Posted on April 17th in REACH Blog

The Alpha Chapter is Back

Stephens College

Just in time to kick off a new century of excellence, the Alpha Chapter is back in business.

Phi Theta Kappa traces its roots to Kappa Phi Omicron, an honorary group founded by six members in 1910 at Stephens College in Missouri. Kappa Phi Omicron was one of many such groups in the state, so in the spring of 1918, students and college presidents gathered at Stephens College to form one new honor society with a common mission.

In its first year, there were PTK chapters at eight women’s colleges across Missouri: Hardin, Stephens, Christian, Lindenwood, Cottey, Howard Payne, William Woods, and Central. They drew Greek letters out of a hat to designate names. Cottey College is the only one that has maintained its chapter since 1918.

Stephens College was home to the Alpha Chapter for approximately 35 years. When the college began offering four-year degrees in the late 1940s, restrictions in PTK’s constitution meant the chapter had to go inactive.

Things turned around in part when Dr. Brian Sajko joined Stephens College as Vice President of Enrollment Management in 2016. Throughout his 25 years in higher education, he has helped rally support for and create chapters at a number of community colleges.

“I always loved the history and heritage of PTK and wanted community college students, families, faculty, and staff to know that they are an integral part of higher education and deserve our respect,” he said. “I saw the plaque on Senior Hall about the founding of PTK at Stephens College and that we held Alpha Chapter status — which is very exciting — pursued logistics, and here we are.”

For much of its history, Phi Theta Kappa could only establish chapters at colleges that granted associate degrees and certificates. But, as many community colleges became absorbed by state college systems and began offering bachelor’s degrees, the Society relaxed its rules.

Stephens College is a master’s-granting institution, but it also offers certificates and both associate and bachelor’s degrees. It is the second-oldest women’s college in the United States, and it recently instituted The Stephens Solution: College Affordability Program, which lowered tuition by $8,250 to address affordability and access.

“We recognize that families and students should have access to all types of education,” Brian said. “Our PTK heritage is one which also exhibits our foundational commitment to all students, so it makes sense to bring back Alpha Chapter.”

Stephens College already has a close relationship with nearby Moberly Area Community College, and it is creating dual admissions programs with many others. PTK transfer students will be able to continue their leadership and service through the Alpha Chapter.

The first induction ceremony for new members is still being planned, and Brian said he anticipates “a fairly significant number” of inductees.

Brian believes bringing back the Alpha Chapter will show that Stephens College is truly part of PTK and goes beyond recruiting community college students. It creates a unique blend of existing Stephens students that can join and PTK members who have transferred from other schools.

“We are those students,” he said. “PTK membership actually proves how much we care about amazing, smart PTK students and that they are welcome at Stephens. The PTK elements of leadership and service are something we live here.”

The Alpha Chapter takes its place in Phi Theta Kappa’s history very seriously. Brian said the group hopes to not just have a chapter, but to set an example for all others.

“PTK is Stephens College,” he said. “Stephens College is PTK.”

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