Phi Theta Kappa Alumna’s Song Performed for World AIDS Day

A Mother’s Masterpiece was written twenty years ago in a Washington D.C. hotel room by PTK alumna Joni Scrivani. Now Broadway star Heidi Lee is performing the original song at this year’s C.U.R.E. (Community, Unity, Respect and Education) commemoration of World AIDS Day at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas on November 30.

“I am as surprised as can be that this song I wrote many years ago to coincide with the Phi Theta Kappa service project of AIDS Awareness, is once again in the spotlight,” Joni said.

Joni was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Chapter at Bergen Community College in New Jersey and wrote the song, A Mother’s Masterpiece, while attending the 1997 annual convention with her chapter advisor, mentor and friend, Professor Robert Saldarini.

Phi Theta Kappa’s Annual Service Project that year focused on AIDS Awareness and many panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display, including one celebrating the life of Kenneth J. Rasmuson, the lifelong and much-loved friend of Robert’s.

It was the first time Robert has seen the quilt since his own mother, Rita Saldarini, had created it; and viewing it brought a flood of fond memories and raw emotion.

Ken had been stricken with AIDS at a time when the cause of the disease remained a mystery, the treatment was woefully inadequate, and the stigma attached to it was horrendous.

Rita began making the quilt shortly after Ken’s death, searching tirelessly for fabric as close to the beautiful blue of his eyes as she could remember; her son taking her from store to store until she found a bolt that was just right. It took her one year to complete Ken’s quilt, which included a favorite tee shirt and beautifully crafted symbols of the things he loved.

This story inspired Joni to write A Mother’s Masterpiece.

When celebrated singer Heidi Lee heard the song and its story, she was immediately moved and agreed to record the song and perform it live at a World AIDS Day event at Bergen Community College. Joni’s song also won a Music Excellence Award in a Phi Theta Kappa songwriting competition held at the time. As a result, more people heard Ken’s story, learned of Rita’s quilt, and received the song’s message of hope and remembrance.

Many years had passed, but when Heidi contacted Joni about performing the song at this year’s C.U.R.E. commemoration of World A.I.D.S Day at the George W. Bush Institute, she immediately gave her consent, telling Heidi that she always hoped the song and the story might continue to move and inspire until a cure is found, and there is, indeed “…hope for everyone.”

Finish 2017 Strong — Grow Your Membership This Holiday Season!

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

In higher education, the holiday season signals the end of the fall academic term — students are busy studying for final exams, completing class projects, and anxiously awaiting their winter vacation. Now, more than ever, it is critical to equip prospective members at your chapter with the resources they’ll need to learn more about PTK and accept membership over the holiday break. To accomplish this, take some time to make one, final membership recruitment push on your campus this term.

Here are five tips to grow membership at your chapter during the holiday season. (Remember: these tips can be effective year-round.) But, they are critical before a holiday break to ensure your chapter’s membership success. Eligible students have earned and deserve the opportunity to accept membership in Phi Theta Kappa. We do not want school closure to pose a barrier to access our organization and potentially life-changing benefits. So here are some things advisors and chapter officers can do:

  1. Before you dash off campus and temporarily “unplug” from your school and/or work email, set up an out-of-office-reply that includes contact information for Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters. PTK Headquarters staff will respond to emails and voicemails over the Christmas break to assist students in accepting membership before the deadline. Sample out-of-office response: “If you have an inquiry about joining Phi Theta Kappa, please direct all correspondence to or for immediate assistance over the holiday break.”
  1. Organize a holiday potluck or “Lunch and Learn” on Phi Theta Kappa membership. Face-to-face interaction will personalize PTK membership for prospective members on your campus. Fellowship with festive food and games will create a memorable end-of-the-year celebration.
  1. Plan a phone-a-thon membership drive as a final activity for your officer team. It is important to meet your peers “where” they are. (And one “place” you’ll likely find other students is on their phones.) Encourage prospective members to ask questions about PTK and assist them in accepting membership.
  1. In the spirit of meeting students “where” they are, encourage prospective and current members on your campus to go online. Change your profile frame on Facebook to the #IAMPTK frame. Encourage your administrators, faculty, staff, advisors, and members to do the same! Additionally, register for our free webinar, Why Accept Membership in PTK, on Wednesday, December 6th, from 6 – 7 p.m. CT. Finally, send an email blast to the prospective members on your campus, personally inviting them to accept membership and provide the registration link to the December 6th webinar. Share some of your membership story in the email. Personalization is key to recruiting new members.
  1. Maximize access to membership at your local chapter by promoting PTK Catalyst 2018. Tell prospective members via email, social media, and in person that they could be a part of history at this once-in-a-lifetime Centennial celebration. As we like to say at PTK Headquarters, “We only turn 100 years old once!” PTK Catalyst will take place April 19-21 in Kansas City, Missouri, and our goal is to host 6,000 attendees. Hear from our renowned speakers: Leadership Expert and Best-Selling Author Susan Cain, Social Psychologist and Best-Selling Author Amy Cuddy, and Tony and Grammy-Award Winner Daveed Diggs. Meet with four-year university representatives at one of two college fairs, and gain personal and professional development through our Education Forums.

Serving as a strong ambassador for your local Phi Theta Kappa chapter plays an invaluable role in your chapter’s success. A robust membership base is a substantial first step in paving the way to Five Star Chapter success! (To view your chapter’s current progress, click here.) Finish strong this year!

Hallmark Awards Writing Tips

hosted by 2017-18 International President Amanda Karpinski

Panelists: Susan Edwards, Jennifer Stanford and Tria Cohen

Listen to Your Body Talk at PTK Catalyst

Social psychologist and bestselling author Amy Cuddy is an expert on the behavioral science of power, presence, and prejudice. Amy, who teaches leadership at Harvard, earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University and has served on the faculties of Harvard Business School and Northwestern University.

Amy wasn’t supposed to become a successful scientist. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to finish her undergraduate degree. In her second year of college, Cuddy suffered a serious traumatic brain injury after being ejected from a car in a high-speed crash, and doctors said she would struggle to finish school. However, she went on to complete a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude at the University of Colorado, a Master of Arts degree, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Princeton University.

Amy’s 2012 TED Talk, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,” named by The Guardian as ‘One of 20 Online Talks that Could Change Your Life’, has been viewed more than 42 million times and is the second-most-viewed TED Talk.

Focusing on the power of nonverbal behavior, prejudice and stereotyping, the delicate balance of trustworthiness and strength, and the ways in which people can affect their own thoughts, feelings, performance, and psychological and physical well-being, she writes and speaks about how we can become more present, influential, compassionate, and satisfied in our professional and personal lives.

Using images of everyone from Oprah and Mick Jagger to world leaders and athletes, Amy talks about the relationship between posture and power. “So, what is your body language communicating to me?” she asks. “What’s mine communicating to you?”

She believes that by accessing our personal power, we can achieve “presence,” the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves.

Amy has been named by the BBC as one of their 100 Women of 2017, a Game Changer by Time, one of 50 Women Who Are Changing the World by Business Insider.

Amy’s book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges is a New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Globe & Mail bestseller and has been published in 30 languages. Her book suggests that we don’t need to embark on a grand spiritual quest or complete an inner transformation to harness the power of presence. Instead, we need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behavior, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.

Amy is now working on a second book, this one about bullying. Her latest blog post with Peter Glick, How Stereotypes Divide and Conquer Women, appeared in The Boston Globe.

“When you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful,” she says. “It’s not about the content of the message, but how you’re communicating it.”

Learn more about Amy Cuddy and what’s happening at PTK Catalyst 2018. Register today!

For the latest news about PTK Catalyst 2018, follow PTK on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and subscribe to The Reach blog.

100 Years at Cottey College

Phi Theta Kappa isn’t the only one celebrating 100 years — the Epsilon Chapter at Cottey College is also in its centennial year as a PTK chapter.

The Epsilon Chapter has the unique distinction of being the oldest continually operating chapter in Phi Theta Kappa. It was one of the eight original chapters founded in 1918; the other chapters have since disbanded because their college either closed or transitioned to a four-year university.

“As a historian, I am thrilled to be involved with Epsilon Chapter,” said Angela Firkus, co-advisor of the chapter. “Last summer, I spent some time traveling to the schools and former schools that were also founding members. I am very proud not only that Cottey College has survived but that it also has continued its commitment to the first two years of college.”

Cottey College is a small, all-women’s college in Nevada, Missouri, that offers both associate and bachelor’s degrees. It was founded in 1884 by Virginia Alice Cottey and was gifted to the P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) Sisterhood in 1927. This group oversees the college today.

Alice Cottey was there, at Stephens College in Missouri in 1918, when Phi Theta Kappa was born. The chapter also submitted the Phi Theta Kappa song, which is still performed today.

“Being a part of the oldest chapter in our country is very rewarding, and I feel honored to be a part of something to amazing that helps change young women’s lives,” said Robin Mallinson, chapter co-advisor. “Though very rewarding, I feel the pressure of not letting down our founders of PTK and keeping our Cottey history within PTK alive and strong.

“I feel a sense of drive and motivation to keep our Epsilon Chapter stronger than it ever has been.”

Firkus said the chapter typically has about 30 or 40 members — roughly 15 percent of the student population — and an acceptance rate of about 90 percent. The chapter was recognized as both a REACH Chapter and a Five Star Chapter in 2017.

“Students here find membership to be a great honor,” she said.

The Epsilon Chapter regularly conducts Honors in Action and College Projects. This year, for its College Project, the chapter partnered with the college faculty and community members to offer a series of “adulting” classes to help students prepare for life beyond college.

The chapter is also working on a project to empower students to make their own decisions about conspiracy theories. The students are encouraged to take personal action to find the missing knowledge.

“Being a PTK member offers a unique opportunity to be involved on campus on a deeper level than other organizations do,” said chapter secretary Rebecca Robinson. “Being in PTK encourages members to be a link between the student body and the faculty, as well as to be leaders and helpers on campus.”

The chapter is still making plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary, although advisors do plan to bring as many members as possible to PTK Catalyst 2018, April 19-21 in Kansas City, Missouri, for Phi Theta Kappa’s Centennial Celebration.

They also plan to honor the legacy of those who came before them.

“Overall, the history of our chapter and our advisors both promote a strong foundation to shape hard-working and determined young women, and I am honored to serve on a board with women such as these,” said Veronica Wright, the chapter’s publicity coordinator.

You can read more about the Epsilon Chapter at Cottey College in the upcoming issue of Visionary, which will be published in January 2018.

Meet the 2017 Nota Bene Winner

Steven E. Rauscher, a former student at the Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, has received the 2017 Ewing Citation Award for his Nota Bene entry, “Can They Tell?” and a $1,000 scholarship.

He joins 23 other Phi Theta Kappa members whose works will be published in the 2017 issue of Nota Bene this winter. Four others will receive $500 scholarships for submitting outstanding entries:

  • Imelda Socorro Ruiz of the College of Southern Nevada for her poem “Grannie Dress”
  • Rebecca Watters of Seminole State College in Florida for her short story “Prologue: Aurelia by the Sea”
  • Joshua Gray of Metropolitan Community College in Missouri for his short story “Firewater”
  • Maria Isabel Medina de Sklavenitis of Southwestern College in California for her poem “Olvido”

See the full list of those being published. Nearly 650 entries were submitted.

Steven is now attending Temple University. His personal essay explores the “un-Americanness” of today’s America through his own family heritage: his father’s ancestor signed the Declaration of Independence, and his maternal grandfather was an Iraqi immigrant whose untimely death was rumored to be tied to Saddam Hussein.

Get to know Steven in this brief Q&A.

PTK: How long have you been writing?

Steven Rauscher: I’ve loved writing since I was very young. The earliest piece I can remember specifically was a short (read: very short) story I wrote for Halloween back in second grade. My Catholic school teacher lauded my descriptive writing, cautioned my sense of morbidity, and ultimately docked points for my misspelling the word “blood.”

Although I liked to remind myself that writing was an enjoyed pastime throughout high school and my first attempt at a bachelor’s degree at Rowan University, I didn’t really pursue the art with any conviction until I came to terms with its therapeutic value after I dropped out in 2008. I had a lot of things to sort out mentally, and the written word helped me immensely in that regard.

Since then, whether it’s been fiction or non, personal or public, writing has been the force that’s motivated me to go back to school and reminded me of something I’m pretty okay at when the whole going-back-to-school thing gets tough.

PTK: Why did you submit an entry to Nota Bene?

SR: Aside from the obvious appeal of any kind of scholarship for a 30-something year old with a mortgage to chisel away at and a full load of classes to attend, I really wanted a platform.

For several years now, I’ve watched the world change around me and said relatively little about it, outside of my group of close friends and those I’ve deemed worthy of reading random rants on Facebook. A competition like Nota Bene gave me exactly the motivation I needed to put something together for a larger audience, and I’m legitimately excited to see what conversations come back to me as a result of this.

PTK: What does it mean to you to have the top entry this year?

SR: To be honest, just reading this question gives me butterflies in my stomach all over again. Did I really win? Really?

When it comes down to it, this is affirmation for me. Though I really do enjoy writing and forcing people to read things that I create, I’m typically my own worst enemy. I don’t generally think the things I write are worth anyone’s time, so I tend to keep them to myself.

It’s particularly validating to know that an international honor society thinks my writing is worthwhile. It’s going to be pretty hard to convince myself that I’m terrible after this.

PTK: What are your future career plans?

SR: As far back as my teenage years, I “knew” that I wanted to be a high school history teacher. I wanted to spend all day talking about a subject I loved, I wanted to make my students labor over dioramas of World War I battles, and I wanted to do so in a tweed jacket with elbow patches. You know, the works.

But something about coming back to the academic world as an older student has me thinking beyond the classroom in terms of the potential impact a career in education can have. While I’m currently pursuing a dual major in secondary education and history (with a minor in global studies) at Temple University, I’m thinking very critically about what comes afterward. I am absolutely going to begin my career as a high school history teacher, but I’m finding myself interested in pursuing graduate work in the area of educational policy.

I believe very strongly in the notion of school as community, and I believe that the act of establishing schools as learning communities in which the opportunity, achievement, and emotional needs of all are attended to is paramount to the health of our democracy. It’s something I’m very invested in, and I’d like to work toward making it viable and available for all American students.

PTK: How will you use your scholarship?

SR: Well, school is expensive. I’m staring down the barrel of a 15-year, 200-plus-credit bachelor’s degree that I’ll finally complete in 2020. Every little bit helps, so I’ll absolutely be putting this scholarship toward my tuition.

PTK: Anything else we should know about you?

SR: I’m engaged! My fiancée and I are set to be married in the spring of 2019, and we actually got engaged on my community college class trip to New York this past May. I may or may not have had a little extra help from a professor/Phi Theta Kappa advisor of mine in establishing the right setting, and for that I may or may not be forever grateful.

We are now accepting submissions for the 2018 Nota Bene competition. All entries must be submitted online.

How to Reduce the Cost of College Transfer

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Nancy Lee Sánchez, executive director of Kaplan Educational Foundation.

Are you interested in transferring to a four-year school but wary of all of the application, transcript, housing, and other fees headed your way? You’re not alone. The transfer process can appear confusing and costly. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be!

At the Kaplan Educational Foundation, we work with students attending associate degree-granting colleges to help them transfer to the schools of their dreams. All of the students we work with are low-income, so we’ve developed a complete set of tips and guidelines you can use to make sure nothing can stop you from getting to where you want to go.

How to Reduce the Costs of Applying for Transfer is a short (and free!) guide that covers the ins and outs of saving money during the transfer process. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to know about each of the important fees of transfer:

  • Transfer application fees (Common App and non-Common App)
  • Fees to send transcripts from your high school, GED program, and pre-transfer college
  • Costs to get documents translated into English (for international students)
  • CSS Profile fees
  • Standardized test costs
  • Enrollment deposits
  • Housing deposits
  • Immunization fees

As you can imagine, these start to stack up, especially if you’re applying to multiple schools. However, we’ve also outlined the following to help you plan for these costs and get them reduced or waived:

  • How much each fee typically costs (per school or per document)
  • Which institutions you’ll need to work with
  • How to reduce each fee or get them waived completely

As a Phi Theta Kappa student, you’ve already proven that you have what it takes to apply to top colleges across the U.S. And, being a PTK member may also qualify you for additional financial aid at these elite colleges. So, don’t let the initial fees of applying get in the way of your education!

If you’re looking at transfer schools, or even if you’re just curious about transfer, we encourage you to download this free resource so you can save the most money while applying to your dream schools.

For a complete guide to choosing the right transfer school, getting in, and receiving the best financial aid package, check out our brand-new book, Your 2018 Guide to College Transfer.

The Guide contains 90 profiles of the top schools for transfer students in the U.S., and it highlights the best schools for veterans, students with DACA/Undocumented status, and students raising families. Each school’s profile also lists scholarship requirements and benefits for PTK members.

And don’t forget: top schools are looking for you! They’re usually happy to work with great students like you and your PTK colleagues on reducing and waiving fees.