Need Help Motivating Your Members? Attend the Advisor Pre-Conference

How can you motivate your members to participate in chapter activities? Why should your members engage in Phi Theta Kappa programs? As an advisor, what exactly is your role?

These questions and more will be answered during a special one-day training session for Phi Theta Kappa advisors on May 29. This Advisor Pre-Conference is being held in conjunction with NISOD’s annual conference, May 29-31 in Austin, Texas.

Participation in the Advisor Pre-Conference is free. Space is limited, and you must pre-register by May 20. If you’d like to stay for the entire NISOD Conference, Phi Theta Kappa advisors will receive a special discounted rate.

“This two-in-one professional development opportunity allows advisors to be better-prepared Phi Theta Kappa advisors while also furthering their educational skills at the NISOD Conference,” said Jennifer Stanford, Phi Theta Kappa’s Chief Student Engagement Officer. “While the Advisor Pre-Conference will especially benefit new advisors, any advisor may attend.”

The Advisor Pre-Conference will cover the following topics:

  • Our Success is Your Success: Phi Theta Kappa’s 92% Student Success Rate
  • What Does an Advisor Do?
  • Online Chapter Management
  • Motivating Members
  • Engaging in Phi Theta Kappa Programs: How and Why

While attendance of the full NISOD Conference isn’t required to attend the Advisor Pre-Conference, advisors are sure to benefit from the special sessions focusing on the latest trends and challenges in the community college arena. One highlight will be a screening of the documentary No Greater Odds, which features Phi Theta Kappa members from the College of Southern Nevada.

“We believe that Phi Theta Kappa’s goal of developing student affairs professionals, honors program directors and faculty who are well-equipped to recognize and encourage scholarship among two-year college students aligns perfectly with NISOD’s mission to promote and celebrate excellence in teaching, learning and leadership at those same institutions,” said Dr. Edward J. Leach, NISOD’s Executive Director.

The NISOD Excellence Award recipients will also be honored during the conference. Twelve Phi Theta Kappa advisors will receive this award:

  • Rebecca Howell, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, North Carolina
  • Tom Sharar, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, North Carolina
  • Dr. Aaron Anderson, Clovis Community College, New Mexico
  • Gary Redding, Halifax Community College, North Carolina
  • Sherry Massoni, Harford Community College, Maryland
  • Dr. Michael Odu, Hillsborough Community College, Florida
  • Dr. Blake Ellis, Lone Star College, Texas
  • Kojo Allen, Metropolitan Community College, Nebraska
  • Chris Turner, Pensacola State College, Florida
  • Anthony Cornett, Polk State College, Florida
  • Ame Wilkerson, South Georgia State College, Georgia
  • Dr. James Gallagher, New Mexico State University, New Mexico

“We are so proud of these outstanding advisors for being recognized for their hard work and dedication to their students and colleges,” Stanford said. “We hope that as many of our advisors as possible will take advantage of the professional development available through the NISOD Conference while they are in Austin for our Pre-Conference.”

Register for the free Advisor Pre-Conference by May 20 to reserve your spot. Space is limited. If a waiting list is necessary, preference will be given to advisors who have never attended an Advisor Institute/Pre-Conference.

Chapter Gets Awareness Boost from Joint Induction-Fundraiser

Could your induction ceremony use a pick-me-up? Follow the Alpha Omicron Kappa Chapter’s lead by pairing it with a fundraiser, and watch the excitement of your members and awareness of your chapter take off.

Advisor Keith Pawlovich had an eye-opening moment at NerdNation 2015 in San Antonio when he heard in an Educational Forum that induction ceremonies don’t have to be formal events. Then, during the Michigan Regional Meeting that followed, he heard about a swing dance fundraiser another chapter had conducted.

When his chapter president, Daniel Ragan, turned out to be a member of a swing dance troupe, an idea began to take shape. They could induct members and hold a fundraiser for Michigan veterans in one big evening.

“We felt it was a real opportunity to make our induction ceremony more epic,” Pawlovich said.

The chapter at Oakland Community College’s Highland Lakes Campus in Michigan first partnered with their sister chapter, the Alpha Omicron Xi Chapter at their Orchard Ridge campus, to hold a joint induction ceremony dinner for the 40-plus new members. The lineup of speakers was carefully coordinated.

Cindy Carbone, a former member of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors and current Academic Dean at Oakland, spoke first about the purpose and benefits of Phi Theta Kappa membership.

Graeme Harper, the Honors College Dean at Oakland University, followed and spoke about the opportunities available to Phi Theta Kappa members upon their transfer.

Then, Jim Runestad, a representative in the Michigan Legislature and a strong advocate for veterans, spoke to the students about their responsibilities in taking active roles in America’s future as some of the best and brightest. Some inductees also received Congressional tributes as well.

Lynn Phillips, the Executive Director of the Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund in Michigan, gave closing remarks. Then, tables were moved, the college’s swing band set up and the doors opened to the community. More than 140 attended the Swing Dance and Concert and nearly $2,000 was raised for the Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund.

“It was a real opportunity to introduce our new inductees to Phi Theta Kappa and show the importance of what the organization does right there at the beginning,” Pawlovich said. “We would never have thought of doing this if we hadn’t attended NerdNation in San Antonio.”

Feedback from the event has been pouring in, and it’s all been positive. Faculty and staff at Oakland are looking forward to the event next year. Community businesses and organizations have told the chapter they will donate to the event moving forward. It’s even inspired Pawlovich to make the fall induction ceremony just as big — he’s thinking a Halloween-inspired Masquerade Ball on the Orchard Ridge campus.

“We’re at one of the smallest campuses at our college, so it really has increased awareness of our chapter,” he said. “Our chancellor was very complimentary. Our state representative knows who we are. Oakland University knows who we are. Community members gave money and in-kind donations for a silent auction.

“Our chapter recognition has grown exponentially, and our officers couldn’t be prouder.”

Four Scholarship Myths You Can Overcome

Each year hundreds of Phi Theta Kappa members apply for more than $250,000 in scholarships available through the Spring Scholarship Application. It’s a competitive process, but one that is well worth the effort if you plan to continue your education at a two-year college in the fall.

“Even though the cost of a community college remains well below that of a four-year university, we recognize that there are many students who still need help defraying those costs,” said Christin Grissom, Phi Theta Kappa’s Director of Scholarship Operations. “We are proud to offer our members financial help to complete at the associate level.”

With the Spring Scholarship Application deadline quickly approaching on May 2, you’re running out of time — and excuses! Forget what you’ve heard about scholarship applications; we’re here to debunk four common scholarship myths.

Myth #1: Only geniuses can get scholarships.

Wrong! Most scholarships on the Spring Scholarship Application require applicants to have completed between 12-36 semester credit hours and have a 3.5 GPA or higher to be eligible to apply. We do not ask for your SAT or ACT score, even though it may be perfect.

Although 2014 Leaders of Promise scholarship recipient Peyton Johnson had established herself as a leader at Northeast Alabama Community College and in her community, she knew competition for scholarships would be strong. Still, she chose to “be bold” and apply anyway.

“Too many people have missed out on scholarship opportunities because they didn’t believe that they had what it took to win,” she said. “You cannot base your chances of winning on someone else’s resume, and you never know exactly how your story will resonate with the selection committee.”

Myth #2: I’m too old (or young) to get a scholarship.

Untrue! Age is only a number, and this number does not determine your eligibility for Phi Theta Kappa’s scholarships. Your age neither increases nor decreases your odds of being selected as a scholarship recipient.

At 32, Elizabeth “Ellie” Scicchitano received a 2015 Leaders of Promise scholarship. She’s the co-president of scholarships for the Rho Epsilon Chapter at the Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and applied for the scholarship based on the strength of her story, not her age.

Upon learning about and researching her mother’s Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis, Scicchitano returned to school and is working to become an oncologist. She also has a 7-year-old daughter and a 3.93 grade point average.

“It’s hard to raise my daughter and go to school, but if my mother isn’t giving up, there’s no excuse for me to give up,” she said.

Myth #3: You have to be financially needy to receive Phi Theta Kappa’s scholarships.

False! While there are many scholarships out there that consider financial need, scholarships included on Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application do not. These scholarships are merit-based, meaning judges are focused on your record of accomplishment and ability to excel, not your financial information.

Everyone can use a little extra money to help pay for college. After just one year of school, Johnson had seen just how quickly college expenses could add up.

“I knew that by filling out the spring application there (would be) so many different scholarships that (could) benefit me as I continue my education,” she said.

Myth #4: Applying for scholarships is too time-consuming.

Incorrect! If you could maximize your time and provide a way to pay for college, would you do it? One single scholarship application allows you to compete for your chance at more than $250,000 in scholarships. That’s a serious return on your time investment!

Make it easy by compiling a detailed list of your academic and personal accomplishments into a Scholarship Resume. Contact a strong recommender to complete the Student Assessment in the application and support the details you’re including. And, break the application into sections to make it more manageable.

“The entire application at once can seem overwhelming,” said Rebecca Ellzey, a 2015 GEICO Pathway to Completion Associate Degree Scholar and a student at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. “Breaking it down gives you time to genuinely think about each question. I cannot tell you how many answers I thought about for each question.”

One last thing: proofread your application!

Proofread your application closely, and then have someone else proofread it and provide feedback on ways to strengthen it.

“Your application in reality is your non-physical interview for potential scholarship opportunities,” said Brandon Hayes, a 2014 GEICO Pathway to Completion Associate Degree Scholarship recipient from Walters State Community College in Tennessee.

Follow up with your recommender to ensure the Student Assessment has been completed. Check to make sure that each tab has been finished before the May 2 deadline. And finally, be confident that you’ve put forth your best effort.

“Many students think the pool of applicants is too large and their possibilities of winning are too low,” said Cindy Villalta-Fuentes, a student at North Lake College in Texas who received a 2014 Leaders of Promise scholarship. “Put effort in the application, make sure to answer the questions and don’t be afraid to expose your goals and aspirations.

“Put your story on paper — you never know how impactful it can be.”

Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application deadline is Monday, May 2, at 5 p.m. CST.

Introducing, The President’s List

For the first time, Phi Theta Kappa is recognizing the 25 chapters with the highest membership acceptance rates.

The list is based on chapters’ acceptance rates in 2015. This new annual recognition serves as a way for all chapters — big and small, urban and rural — to see how their peers are performing. Throughout the year, we’ll feature some best practices from the chapters on this list here on the blog.

“It’s important for our chapters to see how others similar to them compare in terms of membership acceptance,” said Phi Theta Kappa President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. “We’re eager to see how these chapters are getting these high acceptance rates and to share that information with everyone in the Society. There is much we can learn from each other.”

The Beta Zeta Sigma Chapter at Carolinas College of Health Sciences in North Carolina holds the second-highest acceptance rate at 84 percent. Advisor Cathy Borysewicz said they hold three inductions a year — spring, summer and fall — and have current Phi Theta Kappa members distribute the invitations to eligible students during class. The chapter’s newest inductees are pictured above.

“We encourage them to get excited about joining and have them share activities that the Phi Theta Kappa members are involved in,” she said. “”I think the peer-to-peer aspect is what is most beneficial for us.”

Each of these chapters is well on track to receive recognition through Phi Theta Kappa’s REACH Rewards program, which honors those chapters who achieve or exceed a 15 percent membership acceptance rate in a calendar year with free graduation stoles for its members. The first REACH Rewards will be presented in spring 2017.

All chapters are automatically enrolled in the program. Rewards are calculated using the number of new members, the acceptance rate for the chapter and the graduation rate for the institution. The number of rewards earned will be based on a chapter’s size.

“While the REACH Rewards program may be based on numbers, it’s really about students,” Tincher-Ladner said. “It’s our hope that this recognition program will lead to more students receiving scholarships, learning leadership skills, cultivating soft skills and realizing opportunities they never knew they had on their campuses and in their communities. This, in turn, will lead to improved college completion rates, which benefits everyone.”

The President’s List

1. Beta Delta Chi, Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, North Carolina — 91%
2. Beta Zeta Sigma, Carolinas College of Health Sciences, North Carolina — 84%
3. Epsilon, Cottey College, Missouri — 78%
4. Beta Sigma Kappa, Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing & Health, Missouri — 75%
5. Omicron Kappa, Marion Military Institute, Alabama — 63%
6. Iota Zeta, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Mississippi — 59%
7. Theta Lambda, Andrew College, Georgia — 57%
8. Beta Alpha Epsilon, Landmark College, Vermont — 55%
9. Theta Iota, Snead State Community College, Alabama — 55%
10. Beta Kappa Omicron, Brown Mackie College, Kansas — 51%
11. Alpha Delta Chi, River Valley Community College, New Hampshire — 50%
12. Alpha Upsilon Pi, Sussex County Community College, New Jersey — 48%
13. Beta Beta Beta, Ancilla College, Indiana — 46%
14. Pi Gamma, Florida College, Florida — 44%
15. Beta Omicron Eta, Chatfield College, Ohio — 43%
16. Beta Beta Iota, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, New Mexico — 42%
17. Beta Nu Delta, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Pennsylvania — 42%
18. Theta Xi, East Central Community College, Mississippi — 41%
19. Beta Nu Alpha, Aaniiih Nakoda College, Montana — 41%
20. Alpha Phi Omicron, State Technical College of Missouri, Missouri — 41%
21. Alpha Lambda Zeta, Asnuntuck Community College, Connecticut — 41%
22. Beta Pi Gamma, College of Westchester, New York — 40%
23. Beta Kappa Alpha, Lackawanna College, Pennsylvania — 40%
24. Beta Gamma Phi, Lamar Institute of Technology, Texas — 38%
25. Delta Epsilon, Valley Forge Military College, Pennsylvania — 37%

Heads Up America: Big Announcement Coming Monday

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, are heading to the Community College of Philadelphia on Monday, where they will highlight the progress made across the country to make two years of community college free for responsible students.

It’s a part of Heads Up America’s day of action, and it will include an important announcement by Vice President Biden.

Help us celebrate community colleges and the progress made for free community college on Monday. Here’s how you can participate:

  • Sign up your friends and family at Set up a table on your campus with a laptop or tablet for easy access to the site, or ask your professor to make an announcement at the beginning or end of class.
  • Use this poster to write what free community college would mean to you. Snap a photo and share your response on social media using #HeadsUpAmerica. Here’s an example.
  • Click here to show your support on Facebook by sharing our post. Be sure to include a caption with your own reason for supporting #FreeCommunityCollege!

Ready to act now? Retweet this to help us build excitement for Monday.

The Heads Up America movement is a grass-roots effort to spread the word about the value of community college and to support America’s College Promise. Throughout the country, more than 9 million students stand to benefit from the success of the Heads Up movement.

Phi Theta Kappa joined the campaign and pledged support for America’s College Promise back in October. Get caught up.

Apply for $250,000 in Scholarships by May 2

Luiza Kinzerska-Martinez is inspired by her parents’ drive for an education to continue her own. Her father traveled to Ukraine to escape the Nicaraguan Revolution. There he met Kinzerska-Martinez’s mother, who was born and raised in the Ukraine but eager to escape the religious and political persecution.

Together her parents moved to the United States and completed their college degrees. The hardships faced by her parents have inspired Kinzerska-Martinez to follow in their footsteps.

“Their sacrifices have inspired me to give back to them for all that they have done to encourage my academic, emotional and physical growth,” she said.

Kinzerska-Martinez, a member of the Alpha Gamma Kappa Chapter at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in Florida, is one of the two 2015 GEICO Pathways to Completion Associate Degree Scholars. She and Rebecca Ellzey, a member of the Eta Omega Chapter at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Wesson Campus in Mississippi, each received a $1,000 scholarship.

“With the support of GEICO and Phi Theta Kappa, I have not only had the opportunity to continue growing academically and philanthropically, but have also further expanded my influence and fostered positive change in my global community,” Kinzerska-Martinez said. “Leadership and service to my community have become an essential part of my educational journey, and for this reason I am infinitely grateful for the GEICO scholarship and its support of my endeavors.”

The GEICO Pathways to Completion Associate Degree Scholarship is just one opportunity available to members on Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application, which is now open through May 2. Members can apply for more than $250,000 in scholarships.

“Even though the cost of a community college is far less than the cost of attending a four-year college, we recognize that there are still students out there who need help completing their associate degree,” said Christin Grissom, Phi Theta Kappa’s Director of Scholarship Operations. “We are proud to be able to offer scholarships to these hardworking students as they strive to achieve their educational goals, regardless of whether that goal is to transfer to a four-year school or to enter or return to the workforce.”

The scholarship programs on this application are primarily geared toward students with less than 36 credit hours, and they support the completion of associate degrees. The programs include

The Spring Scholarship Application will be available through Monday, May 2, at 5 p.m. CT.

“In the midst of classes and day-to-day deadlines, it is nice to receive encouragement of any kind that I am on the right track,” Ellzey said. “Do not overthink (the application). Take the questions to heart and believe in yourself.

“Also, start early! The entire application at once can seem overwhelming. Breaking it down gives you time to genuinely think about each questions. The application is a great way to evaluate all the assets of your education — take advantage of it!”

Other Opportunities

Wilmington College in Ohio has designated a new award, the Dreams over Disaster Scholarship, exclusively to Phi Theta Kappa members who have been financially impacted by FEMA-declared natural disasters.

The scholarship includes full tuition, fees, room and board and a textbook stipend for four consecutive semesters at Wilmington College. Two scholarships will be awarded. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. CT on April 15, 2017.

The Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship application is also available. This scholarship helps Phi Theta Kappa members overcome unanticipated financial barriers preventing the completion of their first associate degree or certificate while enrolled at the two-year college.

Up to eight one-time scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded in spring 2016. The deadline to apply is Monday, May 2.

Visit the Scholarships page to view all scholarship opportunities available for Phi Theta Kappa members.

Eman Mohammed: Documenting Gaza

At 19, Eman Mohammed became the first female photojournalist living and working in Palestine and documenting the conflict in the Gaza strip in 2006. She was a woman doing a “man’s job” in a “man’s world,” and she was not welcome.

“My work as a woman photographer was considered a serious insult to the local traditions and created a lasting stigma for me and my family,” she said during a 2014 TED Talk. “The male-dominated field made my presence unwelcome by all possible means.

“They made clear that a woman must not do a man’s job.”

News agencies in Palestine refused to train Mohammed. She was driven to an open air strike zone by three of her male colleagues and left there. Her nose was broken when a nearby police compound was destroyed.

Yet, Mohammed survived and thrived, documenting the stories of Gaza’s women and their struggle to maintain their families, their hope and their lives. She will share their stories and her own with attendees of the 2016 Honors Institute, June 20-25 at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Honors Institute features a stellar lineup of keynote speakers, all of whom will examine the Honors Study Topic, How the World Works: Global Perspectives, from their own individual views. The early registration deadline is May 13. Attendance is limited and is filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Register now.

The registration fee covers event tuition, lodging for a week and all meals except Thursday’s R&R Day. See the full schedule.

Mohammed will speak during the Second General Session on June 21. Her story and photos have expanded beyond Palestine to other countries in the Middle East as she continues to break ground for women, immigrants and refugees. She is currently based in Washington, D.C.

“As a Palestinian female photographer, the journey of struggle, survival and everyday life has inspired me to overcome the community taboo and see a different side of war and its aftermath,” she said. “I became a witness with a choice: to run away or stand still.”

Learn more about Eman Mohammed and see her work.

Scholarship Recipients Announced!

Congratulations to our most recent scholarship recipients! These student scholars have received nearly $280,000 in scholarship awards.

The Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team

One hundred fifty community college students were named to the 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team and have received nearly $200,000 in scholarships. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors this program.

The recipients are divided into three levels: 50 Gold Scholars who received $1,500 each; 50 Silver Scholars who received $1,250 each; and 50 Bronze Scholars who receive $1,000 each. They also receive commemorative medallions.

Read more, and view the full list of scholars.

GEICO’s Meme 4 Money Creativity Scholarship

Phi Theta Kappa members aren’t just smart — they’re also incredibly funny and creative. Last year, GEICO launched its first scholarship program allowing Phi Theta Kappa members to get creative.

Students were asked to provide the most “meme-able” caption for seven photos provided by GEICO. Members had the opportunity to vote for their favorites online, and the five winners received $1,000 each.

See the winners.

Guistwhite Scholars

Fifteen Phi Theta Kappa members have been selected as 2016 Guistwhite Scholarship recipients and have received $75,000 in scholarships.

The scholarship is named in honor of the late Dr. Jack Guistwhite and his widow, Margaret. The Guistwhites established the first designated transfer scholarship for Phi Theta Kappa members at Florida Atlantic University in 1975.

Each of the 15 Guistwhite Scholars has received a $5,000 scholarship.

See the winners.