The Motherland and The Second City

Dr. Joy Moses-Hall really likes rocks.

She holds a Ph.D. in oceanography, but she says the most fascinating part of the curriculum was geology. That likely stems from a childhood spent traveling around the continent visiting natural wonders with her family.

This love of rocks — and family — has inspired The Motherland Project, a geological biography of the planet sprinkled with familial anecdotes of mountains scaled and museums toured. The proposal for this project earned Moses-Hall the 2016 Mosal Award.

“It is allowing me to complete a project that has long been on my bucket list,” Moses-Hall said. “Even better, it turned a someday half-ambition of ifs and maybes into a real project.”

The Mosal Award carries a $5,000 stipend for the completion of a project that encourages professional development. The award is named for Dr. Margaret Mosal, Phi Theta Kappa’s first Executive Director.

Since receiving the award earlier this year, Moses-Hall has spent months going on geology field trips, reading about and visiting the National Parks and Monuments and “hiking to my heart’s content.” News of the award led to her writing a science column in her local newspaper in Greenville, North Carolina, and she sends clips of the stories to her parents so they can travel with her in spirit.

“The award has cascaded through other layers and goals in my life in ways I didn’t anticipate,” she said. “After the first column was published, the local university called and asked if I wanted to teach an oceanography course there — a subject unavailable at the community college level.”

Moses-Hall is advisor to the Beta Nu Upsilon Chapter at Pitt Community College, where she teaches physics, astronomy and Earth science. Her Mosal medallion is proudly displayed in her office, where both students and colleagues see it and are inspired to put their own dreams on paper.

“They think if I can win something, then they should apply for PTK scholarships and other awards, and they could win, too,” she said. “The world outside PTK benefits too, because many of the projects funded are service-minded and provide benefits to people all over the globe.”

Just as Moses-Hall really likes rocks, Steve Fritts really likes comedy — improvisational comedy, to be specific. Fritts has been developing a unique approach to leadership through the use of improv, and he has used his 2016 Marshall Award to further his study this year.

The Marshall Award carries a $5,000 stipend for the completion of a project that encourages personal leadership growth. It is named for Dr. Jo Marshall, President of Somerset Community College in Kentucky who, among other things, is a facilitator of Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Certification Program.

“Advisor support programs like the Marshall, Mosal and Faculty Scholars are vital to the success of Phi Theta Kappa,” Fritts said. “The role of advisor in our society is a labor of love, oft with no pay and long hours.

“Programs like these validate the work that advisors do and recognize our own professional development as a vital part of our society.”

Academia is embracing improv, with universities like Harvard and Yale utilizing it in their MBA programs to teach such leadership skills as listening, teamwork and collaboration. As a certified instructor of PTK’s Leadership Development Program, Fritts has sought to incorporate improv into his own leadership instruction at Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri.

He began training this summer at The Second City Training Center, the education arm of the famous Chicago theater where performers like Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Keegan-Michael Key and others got their start. He’s also done extensive reading in the field.

“This training is the foundation of my project as I seek to bring my readings and training together to create a practical leadership program using improv to develop the real skills of leadership: listening, collaboration and critical thinking,” he said.

Fritts’ training will continue with courses again in 2017. He will then collaborate with local improv workshop presenters in his community to develop a leadership workshop.

He already has plans to hold a workshop at The Middle College Program, a program for at-risk youth in his community, and he hopes to take the workshop on the road to several Phi Theta Kappa regions.

Much like the Mosal Award did for Moses-Hall, the Marshall Award has allowed Fritts to dust off his dreams and check a few items off his own bucket list.

“As we go about our daily lives and fulfill our duties at our colleges and within the society, we often forget our own personal and professional developmental growth,” he said. “This award allows an advisor to follow a dream that they may have put aside in order to focus on their collegial roles.”

The deadline to apply for the 2017 Mosal and Marshall Awards is February 17, 2017.

Scholarship Recipients Announced

More than 200 scholarships are being awarded to Phi Theta Kappa members for completion of associate degrees, with recipients receiving scholarships between $1,000 and $5,000 each.

Recipients are chosen from more than 1,100 applicants worldwide to receive in excess of $230,000 in scholarships. Independent judges evaluate the applications based on scholastic achievement, community service and leadership potential. Scholars are also encouraged to assume leadership roles by participating in Society programs.

Richard L. Resurreccion Public Safety Scholarship

The Richard L. Resurreccion Public Safety Scholarship recognizes Phi Theta Kappa members who demonstrate potential for or involvement in public safety or service while enrolled in a regionally accredited associate degree public safety program. The program awards up to two scholarships of $1,000 each, a total of $2,000 in scholarships annually. Meet the winners.

Dr. Mary Hood Texas Region Scholarship

The Dr. Mary Hood Texas Region Scholarship is presented to the Texas applicant with the highest score from Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application, which provides new Phi Theta Kappa members with financial resources to help defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. One scholarship of $1,500 is awarded annually. Meet the 2016 winner.

GEICO Pathways to Completion Associate Degree Scholarship

Students who apply for Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarships will automatically be considered for a GEICO Pathway to Completion Associate Degree Scholarship. The two top-scoring applicants will each receive a $1,000 scholarship, with a total of $2,000 awarded annually. Meet the winners.

Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholarship program provides new Phi Theta Kappa members with financial resources to help defray educational expenses while enrolled in a two-year college in order to develop leadership potential through participation in Phi Theta Kappa programs. The program awards up to 200 scholarships of $1,000 each, a total of $200,000 in scholarships annually. Of these awards, 25 scholarships are earmarked for current members of the military or military veterans. Meet the winners.

Pearson Scholarship

The Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education program provides new Phi Theta Kappa members with financial resources to help defray educational expenses while enrolled in an associate degree program at a two-year college, as well as provide continued financial support to Pearson Scholars in the transfer to a four-year college baccalaureate degree program. The program awards up to 10 scholarships of $5,000 each, a total of $50,000 in scholarships annually. Additionally, Pearson Education is committed to assisting students in meeting their goals of degree completion by giving all Pearson Scholars access to a Pearson Mentor and complimentary access to Pearson textbooks and digital access codes. Meet the 2016 winners.

An Insider’s Look at Running for International Office

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by 2016-17 International President Andrew Porter.

Hey, everyone! The International Officer Candidate Application is now available, so I wanted to give you an inside look at running for one of the five International Office positions of Phi Theta Kappa.

Here’s why I think you should run for International Office. Even if you aren’t elected, you are still a winner. The campaign process itself will allow you to push yourself further and have new experiences you won’t forget. The lessons I’ve learned about myself have been tremendous, and it all started with the self-confidence to step outside my comfort zone.

Self-confidence is one of the most important qualities for success. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right. So go ahead and think you can.

Yes, You’re Eligible

First off, I want to clear up some misconceptions about eligibility. A member of Phi Theta Kappa does NOT have to hold a position as a Regional Officer to run for International Office. In fact, I have never held Regional Office. I served as Vice President of Scholarship at my Chapter, Alpha Gamma Omega, before serving as International President.

It is also true that one does NOT have to hold a Chapter Office position either. Simply having knowledge of and a passion for Phi Theta Kappa can help you to shine through.

Being a great leader is more than just having served in leadership positions, and our International Vice President of Division II, Ashlynne Banks, is an excellent example of that. Ashlynne had not held a leadership position in Phi Theta Kappa before being elected; however, she continually exemplifies leadership qualities and is a valuable member of our International Officer team.

If you have not held a leadership position in Phi Theta Kappa, do not let that turn you away. Believe in yourself.

Choose Your Position

All right, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Each interested member must decide between running for one of two positions: Vice President of his or her division, or International President.

How does one decide? You will find a description of each position on the Phi Theta Kappa website, but ultimately you will have to decide for yourself. I can say that all five positions are equal in importance, and each team member is involved in decisions regarding the Society.

Once you’ve decided which position you would like to hold, now comes the campaign process. It all starts with a declaration of intent in the form of filling out the International Officer application. In the application, you will answer some straightforward questions and learn more about what the positions entail.

Assemble Your Team

By this point, you need to be seriously considering what might be the most important factor of your campaign: the campaign manager. He or she will be your lifeline, literally reminding you to eat and drink, as well as keeping you on schedule and taking care of all the unexpected things that happen. Make sure that this person is 100 percent on board with the responsibilities of this position; the campaign manager can make or break a campaign.

Your campaign manager is considered the linchpin of your campaign team, but I would recommend making sure you have at least a few people on your team. Although, keep in mind that a larger campaign team is not always best.

The team will often answer questions on your behalf when you are unavailable to speak with members. A word of caution here: make yourself available to speak with members as much as possible, and do not rely too heavily on your team to answer questions on your behalf. Members want to get to know you, and talking directly to you is the most efficient way for members to form a perception of you.

Let the Campaign Begin

On to the actual excitement: being at Annual Convention and setting up your campaign booth. The campaign booth is the hub where members can visit you and learn about you.

During my campaign, each candidate was provided with an area that had a six-foot table with a Phi Theta Kappa tablecloth and space on either side of the table. This area is where you can decorate and share your personality. Some candidate booths will have extravagant detail; others will go a more minimal approach. Either method works — just make sure it represents you. During the “booth stage,” candidates will have a chance to interact with members face-to-face in both small and larger groups.

Also during this stage, the live candidate caucus takes place. In my campaign experience, during the live candidate caucus, candidates spoke on stage in a one-on-one interview in front of attending members, and the interview was broadcasted live throughout the facility. The interview format gives members a chance to see how the candidate thinks on his or her feet and handles being in front of the crowd. Two things I want you to remember here: you will be nervous, and that’s okay.

On to the Finals

After the members cast their votes, the first big reveal happens and the finalists are announced for each position. If you are not selected, do not let this bring you down. Instead, realize how much you’ve gained just by undertaking this endeavor in self-improvement. And most of all, be proud of yourself — for what it’s worth, know I am proud of you just for believing in yourself enough to go for it.

As a finalist, you will have the chance to give your speech to the audience. At the annual convention during which I campaigned, there were about 4,000 people in the audience, so bank on about that number. The speech itself is just under three minutes in duration. Practice it to be sure you get your timing right, and I’d suggest trying to end with three to seven seconds to spare. If you want to crush your speech, know it to the point where you can go up on stage without anything printed out.

Speaking in front of thousands of people is something new to most all of us, so I’d recommend practicing your speech in a way that puts you outside your comfort zone. Stand a few inches in front of a wall in your house and give your speech out loud. Why? Well, how often do you speak in front of a wall? Hardly ever. And how often do you speak in front of thousands of people? Hardly ever.

The point is to get you to give your speech in uncomfortable — but not painful — ways so you get used to being uncomfortable. Then, when you get up there in front of all the people, and you are uncomfortable, you are more comfortable being uncomfortable. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

After you’ve done all of this, the official campaign is over. Relax. You’ve done all you can up to this point, so no need to stress. No matter the outcome, congratulate the other finalists and candidates, and thank everyone who made this possible.

Back to You

I hope this has helped shed some light on the official International Officer campaign process. All you have to do now is decide if you are going to run, which is the hardest part. Just remember: don’t hold yourself back, believe in yourself, and know your “why” — the reason you are running. Know your “why” and share it.

There is an adage which helps with self-doubt: know that you are better than no one, but especially know that no one is better than you. Don’t hold yourself back by thinking that others are better than you or that you are not good enough. Get rid of that mindset and expel those thoughts. And, if you are elected, do not let this honor blind you into thinking you are better than others. Always stay humble.

Great leaders are open, vulnerable and confident. The time is yours. Choose wisely. No matter what, have confidence in yourself.

Interested in running for office? Join the 2016-17 International Officer Team for a webinar focused on the application process at 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday, November 1. Register now.

Hey Phi Theta Kappa — It’s Time to FAFSA!

If you are a community college student and believe that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is only about determining federal Pell Grant eligibility, you are not alone. Most people believe that they either do not qualify for a federal grant, or they think the FAFSA is only for low-income families. As a result, many leave Pell and other funding resources untapped.

Last year alone, high school seniors left nearly $3 billion in unclaimed federal grant aid, and guess what? Leaving Pell behind is only the tip of the FAFSA iceberg. The FAFSA is a tool used not only for deciding Pell Grant eligibility, but it is also used by colleges and universities to help determine eligibility for state, local and institutional financial aid — essentially all financial aid decisions spring from the FAFSA.

The FAFSA provides important information on college costs and completion outcomes. It allows you to enter up to 10 college choices. At the completion of the application, you are provided with detailed information summarizing both the costs of attendance and graduation rates for each institution. The FAFSA allows you to explore, compare and contrast individual public and private colleges in your area and beyond and gives critical information you need to make the right decisions about your future.

If you are in college or looking to transfer and trying to balance the wants of where you want to go with the costs and benefits of attendance — it isn’t easy. But what I know is that Phi Theta Kappa members have many options when it comes to paying for college. In addition to our transfer scholarships (see, our nation’s community colleges awarded over $460 million in state aid and over $180 million in institutional aid to first-time, full-time students last year alone. Many of these awards are for students who excel — either inside or outside the classroom.

Already filled out the FAFSA before? Know that you have to renew it every year. Your college needs to know if what they are giving you is still appropriate, and they also need to know if your situation has changed — things such as job loss or loss of income will matter to your college’s financial aid officer.

Don’t let the name fool you — the FAFSA is not just about determining federal aid eligibility, as the name implies. The FAFSA is also a tool for choosing colleges and, more importantly, a map to help you navigate the complex landscape of college admissions.

Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner is the President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. If you want to get in touch with Lynn, please contact

New Scholarship to Cover Member Fees

After Leeanne Pennegar’s husband died, she enrolled in community college to earn a nursing degree and support her two daughters. When she received her invitation to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa, member fees might have been a barrier to joining. But, thanks to a fund set up by her college president, Pennegar received a letter saying that as Pell Grant recipient, a portion of her membership fees would be covered.

“It was a great recognition of my hard work,” Pennegar said. “I wanted to be who I needed to be for my daughters, and it’s helped me show them that you can succeed.”

The Phi Theta Kappa Challenge Fund that helped Pennegar was set up by Dr. Karen Stout, former president of Montgomery County Community College. The fund is one of many established by community college presidents and foundations across the country that cover some or all of the membership fees for students. (Read more in the 2016 issue of Visionary, beginning on page 3.)

“We saw that some of our neediest students were really struggling, and the data said enough for us to know that some of our students with high eligibility were not joining Phi Theta Kappa,” Stout said. “This is a way to recognize the wonderful accomplishments of our students, and it’s also a small way to celebrate participation in Phi Theta Kappa, especially among those who could not otherwise afford it.”

We couldn’t agree more, which is why we’ve created the new Golden Opportunity Scholarship — our first scholarship to help cover the cost of membership for students with financial need.

The Golden Opportunity Scholarship will waive the $60 international membership fee for more than 300 students. Recipients will be responsible for chapter and regional membership fees, which vary but average $25. The application will be open twice a year.

Recent research shows that 92 percent of Phi Theta Kappa members earn a college credential, and members also have access to more than $90 million in scholarships — this is one golden opportunity community college students can’t afford to pass up.

The fall nomination period is October 24 through November 4. Recipients and their advisors will be notified by early November. Read more about the new scholarship.

Special thanks to our generous friends, Cengage, and to Phi Theta Kappa members, advisors, alumni and corporate donors for making this possible!