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Whether you’ll be with us in Tennessee or staying home, you can keep up with the latest news here on The Reach — watch for blog posts from two members attending PTK Catalyst and one more recapping the big news from Saturday’s Hallmark Awards Gala. Be sure to subscribe to The Reach to have these stories delivered straight to your inbox.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as we capture the best PTK Catalyst moments live. And, all photos from the week will be available for FREE download on our Flickr Photostream.

Join the conversation by adding #PTKCATALYST to your public social media posts, and your comments and photos will appear on the screens near Registration in the Delta Lobby.

A #wesupportPTK social media display will also feature social media posts from our partners about what’s going on at their booths and events.

Get Your GEICO Quote

The GEICO Gecko wrote a lot of free car insurance quotes during the 2016 annual convention, and this year he’s challenging us to top it! All quotes requested on site at the Gecko’s Marketplace Booth at PTK Catalyst, as well as those submitted online April 6-8 will count — AND, they’ll support Phi Theta Kappa scholarships and programs.

Download PTK Connect

The PTK App Is Here! PTK Connect allows members, advisors and other constituents to manage their profile, register for events, connect with other members, and keep up with Phi Theta Kappa News Feeds all in one place. Its use is reserved exclusively for the constituents of Phi Theta Kappa. It’s FREE and available for download at the Apple Store and Google Play.

People of PTK: Tiara & Tanishq Abraham

Tiara and Tanishq Abraham look like average kids; and in many ways, they are. They both love animated films like “Zootopia” and “The Lego Movie,” and they enjoy Bollywood movies.

Tiara, 11, likes playing with her cats, Chubby and Lucky, reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, playing card games with her family, and learning golf.

Tanishq, 13, likes surfing the Internet, scrolling through his Twitter and Facebook feeds, and playing outdoors.

Here’s what sets them apart from other kids: They’re both in college; they’re among the youngest members ever inducted into Phi Theta Kappa; and they have spoken and performed in front of adult audiences across the country.

Tiara is a polyglot—she learns languages easily—and recently released a holiday album, Winter Nightingale, containing renditions of classic carols and holiday songs in six languages: English, Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, and French. The CD is now available on cdbaby, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and iTunes.

She has been able to sing like a classically trained singer since she was around 4 years old and has performed twice at Carnegie Hall. And, she will perform the national anthem at PTK Catalyst, April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tiara also has a gift for numbers; she loves math, and she enjoys doing Sudoku puzzles. She recently placed first in a Pi Day celebration at American River College in California—she started taking classes there when she was 7 and has a 4.0 GPA—where she recited 530 digits. She became a MENSA member at 4 and a Phi Theta Kappa member at 9.

“Going to college at 7 years old was fun for me because I enjoyed learning the subjects that I studied,” Tiara said. “I had to do everything that my college classmates did in the class, and I worked independently on my homework, exams, and projects/reports.

“I did not get special treatment except I sit in the front row so I am not covered by the big people.”

Tiara was a guest speaker and performer at TEDx Folsom and the Sharjah Children’s Reading International Festival in 2016, and she has won state, regional and international singing competitions.

She plans to major in music and dreams of becoming a famous opera singer like Renée Fleming, but she also hopes to major in both math and foreign languages as well.

“Hopefully, I will graduate soon from American River College just like my brother!” she said.

When the children began college, their mother, Dr. Taji Abraham, attended with them, first taking classes alongside Tanishq and then waiting in the hallway when both kids were in class together.

“Once we saw our children’s strengths, passions, and talents, we encouraged them and supported them,” she said. “We did not push them toward a certain field or area of our liking; instead, we looked for cues and listened to their ideas and guided them to the right direction.”

Taji was a veterinarian and researcher before putting her career on hold when she realized Tanishq was gifted—he was very outgoing and curious, and at 2 he was already on a first or second grade education level. Tiara was more reserved and observant, but by 3 she was reading.

Seeing similar talents in Tiara led Taji to quit her profession to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher. Her husband, Bijou, is a software engineer and a math prodigy in his own right—his SAT math score was perfect.

“We let them have fun in the right things that they enjoy doing,” she said. “Along with that, we guide them to be well-rounded in other aspects of childhood.

“In spite of their radical acceleration in certain areas of their lives, we let them be kids and make sure they get enough rest and sleep.”

Tiara and Tanishq have appeared together on “The Doctors,” “The Queen Latifah Show,” Huffington Post Live, and the “Steve Harvey Show.”

Tanishq has also been interviewed on CNN and MSNBC and by Conan O’Brien, and he was a contestant on the first season of “Child Genius.”

“There were times that my fellow contestants were intimidated by me because I was a college student, but more so the parents, which is strange—I have seen most of the time it is the adults who get intimidated rather than my peers,” he said. “Nevertheless, it was fun playing with friends that I had on the set.”

Tanishq began reading and writing around age 3 and was also a MENSA member at 4. At 6, he became interested in dinosaurs and paleontology, so he begged his parents to enroll him in a college course on the subject. When he was 7, he enrolled in a geology course at American River College, and he was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa when he was 9.

In addition to serving as a PTK chapter officer, he founded and was vice president of the college’s Astronomy and Physics Club. He holds three associate degrees from American River College and will earn a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Davis in 2018. Next will come a PhD in biomedical engineering, and then an MD.

“I would like to be a medical researcher with a discovery that will help humanity, and a physician, and one day the POTUS!” he said.

Tanishq is also an accomplished public speaker. He’s given two TEDx Talks (watch one), and he spoke at the NASA Lunar Science Conference when he was only 9.

While many might assume Tiara and Tanishq’s parents push them toward these high accomplishments, it’s actually the opposite. Both children say they do the pushing—they want to take advantage of every opportunity available to them because they love to learn.

“Our parents always advise us, and I think their advice is the best,” Tiara said. “They tell us to be good to people, stay humble, work hard, do our best, and leave the rest to God.”

Keep up with Tiara and Tanishq on Facebook or on Twitter @iScienceLuvr, @sopranotiara, and @iCatLuvr.

Photos courtesy of Taji and Bijou Abraham.

Chronicles of My First PTK Induction Ceremony

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Dr. Aariel Charbonnet, Phi Theta Kappa’s Manager of Member Support and Outreach.

Cheryl Bozeman, Gamma Lambda Chapter’s in-house Phi Theta Kappa recruiter, could not stop smiling at Hinds Community College’s spring induction ceremony on Friday, March 24. She has served this chapter in Raymond, Mississippi, for nine years. Every student knows “Ms. Cheryl.” Each semester, they receive her emails, phone calls, and letters, encouraging them to join Phi Theta Kappa.

Bozeman’s passion for students was palpable during Friday’s ceremony, one of two inductions this chapter puts on each year. Her face beamed as she proudly said the induction marked the second time in her Phi Theta Kappa tenure that more than 100 students joined before the ceremony. Among the chapter’s new members, approximately 60 participated in Friday’s festivities. As a first-time attendee at a Phi Theta Kappa induction ceremony, I was thoroughly impressed.

The Gamma Lambda Chapter’s induction ceremony space was packed. Standing guests lined the back of the auditorium. The presence of family and friends, as well as college administrators, created a supportive environment to honor these high-achieving students. The ceremony featured distinctive elements, which added value to the ceremony itself and the newly inducted Phi Theta Kappans.

After a short welcome from Debbie McCollum, the chapter’s contact advisor and District Honors Institute Dean, Hinds Community College President Dr. Clyde Muse congratulated the students on their outstanding academic accomplishments. The chapter’s Leadership Advisor Dr. Johannah Williams provided an overview of the chapter’s 2016-2017 highlights, which included a lecture series, regional and national conference participation, and sponsorship and participation in more than 1,200 hours of community service.

Following a brief history of Phi Theta Kappa by the Gamma Lambda Chapter Officer Team, Honors Program Director and Chapter Co-Advisor Tim Krason introduced each of the 60 inductees by name, major, and hometown. As each student’s name was called, he or she signed the Chapter Record Book, which sat on a Phi Theta Kappa-adorned table, complete with white roses to symbolize purity and beauty of life. Each candidate for membership received a candle, symbolic of “the torch of knowledge,” and the Phi Theta Kappa Key, a golden slab keyed at the top and bottom, the primary symbol representing the Honor Society.

The inductees formed a semi-circle in the auditorium. In a lovely candle-lighting ritual, each inductee lit one another’s “torches of knowledge.” The group then recited the Phi Theta Kappa pledge in unison, and candidates officially became the newest members of the Gamma Lambda Chapter. From the back of the auditorium, I watched this beautiful display of scholarly fellowship in awe and admiration.

After the ceremony, a reception hosted by Mississippi State University followed. Hannah Matthews, Mississippi State’s Assistant Director of Transfer Recruitment, interacted with the newest members of the Gamma Lambda Chapter. Matthews said the university strives to be present at local Phi Theta Kappa chapter meetings, inductions, and activities as much as possible. Matthews’ presence gives students a name and a face to associate with Mississippi State University.

“I’m here for the students … encouraging them and congratulating them. But I’m also here to show them the opportunities they have through Mississippi State being a Phi Theta Kappa member,” Matthews said.

The reception took place at the Hinds Community College Art Gallery. There, I had the pleasure of speaking with several students and families. Among this group was Josh Price, a freshman football player who prides himself on being a scholar-athlete. Price’s siblings traveled from Connecticut and California to witness this special moment in their younger brother’s life.

“I feel so proud of him,” said Josh’s older sister, Christian Price. “It’s really hard to be a student-athlete, especially when people make assumptions about what you do or what you’re capable of. So, the fact that he was able to get a high GPA and also stay committed to football and balancing that identity of being a student-athlete really makes me proud.”

Another student, freshman Ariel Merlin, learned of Phi Theta Kappa from his older brother, a PTK alumnus, who pushed him to talk to Ms. Cheryl. After one meeting with Ms. Cheryl, Merlin learned that he met the eligibility criteria and decided to accept membership immediately. With plans to transfer to a four-year institution and then pursue dental school, Merlin was highly interested in Phi Theta Kappa’s scholarship opportunities and resume building.

The induction ceremony exceeded Merlin’s expectations. The candle lighting, the pledge, and the outpouring of support from friends, family, and college administrators made the ceremony special. The feeling was mutual for McCollum.

“Working with the Gamma Lambda advisor team has been a pleasure and has provided some of the most meaningful professional experiences of my career,” McCollum said. “We’ve enjoyed specialized training and travel while working with the best students at Hinds. These young scholars are the future of our state, and seeing them grow as leaders is both an honor and a privilege.”

From a new staff member’s perspective, I wholeheartedly agree with Merlin. The time, attention, and care the Gamma Lambda Chapter devoted to its induction ceremony and members was remarkable. Huge kudos to Cheryl Bozeman and the chapter advisor team—Debbie McCollum, Dr. Ben Cloyd, Jack Hite, Tim Krason, Amie Ray and Dr. Johannah Williams—for a job well done.

For Phi Theta Kappa induction resources, visit our webpage to access materials needed, a ceremony script, an order of events, and much more.

Develop Your Leadership Philosophy

There are two opportunities for you to become a certified faculty member in Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Program: July 10-13 and 20-23, both at the Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi.

Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Studies program uses great leaders portrayed in books, films and history to guide students through the development of their own leadership philosophies. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has recognized the program as one of only eight exemplary leadership development programs in higher education.

“The ability to interact with a diversity of participants from different backgrounds and perspectives allows you to see different teaching techniques and styles that you wouldn’t otherwise experience,” said Dr. John Downey, President of Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia, who attended a 2016 certification seminar in Atlanta, Georgia.

“The content of the course is so rich in that it’s getting participants to think about not only their own leadership philosophies but also the leadership philosophies of others.”

The certification seminars are open to anyone but would be especially beneficial for honors program directors and faculty members, student affairs professionals, student group advisors, college faculty and administrators, and leadership development professionals.

PTK’s leadership program applies dialogue-based learning to a combo of Classic Cases, Leadership Profiles, Film Studies, and Experiential Exercises. It’s an engaging and interdisciplinary approach that makes our curriculum accessible and relevant to all.

Tuition is $1,850 and includes lodging and meals. Register by May 26, and save $200 with the discounted rate of $1,650.

Interested? Join one of our upcoming video conferences to learn more.

Dr. Aldena Harris, advisor to the Phi Pi Chapter at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, also attended a 2016 certification seminar. She shared in a blog post that the experience was more than academic.

The themes that were explored during the seminar resonated with her as she reflected on her journey to becoming a college professor. And, she could relate each them to an aspect of her role as a PTK advisor. She viewed it as her first step in grooming her students to become servant leaders.

“Yes, it is process of strengthening concepts that many who have spent years in leadership roles find familiar,” Harris said. “However, what distinguishes it from the typical professional development experience is the extent to which the participants are asked to represent the consciousness and competencies that are essential to being visionary and leading ethically.”

March is National Reading Month!

My job as President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa puts me on the road and in airplanes a lot, which gives me a great opportunity to catch up on reading. For the past several weeks, I have had my nose buried in Honors in Action and College Project entries and have enjoyed reading the stories of Phi Theta Kappa at its best—but, because March is National Reading Month, I wanted to share four books that I believe are worthy of your PTK Reading List. Enjoy!

Susan Cain

Public speaking is the number one fear in the world (yes – more than squirrels and death.). Nearly 10 out of every 10 Phi Theta Kappa members mention overcoming a fear of public speaking as something they are working towards. And while you may see me speaking in front of large groups of students and college presidents, I would be much more comfortable sitting behind a desk crunching numbers. This book offers strategies but also sharpened my awareness and appreciation of the introvert, and why it can be amazingly effective to be a “Quiet” person.

Friend and Foe
by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer

The Executive Team at PTK strives to work within a framework of cooperation; however, in an effort to do the best and be the best we can as an organization, sometimes we can’t (or won’t) soften on our positions on a given topic or issue. And, while I appreciate the passion of the team to champion certain projects or ideas, the fact remains that we have to work together, despite our differences.

It starts slow, but keep reading if you want to learn how to strike a balance between competition and cooperation and how to win by shifting in between. Because, after all, no one wins when we all die in the ditch…

Turn the Ship Around
David Marquet

This one is a true story. It is a real-life example of how the leader-follower approach just doesn’t work – even in the military. Using the concepts in this book, leaders can learn when and how to give control to others. At Phi Theta Kappa we are in the process of examining processes in order to determine if they truly add value to the organization in hopes of empowering staff at all levels to make meaningful and impactful decisions.

This book turns traditional leadership on its head and the results are extraordinary. If the captain of a nuclear submarine can give control to those under him, so can we.

Lean In
Sheryl Sandberg

When I was in high school, my algebra/trigonometry/calculus teacher, Rebecca Becnel, often had women visit our classes encouraging us to go into science, mathematics and engineering—and into college in general. Well, we listened! Through steady growth we now have a larger proportion of females in college, and especially community college. Even our Phi Theta Kappa’s membership is 66% female. However, you don’t see these same proportions of women in leadership roles in the workforce. This book focuses in on our own behaviors–the behaviors of women that may contribute to this. Remember: women leaders, to have it all must juggle it all. My favorite quote from this book is “Done is better than perfect.”

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

Don’t Miss These PTK Catalyst 2017 Special Events

PTK Catalyst 2017, the annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, is just around the corner on April 6-8. Start planning your schedule now so that your chapter can take maximum advantage of the educational activities being offered.

PTK Academy

First, plan to arrive in time for the Academy, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. Remember, separate registration is required to attend this event, sponsored by the Harvard Extension School, with the support of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Capitol Technology University and William Carey University.

The topic of this half-day seminar, which includes lunch, is “Leading Change Effectively,” based on the work of Dr. John Kotter, professor and best-selling author of Leading Change. Learn more.

Educational Forums

The Ed Forums at PTK Catalyst 2017 will feature a shorter, TED Talk-style format that will allow participants to explore a wider range of subjects. Topics range from Society programs to personal development, student success and career planning, and they’re presented by staff, alumni, corporate and college sponsors, as well as chapters who are setting the standards for excellence in Phi Theta Kappa.

Ten rounds of Ed Forums will be offered over three days, with the first round beginning Thursday, April 6 at 1:30 p.m. Catalyst attendees will find nearly 200 Educational Forums from which to choose.

Ed Forums Rounds 6 and 8 are sponsored by Mississippi University for Women and Round 7 and 9 are made possible by Texas A&M University.

A special hour-long Annual Planning Ed Forum for advisors will be held on Thursday from 1:30-2:30 to assist chapters in devising or revising their operations game plan.

In addition, college presidents and administrators are invited to learn more about promoting their colleges on social media from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

See a complete list of Ed Forum offerings.

Competitive Edge

Competitive Edge participants—don’t miss an event especially for you. On Saturday, April 8, at 9 a.m., renowned educator and entrepreneur Amy Baldwin will present “Fail Fast, Fail Frequently, Fail Forward: Strategies for Personal and Professional Success!”

All Competitive Edge members are invited to the special event, regardless of the level you have achieved. The Competitive Edge event is sponsored by Pearson. See full details.

Transfer Fair

Feast on lunch and transfer opportunities during Friday’s Senior College Transfer Fair and Lunch from 12-2 p.m. See a full list of colleges and universities who will be participating so that you can plan your visits effectively. Also, view a complete list of 2017 sponsors.

Check out the entire PTK Catalyst 2017 schedule and plan your convention experience with your chapter. If you haven’t registered, there’s still time—register today!

Advice for the 2017-2018 International Officers

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Alexa Greer, International Vice President for Division 4.

Those who know me best know that last year’s Convention came at a very crucial turning point in my life. It was a time of change, reinvention, and renewal.

Having gone through some pretty wild life changes, I was facing the facts that a chapter of my life was ending. Being elected into this position helped remind me of my light and my ability to create change.

To me, being elected to the International Officer team gave me a chance to connect with the way I see myself: past, present, and future. Incoming officers, you’re in for something else with this position—in every way you can imagine.

With the conclusion of this year’s convention, you’ll be starting a very special chapter in your life, and I’m so, SO excited for you. Here’s some advice to help you tackle your year ahead:

Get your ducks in a row. From the moment you’re elected, you’ll get the rundown from PTK Headquarters staff about what your job duties will entail. If you don’t have a planner already, go buy one after Convention. The work associated with being an International Officer is manageable, but only if you’re smart with planning. Cassie (your IO coordinator) is going to be your BIGGEST support throughout this year—treat her right.

Use this opportunity to chase your dream job. This position provides you unique opportunities to grow your public speaking skills, networking abilities, writing skills and more. Don’t be afraid to communicate the career path you see for yourself and how you see your year in office fitting into it. Phi Theta Kappa is here to be your support you on this journey, and they won’t put you in any situations that you can’t succeed in.

Be prepared to travel. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in airports over the next 12 months, and it’s in your best interest to learn how to pack. You don’t want to be oversleeping for flights or arrive at the Center for Excellence in Mississippi to realize that you forgot your officer medallion!

Be kind to your team. This one seems like a no-brainer, but let me tell you that loving on my team has been one of the biggest takeaways of serving in this position. Your team will be your greatest challenge and your greatest asset; and if you play your cards right, you will leave this year with four new best friends (P.S. love you, team). Don’t let anything get in the way of the fact that you are all equals. What is meant to be will always be yours—there’s no need to compete with one another.

Be present—you may not get the same opportunity twice. From working with speech coaches to attending etiquette courses and hanging out with members at events, be present. This year is going to fly by so quickly, and if you’re not emotionally present, what’s the point? Be prepared to capture mental and physical snapshots of everything. This is such a special time in your life!

All in all, serving in this position is what you make it. It’s an opportunity to deeply connect. It’s an opportunity to meet people across the country. It’s an opportunity to deepen your self-love. Good things are coming your way—be open to receiving them. Good luck!

The 2017-2018 International Officers will be elected during PTK Catalyst 2017, April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee. Meet the candidates, and register today!

People of PTK: Omer Azizi

From the age of three, Omer Azizi grew up in refugee camps in Afghanistan. He even survived a rocket attack that destroyed his entire neighborhood when he was seven.

Schools were closed because of the Taliban rule, but Omer found and read his father’s hidden history books and began to develop a passion for education and the difference it can make in the lives of individuals. His career goal is to establish an education-focused non-profit organization to benefit children in war zones.

“The books expanded my mindset beyond the limitations, war and trauma around me,” he said.

Now a permanent resident after coming to the U.S. in 2014, Omer still describes his life as “a marathon of hurdles.”

He worked day and night to learn English and became the first in his family to attend college.

Omer has been his family’s sole provider since he was 15.

Although he struggles to work, attend Mira Costa College and care for his father, he has earned a 3.68 grade point average, received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, and was recognized for his research and contributions to the book “Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” by Debbie Rodriguez. He also received a Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship and was named a member of the All-California Community College Academic Team.

But, he hit an additional stumbling block recently when his father was diagnosed with a chronic illness and Medicaid didn’t cover the cost of the extremely expensive medication he was prescribed.

Even though Omer managed to persuade the pharmaceutical company to provide the drug at a lower cost, his family was plagued by out-of-pocket medical expenses.

“Amid the dark clouds, I searched for a silver lining,” he said.

Thankfully for Omer, that silver lining came in the form of a $1,000 Lifeline to Completion scholarship from Phi Theta Kappa.

“Your scholarship helped me with my financial burden, and encourages me to continue with my full-time education while having to work less,” he said.

The Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship gives financial aid to students who have been faced with an unanticipated financial barrier that could keep them from completing their degree or certificate. Up to 15 scholarships of $1,000 each are awarded annually.

The scholarship was established by Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf in partnership with Phi Theta Kappa’s 2011-2012 International Officer Team.

Learn more about the most recent Oberndorf Scholars online.

Applications for the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship are being accepted now through May 2. Apply today.

Phi Theta Kappa’s Spring Scholarship Application is also now open and gives members the opportunity to apply for more than $250,000. The application closes May 2.