Serving as an International Officer is the highest level of student leadership available within Phi Theta Kappa, and it no doubt requires a special kind of person to hold the office successfully. It’s an incredible opportunity; and while the requirements are many and can be difficult, the rewards are immeasurable.
“Being an International Officer has given me the opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world, and to me that is priceless,” said 2014-2015 International Vice President for Division II Jesus Tovar. “Also, the support and reception of the members has been beyond anything I expected.
“I ran for International Office knowing that it would be a good experience, but I never imagined it would be this good.”
Five International Officers – an International President and one Vice President from each of Phi Theta Kappa’s four divisions – will be elected to a one-year term during NerdNation 2015, April 16-18 in San Antonio, Texas. Students interested in seeking international office can request a candidate application.
The International Officer Team presides over NerdNation and Honors Institute. They represent Phi Theta Kappa at regional meetings at educational conferences throughout their year in office.
“Our International Officer Team loves to spend time with each other, but by far our favorite aspect of this experience is connecting with members, hearing the stories they share, and the moments we share with them,” said Division III Vice President Trevor Mileur. “There are so many members who want to cheer you on and connect with you. The support is amazing!”
Dawneen Banks, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Director of Regional and Chapter Development for Division IV who oversees the International Officer candidacy process, said that while serving as an International Officer may seem glamorous, it’s important to remember that, first and foremost, the officers are ambassadors for and liaisons to Society Headquarters. She counts humility as well as “the ability to listen with the intent to understand” among the top qualities of a good International Officer.
“Their ability to communicate clearly the experiences of members, advisors and college representatives enables us to better serve our constituents,” said Banks, herself a former International Officer. “Utilize this leadership opportunity to learn from others and grow from what you do not know. Be open to new ideas and perspectives.”
International President Ebonee Carpenter added that a good International Officer should be team-oriented, approachable and flexible. She likens the experience to an actual job.
“Once elected as an International Officer, you immediately become part of a team,” she said. “You have your own personal goals, but also the goals of your team. Everything you do is a reflection of both yourself and the team.”
While many International Officers have held leadership positions on chapter and/or regional levels, previous leadership experience – while helpful – is not required when seeking international office.
“Phi Theta Kappa is a great organization that allows students to develop their leadership abilities in a real world setting, while providing a welcoming environment for growth and enhancement,” Carpenter said.
Division IV Vice President Ivette Piña held leadership positions in high school but was a fairly new college student and Phi Theta Kappa member when she decided to seek international office. Nevertheless, she won the support of hundreds of members while campaigning during NerdNation 2014 in Orlando, Florida.
“I myself had no idea what I was doing when I ran for (International Office), but I knew I had experience in being a leader with student council in high school,” she said. “You have to be able to step down and be a group of leaders with the other (International Officers) and take into consideration that you’re a group of leaders serving as one.”
One key quality of a successful International Officer – much like that of a successful college student – is time management. The position involves a good amount of travel to regional and international events, as well as to training sessions at the Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi. There are also hours spent in meetings, preparing presentations, and writing and giving speeches.
“Time management is a struggle,” said Division I Vice President Megan Giles. “Many (International Officers) have been parents, students, full-time employees and volunteers, among many other things. It is important to create structure and routine to fulfill your duties.”
Banks recommends having an open and honest discussion with family, friends, teachers and coworkers about the commitment required of International Officers. All requirements are detailed on the International Officer Candidate Application so candidates know what to expect.
“This is time spent away from school, work and family, and it requires a significant commitment; but, it yields an even greater reward,” said Mia Ramos-Shirley, Associate Director of Regional and Chapter Development for Division III. Ramos-Shirley works directly with the International Officers and is a former International Officer herself. “If you are interested in seeking International Office, you must first answer one simple question: Why?
“In other words, what motivations are compelling you to dedicate a year of your life to serving as an International Officer? This question will define your journey to pursuing International Office in Phi Theta Kappa.”