I AM PTK: Mahlon J. Randolph

Mahlon J. Randolph was 19 and in his sophomore year at Albany State University-West Campus (then Darton State College) in Georgia when he decided to routinely get tested for HIV after learning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic impacting the state. He realized that it was his responsibility to ensure his health, so he decided to visit the student health clinic to get tested.

The clinic could only offer free testing when the local health department could send a tester, which was once a semester. His first HIV test was in the spring of 2014; the results came back negative. When the tester returned in September of that year, the test came back reactive (positive), and everything in his world changed.

“I was devastated. I threatened to kill myself,” he said. “It became nearly impossible to see myself becoming successful or achieving my life goals. I’d always believed I could achieve anything, and for years I had stopped believing it.”

It’s taken some time, but through advocating for others like himself, Mahlon has been able to find purpose with his diagnosis and focus on his new life’s work.

Mahlon grew up in Jonesboro, Georgia, about 15 miles south of Atlanta. An average student academically, he was drawn to extracurricular activities in high school, like the morning announcements, running for homecoming court, and spearheading an environmental club. He supported similar environmental efforts at Darton State, where he also joined PTK.

“I’ve always been a ‘save the trees, save the world’ kind of guy,” he said.

This early interest in advocacy, as well as his knack for public speaking and leadership, led Mahlon to major in political science, with an interest in growth and development. He always had big ideas, and through leadership in on-campus organizations, he created spaces for others to emerge as leaders.

For a period, this came to a halt due to his HIV diagnosis. He earned his first C at Darton, and for the first time didn’t make the Dean’s List. His personal and professional relationships suffered. And, he ended his sophomore year with his lowest GPA yet at a 2.9.

And to make matters worse, in June of 2015, he disclosed his status to his family, who also didn’t know how to cope with this new reality.

He found himself frustrated for being unprepared to deal with the trauma that affected his loved ones. This miseducation and infighting fueled by stigma and ignorance eventually upended his relationship with his mother.

“These were the factors that fueled my homelessness,” he said.

His mother severed ties. He then slept on couches, slept in his car, stayed with strangers, and eventually lived in a homeless shelter. Throughout, he was working two jobs and trying to figure out how to continue his education. He had no support system during this devasting time.

“I don’t know how I kept going,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a shock I did.

Mahlon was able to get his own apartment in January 2016. He was 20 years old, and he felt like things were getting back on track. He started working at AID Atlanta in June 2016, which provides HIV/AIDS-related services, care, and education to thousands of people throughout the state.

His formal advocacy work officially began in August 2016, when he joined the Youth HIV Policy Advisor Program through Georgia Equality, which was set up to educate young people living with HIV and to lead advocacy and policy reform. Also, in fall 2016, he enrolled at Georgia State University where he will be earning his bachelor’s degree in public policy this December.

“I do think acceptance of my diagnosis came with the work, and with the community I found,” he said. “I found myself, and I faced the trauma associated with my diagnosis, and I’ve been able to help others do the same.”

Mahlon is in his second year on the Georgia Prevention and Care Council, which oversees and plans for the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS in the state. He was named Georgia Equality’s 2017-2018 HIV Policy Fellow and led advisory boards and professional trainings on patient engagement with social services providers.

He also serves as chair of the Youth Advisory Committee for the Atlanta Housing Continuum of Care, where he works with city officials to address housing disparities impacting youth.

“I’m committed to issues surrounding HIV, housing, homelessness, and disparities in social services because I’ve experienced it,” he said. “I understand the psychological trauma that comes with homelessness, with a diagnosis, and with living with HIV.

“I don’t have to do this work because I have HIV; I do it because I’ve chosen compassion over defeat. I care deeply about those living with HIV and those who are at risk — they deserve a devoted workforce.”

It took a once-devastating HIV diagnosis to point Mahlon in the right direction. While he’d always envisioned work in government, his diagnosis refocused his passion to advocacy and ensuring government works equitably.

To commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, Mahlon will speak at a Know Your Status event in Albany, Georgia. He’ll also attend the 2018 World AIDS Day Policy and Action Luncheon on November 30, hosted by the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

As he continues his advocacy work, Mahlon has advice for others who are passionate about a social issue and advocacy. First, to educate themselves about the issue and become familiar with the people the issue affects and their values. Then, to find opportunities to socialize with other people who share the same passion.

“Advocacy can be a long road, and becoming discouraged is the greatest threat to your passion, so keep sight of the things that sparked your passion in the first place and keep the people that love and support you in your corner,” he said.

10 Not-to-Miss Hallmark Award Writing Tips

Happy Hallmark Awards Writing Season! You’ve explored the Honors Study Topic, conducted extensive research, planned and implemented Honors in Action and College Projects. This is the final step: preparing your submission entry.

The Hallmark Award application alone will determine which chapters, members, advisors, and administrators will be recognized and rewarded on stage during PTK Catalyst 2019. Therefore, it is imperative that your entry is well-written and concise and that it gives the judges all they need to know about the projects or the individuals.

“This quote from Nelson Mandela feels especially relevant this time of year: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done,’ ” said Susan Edwards, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Vice President of Honors Programming and Undergraduate Research.

First things first: make sure you have the deadlines on your calendar. Entries are due by 5 p.m. CT on the following dates:

  • Administrator Hallmark Awards (including Board of Trustees) — Wednesday, December 5
  • Individual Hallmark Awards — Wednesday, January 9, 2019
  • Regional Officer Hallmark Awards — Thursday, January 10, 2019
  • Chapter Hallmark Awards (Honors in Action Project and College Project) — Wednesday, January 16
  • Alumni Hallmark Awards — Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Regional Awards for Excellence — Thursday, January 31, 2019

Now, you can start writing. Here are 10 must-read tips to keep in mind as you complete the applications. While some focus on the Chapter Award applications, they can apply to other applications as well.

1. “Show,” don’t “tell.” Telling a judge something is true leaves the judge wondering, “How do I know this is the case?”

  • It is colder in Latvia in the winter than in Iceland.
  • Ashley is our hardest worker and the greatest asset.

Showing the judge something is true by way of a citation or some kind of evidence that shows the assertion has merit leaves no doubt.

  • The online World Almanac (2018) shows a colder average high temperature of -10 degrees C in January in Riga than the average high of -2 degrees C in Reykjavik.
  • Ashley effectively led our Honors in Action team this year by recruiting five members to serve on our research team, by inviting the college’s research librarian to conduct a workshop for the team on academic research, and by setting up a DropBox folder and sharing it with all chapter members so they could follow our progress throughout the year.

2. Utilize the Hallmark Award Resources. Take a look at the Honors in Action and College Projects excerpts posted online to see what top chapters wrote last year.

3. Remember the purposes of the Honors in Action and College Project entries. Be sure you are expressing the work your chapter did to support those purposes as you write your entry.

4. Brainstorm with your team and/or chapter to be sure you have everything needed to answer each question in your entry. Look at how the information you have gathered as you planned, implemented and completed your Honors in Action and College Projects meets the judging rubrics requirements and outline what information you will use to answer each question. This is a good way to celebrate what you have achieved and consider what you have learned and how you have grown as scholars and leaders who serve your communities.

5. Be sure to examine academic sources of varied viewpoints. They don’t have to be opposite one another, but they should show a range of ideas. If you decide to advocate for one or more of the ideas, be sure you explain all the ideas you studied and why you decided to support one or more of the ideas.

6. Honors in Action is all about the Honors Study Topic. Remember to always go back to Transformations: Acknowledging, Assessing, and Achieving Change as you consider your theme and the elements of your project. You are researching and writing about your theme as it relates to the overall Honors Study Topic.

7. Be sure to read and re-read the judging rubrics to explain in detail how you met each criterion. The updated Hallmark Awards application questions and rubrics provide guidance and outline everything a winning entry should include. Be detailed in your answers in ways that help judges understand the process you followed.

Don’t leave the readers wondering “Why?” or “So What?” If Theme 1 was the best fit for your chapter, don’t just say that. Explain why.

8. Do not restate the questions in your answers. Doing so eats away at your word count. The judges will see the questions with the answers when they review the applications.

9. Always check for the tricky “and” in the question. Answering every part of the question is imperative. Don’t leave anything out, especially the process. Don’t simply state your chapter’s specific goals; summarize the process the chapter used to set those goals.

10. Leave enough time to edit, edit, edit, edit. Read the entry aloud together at some point during the editing process so you will know if the entry reads the way you want. If needed, complete your application answers offline so you can print, read, edit, and then edit again. The most successful applications have faultless grammar and spelling.

Hallmark Award applications and rubrics may be found HERE. Tips, ideas, FAQs, and other resources may be found HERE.

5 Seconds to Change Your Life

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mel Robbins and originally appeared on her blog on April 30, 2018. It is reprinted here with her permission. Mel will speak during PTK Catalyst 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about her.

In my speeches, I teach people about a tool that has changed my life. I first introduced this tool, The 5 Second Rule, in a 2011 Tedx Talk, and since then, I’ve heard from over 100,000 people have who have used The Rule to push past fear, self-doubt, and hesitation.

Looking back, it’s amazing to see how much has changed over the past seven years — much of it thanks to The Rule. It also turns out that The 5 Second Rule is backed by science and works for absolutely anyone.

I want to introduce you to this tool because I believe it has the power to change your life. It changed mine, and I’m going to tell you my story right now.

The story of how I discovered The Rule is personal, but it also provides a ton of context. I used it to change my life — and I know you can too.

How I Found The Five Second Rule

In 2009, things weren’t going too well in my life.

When the alarm went off each morning, all I felt was dread.

I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t want to wake up and face the day ahead of me.

So, what did I do? I hit the snooze button over and over and over again.

At this point in my life, I felt defeated. I was facing serious problems related to money, work, and my marriage.

I had changed careers so many times that I felt like the jack of all trades and the master of none. I got a big break to host a show on TV and then the show was canceled, leaving me without work and bound by a contract that wouldn’t allow me to work in the media business for a year.

At the same time, my family was in financial free-fall after pouring our life savings, home equity, and college tuition savings into a pizza business that failed — and left us in major debt.

Our problems seemed way too big for me to solve, and I had no energy to change things.

Sleep had become my escape — until the alarm would go off in the morning and pull me back to reality.

I felt trapped, so I started drinking too much.

I would think and think about my situation. The more I thought, the more afraid I became.

All I needed to do was wake up, make breakfast, get my kids onto the bus, and then look for a job.

It wasn’t earth shattering, and it wasn’t complicated. It was just a few simple things. I didn’t need to end world hunger. All I needed to do was wake up and face the morning.

However, even the small things, like getting up to make breakfast, felt so hard.

Every night, I would tell myself the next day would be different.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up earlier. I’ll have a better attitude. I’ll be nice to my husband. I won’t drink so much. I’ll go to the gym.

When the alarm would ring in the morning, though, these empowering thoughts were replaced by the same old fears, and I would keep sleeping.

My Transition Moment

One morning, I decided to break the habit.

I still felt the same feelings I had experienced for months: fear, dread, and anxiety.

In this moment, though, I noticed a tiny window of time.

I had a desire to change my life for the better. There was a moment — a brief window of time — before my mind killed this positive thought.

So, I did something I had never done before. Instead of hitting snooze, I started counting backward.

5-4-3-2-1.

The night before, while watching a commercial, I had seen a rocket launch into the sky.

I decided, what the heck, why not, to just launch myself up like a rocket. Couldn’t hurt.

5-4-3-2-1.

And then… I stood up. I launched myself right out of bed, something I hadn’t been able to do for months.

This was the exact moment I discovered The 5 Second Rule.

I used the same countdown the next day, and it worked. In fact, it’s worked every single time I’ve used it.

And you know what? I started to see these moments all the time, these five-second windows.

So I made a promise to myself: If I had an instinct to do something that would improve my life, I would use this new rule to push myself forward.

This is the basis of The 5 Second Rule.

The Rule states: The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must push yourself to move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.

I used it to get to the gym, to drink less, to look for a job, and to become a better wife and parent.

As I used it more in my life, I felt courage, confidence, pride, and a sense of control. By using The Rule in one area of my life, I had the confidence to use it in other areas, too.

I showed The Rule to my husband, Chris, and he used it to stop drinking, start meditating, and exercise every day.

As we talked to friends, The Rule would come up. People who were inspired to create change in their lives started using it too.

The Rule doesn’t make things easy. It makes them happen.

That’s why it’s a tool. It’s not advice. It’s not something you think about. It’s something you do. It requires action. It’s a method of HOW to make change happen.

The Rule is how we climbed out of debt and rebuilt ourselves professionally, one five-second push at a time.

I’ve used The Rule to launch me to new places I could have never imagined. In just the last eight years, I’ve created massive change in my life by implementing The Rule, and I believe every single person can also reap the benefits of this tool.

I’ve learned that motivation doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. Instead, you always have to push yourself.

When we hesitate, we hold ourselves back. Our brains think something is wrong and trigger fear. We need to move past that hesitation and fear. The Rule pushes us beyond hesitation — straight to action.

I used The Rule to push me out of bed, out of a funk, to help me get groove back, and to build my dream career.

Every single day we face moments that are uncertain, scary, and difficult. These moments require courage. And you know what? Courage is a SKILL. It’s something we build, one five-second action at a time.

When you discover your courage, you will realize that you are capable of accomplishing and experiencing anything that you dream about.

And now that you know WHAT The 5 Second Rule is, you can learn how it works by clicking here.

Registration for PTK Catalyst 2019 is now open! Register today.

PTK Makes History at Hawaii High School

On November 9, 56 students gathered at Waipahu High School on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and made history as the charter members of the Beta Chi Omega Chapter — the first Phi Theta Kappa chapter at a high school.

The students are part of the school’s Early College program, which enables them to take college courses in place of some of their high school courses to gain college credit. In a school where more than half the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, this program has made a college education a real possibility.

The college credits they earn also make them eligible for Phi Theta Kappa membership, giving them access to scholarships, leadership experience, and other opportunities.

“Through Early College, and through the support of many people, and now with the support of Phi Theta Kappa, we continue to change the culture of our school and the lives of our students and families,” Waipahu High Principal Keith Hayashi said. “And, we’ve shaped the community in terms of what its residents are capable of.”

Since 2002, Early College has grown to serve more than 75,000 students in 28 states and the District of Columbia. It is an initiative of Jobs for the Future and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Early College came to Waipahu High in 2012 with a single college course offered in the summer — more than 50 students were vying for only 30 seats. Today, more than 75 different classes are taught each year at Waipahu.

In spring 2018, Waipahu made state history when 12 Early College students completed associate degrees two weeks before graduating from high school. Dr. Mark Silliman, director of the Early College Program at Waipahu, called it a “big aha moment” that demonstrated that when students are given extraordinary challenges, they rise to extraordinary academic achievement.

Mark has spent his career as an instructor and administrator in two- and four-year colleges in New York and Hawaii. As he neared retirement, he saw the Early College Program as a way to open the doors of higher education to previously underserved populations.

Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the United States, with pockets of deep poverty spread throughout the islands. Early College provides free textbooks and tuition.

“It could change the face of poverty in our communities and provide them opportunities,” Mark said.

Early College courses are taught at Waipahu High by professors from Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. Leeward, home to the Alpha Lambda Gamma Chapter, invited many of the program’s high-achieving students, like Amber Viernes, who became the first Early College High School freshman to qualify for and join Phi Theta Kappa.

Amber, a first-generation college student, jumped into the Early College Program the summer before her freshman year of high school, in 2016. She took three additional college courses in the fall, qualifying for PTK membership in the spring of 2017.

Through Early College and dual enrollment, she skipped a grade and is now a 16-year-old high school senior taking courses at Leeward and majoring in creative media.

“Without (Early College’s) support, I wouldn’t have seen a future for myself as a part of the creative media field, nor would I have been able to figure out what I would like to major in,” Amber said. “I really enjoyed the coursework offered thus far, and I feel that my goals are closer, within reach.”

Amber saw the scholarships and opportunities offered through Phi Theta Kappa as a way to further her education. Mark recognized this motivation, and he watched his other students accomplish big things through PTK. One was Hawaii’s New Century Scholar; another received a full scholarship to a four-year college.

He began an annual meeting of honor society students from all Waipahu Complex schools — elementary, intermediary, and high school. Students complete a service project, and they divide into small groups so older kids can mentor the younger ones.

“You’re whetting their appetite to see the vision of what it means to be in PTK,” he said. “PTK means you’ve chosen your destiny, you’ve set a standard for yourself that mediocrity is just not acceptable. It’s so important — the earlier you can get to this at-risk population, the more likely they are to have success.”

Still, he did see some barriers to PTK membership: many of his low-income students couldn’t afford the cost, and they didn’t have transportation to Leeward Community College to attend meetings and other activities.

The high school initially paid the PTK induction fees for its students, but soon it couldn’t keep up with how many were joining. Mark wrote a grant for the Waipahu Community Foundation to cover the cost, and the 2018-19 academic year will be the second year they do so.

Chartering their own chapter at Waipahu High solved the transportation challenge. The new Beta Chi Omega Chapter means students can participate in PTK activities on their own campus. It also makes the honor society more visible to other students, which comes back to motivation.

“The honor society has armed and equipped me with another influential tool that I can use to inspire our young adults to reach for the stars and realize their full potential,” Mark said.

Mark is talking with administrators, teachers, and students throughout the Waipahu Complex elementary and intermediate schools about conducting workshops on Early College and Phi Theta Kappa. He said other Early College High Schools throughout the State of Hawaii may want to start their own chapters, so students are able to mentor each other.

When students come to his office and ask about PTK, he pulls a gold graduation stole out. He tells the student, “Let’s see if this fits,” then he puts it on their shoulders.

“You should see how their face lights up,” Mark said. “It’s really powerful. Can you imagine what would happen if we ignited this passion for everyone?

Transfer Nation: Episode 1

TransferNation is a podcast made by transfer students, for transfer students. In our first podcast, the full crew of five explain Phi Theta Kappa, outline future podcasts, and give brief introductions of themselves. As International Officers of Phi Theta Kappa, the members set up the future of the one stop pod of the full transfer experience through full transparency of each of their transfer experiences. Join the crew and be a part of the transfer experience.

Continue reading

Why I Give: Michelle Gietl

Few things are better than giving — giving gifts to those you love, giving thanks for what you have, and giving back to the world around you. Why give? Let’s ask donors who contribute to the PTK Foundation.

Michelle Gietl wears many hats — chapter advisor, Rocky Mountain-Cascade Regional Coordinator, and Vice Chair of the Association of Chapter Advisors. She’s also an alumna and a donor to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation. Here she answers our questions about why she gives.

Describe your experience as a member?
I became a chapter officer shortly after becoming a member. I knew from the beginning there was something special about Phi Theta Kappa. As a non-traditional student, I felt it was a place where I fit. I was able to grow as a scholar and leader. I served as the chapter president for two years. During that time my chapter officer team was able to start our chapter’s Five Star winning streak. I made lifelong friends and will cherish my experience for a lifetime.

What has it been like to serve as a chapter advisor and Regional Coordinator?
I have been serving as an advisor for my home chapter since 2011, and I became the Associate Regional Coordinator of the Rocky Mountain-Cascade Region in January 2015. In May 2018, I was named Regional Coordinator. It has been the most incredible experience to be a servant leader within Phi Theta Kappa.

One of the most rewarding aspects of these positions is to see the amount of growth in my chapter and regional officers. To see them succeed academically and personally makes me so proud. My students are a huge part of my life. I invest my time in their future, whether I am writing a letter of recommendation, having a lively discussion on a road trip or just being there when they need a shoulder to cry on.

My nickname on both leadership teams is “Mama Bear.” They are my cubs. I want to protect them but let them grow at the same time. Being an advisor/Regional Coordinator has given me the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally, but most of all it’s rewarding to know that I can be a small part of a student’s life and hopefully make an impact.

Why do you give to the PTK Foundation?
I cannot put a price tag on what Phi Theta Kappa has done for me. I know the organization still has so much to offer me and in return, I will serve. The reason I give to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation is simple, the members. Our members have opportunities that are unique only to PTK. I want to make sure that we continue to see our members grow as leaders and scholars.

How can you support PTK this holiday season? When you shop via our unique link at smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate .5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases to support member scholarships and programs through the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation. If you ever needed a reason to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, this is it!

Not sure what to buy? Consider buying a brick for the Alpha Courtyard or making a gift in someone’s honor, and we’ll send them a special holiday card featuring the 2018-2019 International Officers. Watch for more news from the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation coming on November 27, #GivingTuesday.

7 Tips for International Officer Candidates

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Carol Comer, International Vice President for Division 3.

As you are all aware, it’s that time again: The application for International Office is now open, and we the DiversiFive 2.0 are looking for successors. Here are seven tips to help you through the process:

1. First of all, APPLY!

I applied to be an International Officer my last year of my two-year program. I was a Regional Officer for Missouri, and I didn’t want that amazing time to end. I had only joined Phi Theta Kappa a year before, so, in good ‘ole Missouri fashion, I thought, “Why Not?” Out of the 37 applicants, I never thought I would be one of the five International Officers chosen by my peers to represent such an amazing institution and students from all over the world. I absolutely do not regret it.

2. This is a “coopetition” not a competition.

This means you are actually not competing against each other. In truth, you are campaigning for a higher position in Phi Theta Kappa alongside your brothers and sisters. This is your family. These are bonds that will continue well beyond PTK Catalyst 2019. Leave the ego and competition at the door and work together. If you don’t, it will only hijack your leadership effectiveness. My campaign buddy/sister and I have been talking almost every day since Honors Institute in Chicago in 2016 — yes, almost every day for two years. (Inserting a shameless shout-out to Cheyanna Huston-McCrea!) Embrace your family and work together. It can be done.

3. Get your Five Star Competitive Edge completed.

You will be talking to a lot of people from all walks of life and shaking a lot of hands. The soft skills training in Competitive Edge will assist you with what is called Code Switching. The way you talk to your best friend may or may not be the way you would speak to your grandmother. This doesn’t mean you are faking it or not being yourself; you are just making the message you are trying to convey more easily decoded and received. Know how to handle any situation with grace and acceptance, while respecting the inherent worth, dignity, and respect of the recipient. This will make you grow more than anything else.

4. Nail that speech.

This year the speech has a time limit of two minutes. Make sure your speech is based on verified facts and that it’s a subject you are comfortable with. Ensure that it also answers the question. Break the question down in parts and address each section it is asking you. Have a proofreader or three. I know it will be great.

5. Represent, y’all!

Wear your member and Five Star pins with pride. You made the grades and said, “Yes!” to Phi Theta Kappa. You are now about to embark on the highest level of leadership this international honor society has to offer. Wear them with pride. Every day. In fact, get about three or four pins, just in case you lose one. It’s okay — it happens to me all the time.

6. This is me! So, be you!

We’ve already had a Tasha Estein, a David Parker, and a Sydney Pemberton. We need a “You!” Be you. It’s okay to be an introvert, to be tall, to be “fluffy,” or to be differently-abled. It’s okay because Phi Theta Kappa students come in every color, gender, sexual orientation, shape, size, and personality trait, each bringing different gifts and skills to this organization. We accept you, so you don’t have to worry about being anyone other than yourself. As the Middle States Regions say, “We are because I am!”

7. Finally, don’t stress it!

This is supposed to be a fun time and, win or lose, you will always remember and look back on the experience of running for International Office. You will gain so much experience and find many hidden rewards just for running! You will have the support of your chapter president and advisor. And, just running for International Office honors your college president and your school and puts your and their names on the map. Higher institutions and businesses will take notice, and it will be less daunting to choose that next four-year college or transfer path.

I hope my bits of advice help and encourage you to apply for this amazing opportunity. As you know, DiversiFive 2.0 is available at any time to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to email one of us or even ALL of us:

Elda Pere, President — elda.pere@ptk.org
Won Joon Kang, Vice President Division 1 — wonjoon.kang@ptk.org
David Parker, Vice President Division 2 — david.parker@ptk.org
Carol Comer, Vice President Division 3 — carol.comer@ptk.org
Philippe Schicker, Vice President Division 4 — philippe.schicker@ptk.org

Remember, we are all here for you and we support you. Now go have some fun and get that leadership on! I can’t wait to see you all in Orlando, Florida, for PTK Catalyst 2019!

International Officer applications are due by 5 p.m. CT on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Download yours today.

View Webinar Recording: Running for International Office

I AM PTK: Christopher Hunt

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Christopher Hunt, 2018 International Officer candidate and 2018-19 president of the Omicron Beta Chapter at Mesa Community College in Arizona.

If you’ve ever been to a Chinese restaurant in America, you know what comes at the end — the Fortune Cookie. We often make fun of the fortune that’s on the cookie, but every once in a while, we come across a fortune with a meaning that stands out far above anything else we’ve gotten before. This is what happened to me.

A single line of words. Five of them to be exact: “Yes. Do it with Confidence.”

How often do we doubt ourselves when an important decision comes along? How often do we back down and decide against something because we are unsure of the outcome? If you’re anything like me, it happens all the time. But because of this one fortune, I have changed my outlook on life in ways I never would have imagined.

I immediately think of those words when I start to doubt what I want to do. If I am anxious about something, I remember those words. When I think about taking a leap of faith and going for something with a large payoff but little chance of getting it? “Yes. Do it with Confidence.”

Before I got this fortune, I spoke with Past International Officer Alexa Greer at the Arizona Regional Convention. It was there that my decision to run for International President was made.

I attended PTK Catalyst 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee, and looked at the candidates’ campaigns, listened to the speeches, and cheered proudly for those who were elected as officers. I was more determined than ever to run for office.

Over the next few months, however, I thought about whether I wanted to be International President or International Vice President of Division IV. I kept questioning the difference between the two positions and wondered what the job duties were for each, but Past International Officer Jay Fritts told me to figure out my “Why” before trying to figure out the “What.” Why did I want to be an officer? Why was this so important to me? Why did I feel I could serve in this great leadership position?

These questions got me thinking about my goals and my plans for the future. I wanted to be an International Officer to make a difference and give back to the organization that I loved and cared about so much. Phi Theta Kappa changed my life in several ways. The title wasn’t important — I decided to run for Vice President.

From there, I planned everything out, chose a campaign manager, talked with my team and my college, prepared my speech with a couple of faculty members, and was ready to campaign. I gave my campaign a trial run in a bid for Arizona Regional President. In the end, I was not elected, but I kept my hopes up.

I had been planning and preparing for PTK Catalyst 2018 in Kansas City for a year. I was ready to run for the position and knew what I wanted to say. I campaigned at my booth as much as possible throughout Thursday, answered questions to the best of my ability during the Live Candidate Caucus, and stayed up late Thursday night preparing to give my speech the next day.

On Friday, I appeared on stage with all the other candidates. When I returned to my region, I sat there clutching the hands of my campaign manager, ready to be bombarded with cheers and applause. Finally, Tasha Estein, the then-International Vice President of Division IV, stepped up to announce the finalists and, as she did, my name was not called. My campaign was done. My one chance at being an international officer had slipped away from me.

After the general session, I went back to my hotel with my campaign manager and let the tears flow. When you work on a project for a year and prepare to serve in this tremendous role, it hurts when that is no longer a possibility.

I initially thought about ignoring the rest of the convention — I didn’t want anything more to do with it — but I knew how foolish that was. For about two months prior to the convention, I had been getting to know the other candidates. These people were my friends, and several of them were now preparing to give their speeches. Sure, I was sad, but I had to go support them and move on.

As the convention continued, I had people tell me that my campaign was wonderful and that they truly believed in my message. But even better was what I found at my campaign booth. I had asked people to write their names on puzzle pieces to be added my booth. In the end, of all the people who attended PTK Catalyst, 495 came to my booth and added their name. That astonished me. This was my takeaway, what made it all worthwhile.

A week later, I was elected president of the Omicron Beta Chapter. I was glad to serve in that role and help my chapter grow and succeed, but it was bittersweet. I had run for regional office and was not elected. I had run for international office and was not elected. By being elected as chapter president, I worried I was settling for what I could get at that point — this was the highest I would go as far as student leadership in Phi Theta Kappa.

I went back to my fortune. “Yes. Do it with Confidence.” My views on my new position were holding me back. I was held up in the past, stuck on the positions that were no longer available to me. And so, I made the commitment to move forward.

Regional and international office were out of my grasp, so I bolstered my confidence in what I could do. I was elected to serve my chapter as president, and I was proud of that. Of my chapter’s 15 officers, only one is elected to serve as president every year. I was that person and had to move forward in order for the chapter to succeed.

“Yes. Do it with Confidence.” Those words are powerful. Think of them when you face a decision that might be causing you doubt or holding you back. It may not work out in the way you had initially planned, but that’s okay. Past International President Yanik Etan said it best: “Five years from now, you don’t want to be that person who says ‘Man I wish I had done this.’ Instead, you want to be the person who says, ‘Thank goodness I did this.’ So, I dare you to take advantage of everything Phi Theta Kappa has to offer.”

No matter the number of candidates, only five people will be elected as International Officers, and only 10 people will be finalists. The takeaway is different for each person. It may not come right away, but give it time, give it some thought, and give it your all. And no matter what you decide to do in this world, remember to do it with confidence.

The 2019-2020 International Officer Candidate Packet is now available! Download yours today. The deadline to apply is February 13, 2019.

View Webinar Recording: Running for International Office

MythBusters! Separating College Transfer Facts from Fiction

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Nancy Lee Sánchez, executive director of Kaplan Educational Foundation.

Did you know that 37 percent of all college students transfer at least once before they get a bachelor’s degree? Yet, in spite of all the transfer students that populate college campuses around the country, there are still a ton of misconceptions around transferring.

Some potential transfer students think top schools don’t want them, others think they can’t afford top schools, and some even think they’re too old to go through the process. I’m happy to say that none of this true!

In the spirit of mythbusting these and other fictions about transfer, here are some answers to those common complaints and others I’ve heard as a college coach and mentor. Taken from chapter three of Your 2019 Guide to College Transfer, I hope they help you understand how top colleges in the country are looking to recruit and support students like you.

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MYTH #1: “Top colleges don’t want transfer students.”

The fact is, selective colleges around the nation such as Stanford, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Brown, and others have consistently admitted transfer students. Although the numbers of admitted transfer students may range from year to year, many top schools are using transfer admissions as a way to expand the diversity of their student body. Transfer students are also valued for their high retention and completion rates. Many selective schools even have special programs, orientation sessions, advisors, and financial aid opportunities specifically for transfer students, as they understand their needs are different from those of freshman students.

MYTH #2: “I can’t consider private schools because I can’t afford them.”

At a glance, private schools look like they cost much more than state colleges or other publicly funded schools. However, many of these schools commit to meeting the financial need of all students they accept, regardless of the student’s income or financial status, or that of their parents. In many instances, private schools actually may be less expensive to attend than a state or city school.

MYTH #3: “I’m too old/I’ve been out of school for too long.”

There’s no such thing as being too old to earn a college degree! Programs for transfer students usually take into account that older students may not want to live with freshmen, may prefer to live with graduate students, or in some cases would like housing that is specifically geared toward non-traditional-age students and their families. Your application will be evaluated not only on academic experiences, but also your life experiences. You may be surprised to learn that schools often consider your involvement with family, work, and local organizations like your church or community center. Military experience is appreciated by many schools, as are other forms of specialized training.

MYTH #4: “I am a caregiver at home. My parent/kid takes up all my time.”

Family obligations and responsibilities may seem to obstruct your plans for transfer; however, it takes a lot of maturity and commitment to take care of a loved one, and schools recognize this. Your biggest hurdle is not what you’ve been responsible for in the past, it’s whether you will be able to find the resources and focus to take on a full course load at your prospective transfer school. Having a conversation with your family and finding resources locally to make sure they are taken care of is an important first step. If you’re responsible for children, keep in mind that some schools provide family housing or will help you find local housing.

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The bottom line is that transferring to a four-year school is worth your careful consideration. Phi Theta Kappa members are exactly the kinds of students that selective schools are looking for, and they’ll likely be able to provide you with the resources you need to succeed, no matter your personal or financial situation.

For a complete understanding of how to bust the “myths of transfer,” find out what schools are best suited for your particular needs, and maximize your transfer credits, check out the Kaplan Educational Foundation’s Your 2019 Guide to College Transfer. Besides advice for all kinds of students, the Guide also contains profiles of over 100 colleges and universities, including their transfer admissions, credit, and housing policies. And check out the Foundation’s free transfer resources to help you manage the process, track your timeline for transfer, and reduce the costs of applying.

Don’t let any of the myths of transfer stop you or your fellow students from dreaming big. There’s no time like right now to take the next step in your college career!