough to remember how far I have come, most of the time. I look forward with no end in sight.

I am a college graduate. I am earning my bachelor’s degree and maybe my master’s! I am compassion tempered with determination.

I am encouragement and constructive criticism blended to a silky smoothness. I am a draft, revising every day.

I am an alumna.

I am scuffed and bruised. I am resilient.

I am a thinker, a feeler, a leader, a friend. I am — and can hardly believe this one — a PTK Co-Advisor!

Every leaf of my laurel grew through thorns, fertilized with, well, you know…that I turned into gold. Fertilizer enriches the soil we feel stuck in, and later we burst through it green, flexing, and reaching for the sun.

I persevere, I sweat, I glow, I fall, and I get up stronger.

I cry, I swear, I pray. I am a tangled mess, and I am a rich tapestry woven with fine threads made from weeds, effort, and learning.


Explore our new “I AM PTK” recruitment toolkit.

Melinda is the former president of the Greater Northwest Region and the former vice president of fellowship for the Rho Zeta Chapter. She was named a Distinguished Regional Officer in 2017 and a Distinguished Member in 2015. She loves her family and is celebrating her 24th wedding anniversary this year. When she isn’t attending class at Central Washington University, she enjoys hiking, reading, and discovering.

Prepare for Your College Transfer Fair

If you’re planning to transfer to a four-year college or university, you need to start looking at schools now. Many colleges will host transfer fairs this fall — use this advice from Loyola University Chicago to make sure you’re prepared.

Start by asking if they offer a transfer scholarship exclusively for PTK members — more than 750 colleges do. Use this scholarship map and create a PTK Connect profile as you research options to find your best fit.

Next, ask yourself what qualities you find important in a college. Then, ask these questions to senior college representatives at your next transfer fair.


  • What majors do you offer?
  • Are advanced degrees (master’s, doctorate) offered?
  • Do you offer any technical or certificate programs?
  • Can I enroll part-time, take courses in the late afternoon, evenings, weekends, or during the summer?
  • Are there internship opportunities available on campus or in the community?
  • Do you have any honors programs for transfer students?
  • What are your graduation and retention rates?

Campus Community

  • Is your college located in an urban, suburban, or rural setting?
  • Are you on a semester or quarter system? When do classes begin?
  • What kinds of social, cultural, and recreational activities are available on the campus or in the community?
  • How diverse is your campus population?
  • Do you have a disability services office?
  • Will I need a car to get around? Does public transportation provide easy access to both the campus and community?
  • How many students are enrolled in your institution? How many of the enrolled students are transfer students?


  • How do I make arrangements to talk with someone further at your college to discuss enrollment opportunities?
  • How do I make arrangements to take a tour of your campus?
  • Do you have an open house program for prospective students? If so, when? Whom do I contact for more information?

Cost of Attendance

  • What is the cost of your institution, including tuition or registration fees, books and supplies, housing, parking, etc.?
  • When is payment due for those fees?
  • Do I have to send in a deposit to confirm my intention to enroll? If so, how much, and when?

Financial Aid and Scholarships

  • When and how do I apply for financial aid? Do I apply for scholarships separately?
  • When will I be notified if I will or will not receive assistance?
  • Are there special kinds of assistance for students of diverse backgrounds?
  • Is it easy to get a part-time job on campus or in the community?

Applying for Admission

  • Where, when, and how can I apply to your university?
  • What is your application deadline?
  • When do I have to submit transcripts, test scores, and other admission materials?
  • Does my major have any additional requirements? If so, what special requirements do I need?
  • If I’m not accepted in my major, what are my options? Can I change to another major?

Admissions Requirements

  • What are your admission requirements for transfer students?
  • What is the admissions priority of transfer students from community colleges? From four-year colleges?
  • If I go to a community college first, will my credits transfer? How and when will I know?
  • Will a course in which I received a “D” grade count for transfer credit?
  • How do you determine my grade if I repeat a course?

Courtesy of 2017 Honors Institute Chapter Advisors Luncheon Sponsor Loyola University Chicago

Centennial Reflections – The Quilt Project

Centennial Reflections – The Quilt Project

I learned quickly that being the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa has a lot of perks — one of which is receiving t-shirts from the chapters and regions I visit.

Over my first 18 months on the job, I have collected dozens (and dozens) of shirts. Each one is special and carries with it a special memory of a chapter visit, induction ceremony, regional meeting, or Society event that I was lucky enough to be a part of.

This 2017 PTK Catalyst shirt reminds me of the amazing talent of members like Northwest Shoals Community College student Clay Hodge, who submitted the winning design that inspired this year’s convention t-shirt. It also reminds me of amazing speakers like Platon and Dr. Jennifer Arnold.

This year’s Honors Institute t-shirt reminds me of the amazing members (and rabbits) I met on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago.

I have CollegeFish and C4 t-shirts that remind me of PTK programs and initiatives, and I have shirts from regions from the Greater Northwest to New England and everywhere in between. Keeping them tucked away in a drawer seemed to be a waste.

As a keepsake for my first few years as a PTK staff member, I had this t-shirt quilt made. It not only reminds me of the people and places I have met along the way, but it also really represents PTK’s diversity and the individuality that lies within each chapter and region.

As we approach our Centennial Celebration, I am asking our advisors and alumni to be a part of the PTK Centennial Quilt Project by contributing a t-shirt or two to be included in one or several quilts that will be made and raffled off, with proceeds benefitting the PTK Foundation.

This quilt will no doubt be an amazing keepsake that represents the rich history of PTK and the diversity of our members, chapters, and regions.

Shirts can be sent to:
Phi Theta Kappa
Attention: Fredrica Tyes
1625 Eastover Drive
Jackson, MS 39211

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner is president and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. If you would like to reach Lynn, please contact her liaison, Fredrica Tyes, at fredrica.tyes@ptk.org.

Help Us Reconnect with PTK Alumni

Phi Theta Kappa’s 3 million-plus alumni members are a key part of the organization: they are valuable mentors for current members and can offer invaluable advice for chapters on projects, recruitment, and more. This is exactly why we want to invite them to our Centennial celebration, but we need your help to find them.

Through the Centennial Alumni Challenge, your chapter can earn free registrations to PTK Catalyst 2018, April 19-21 in Kansas City, Missouri, simply by sending us new and current alumni contacts. Here’s how it works:

  1. Each chapter should have received an email with a link to a downloadable roster of members for whom we no longer have current contact information.
  2. We’ll provide you with a form to fill out for each alumni member. It will include their name and any info we have on file about their involvement as a PTK member.
  3. You work with active members, active alumni, your college, and your community to gather info and fill in the form with details like their current address, phone number, and email address.
  4. Send completed forms to Fredrica Tyes by Friday, September 29.

For every 100 contacts your chapter provides, you’ll receive a free convention registration (up to two registrations per chapter).

Members of the Beta Lambda Delta Chapter at Jefferson State Community College’s Shelby-Hoover Campus in Alabama pored over data from the IT department, searching for contact info of chapter alumni to submit for the challenge. They found hundreds of records.

“Phi Theta Kappa has been life-changing for so many students at Jefferson State,” chapter advisor Dr. Liesl Harris said. “Phi Theta Kappa turning 100 years old is an incredible milestone. Every member has contributed to the success of the organization, and we want them to share in the celebration.”

Our Centennial celebration is one PTK party you don’t want your alumni friends to miss. Everyone will want to hear the dynamic keynote speakers we’re lining up, and an educational forum track focusing on personal and professional development is relevant regardless of where you are in life. There are also many volunteer opportunities.

“The Phi Theta Kappa journey does not end at community college graduation,” 2015-16 International President Yanik Etan said.

He and former International Officers Amie Bernstein and Elizabeth Taylor — now all at the University of Mississippi — have been working to revive the alumni association on campus. Although they attend convention free as past International Officers, they raised money to send five additional alumni members to PTK Catalyst 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

And, you can bet they’ll do it again this year.

“As Phi Theta Kappa’s newly rejuvenated mission is to increase alumni engagement, we want to continue supporting the mission of the organization as well as continuing our leadership involvement,” he said. “It has never been more important to engage as alumni.”

Email Director of Alumni Engagement Mia Ramos to learn more about how you can connect as an alumnus.

Why YOU Should Be a Faculty Scholar

The 2018/2019 Faculty Scholar application is now available, and — new this year — advisors, alumni, and Advisors Emeriti may apply! The deadline is Wednesday, October 11.

To give you a glimpse into this unique program, we asked the most recent group of Faculty Scholars to share three things: reasons you should apply, unexpected benefits, and tips for completing the application. Read on.

9 reasons to apply to be a Faculty Scholar

1. You will receive the best professional development of your life.
2. You will make lifelong friends as you complete workshops, problem solve, and have a lot of fun.
3. You will be part of two consecutive years of Honors Institutes as a seminar group leader, and you will bond with the students in your groups in ways that you may find surprising and unexpected.
4. You will get to speak in informal ways with other faculty members to learn about what is and isn’t working at their colleges as it relates to PTK and to teaching more broadly, sparking ideas that could be used in your own research and classes.
5. You will travel to interesting, engaging, and fun locations — great adventures and experiences are always planned for the Faculty Scholars.
6. You will learn more about PTK programming and be better prepared to work with your own chapter in developing leadership skills and Honors in Action Projects.
7. You will learn a wide variety of small group facilitation techniques that could be used in a variety of settings.
8. You will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in your own chapter’s past Honors in Action Projects and submissions, setting you up to become a better coach for your chapter.
9. You will connect with PTK Headquarters staff, who become friends and valuable resources as you implement PTK programs in your chapter.

11 unexpected benefits of serving as a Faculty Scholar

1. You will have amazing extra experiences as a Faculty Scholar. When I was petting a penguin at the Shedd Aquarium or marveling at the beauty of the Mission San Juan Capistrano, I was actually at work!
2. I didn’t expect to form the strong friendships with the other Faculty Scholars that I did. I became very close to several of them.
3. I learned to look through the eyes of others in different situations. My horizons were broadened in a way I did not expect. In some ways, becoming a Faculty Scholar has changed my entire way of thinking.
4. More free food than I could ever eat!
5. New teaching techniques that I still use in my classes.
6. A greater knowledge of “how things work” in the world and in the world of Phi Theta Kappa.
7. It prepared me to support my region with a Faculty Scholar-in-residence for its Regional Honors in Action Training.
8. The Faculty Scholar event in Savannah led to a national conference presentation, and the Honors Institute in Chicago provided me with some time for field work for a second national conference presentation.
9. The opportunity to build such a strong network of scholars for further research and advisor/chapter development.
10. It was incredible to see more than 75 percent of my seminar group on stage at the next international convention as Hallmark Award winners and International Officer candidates.
11. I didn’t expect to still have students from my seminar groups reaching out to me with questions or just wanting to update me on how things are going in their chapters. I love hearing from them!

9 tips for completing the Faculty Scholar application

1. Be you. Don’t try to mimic someone else’s application, and let your expertise, character, and uniqueness shine through your application.
2. Start early, and take it seriously. Invest time researching your subject before you compile your answers. It isn’t something you want to throw together in a few minutes.
3. Have someone proofread it before you submit it. Even the best eyes can overlook issues.
4. Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to state and then challenge the often-implicit assumption built into the prompts.
5. Cite two authorities that support your response, and back up your conclusions with evidence and examples.
6. Consider looking at your answers from the student perspective to balance how your leadership and facilitation will enrich their experience as well.
7. Read the directions carefully, and make sure you answer the questions.
8. With respect to the question about the Honors Study Topic, discuss something that is meaningful to you. It will allow the selection committee to learn more about you.
9. Have a close colleague review your application. Getting feedback from someone who knows you well will help you see what may be missing in your answers.

Learn more about the Faculty Scholar program, and apply today. Questions? Email Susan Edwards, PTK’s Associate Vice President of Honors Programming.

What Should Happen in Your First 3 Chapter Meetings?

You have a limited amount of face time with your chapter members, so how do you make the most of it during your first three meetings of the year?

Monika Byrd, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Vice President of Leadership and International Education, is currently working on an activities guide for chapters and has a few pointers.

“Meetings need to be customized, depending upon where the chapter is,” she said. “But, overall here are the things you’ll want to cover in your first three.”

Make sure new and prospective members are introduced and welcomed. Icebreakers, games, prize drawings and leadership activities are fun ways to get to know each other and support teamwork.

Have Some Fun… and Some Food
Host a welcome celebration featuring food and recognition. Acknowledge members who have won awards, scholarships, etc. Remember, some members may have to miss mealtime to participate, so refreshments will improve both attendance and mood.

Get Connected
Make sure everyone has shared phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and determine whether members prefer texts or emails. And remember, word of mouth is still important too. Also, make plans to connect with your college administrators soon if you haven’t already.

Show the Big Picture
Review what’s happened so far in the year and what remains to be done (member recruiting goals, Five Star Chapter Plan goal, campus engagement, etc.). Share a calendar of events for the year.

What’s New?
Help members catch up on news from the Center for Excellence they might have missed during the summer, such as the Centennial Alumni Challenge and the new Synergy Session Webinars. Encourage members to follow PTK on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin, and subscribe to The Reach blog.

Encourage members to go ahead and sign up for service opportunities throughout the year. Most want to be involved and build their resumes for transfer/scholarships but don’t know where to start. This can also help your chapter discover leadership potential early on.

How to Get the Most Out of These First 3 Meetings

The Alpha Omicron Chapter in Texas just had a record attendance of 86 members at their first meeting! Advisor Gigi Delk shares strategies that have worked for them in these initial, and crucial, get-togethers.

Plan Ahead
Your advisors/officers should gather before the first full meeting to plan the agenda, assign responsibilities, and make sure everything goes smoothly.

Time and Place
Choose a consistent date/time and location for meetings so members will fall into the habit of attending. Officers can wear PTK t-shirts on meeting days and post signs as visual reminders.

Be Our Guest
Invite a university recruiter to provide a brief overview of transfer scholarships available in your area. This increases awareness of member benefits, and they might even sponsor the meal.

Put It in Print
Distribute a brief printed agenda/announcement sheet to those attending. Even if they can’t stay for the entire meeting, they’ll leave with a good idea of what’s going on.

Go High-Tech
Make your meetings video friendly for members who can’t attend in person. Skype, Zoom, and join.me are all free programs that could work for your chapter.

End Promptly, and on a High Note
Save time for questions and don’t let the meeting run much longer than an hour. One person shouldn’t be droning on extensively about any one topic. Offer something that appeals to everyone – Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Fellowship.

“Make certain every single person has been spoken to and had a chance to interact with a real, live, human for at least a few moments of the day,” Gigi suggests. “You never know when the connections you make will pay off in the future!”

Find additional resources for hosting effective meetings.

Synergy Session

hosted by Heather Yush

Panelists: Amanda Karpinski, Don Koch, Obinna Muoh, Tasha Estein