One hundred advisors and chapter officers gathered at Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) on Saturday, September 21, for the New England Region’s first Leadership Conference.
The free event featured breakout sessions utilizing Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Curriculum and a keynote address by Dr. Christopher Berg, founder of Go Berg or Go Home, LLC, a career services and professional coaching firm.
Perhaps most importantly, it made leadership training accessible, got several new advisors engaged on a regional level, and helped chapters check off requirements for the Five Star Chapter Plan.
“Since the beginning of the semester, we’ve been trying to help chapters grow the leadership they’ve started among their officer teams,” New England Regional Coordinator Michelle Coach said. “We want to develop the leader within you.”
Students attended breakout sessions led by the New England regional officer team and covered such topics as how to run a meeting, emotional intelligence, and effective communication. Advisors attended sessions led by Michelle and Associate Regional Coordinator Thayre Trzepacz that focused on coaching tools, the Five Star Advisor Plan, and other PTK EDGE™ programming.
The idea for the conference was born at NVCC, when a new college administrator suggested its Alpha Theta Epsilon Chapter host an event. Advisor Greg Harding brought the idea to a regional meeting in the spring, and Michelle felt that a conference focused on leadership would be beneficial.
“I think it was a really useful event,” he said. “It was a practical way to accomplish quite a bit in terms of Five Star: involvement in a regional event, officer training, and hosting an event with multiple colleges.”
Greg and his co-advisor Lisa Kaufman worked with NVCC administrators and the student government association to secure funding for the keynote speaker, whose presentation was open to non-PTK students as well, giving them a taste of what Phi Theta Kappa is about.
The event itself gave newer advisors a good introduction to PTK. Of the 127 advisors in the New England Region, 54 have been in the advisor role for three years or less. Thayre said they noticed many new names on the registration list, meaning new advisors and those that didn’t typically attend regional events signed up.
Just a few years ago, Greg was one such advisor. While he’d been in the role since about 2005, he and Lisa rarely did more than recruit and induct new members and promote the All-USA Academic Team program.
“It came to a point where students were asking for things that I didn’t have the answers to,” he said. “How to do an Honors in Action Project, for example.”
Greg felt he either needed to do more or step down, so he attended his first regional conference about three years ago by himself. PTK began to fall into place for him, and he began to understand the organization on a broader level.
In the years since, he says recruitment has gotten better, registration numbers for the chapter are higher, and the chapter officers are better trained.
“We’re better able to communicate what it’s all about,” he said. “My motivation now comes from trying to get students engaged in the academic component.”
Greg believes the leadership conference could have similar effects on the newer and less engaged advisors that attended. Michelle and Thayre share that belief and feel the conference brought new energy into the fall semester leading up to the larger regional meeting in October.
Continuing the conference — which they all hope to do — could give other chapters and colleges the opportunity to host a region-wide event. Not charging for the event made it more accessible to chapters with limited travel budgets.
“It’s been great to see advisors get excited again,” Michelle said.