It’s Time to Study Abroad

Until May 2016, Ryan Mills had never traveled anywhere that required a passport. But that month, he boarded a plane to Australia as part of the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP).

Over the course of 11 days, Mills visited Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns with the ISLP Business and Entrepreneurship Delegation. He then traveled alone to Brisbane before heading home to New York. He was even able to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.

“I was very nervous to travel to a foreign country with limited knowledge of the places I’d be and knowing not a single person ahead of time,” he said. “It has been almost seven months since leaving Australia, and I still talk to the friends I met there almost every single day.”

An Experience Like No Other

ISLP gives college and university students a global perspective on certain career fields through five delegations:

  • Business and Entrepreneurship
  • International Relations and Diplomacy
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Medicine and Science
  • Nursing and Health Care

Depending on their delegation, students can visit four fascinating destinations: Australia, China, New Zealand or South Africa.

Delegations feature special access to leading professionals, specially arranged site visits, cultural immersions and direct interaction with students and educators in each host country. ISLP scholars come away with a new understanding of how their field is practiced in another part of the world.

Mills, a member of the Alpha Sigma Mu Chapter at Alfred State SUNY College of Technology in New York, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration, focused on sports management.

“The International Scholar Laureate Program reached me via email through my Phi Theta Kappa membership, and when I read up on it, it was clear to me that this was an incredible opportunity that I didn’t want to miss,” he said.

Worth Every Penny

Phi Theta Kappa members have the chance to be nominated for the ISLP opportunity, typically receiving invitations to apply for the delegation as well as scholarships to help cover costs. Mills received a scholarship directly from ISLP and said the experience was “worth every penny.”

Check out the ISLP FAQ list to get full details.

Now Mills has caught the travel bug. He’s anxious to get back to Australia, but traveling to Europe and Asia has become a priority because he knows there is more out to see and experience.

“I would encourage every student to study abroad while still in college if they have the means, because you never know when another opportunity might present itself,” he said. “Exploring the world and taking in foreign cultures is an experience unlike any other.

“The sooner you start traveling, the sooner you will realize that there is so much of the world you have yet to see, and it’s right there waiting for you.”

Choose your career delegation. Select a destination. Apply now for 2017 International Scholar Laureate. The deadline to enroll is February 24, 2017.

If you have any questions or would prefer to complete enrollment over the phone, contact ISLP Office of Admissions at 800.778.0164 or email

And the Winners Are…

At PTK Catalyst 2017, the annual convention April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee, we are offering more opportunities than ever for you and your chapter to be recognized!

Winners have already been announced in two PTK Catalyst competitions, and there’s still time to participate in several other contests.

Michael Clay Hodge, a member of the Alpha Zeta Iota Chapter at Northwest-Shoals Community College – Phil Campbell Campus in Alabama, won the first place $500 prize in the t-shirt competition, and his design will inspire the official Catalyst 2017 shirt. See Michael’s winning design and the second and third place winners on the Catalyst website.

The first place prize of $500 for pin design went to Jonathan Zelaya Avila, a member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Chapter at Palm Beach State College in Florida. See his design, which will be featured on the 2017 convention pin, and the runners-up online.

It’s not too late to enter these other Catalyst 2017 competitions:

#PTKMembershipMatters Video Competition
Deadline: December 31

Create a 30-second video telling others why membership in Phi Theta Kappa matters. Upload it to Instagram and tag it with #PTKMembershipMatters. The person with the most likes could win a $500 scholarship. Learn more.

#PTKHasTalent Music Competition
Deadline: December 31

Create a 30-second video of you performing an original or previously recorded song. Post it on Instagram and tag it with #PTKHasTalent. The person with the most likes could get the opportunity to perform the full song LIVE at PTK Catalyst 2017. Learn more.

Scholar Bowl Competition
Deadline: February 1, 2017

Eight teams of five members each will compete to answer questions in a modified quiz bowl format. The competition will be single elimination, with the final two teams competing during General Session 4 on Saturday, April 8. Each member of the winning team will receive a $100 scholarship. View contest rules & details.

Extemporaneous Speech
Deadline: February 1, 2017

Give a concise and informative speech with limited preparation, and you could win $500. View contest rules & details.

Prepared Speech Competition
Deadline: February 1, 2017

You know why Phi Theta Kappa rocks – now tell others by participating in our Prepared Speech Competition, and you can win $500. View contest rules & details.

Stay tuned for more Catalyst 2017 information coming soon, including information about General Session speakers and our new TED Talk-style educational forums.

PTK Catalyst 2017 will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and more information about registration and hotel accommodations is available online. Remember, the best rates are offered prior to February 1.

Preaching to the Humanities Choir

Members of the Pi Omicron Chapter at the Community College of Rhode Island recently got a pretty big opportunity: they were invited to give a presentation at the Community College Humanities Association’s 2016 Eastern Division Conference.

Four chapter officers talked to community college humanities instructors in a panel discussion on the humanities’ role in student success. The students wove in their personal stories as well as how Phi Theta Kappa’s programs like Honors in Action help keep the humanities alive.

“I wanted them to talk about how valuable these courses are to students, regardless of their plans after college,” said chapter advisor Laurie Sherman, an English professor. “I thought the students were better able to speak to that than I could. I was never a community college student.”

Jesse Sullivan shared his story, which included a period of homelessness as a child. His mother was eventually able to attend Wellesley College — she was the first in his family to go to college — and she would sometimes take him to classes with her.

He remembers how much his mother’s education helped turn their lives around. And though he went straight to work after high school, he soon found his work to be more of a passion, not a career.

“Because of my mother, that kind of analytical thinking was passed on to me at an early age,” he said. “When I finally got serious about my education, I pulled from those experiences.”

Sullivan grew up in Massachusetts and started working as a gay rights activist in high school. He helped co-chair the National Day of Silence, an annual event where middle school, high school and college students take a vow of silence for a day in support of the LGBTQ community.

At 16 years old, he found himself meeting with executives at MTV to spread awareness of the movement. These experiences led him to a career as a political consultant to local, state and even national candidates and work promoting social issues.

“I felt I was already doing what I’d planned to do after college,” he said. “A lot of students fit my profile — I was good after high school. I felt I didn’t need college.

“But then I realized that what I loved about it wasn’t what I was doing anymore, so I went back to school.”

At 31, Sullivan is now focusing on psychology and philosophy. He’s never had a real passion for the humanities; but through his studies and his involvement with Phi Theta Kappa, he’s seen how humanities lessons begin in the classroom and then extend out of it.

“I wanted to create an example of how success is cumulative,” he said of his part in the presentation. “I was reveling in the opportunity to preach to the choir and get people interested.”

Sherman also saw it as an opportunity for her students to see the connection between what they’re learning in the classroom and what people in the humanities field actually do.

“It got them more invested in education and in Phi Theta Kappa,” she said.

And, the students themselves gained great confidence in preparing and then giving the presentation.

“We were practicing the things we’re learning about and then doing it in front of experts,” Sullivan said. “Having a deadline, having to meet their parameters and expectations, and then the delivery — these are such invaluable skills.”

This Holiday Give Your College President the Perfect Gift

Don’t miss this chance to present your college president with honorary membership in Phi Theta Kappa for free!

Throughout the end of December we’re waiving the cost of honorary membership for the community college presidents who provide unwavering support of our chapters, their members and the Society as a whole.

“Our chapters are fortunate to have some incredible college presidents supporting them,” Phi Theta Kappa President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner said. “An honorary membership in Phi Theta Kappa is a meaningful way to give them a well-deserved thank you, and we’re glad to offer this opportunity to our chapters for free.”

Honorary membership is a way to pay tribute to outstanding supporters of Phi Theta Kappa. Individuals selected for honorary membership should represent the ideals on which Phi Theta Kappa is based. They are afforded all rights and privileges of membership, with the exception of the right to vote or hold office. Honorary members do not pay membership fees.

Recently the Omega Eta Chapter at New River Community College recognized their retiring president, Dr. Jack Lewis, as an honorary member during their fall induction ceremony. View their event online.

“He is retiring after 16 years as president, and 42 years total at NRCC, and he has been a very strong proponent of and advocate for PTK on our campus,” said chapter advisor Ellen Oliver. “We felt it was important to recognize and honor that support publicly. “

The chapter invited all faculty and staff to attend the ceremony, to raise awareness about Phi Theta Kappa as well as recognize Dr. Lewis, and many did attend.

“Now they know more about us and the support we have received from our administration, and particularly Dr. Lewis,” Oliver said. “We are hopeful this will result in them helping us promote membership to invited students going forward.”

Contact your Key Services Consultant to make your college president an honorary member before December 31, and we’ll send them an official certificate of membership. Or, click here.

Share This: The PTK Transfer Scholarship Map

You’ve heard us say it a thousand times: “Our members have access to more than $37 million in transfer scholarships to four-year colleges and universities.” But what does that actually look like?


We’ve pulled the latest data from to develop the Transfer Scholarship Map. This interactive map allows you to view scholarships from public and private four-year universities and colleges that have a transfer benefit to Phi Theta Kappa members.

Click on the blue markers to see what’s available, and share this with the eligible students on your campus — roughly 25 percent of community college students plan to transfer to a four-year school, so it’s likely to be of interest to them.

This is also a great tool you can use to show prospective members just one of the many benefits of membership in Phi Theta Kappa.

A College President on Her Chapter’s Success

In April, we introduced the President’s List — recognition of the Top 25 chapters with the highest membership acceptance rates for 2015. The story featured an interview with Cathy Borysewicz, advisor to the No. 2 chapter on the list, Beta Zeta Sigma at Carolinas College of Health Sciences (CCHS) in North Carolina.

Borysewicz shared that the Beta Zeta Sigma Chapter, which had an 84 percent acceptance rate in 2015, holds three inductions a year — spring, summer and fall. She also noted that current PTK members distribute the invitations to eligible students during class.

“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.”

(Several of the Top 25 chapters were later profiled on The Reach blog. You can read about the No. 1 chapter here.)

Soon after news of Beta Zeta Sigma’s success was announced, Dr. Ellen Sheppard, president of CCHS, reached out with six factors she believes to be behind the chapter’s impressive acceptance rate.

As we aim to connect with those eligible-but-still-undecided students who have yet to join PTK this year — and as we kickstart recruitment efforts for January — I want to share her words with you. You may be able to adapt some of this to your own campus and chapter.

Sheppard’s remarks have been slightly edited for clarity.

1. Without fail, the PTK chapter has space in every single monthly issue of the student newspaper. They use this regular, dependable visibility to highlight the work they do, to recognize their new members and to re-espouse the mission and goals of the organization. In this way all students are apprised of the good work being done, and they begin to WANT to be members even before they are eligible to be members.

2. PTK is highlighted in many ways at graduation, not just with special tassels and stoles, but also with special demarcation in the graduation program. PTK membership is also noted on the college transcript. This level of visibility is a powerful motivator.

3. Our Carolinas chapter of PTK is student-led. Students plan the ceremonies, particularly the inductions; they lead the outreach efforts; they lead the meetings. The degree of student leadership makes it a meaningful leadership opportunity that students want to be a part of.

4. The Carolinas College PTK chapter makes a difference in the community. This is important to today’s students, and they WANT to be a part of this! For many years PTK has done its primary outreach at the (local) men’s shelter and through blood drives. Thus, the chapter’s efforts are an integral part of meeting those organizations’ needs, and student members take pride in that!

To young people today, purpose is more important than process. Cathey (Miller, co-advisor) and Cathy (Borysewicz) assure that PTK never loses its focus on community benefit as a purpose. In fact, in both 2015 and 2016, both Cathey and Cathy were recognized by the very large non-profit healthcare system that owns Carolinas College for their commitment to community benefit through their work with PTK.

5. Today’s students are highly cost-conscious. Cathey and Cathy work with student members and leaders to keep expenses as low as possible. This allows the chapter to operate with little financial need. Keeping membership costs low isn’t easy, but these ladies and their student officers know it’s important, and they work hard to keep it that way.

6. They make it fun. Both co-advisors are humble individuals. As healthcare practitioners themselves — one a radiography educator, one a nurse educator — neither takes themselves too seriously. They know students need to keep their schoolwork and academic success as the more important thing, and they work with students, even the officers, to assure they do not overcommit and jeopardize their academic standing. Students appreciate that, and they genuinely respect and like these two advisors. What a difference that makes!

If your enrollment period for your chapter is still open, don’t forget about the eligible students on your campus. Adding a few extra members this year could help your chapter earn REACH Rewards, which will be calculated and distributed in 2017.

Forging the Future of Community Colleges

Dr. Daniel Phelan isn’t quite sure what the future holds for community colleges, but he does have a few ideas for moving things in a positive direction — and he should know. Phelan, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors, is president of Jackson College in Michigan, a position he’s held since 2001.

His new book, Unrelenting Change, Innovation and Risk: Forging the Next Generation of Community Colleges, aims to give community college leaders at all levels a practical approach to embracing change and understanding its strategic value. To do this, he weaves research with “on-the-ground perspectives” and utilizes real cases of success from both businesses and higher education.

“Community colleges themselves were initially a great innovation and disruption to higher education, expanding access and participation in higher education in a significant and scalable way,” he said. “I believe that we must reconnect and recommit to that aspect of our DNA that created the community college.”

Phelan said that increasingly fierce competition, reduction in aid, increasing costs, urgent calls for accountability and tightening federal regulations are preventing experimentation, innovation and risk-taking at the local level.

He calls on college presidents, trustees and community leaders to look at community colleges in a new light. Don’t believe things will improve if you simply work harder using the same tools; identify the changes in the way students learn and make progress, and adapt.

Some colleges are embracing innovation with promising results, and Phelan shares these examples in his book. Tidewater Community College in Virginia introduced a textbook-free Associate of Science Degree in Business in an effort to lower costs and improve student outcomes. Faculty members utilize Open Educational Resources for the courses, saving the students “upwards of $2,500.”

Bellevue College in Washington has found success with Competency-Based Education, which has emerged as a promising practice. Students progress through a business transfer associate degree based on demonstrated competencies, not classroom time.

Jackson College created its own public school academy on its central campus that offers sixth graders to college freshmen an opportunity for non-traditional learning. The school includes a year-round, all-day calendar, a competency-based learning model and digital devices rather than traditional textbooks. Students progress at their own pace and are able to earn a high school diploma and associate degree at no cost.

“As thought leader Saul Kaplan argues, in order to innovate at the pace in which the environment requires, we have to think like ‘market-makers,’ not merely ‘market-takers,’ ” Phelan said.

Community college leaders must first be open to change, he said. Those leaders must then be focused and disciplined, with a long-term perspective and a commitment by the college president and the board of trustees. Buy-in from community and business leaders and continued partnerships in workforce development and collaboration with external organizations are key as well.

As for the community college of the future? Phelan sees it as a combination of “what we will look like” and “what we should look like.” And ultimately, he’s optimistic.

Phi Theta Kappa President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner said Phi Theta Kappa has much to learn from Phelan’s approach to community college innovation.

Phi Theta Kappa is adapting to the new ways students learn and communicate and finding ways to place a greater emphasis on creating job skills, giving students an opportunity for experiential learning and letting them earn credit for that learning — these are a few ways the Society can adopt the guidelines in Phelan’s book and use them to promote success among our members.

“Phi Theta Kappa has to be a clear representation of the communities and colleges in which we’re present,” Tincher-Ladner said. “Dr. Phelan’s ideas and the book itself represents an exciting opportunity for all of us serving those in higher education to take risks, to do more and to be better for the benefit of everyone involved.”