Centennial Reflections

As we approach the milestone of our centennial celebration, I can’t help but reflect on Phi Theta Kappa’s past and look toward its (very bright) future.

The original purpose statement of Phi Theta Kappa focused on the organization’s role within what were known at the time as “Accredited Junior Colleges.” However, throughout the 1960s, many colleges began changing their names from “junior” to “community” colleges, reflecting a mission expansion that was more inclusive of career and technical education programs that would directly impact local and national employment needs.

Phi Theta Kappa responded by revising its own language to be more inclusive of the expanding mission of its chapter institutions. In 1965, we revised the language in our constitution and mission statement to reflect our commitment to “two-year college students” — all the while keeping all eyes on academic achievement, leadership, service and fellowship.

Today, the mission of community, technical and junior colleges continues to expand. There are now 22 states that have authorized “community colleges” to offer baccalaureate degrees. Ironically, the expansion to baccalaureates by community colleges is in response to “community” needs for a more comprehensive education program — particularly in industries in need of employees with baccalaureates — in areas that are underserved by nearby (or not nearby) public four-year institutions.

As a result of the expanding mission of community colleges over the past 100 years, Phi Theta Kappa has active chapters at institutions that call themselves community colleges, junior colleges, technical colleges, colleges and even universities. While most of our chapters are established at community and technical colleges, we have 580 chapters (45 percent) established at institutions that are no longer referred to as “community” or “junior” or “technical” colleges.

But all PTK chapters, regardless of what flavor of school they serve, have a common thread — they seek to provide recognition within colleges and programs that are accessible to all students. And all members, regardless of which particular type of institution they attend, continue to take the same oath of membership as they did almost a century ago.

While we have informally responded to the recent changes in the community college mission, we hope to formalize these changes in the coming year by replacing the language “community college” with “college.” We believe that, in doing so, we will be staying true to our mission of recognizing academic achievement and providing opportunities to grow as scholars and leaders among deserving students. We hope you will continue to support us as we grow.

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner is president and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. If you would like to reach Lynn, please contact her liaison, Fredrica Tyes, at fredrica.tyes@ptk.org.

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