Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Kristi Peters, advisor to the Tau Mu Chapter at Enterprise State Community College in Alabama.
Phi Theta Kappa is based on four hallmarks: leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service. We have added our Honors in Action (HIA) Projects to enhance the scholarship aspect of our organization. This project brings many opportunities for leadership development.
This HIA process is certainly unique and truly what sets us apart from other groups and leads to a deeper understanding of academic topics. This makes our group a true honor society, but have we lost a hallmark in the process? With so much focus on leadership development and scholarship, have we lost service?
There has been much said in recent years that we, as a society, are raising a generation full of narcissists who lack empathy and are not able to feel or appreciate feelings that are not theirs. What then becomes of these children? Often they grow up to be that boss that everyone dreads working for — that boss who makes a workplace environment toxic. This puts unnecessary stress on every employee there and often runs off good people.
For most employees this is the nightmare scenario they hope to never face, but we need to ask ourselves another question. How can we as Phi Theta Kappans help prevent these situations from ever occurring?
We are training world leaders right now in every chapter. We are giving them experiences and training to be better leaders, and we hope these experiences will, in turn, make them better bosses. However, can we make our students servant leaders without promoting the hallmark of service?
Right now we have the opportunity to help these world changers focus on the greater good and look at ways to make the world a better place. Many groups on our campus look at service projects that are probably considered “typical” school projects — host a canned food drive, clean up a mile in town, or have a blood drive. Are these things important? Absolutely they are, and without these normal community projects, many local organizations would be desperately in need!
How can we challenge our Phi Theta Kappa students to go beyond these expectations? How can we promote an atmosphere of charity in our chapter?
We, the advisors, must first model the behavior for our students to see. If our heart is not in helping others, it will be nearly impossible for our students to see the benefits.
As advisors, we must also encourage our students to get out of the mindset of these traditional projects and encourage them to find their passion. Our officer team basically sat down and threw out every community service project that was typical, and then they looked at service projects that would be different yet meaningful.
One project they tackled was to raise money to make quilts to be given to children who are on the list awaiting an organ transplant. Another project encouraged members to make octopi for babies in the NICU at the state’s children’s hospital. They also collected new and used children’s books to donate to our local child services office for the case workers to take to the children on home visits. These out-of-the-box projects have touched many lives and helped my students to see the joys of helping others.
Why should service matter to Phi Theta Kappa? We are truly training the leaders who will influence our world and who will take the torch from us when we decide to pass it on. What type of leader do we want to carry our flame?
I hope the students who take my flame will be servant leaders who think of the needs of others and ones who will give back to their communities in unique and amazing ways. I also hope I have taught them that the greatest joys we receive in life are when we give of ourselves in service to others.