Want to Recruit New Members? Tell Your PTK Story

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by International Vice President for Division 2, Jay Fritts.

PTK Awareness Week is here! During this week, we are spreading the exciting news of what becoming a member of this life-changing organization can do for the students on our campuses. Sounds easy enough, right? If only it were that easy.

Before we joined Phi Theta Kappa, most of us started at the same place: we knew absolutely nothing about PTK. Although we know now what PTK can do for its members, it is hard to relay this message to potential students. However, through personal experience, I found the best way to get my message across to prospective members is by sharing my personal journey as a Phi Theta Kappan.

The first days of my college experience were not memorable ones. I would wake up, go to class, and come home, only to repeat this process again the next day. When beginning community college, my goal was to receive my associate degree as quickly as I could in order to transfer to a four-year institution in Mississippi.

After a few weeks passed, I tried getting involved with the different clubs my campus had to offer. I was a member of the Honors Council, I served as a student recruiter for Ivy League Ambassadors, and I volunteered to play piano for the Baptist Student Union. Although I did enjoy these clubs, I only joined them to boost my resume.

Then I got an invitation to join an organization called Phi Theta Kappa. Thinking to myself, “This is a smart people organization,” I decided to join, and my life has never been the same.

Being a member of Phi Theta Kappa has allowed me to experience a life I never imagined. I have been able to travel the country and meet people from all over the world — definitely a culture shock for me, being from a small town in Mississippi. I have helped lead members of an organization that I have fallen in love with as a chapter, regional, and now International Officer, served my campus through the College Project and the people of my community through Honors in Action, and developed friendships I know will last a lifetime.

Phi Theta Kappa is more than just a “smart people organization” like I once thought. Phi Theta Kappa exposes us to the world and opens our minds to diverse experiences. It gives us the opportunity to develop ourselves as leaders by stepping out of our comfort zones and into something we never thought we were capable of doing. PTK teaches us to serve those around us and to better the communities we live in.

The student that once wanted to finish community college as quickly as possible is now in his third year of PTK and a “super sophomore,” and he would not change that for anything.

Turning down the opportunity to become a member of Phi Theta Kappa would have made my life drastically less fulfilling. It is our duty as Phi Theta Kappans to spread awareness in order to give other students the opportunities that we have been afforded through PTK. I am fortunate to be in the position I am in — one where I can encourage others to take a journey that will change their lives by showing them how it has changed mine.

I AM PTK: Molly Velbeck

Editor’s note: This post was written and submitted by Illinois alumna Molly Velbeck.

Phi Theta Kappa has given me much more than any other honor society ever could. My name is Molly Velbeck, and I am an alumna of Rock Valley College’s Omicron Eta Chapter in Illinois.

I was enrolled in the Illinois “Running Start” program, which allowed me to spend my last two years of high school at Rock Valley College. I graduated in May 2017 with both my high school diploma and an associate degree.

I was given many great opportunities through my active membership in PTK. I served as vice president of scholarship and public relations chair. I took those leadership roles very seriously and further developed my skills.

Our PTK advisor, Timothy Spielman, served as my mentor. He helped me believe in myself and pushed me to become a leader. Because of this encouragement, I made my senior year of high school (also my second year at Rock Valley College) one to remember.

I was selected as a member of the All-Illinois Academic Team, was awarded a Coca-Cola Silver Scholarship, and received Rock Valley College’s Emerging Leader of the Year award. I also spoke at my high school graduation ceremony. I truly believe I would not have been able to do this without the help of Mr. Spielman and PTK. I am so grateful to be a member of such an amazing organization.

I am currently a member of the Illinois Regional Alumni Association (IRAA). I have made many new friends and surrounded myself with positive, successful people through my involvement in PTK.

Their support helped me get through the devastating loss of my father on August 14, 2017. He was battling colon cancer and went into a surgery that took a devastating turn. I lost him one week before my classes started at Illinois State University and I felt completely lost, as if I had nowhere to turn.

That is when PTK gave me an amazing feeling of belonging for the second time. Many fellow IRAA members and Mr. Spielman reached out to offer guidance and condolences. Without PTK and its amazing members and advisors, I would not have been able to find the way forward in this tragic situation.

The relationships formed over Honors in Action projects turned into more meaningful friendships that provided invaluable support during my time of need. I am forever grateful for such a wonderful organization, and someday I hope to be able to give back to PTK for all it has done for me.

ISLP: ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’

In May 2017, member Cynthia Herda traveled with 80 students from across the United States to Sydney, Australia, to study nursing practices through the International Scholar Laureate Program. The next two weeks were the experience of a lifetime, as she was introduced to many of Australia’s nursing practices.

At the University of Queensland, she learned about the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and tropical diseases. At Prince Alfred Hospital, she learned about midwifery and universal healthcare focusing on wellness and prevention, psychology and social work.

In this Q&A, Cynthia talks about the angel who made the trip possible, how she knew it wasn’t a scam, and the myriad ways the experience has enriched her life.

How did you afford the trip?

I remember the 2016 Heroes of Education celebration well. That night, an angel walked into my life — here’s what happened.

I was one of the student speakers at the Heroes of Education Dinner at Glendale Community College (GCC) that night back in April of 2016. I was asked to tell my story of how I overcame many challenges in my life, how I was now in a new phase in my life, and how, at the age of 43, I had decided to attend GCC to study nursing.

I explained that I had been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and then became active in GCC’s many campus activities. I was asked to inform the audience of the benefits of receiving scholarships and mentioned that I was excited to raise funds to participate in the Envision International Scholar Laureate Program to study nursing practices in Australia. That evening, an audience member, who prefers to remain anonymous, was touched by what he heard. He approached me during dinner and offered to underwrite the costs of my entire trip to Australia. I was overwhelmed.

There are scholarships that you can apply for to help offset SOME of the costs, and you can try a fundraising account. Ask your friends and family to donate in lieu of gifts for birthdays and Christmas and simply to support your educational experience. If everyone you knew could donate just $10, you’d have your trip paid for in no time.

I have some other tips that will help you save money and maximize your adventure. Feel free to contact me via email at nursetech71@yahoo.com. Please put “ISLP” or “Phi Theta Kappa” in the subject line.

How did you know the invitation was legitimate?

When I first got my invitation, I didn’t. I thought it was a scholarship I needed to apply for. So, I contacted my faculty advisor and then went on the PTK website. I just did a little research and sent a few emails, and it quickly became clear that it was not a scam.

It was an amazing opportunity that I am so glad I took. I have several fellow PTK members who had previously received an invitation but didn’t inquire about it and, after hearing about my trip, quickly regretted their decision.

What made you decide to go?

Before meeting my “angel,” I had spoken with the admissions personnel and decided that this was an opportunity I would not likely have again. I was informed that I could defer for one year if I wanted to, so I chose that option to give myself more time to raise the money. Best decision I ever made.

If I had not asked a few questions, I would not have known about the deferral, and I probably would not have pursued it. Had I not pursued it, I never would’ve met my “angel.” I would’ve missed one of the greatest experiences in my life so far.

What did you gain from the experience?

This trip was my first journey abroad, and I truly view it as the trip of a lifetime. When I wasn’t attending a lecture and in group study, I was able to take in the sites, thanks to the generosity of my “angel.”

I enjoyed engaging with the locals and have many stories to tell about my conversations with an Aboriginal woman in Sydney, an entire Aboriginal family in Cairns, as well as a street performer in the train tunnel in Sydney, with whom I found something in common. It turns out this performer’s act was writing poetry using a typewriter. Being a poet myself, I marveled at the on-the-spot poem he wrote about my grandchildren.

I also visited the Sydney Opera House, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Botanical Gardens, The Great Barrier Reef, the Rainforest near Cairns, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane and took numerous ferry trips, wherever I could go.

After attending the International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation in Nursing in Australia, I gained an increased sense of global awareness and an inflated interest in other cultures and societies. Studying abroad provided me with a greater sense of self and refueled my passion for nursing and helping those in need. Because of my experiences in Australia, I plan to become a public health nurse with a certification in midwifery.

This study abroad program taught me how to approach cultural barriers in communication and avoid them in a variety of situations. Studying abroad helped me be a better problem solver, to think creatively, and develop skills necessary for cross-cultural encounters or interactions. It has improved my leadership skills, challenged my time management skills, and taught me lessons in humility and logistics.

It also inspired me to pursue other global educational opportunities. This summer I will be going to Ireland to study the Art of Irish Storytelling, a skill that will help me provide comfort, hope, and even entertainment for my patients. I will also be studying pop culture and its influences on beliefs, values, and patient views on healthcare, as well as intercultural communication, skills that will benefit my ability to care for a diverse population in public health.

Enroll in your ISLP experience by March 9.

New Transfer Scholarship: Husson University

Husson University in Maine is the latest four-year university to offer a transfer scholarship to Phi Theta Kappa members. More than 750 colleges and universities offer more than $37 million in transfer scholarships exclusively to PTK members.

Husson is a private college in Bangor, Maine, known for its first-class education and affordability. It offers 59 undergraduate programs and 18 graduate and professional programs and boasts an average class size of 20.

Learn more in this brief Q&A with Adam Smith, the director of undergraduate admissions.

Tell us about your college’s new transfer scholarship for members of Phi Theta Kappa.
Husson University is proud to offer a new scholarship exclusive for all PTK members for $1,500 that is new for 2018.

Why does your college feel it’s important to offer a scholarship opportunity for members?
Phi Theta Kappa students come in with a great work ethic and a proven track record at their previous institution. Husson wanted to recognize their achievements and make the college search process more streamlined.

Are there other transfer scholarships that could be stacked with your Phi Theta Kappa award?
Yes — Husson offers a merit-based transfer scholarship and a new-for-2018 Maine Community College award for students that have recently graduated from the Maine Community College System (MCCS). Both of these scholarships can be paired and stacked with the new Phi Theta Kappa scholarship.

In your opinion, what is one of the most impressive things about your college?
The affordability aspect. Husson University is not only a transfer-friendly institution, but we are very proud to be the lowest net-priced private four-year college in Maine.

Find more transfer scholarships at CollegeFish.org.

Awareness Week Tips: Get Creative and Remember the Basics!

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Membership Services Specialist and PTK alumna Danya Stuart.

With Awareness Week (February 26-March 2) quickly approaching, we encourage chapters to actively recruit new members and promote the benefits of Phi Theta Kappa at their colleges. Two chapters, the Beta Nu Chi Chapter in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the Rho Eta Chapter in Leesburg, Florida, offer a back-to-basics approach to membership recruitment. Even though we are living in the age of technology, the “old school” method of snail mail is much more effective for them.

According to Jacklyn Pierce, advisor of the Rho Eta Chapter at Lake-Sumter State College, Leesburg, today’s students are inundated with notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and many other sources. While email is still technology-driven, it is the grandfather of technological communication. Also, students receive multiple emails related to school, personal relationships, and work. It is less likely they will see their email invitation when they have numerous messages competing for their attention. How can chapters address this issue?

Advisor Dan Rooney at Western Technical College’s Beta Nu Chi Chapter shared a few strategies his chapter uses — other than emailing — to promote PTK and recruit new members.

  1. Schedule several information sessions at varying times to accommodate all the different groups of students on campus (i.e. traditional, online, evening, dually enrolled, etc.)
  2. Start a fund to help cover the cost of membership for those with financial challenges. Reach out to the college foundation and any other group on campus that might be interested in helping students be recognized for their success. Promote PTK’s Golden Opportunity Scholarship, which opens February 19.
  3. Host open house meetings where food is provided so that current and prospective members can learn about the benefits PTK has to offer.

Rooney said the personal involvement and dedication of his chapter’s advisors play a role in member involvement. If members see that PTK is a priority to advisors, they are more likely to make it a priority themselves.

Do not get me wrong. “New school” methods are very important to incorporate into your chapter’s awareness and recruitment plans. However, it is also very important that you don’t forget how effective the basics can be.

One last note: Get creative! Here’s a short list of some of the more creative membership recruitment strategies our chapters reported in 2017.

  • Provide the names of eligible students to your academic advisors and student success coaches.
  • Host a costume ball and invite all students to participate, not just members.
  • Set up Awareness Week photo booths, where students use fun photo props and costumes. Post the photos in a high-traffic place and on your college’s social media channels.
  • Start PTK Spirit Day, where all members and officers wear their chapter’s PTK shirts.
  • Ask faculty or officers to present personal letters to each eligible member in classes.
  • Ask your campus media staff or department to create a video highlighting your chapter’s achievements.

Need more resources? Check out these five easy ways to promote PTK Awareness Week, a sample calendar of events and our Recruitment Toolkit.

We’re looking forward to seeing what your chapter does for Awareness Week. Share your chapter’s efforts with us on social media using #IAMPTK or email news@ptk.org.