Phi Theta Kappa alumna Tam Nguyen was actively involved in the Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter during her time at Lone Star College-North Harris in Texas. She served as a chapter officer and completed the Five Star Competitive Edge program and the Leadership Development Studies program, earning Enhanced Member status in her chapter.
Her hard work paid off, as she was recently named the Outstanding Junior at the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering, where she is a mechanical engineering student.
“I always try to put in my best and avoid doing just the minimum to get by,” Nguyen said in a Cullen College article about her.
The Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter uses its Enhanced Membership program to increase participation among its members. It also allows members to learn more about the opportunities available to them as Phi Theta Kappa members.
“We find that the tracking form also helps when it is time to apply for scholarships and for letters of recommendation,” chapter advisor Laura Dupree said. “Teamwork increases, and it helps members learn about leadership. Ultimately, sometimes it helps recruit officers too.
“Really it is easy and only requires some participation and documentation.”
Any chapter may offer an Enhanced Membership Program, and there are no official requirements from Headquarters for setting one up. The Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter uses a point system and rewards participating members who earn 30 points in one semester.
Points are earned through simple things like attending a weekly chapter meeting, wearing a Phi Theta Kappa shirt to the meeting, volunteering at chapter events and serving in leadership positions. Students may also earn points by engaging in Phi Theta Kappa programs: completing a CollegeFish profile, reaching Five Star Competitive Edge status, completing the Leadership Development Studies Program, submitting scholarship applications, researching Honors in Action topics and helping implement Honors in Action and College Projects.
Points are also awarded for traveling to workshops, conferences and conventions with the chapter.
“We also have a section for other opportunities designated by the advisors for times when something unique comes up,” Dupree said. “Recently when the flood hit Houston, we gave points to members helping with the relief effort Phi Theta Kappa headed up and for donating certain items. Over 300 people were served that week.”
Members can achieve Enhanced Member status multiple times during their time at the college. The first time they complete the program, they are given free honor cords for graduation. The second time — reaching Continued Enhanced Membership status — they receive a free tassel, and the third time they receive a free stole.
They’ve also had members become Master Enhanced Members, meaning they hit the requirements for Enhanced Membership four semesters.
Enhanced Members also earn special perks. Only Enhanced Members may travel using chapter funds with the chapter unless it is their first semester. And, Enhanced Members are given a free ticket to the college’s annual Student Life Awards ceremony, and they receive a certificate for the efforts.
Nguyen’s campus engagement through the Enhanced Membership program led to multiple awards and recognitions. She received the Phi Theta Kappa Outstanding Member Award for commendable service and leadership and the Phi Theta Kappa Living with Victory Award for completing Students Helping Students Training.
She also received a Peer Leadership Award for tutoring and mentoring multiple first-time college students and was presented the Lone Star Leadership College Award.
“From a fairly reserved and quiet student, Tam found her wings and soared at Lone Star College-North Harris,” Dupree said. “Clearly she continues to reach greater heights at the University of Houston in the Cullen College of Engineering. There is no stopping her now, and it will be very interesting to see what she does with her doctoral degree in mechanical engineering.
“The role that the Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa played for Tam was truly transformational, just as it is for many other students.”
Nguyen continues to be actively involved at Cullen College. In 2015, she received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the University of Houston, and she is currently the president of the Society of Asian Engineering Students.
Photo courtesy of the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering: Carlos Landa