First Person: “I’ve learned a lot about who I am”

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Jason Moeck, a member of the Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter at Asnuntuck Community College in Connecticut.

I became a member of Phi Theta Kappa during my second semester, but I chose not to engage in the meetings because my belief was that it was “just another group of people talking about issues instead of taking action.”

At the beginning of my fourth semester, our advisor, Michelle Coach, encouraged me to participate in a meeting and see what I thought of it. My assumption couldn’t have been more wrong.

The members were very friendly and welcoming.

They came from diverse backgrounds, each with different majors.

They all shared a common goal — they wanted more, not only for themselves but also for each other, for the school and for the community.

They worked together as a family.

Phi Theta Kappa was an organization I wanted to be a part of.

Through Phi Theta Kappa, I have met wonderful people who challenge me everyday to be the best I can and push me to the limits of my abilities. I’ve learned a lot about who I am though my interaction with PTK.

My Alpha Lambda Zeta brothers and sisters have played an enormous part in my journey at Asnuntuck Community College and helped to make it the hallmark of my college experience. Thank you.

Being part of Phi Theta Kappa gave me opportunities that I feel have prepared me and given me an edge for transfer to a four-year university. I was able to develop and use leadership skills, to fine-tune my organizational and communication skills, to build soft skills, and to develop critical thinking beyond the realm of the classroom.

But it goes further.

At a job interview this past January, my membership with PTK came up, as my interviewer was a member himself. He told me that while my grades spoke for themselves, interest in being a part of something much bigger than myself was something that is highly valued in the workplace today and ultimately separated me from the rest of the applicants.

Phi Theta Kappa has been a life-changing experience. It is something I will be forever grateful I became a part of. My only regret is that I didn’t embrace the opportunity sooner.

Peanut Butter and . . .

Word-of-mouth is the most effective method to spread ideas; find out the keys to raising awareness about PTK so that it catches on.

“When peanut butter is around, jelly doesn’t need to remind you it exists.” ~ Jonah Berger, The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business

What do peanut butter and jelly have to do with PTK? Jonah Berger’s recent book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, provides insight on viral communications, and he uses the example of peanut butter. It is a trigger for our brains, and we nearly automatically and always think of jelly.

Effective marketing campaigns create triggers or take advantage of them.

What do you think of when you read or hear “Where dreams come true”?

Walt Disney World, right?

What do you think when you read or hear “Just do it”?


But the most effective marketing is not advertising campaigns — it is word of mouth. It is something that spreads outside of the ads and advertising channels. This is PTK Awareness Week, and it’s the perfect time to craft a contagious word-of-mouth campaign about PTK.

According to Berger, for something to catch on via word-of-mouth, there are some additional things to keep in mind. Triggers provide reminders for what you want people to think about, and you also want people to feel that “getting it” has social currency, practical value and can spread positive emotions.

Being “in the know” about something valuable and creating good vibes are things that people like to share publically — word of mouth — which is powerful social influence. When sharing, those who are not in the know may say, “Tell me more,” and the trigger creates an opportunity to tell a story. Stories are important because a good story is something people are more likely to spread than a list of facts and features.

What can be a trigger (reminder) about PTK that those in the know (social currency) can use to help others (practical value and positive emotion) publically (social influence) and open the door to telling real stories that inspire others to further spread the word? When we create or use an effective trigger, we can transform Berger’s phrase: “When _____ is around, PTK doesn’t need to remind you it exists.”

Are scholarships our trigger? On average, a PTK member receives $2,500 in annual transfer scholarships to complete a bachelor’s degree, and indeed our surveys have shown that it is the most important reason members accepted their invitation to PTK. However, as Vice President for Membership and Student Engagement Dr. Susan Scaggs recently wrote on The Reach blog, “We have to acknowledge that only an average of 10 percent of eligible students accepts membership into Phi Theta Kappa.” Why hasn’t accepting membership in PTK caught on for a far greater percentage of eligible members?

Berger’s STEPPS framework for understanding how communications go viral might help craft a contagious message. How can we talk about PTK in a way that hits ALL the elements of the STEPPS framework?

  • Social Currency
  • Trigger
  • Emotion
  • Public
  • Practical Value
  • Stories

‘Better Make Room’ for a Better Future

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Dennis Murphy, a former Alpha Delta Omicron chapter officer from Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts. It was submitted by the Better Make Room campaign.

Right now, you should text “COLLEGE” to 44044. Here’s why.

Many of you are about to start that first great step toward the career of your dreams. I know I’m working toward that myself — and I also know that my college education has been crucial to getting me here.

President Obama has made it a top priority to increase college attendance and completion rates across the country. Supporting this work, First Lady Michelle Obama — a first-generation college alumna herself — recently launched Up Next, a Better Make Room text-messaging campaign that gives students free personalized support on everything you need to get to college and graduate.

Better Make Room’s campaign helps high school and college students complete all the steps needed to make their own path through college. Any student can text “COLLEGE” to 44044 and increase his or her chances of beating the odds.

We all know that the path to and through college can be a tough one. We all need more support, more information and more access to financial resources. Up Next will send you reminders and tips about everything from financial aid deadlines and finding support on campus to student loan repayment.

If you’re in high school, you can also get support for things like signing up for the SAT or ACT, searching for and applying to colleges and completing the FAFSA. And if you still have more questions, Up Next has real-life college advisors who can work with you over text to help you succeed.

Dr. Ben Castleman, a professor at the University of Virginia, has studied text-based campaigns like Up Next. His research shows that these campaigns can significantly increase students’ college enrollment and graduation. As an intern with Better Make Room, I am proud to be part of their team and to play a role in increasing our generation’s access to higher education.

Two years ago, my life changed forever. I had always hoped that I would go to college, but my family was struggling, and the world around me didn’t seem to understand what I was up against. Then I was granted a new chance in life — a scholarship to pursue an education at American University after transferring from a local community college.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have this kind of support. But I wish I had been enrolled in Up Next during some of those crucial moments, when I began to wonder about things like applying for financial aid or starting college as a freshman or transferring to a four-year university. Life would have been a lot simpler if I had had someone guiding me step by step — and with something as easy as texting.

So, I’m encouraging you and every college or high school student you know — especially those who might have the odds stacked against them — to join the First Lady’s college support campaign by texting “COLLEGE” to 44044. It’s that simple.

Also, this Friday, September 30th, Better Make Room is hosting an Up Next Day of Action. Students, schools, communities and organizations across the country are taking action to get students signed up for Up Next and to celebrate the road to a postsecondary degree. Find out how your school or organization can get involved by checking out the Up Next Day of Action Toolkit.

Already signed up? Here’s what you can do to help spread the word:

  1. Tell students, parents and counselors about Up Next.
  2. Share about Up Next on social media using the hashtag #BetterMakeRoom. You can tag Better Make Room and even give the First Lady a shout-out.
  3. Grab a piece of paper and write “#BetterMakeRoom,” then post a picture of yourself with it to social media. (You can also post a screenshot of your first text exchange with Up Next using the same hashtag.)
  4. Print this sign and put it up in classrooms, community spaces, wherever other students can learn more about it.

Thanks for joining the First Lady’s campaign! Once every student has the college support he or she needs, we can ensure that our generation will be among the best educated and the most able to make a difference. The world Better Make Room.

Idea to Borrow: Offer a Discounted Membership Fee

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Lionel Barzon III, Officer of Membership of the Sigma Lambda Chapter at Calhoun Community College in Alabama.

At the start of the fall 2016 semester, our Sigma Lambda Chapter advisors and key officers decided to organize and execute a campus-wide PTK Awareness Week that started on Monday, September 12, and ran for four consecutive days through Thursday, September 15.

During the weeks leading up to this campaign, several key steps were taken to ensure the most effective deployment of resources our chapter possessed. The result was that we inducted more members in a single week than we did in the entire month of September last year.

Member Discount

Our chapter advisors and key officers proposed to Headquarters the idea of a $10 discount on the membership fee — $80 discounted to $70 — and we were allowed to do so. When talking to prospective members at our information booth, we actively mentioned how the Awareness Week was the only week for this semester to take advantage of a discounted membership price. (Note: the chapter cut $10 from it’s portion of the membership fee, meaning it received $5 in local fees rather than the $15 it usually receives.)

Maximum Visibility

Our chapter designed and purchased specialized PTK shirts that were handed out a week in advance to all willing teachers, faculty and staff members at Calhoun Community College to wear on one of the four campaign days to their respective classes. Also included with the shirts were specially designed information postcards explaining the key benefits of PTK and how to properly check and accept membership via the student’s school email account.

Specialized PTK stickers were added into the materials given out for those teachers that could not get a shirt delivered to them in time. Each faculty and staff member was then divided into four divisions and assigned a specific day for wearing their PTK attire and promoting their materials.

Teachers were instructed to hand out their information postcards at the beginning of each class for their selected day and to give a brief pitch of what Phi Theta Kappa was and the benefits of joining.

Online Reminders

Here at Calhoun Community College, our students use Blackboard to access their classes content and material online. All students must first log in to their account before accessing their classes on Blackboard. We took advantage of this by putting a special reminder on the top of the login page:

“Attention ALL STUDENTS who currently have 12+ non-remedial credit hours with a 3.5+ GPA: please make sure to actively check your Calhoun student email for an exclusive membership invitation into Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. This prestigious society is well known for having its members receive unique scholarships that go toward Calhoun Community College and four-year institutes around the nation. Phi Theta Kappa members are also known to be campus leaders, serve their communities and collect real-world experience — ALL attributes employers want! Don’t pass on this unique opportunity to enhance your college career path, and make sure to check your student emails today!”

This reminder on Blackboard was ran the week before and the week during the campaign.

Active Information Booth

During our Awareness Week, our chapter ran a PTK information booth on both of our campuses. This information booth was used to answer prospective members’ questions on how to join and when our meetings were held. This information booth also served as a way to draw curious students who had seen their teacher wearing the PTK shirt while giving out PTK info postcards.

We were able to reinforce our presence greatly through this method. We staffed our info booth from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. all four days, with the addition of 5-7 p.m. on two of the days.


At the conclusion of our chapter’s first-ever Awareness Week, the results were very positive. The primary purpose of this Awareness Week campaign was to recruit new members in higher volumes than usual to our Sigma Lambda Chapter while also increasing name identification of Phi Theta Kappa here at Calhoun Community College.

Year-to-year analytics of September 12-15, 2015, compared to September 12-15, 2016, showed a nine-fold increase in membership acceptance, with 29 new students accepting membership in 2016 compared to just three students accepting membership the same week in 2015.

Retention and growth of these new members, along with our existing ones, is now the current and ongoing phase of development our chapter is performing via chapter advisors and chapter officers. Based on these promising results, our chapter is planning on running another PTK Awareness Week in the early spring 2017 semester to capture new members who have membership invitations from Headquarters sent to their student email accounts.

The momentum created by this fall 2016 Awareness week on our campus was strong and profound, which will aid greatly in our spring 2017 Awareness Week campaign.

The Investment That Made a Difference

By all accounts, Lindsay Moore is accomplished.

She graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a neuroscience emphasis.

She earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University.

She holds an MPhil in psychology and neuroscience from Cambridge University in England.

She’s a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

All of this was made possible through the prestigious scholarships Moore received as a Phi Theta Kappa member.

“Phi Theta Kappa’s scholarships directly benefit students who are intelligent, capable and motivated — and by virtue of circumstance, they are also far too often some of the most in need of financial support,” she said. “I know from personal experience that this financial support can mean the difference between timely college completion and not.”

Moore attended Carlmont High School in California, made famous in the 1995 film Dangerous Minds. When she began as a freshman, the glow from the movie’s story had faded. Her focus shifted from her education to keeping a low profile. A teacher actually advised her to drop out of school.

“My academic confidence was shattered,” she said. “I was haunted by the thought that no college would accept a student like me, no matter my circumstances.”

Instead of quitting, Moore began a concurrent enrollment program that allowed her to take her high school coursework at her local community college. After earning her diploma, she began classes at Cañada College in California.

She joined Phi Theta Kappa, served as her chapter’s co-president and later served as an International Officer.

Moore went on to apply for and receive a Guistwhite Scholarship of $5,000 from Phi Theta Kappa.

This scholarship program, which is accepting applications now, directly contributed to where Moore is today: working in the Colorado governor’s office as a Performance System Analyst.

“Phi Theta Kappa provided fantastic opportunities for me to grow as a leader, a scholar and a public servant, all of which laid the foundation for future success and continue to impact my life today,” she said.

You can read Lindsay Moore’s full story in the 2016 issue of Visionary magazine. Learn more about how you can support members like Lindsay through the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation.

AMSA Offers Conference Discounts for Pre-Med Students

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is offering special discounted registration rates for Phi Theta Kappa members interested in attending its upcoming fall events.

AMSA is a national student-run organization that represents physicians-in-training. Its members include premedical students, medical students and interns. Joey Johnson, an alumnus from Georgia Highlands College, is the 2016 President-Elect of the organization. He will begin his term as President in May 2017.

Johnson is a first-generation college student. After high school, he worked in a factory for five years before realizing he needed a change. He joined Phi Theta Kappa in 2007 and served as both a chapter and regional officer.

He also earned a full-ride scholarship to Shorter University in Georgia through his Phi Theta Kappa membership.

“Being a great academic organization, not only would it offer opportunities to meet other students who were currently en route on their academic journeys, but it would also offer opportunities to meet members who were already working in their careers,” he said.

“Learning from others is always a valuable experience; and when you are all part of a great organization with unified goals, you also learn a lot about yourself and how you work as a team player.”

Johnson often works with pre-med students on their personal statements and resumes. He said he has seen students be accepted to medical school not only because of their grades but also because of the skills they possess and their volunteer work in the community.

And, he added, attending events such as those being hosted by AMSA this fall give students the opportunity to “gain invaluable insight and skills to succeed along the long path to becoming a physician.”

“This is why organizations like PTK and AMSA are enormous additions to anyone’s life who is taking the pre-med route,” Johnson said. “They will not be sorry for being active in either organization. I can promise them that.”

Phi Theta Kappa members will receive discounts to these upcoming AMSA events.

October 1-2, Tampa, Florida

PremedFest gives you the opportunity to talk with medical students and doctors about the reality of becoming a physician. Both days feature sessions on a variety of topics such as MCAT practice problems and interview tips, and the end goal is to help you get into medical school.

Use PTK17 to receive a discounted rate of $25 for AMSA members and $45 for non-members.

Sessions include:

Making the Transition to Med School
Is a Dual Degree for you?
5 Truths about Med School
MD or MO: Which is Right for You?

Johnson is leading a special session called “The Community College Advantage,” and he will also give a workshop on crafting a personal statement.

Register now.

AMSA 2016 Fall Conferences
October 15-16, San Juan, Puerto Rico
November 19-20, New York, New York

The AMSA Fall Conferences let you network with medical students and practicing physicians so you can learn how to best position yourself for acceptance into medical school. Learn trends in the medical industry and strengthen communication skills that will help you connect with future patients.

Use PTK17 to receive a discounted rate of $49 for AMSA members and $69 for non-members.

Sessions include:

The Right Mindset for Residency
Effective Communication with Patients in Recovery
Don’t Blow Your Interview
Advanced Personal Statement Workshop

Register now.