Jackson, Mississippi – Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Oluwadamisi Atanda saw his fair share of poverty and extreme government corruption. It cemented his desire to commit to a career of public service, fostering a more democratic and peaceful world. Now his dreams are beginning to come true thanks to Phi Theta Kappa and the GEICO Pathways to Completion Master’s Degree Scholarship.
Phi Theta Kappa has partnered with GEICO to offer the Society’s first scholarship supporting leaders pursuing master’s degrees. Two scholarships of $2,500 each were awarded for 2015. A Phi Theta Kappa alumnus and graduate of Queensborough Community College and the City College of New York, Atanda is now pursuing a master’s degree in human rights studies at Columbia University.
A Phi Theta Kappa alumnus, Atanda is well on his way to a career in public service. He has had internship experiences in the offices of Assemblyman David Weprin (New York State), U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng; the White House Office of Drug Policy; and the Office of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Atanda graduated valedictorian at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership in May 2014, and he received a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship to continue his studies at Columbia. He currently serves as the Student Ambassador for the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
Atanda delivers and serves food for the elderly after church services and mentors two high school students through the Double Discovery Center at Columbia, and he founded an organization called Youth Engaged Society (YES). The organization helps promote community service and connects students to service-orientated opportunities.
Heather Herbert, who is seeking a master’s degree in English studies for language arts teachers at Valdosta State University, also received a 2015 GEICO Pathways to Completion Master’s Degree Scholarship.
When she began community college, Herbert faced challenges such as being a non-traditional student, caring for three children, and living in a rural area four hours from the nearest college, which led her to pursue online studies. She became the first student employee in Darton State College’s writing center, summarizing a class textbook from 600 pages to 60. After being inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, Herbert was elected as a vice president of her chapter and as a Regional Officer for the Georgia Region.
In 2012 Herbert became the first online Phi Theta Kappa member to run for International Office. While she was not elected, she was recognized with the Orlowski Candidate Scholarship by a vote of all International Officer Candidates. The award recognizes the candidate who best exemplifies the Society Hallmarks of Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Fellowship, and includes a $1,000 scholarship.
Herbert completed a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in psychology from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and her writing has won regional, national and international awards. She is now working as a Phi Theta Kappa chapter advisor at Darton State College and maintaining the Georgia Region’s website. She regularly performs research and presents seminars on Phi Theta Kappa opportunities to both on-campus and online students.
In order to qualify for the GEICO scholarship, applicants must be Phi Theta Kappa alumni who have left their chapters in good standing and graduates of a regionally accredited senior institution with a bachelor’s degree with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. They must be currently enrolled full time in a master’s degree program at a regionally accredited university with the intention of continuing full-time enrollment through Spring 2015.
“GEICO has proudly given more than $1 million to support scholarships and programs for Phi Theta Kappa members in a partnership that has proven valuable for both organizations,” said Deedre Daniel, GEICO’s Director of Partnership, Affinity and Membership Discounts. “We value education and actively promote it within our company, so we are honored to be able to help Phi Theta Kappans attain their educational goals as well, regardless of the state of their progress.”
The GEICO Pathways to Completion Master’s Degree Scholarships are presented by GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) to Phi Theta Kappa members who have held a significant leadership position on campus or in their community, with preference given to Phi Theta Kappa members who served as chapter, regional or international officers. GEICO is a sponsor of NerdNation, Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention, and has given more than $1 million to support scholarships for Phi Theta Kappa members.
GEICO is the second-largest private passenger auto insurance company in the United States, serving over 13.5 million policyholders and more than 22 million vehicles (auto and cycle).
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, is the largest honor society in higher education with 1,285 chapters on college campuses in all 50 of the United States, plus Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, Peru, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than 3 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 134,000 students inducted annually.