Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from Phi Theta Kappa. — there are multiple opportunities for chapter advisors to grow personally and professionally.
“Our advisors give so generously of their time to their chapters — they ARE Phi Theta Kappa to many of our students,” said Jennifer Stanford, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Vice President of Student Engagement. “Our professional development opportunities for advisors serve two purposes: to show our sincere appreciation for all they do and to give them opportunities to strengthen their knowledge of Phi Theta Kappa’s programming.”
Here are six ways Phi Theta Kappa keeps its advisors growing and learning.
1. Teach in a New Environment
As a relatively new advisor at the Alpha Pi Chi Chapter at Eastern Shore Community College, Robin Rich-Coates wanted to learn more about Phi Theta Kappa. So, she applied to serve as a Faculty Scholar for Honors Institute — a role that would allow her to investigate the Honors Study Topic, train to facilitate discussions, and lead seminar groups at the event.
“I was accepted, and once I attended Honors [Institute], I was completely hooked on Phi Theta Kappa,” she said. “From then on, I was an ‘Honors junkie.'”
Rich-Coates now serves as the Associate Coordinator of the Virginia/West Virginia Region.
“These opportunities have served as professional development that I have used in running my chapter, teaching honors seminars on my campus, and helping the Virginia/West Virginia Region develop an honors program,” she said.
2. Check an Item Off Your Bucket List
Kenneth Kerr, advisor to the Alpha Delta Sigma Chapter at Frederick Community College in Maryland, was inspired to learn more about his ancestry following a Faculty Scholar Conference.
He knew that Phi Theta Kappa’s Mosal and Marshall Awards provided a $5,000 stipend to advisors for projects that lead to personal professional and leadership growth outside the classroom. So, he submitted a proposal that included traveling to Northern Ireland for one month to interview locals, research the history of Ireland, and continue his genealogical research and uncover the story of his family.
“Applying for the Mosal Award made me look deeper into what it was I wanted to do and how it would benefit me personally and professionally,” Kerr said. “Receiving the award made it possible to begin the first stage of a multi-year quest to visit the places my ancestors lived.”
3. Earn a Credential and Teach Students to Lead
Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Studies Program fosters personal and professional growth among advisors, hosting faculty certification seminars to prepare advisors to teach the program on their campuses.
“The skills, knowledge, and experience I’ve gained have me very excited to teach the class,” said Duane Oakes, advisor to the Omicron Beta Chapter at Mesa Community College in Arizona. “It has renewed my sense of the importance of leadership.”
More than 700 colleges have faculty, staff or administrators who have participated in a Leadership Instructor Certification Seminar. All advisors, regardless of their discipline or role on campus, may participate. It’s a chance to earn a valuable professional credential, advance their personal leadership journeys, and provide meaningful leadership development opportunities on their campuses.
4. Do Research and Get Published
Advisors may also apply to serve on Phi Theta Kappa’s Honors Program Council (HPC) to contribute their academic expertise to honors program development, engage in research and assist in publishing the Honors Program Guide.
Dr. Sauda Smith, advisor of the Beta Omicron Sigma Chapter at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in the British Virgin Islands and a former HPC member, said the research aspect that goes into developing the Honors Study Topic and producing the Honors Program Guide has also been a valuable teaching tool for her.
“In a community college setting, we’re not often given the opportunity to do research and get published, unlike our colleagues in the universities,” she said. “The Honors Program Council enables you to create and contribute to the publication of a document that’s actually a teaching tool. It gives you an opportunity to use your intellect.”
Fellow former HPC member and advisor to the Alpha Upsilon Eta Chapter at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in North Carolina Lisa York said the leadership skills and knowledge she has gained from interactions with other Council members have proven invaluable both for her and her students, making her a better teacher and advisor.
“My greatest lesson, perhaps, is learning to continually set goals and assess personal growth and professional growth, which we can easily forget to do when we are so focused on our students’ personal and professional growth,” she said.
5. Network (and Make Friends) with Fellow Advisors
Phi Theta Kappa events offer an incredible opportunity for advisors to network with other professionals and to share experiences with their peers.
For example, that first Honors Institute began a long-lasting connection between Rich-Coates and Phi Theta Kappa. Since then, she has logged many a mile traveling to regional meetings, chapter events, international conventions, Honors Institutes, leadership instructor certifications and more. Each trip has brought her a greater knowledge of the organization, support for her roles as advisor and instructor, and a larger network of colleagues she calls friends.
“Advisors learn from each other, support each other, and form the infrastructure that holds Phi Theta Kappa together,” she said. “Emails, social media and other electronic channels have helped improve communications, but there is no comparison to the face-to-face meetings.”
Advisors who lack financial support from their colleges may apply for scholarships to participate in Society programs and events, such as the Leadership Development Program and PTK Catalyst. In addition, Phi Theta Kappa covers expenses for those who serve as Faculty Scholars, members of the Honors Program Council, and Regional Coordinators.
6. Change a Student’s Life
Many of the benefits of serving as a chapter advisor are intangible — they often include the joy and sense of accomplishment in seeing students succeed and knowing that you played a part in that success.
Jefferson State Community College alumna Valerie Castrillon is now an aeronautical engineer and team leader at Airbus, but she didn’t always have the confidence to land her dream job. She never thought she’d be capable of joining an honor society, but her advisor, Dr. Liesl Harris, saw something in her — even encouraging her to serve as chapter president.
“This is just one example of what we hear every day about how Phi Theta Kappa changes lives,” Harris said. “The skills Valerie learned and the confidence she gained are serving her well.”
Michaelann Allen, advisor of the Alpha Epsilon Omega Chapter at North Seattle Community College, agrees.
“Phi Theta Kappa has such an underlying support for everyone,” she said. “Anything that can give people an opportunity for growth and improvement, that’s what PTK does.”