Administrative Support Important to Chapter Success

Members and advisors from some of Phi Theta Kappa’s top chapters may bring different strengths to achieving success, but they all agree on one thing: support from their college presidents and administrators is crucial in reaching their goals.

The late Dr. Judy Merritt was a 2012 recipient of the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction.

“Our college president plays a huge role in allowing our chapter to exceed the normal expectations,” said Jared Steele, president of the Alpha Zeta Eta Chapter at North Lake College in Texas, of their college president, Christa Slejko. “She compliments our work and opens doors that would we would have otherwise never seen.”

The Texas chapter was named Fifth Finalist in the 2014 Most Distinguished Chapter Hallmark Awards.

Juliana F. Vianna, president of the chapter at Valencia College – Osceola Campus in Florida, agrees. She pointed out that their provost, Dr. Kathleen Plinske, serves as keynote speaker for chapter induction ceremonies, sharing her personal story and encouraging all new inductees to be active participants in Phi Theta Kappa. The Alpha Phi Zeta Chapter was named First Runner-Up to the Most Distinguished Chapter during NerdNation 2014.

“When we met with her to plan our college project, she gave us a huge opportunity to organize an event that introduced about 1,300 high school juniors to our campus,” Vianna said. “We gave them a tour and also had many professors volunteer to teach a class based on their selected majors, so they could see what college is like.

“Our college president truly cares about the growth of our chapter. She always makes herself available to discuss ideas and projects with us. We truly couldn’t ask for a better college president.”

Members of the Pi Pi and Beta Lambda Delta chapters at Jefferson State Community College in Alabama were greatly saddened by the recent death of their long-time college president, Dr. Judy Merritt. But they never had to wonder whether they had her full support – she made that readily apparent during her 35-year tenure.

Both chapters have a long history of excellence, garnering Most Distinguished Chapter awards and running successful international officer campaigns. Their advisors have also gone on to play important leadership roles in Phi Theta Kappa.

“Dr. Merritt – affectionately known as Judy – gave all Phi Theta Kappa officers a full tuition and fees scholarship, and she fully supported our travel and our projects,” said Liesl W. Harris, advisor to the Beta Lambda Delta Chapter. “More importantly, however, she believed in Phi Theta Kappa and the Society’s ideals. She was a passionate advocate for us. Our chapter would not have been nearly as successful had it not been for her unwavering support.”

As a former Pi Pi chapter advisor and Alabama Regional Coordinator, Dr. Jo Marshall understands the power of a college president to impact not only the lives of students, but faculty as well. She currently serves as a Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Trustee and President of Somerset Community College in Kentucky and credits Merritt with teaching her a great deal about leadership.

“Dr. Judy Merritt was my college president for 20 years. I always knew that I had her support in all aspects of college life. She valued academic standards and student involvement in campus life. She especially supported our Pi Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa,” Marshall said. “In addition to her financial support, she provided the members and advisors opportunities for travel, professional development and her personal time to encourage all of us.

“She served as a sounding board and a mentor for me. Judy encouraged me to continue my education and pursue career goals. I learned from her the art of leadership by believing in the limitless possibilities of individuals. She loved her faculty, staff and students, and we loved her. She was an excellent leader, and Jefferson State Community College and I will definitely miss her.”

Read more about the life of Dr. Judy Merritt online. She was also a recipient of the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction, which honors college presidents for their support of Phi Theta Kappa.

Chapters are encouraged to recognize their supportive college presidents and administrators by nominating them for Hallmark Administrator Awards by December 10.

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