Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by 2020-2021 International President Lavada Burse.
Many of us would have never imagined that 2020 would start as it did. This pandemic has changed all of our lives so drastically. Your chapters had to cancel or move to a digital platform for spring inductions, and your regions also had to adapt to virtual regional conventions.
I believe the most extreme change that Phi Theta Kappa members had to deal with was when PTK Catalyst could no longer be held in person in Grapevine, Texas. That is the biggest event of the year for PTK Headquarters, and everyone there was as disappointed as the members were. They worked day by day, trying to be creative but yet still engage members. Recognition is central to Phi Theta Kappa’s mission, and the show had to go on. Your new International Officer (IO) team also campaigned and was elected 100 percent virtually with the help of the production company TEK.
After winning the position of International President, I honestly felt the same as many of you did. It felt as though I would be missing out on the typical IO experience. Don’t get me wrong, I was very excited, but it didn’t seem real. I’ve only met two of my fellow teammates in person. Most importantly, I didn’t get the opportunity to speak to many of you in person, as we would have at PTK Catalyst.
COVID-19 took a lot from students. Being quarantined felt like a punishment that none of us deserved. As a leader, I felt incompetent. I sometimes wondered how I would be able to make an impact if everyone was in quarantine. The International Officers would not be able to travel to visit different regions and would not make that in-person connection we all craved. I felt depressed and thought this would be the worst year to be an IO.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One day I had the opportunity to speak with a chapter about my experience so far as an IO. I explained that we were just getting started with our training and hadn’t yet had the opportunity to dive in fully. They followed up and asked how many virtual events I had attended. As I was thinking of the number of events at which I had the privilege to present, a light bulb went off. If we were in person, I would have never had the time to connect with so many other members in such a short amount of time.
Also, on that call, a member shared how grateful she was that I was able to attend and speak with them. She said that I motivated her to stay focused throughout the quarantine, and she joined the call to tell me that. I realized that regardless of the unfortunate circumstances we are in, there is always positive in it.
As student leaders, I have seen the creative ways that you have transformed PTK for the better. We adjusted to this situation rapidly and with grace and poise. Watching all of you at your virtual events has inspired me. You all helped me realize this is the best year ever to be an IO. We are making history.
The IOs have made over 100 appearances as a team, which wouldn’t have been possible under normal circumstances. Remember, we can still make an impact on a member’s life through a virtual platform. Let’s make this year the best year ever!