I AM PTK: Emily Froimson

Twenty years ago, Emily Froimson left a career in law to work with nonprofits — specifically to improve educational opportunities for low- and middle-income students. It was a scary move, but it put her on the front lines of an issue about which she has become truly passionate, thanks in large part to her mother.

College was always in Emily’s future. Her mother was committed to ensuring that her children would go to the best colleges possible. They talked about college a great deal when she was a child.

But, as she entered her public high school, Emily didn’t hear much about college from others. There was little guidance and support offered to the students. It wouldn’t be a problem for her, thanks to her very involved parents, but she worried about her peers.

“That lack of guidance made me realize how difficult — or impossible — going to college can be for many first-generation students, and I believe having full access to educational opportunity is essential to realizing your full potential,” she said.

Emily is now president of Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) in Portland, Oregon, a network of 40 college-based reengagement programs that support communities in building sustainable pathways for disconnected youth to a high school diploma and college credential. She also had a successful 10-year career with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Board of Trustees.

Through her work, she has touched the lives of countless in-need students across the nation. But it all began with a leap of faith in Phoenix, Arizona.

Emily received her bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and her juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law. She was five years into a career as a corporate litigator when she realized it wasn’t the right fit.

“While I found my work interesting from time to time, I wasn’t passionate about it,” she said. “Having a stressful job is fine, but it can be miserable if you don’t like what you’re doing.”

Emily found herself spending more and more time volunteering with youth-serving organizations in Phoenix. And, in true full-circle fashion, she went back to her high school and created a college access program for low-income students.

Next, she got involved with Phoenix Youth at Risk, an organization that provides mentoring and after-school programs for high-risk teenagers that was, at that time, in sharp decline. In 1997, she left law and became executive director of the organization, charged with keeping the doors open. Today, Phoenix Youth at Risk is thriving, serving hundreds of vulnerable youth and their family members each year.

“I could, for the first time, see how real lives could be changed by the work I was doing,” she said.

Emily developed and taught courses in justice studies and research methods at Arizona State University for four years before joining the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) in 2005 as program manager of the Community College Transfer Initiative. This successful initiative aimed to increase access for low-income, high-achieving transfer students to highly selective four-year colleges and universities.

It also introduced her to Phi Theta Kappa.

“I think that initiative, along with the critical work of PTK, has really changed the discourse around who community college students are today,” she said. “The PTK students I have met are remarkable, driven, and passionate. They give me hope as we all face the challenges of the 21st century.”

Emily advanced at JKCF, eventually serving as vice president of programs before joining Gateway to College in 2015. The organization recently launched a community-wide initiative in Oregon focused on getting more youth who are in foster care, homeless, or in the juvenile justice system into and through college.

She has also become involved in women’s collective giving in Portland, where she’s part of an all-volunteer group that raises funds and gives grants to regional nonprofits.

Emily’s work in the challenging world of nonprofits has come down to knowing and leveraging her strengths. She has the passion, yes, but her true strength is making sure other organizations and educational institutions have what they need to do their best work to create educational pathways for students in need. It’s something she’s done successfully throughout her career.

“Certainly, if I look back on the last 30 years, taking the leap from corporate law to leading a very small nonprofit was both the most exhilarating and most terrifying thing I’ve done,” she said. “My initial foray into college access for low-income students was a way to acknowledge and honor my late mother, and the work has grown from there.”

New Transfer Scholarship: St. Lawrence University

St. Lawrence University in New York is the latest four-year university to offer a transfer scholarship exclusively to Phi Theta Kappa members. It joins more than 750 colleges and universities in offering more than $37 million in transfer scholarships.

St. Lawrence is located in the northern part of New York State, in Canton. The small liberal arts college boasts an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 16. A few fast facts from its website:

  • Students from 43 states and 53 countries
  • Ability to design your own course of study as a multi-field major
  • 77 percent of students participate in volunteer work
  • 28 off-campus study programs in 20 countries
  • 96.9 percent of the Class of 2015 were employed or in graduate or professional schools within a year of commencement

Learn more in this brief Q&A with Associate Director of Admissions Mary Kelley.

Tell us about your college’s new transfer scholarship for members of Phi Theta Kappa.
Any transfer student who is a member of PTK is eligible for this $5,000 per year ($2,500 per semester) scholarship. Students who are eligible for the Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship at St. Lawrence will also be considered for other academic merit scholarships.

Are there other transfer scholarships that could be stacked with your Phi Theta Kappa award?
Transfer students at St. Lawrence are considered for academic merit scholarship by simply submitting their applications. These scholarships recognize academic achievement in both high school and college and take into account GPA, test scores (if submitted), rigor, and other areas of academic achievement.

What other opportunities are available for transfer students at your institution to assist them in successfully transitioning?
Incoming transfer students attend and participate in our transfer student orientation, which is designed to help them make a smooth transition to St. Lawrence. Transfer students go through the orientation process together, alongside dedicated Orientation Leaders (current St. Lawrence students) who will continue to be a resource throughout their first semester on campus.

In your opinion, what is one of the most impressive things about your college?
The most impressive thing about St. Lawrence is the sense of community that exists — on and off campus, for current students and alumni, and throughout the faculty and staff. St. Lawrence is a place where you can find your passion, explore interests, and gain a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. Meanwhile, faculty, staff, and alumni who are invested in your success support you, and that will continue after graduation and well into the future. The Laurentian community reaches across the country and around the world — what starts on campus will be with you for the rest of your life.

Find more transfer scholarships at CollegeFish.org.

Four College Fair Follow-Ups

It’s never too early to begin exploring your options if you plan to transfer to a four-year college or university. Set up a free profile in CollegeFish.org to find your best-fit institutions, or scan our Transfer Honor Roll for a list of transfer-friendly colleges near you.

Attending a college fair, like the one recently held at PTK Catalyst 2018, offers the most bang for your buck and allows you to visit with multiple admissions representatives in one setting. We’re hosting another one during Honors Institute at Villanova University this summer.

“Webster University recruits Phi Theta Kappa members because they are looking to achieve more — they are motivated, service-driven, and talented,” said Christina Gilbert, associate director of transfer recruitment and community college partnerships at Webster University in Missouri. “At Webster about 50 percent of our undergraduate student population joined our community as transfer students, and the Phi Theta Kappa transfer students contribute to the community in many positive ways.”

If you visited with an admissions representative at a recent college fair, Christina offers four next steps for you.

1. Expand your horizons

Involvement in Phi Theta Kappa opens the door to many opportunities for completing your bachelor’s degree. Look through some of the materials you gathered at senior college fairs — perhaps one of these colleges or universities is the perfect place for you, and they were not even on your radar before. Browse the materials, check out the website, and schedule a visit to tour the campus.

Trevor Head, director of recruitment in Undergraduate Admissions at Dallas Baptist University in Texas, encourages you to attend a preview day for any college you’re interested in. These are designed to let you meet other students and the professors, and they allow you to see the most of the campus.

“We love getting to share DBU with all of the PTK members,” Trevor said. “We believe that PTK members are students at the top of their class. These members are committed, hardworking students that are poised for success.”

2. Identify your transfer college “must-haves”

As you explore your transfer options, what are the top three to five things the college must offer you? Consider more than just major, cost, and location — think about size, and think about involvement opportunities available outside the classroom.

Webster has WebsterLEADS, a practical and co-curricular leadership development program. Many colleges, like Mississippi College, have a PTK alumni association, and Mississippi State University has a Transfer Student Association. William Carey University, also in Mississippi, hosts a PTK brunch for its transfers to unite current PTK alumni with incoming students.

“This allows them to network and facilitates participation in one of over 30 campus organizations,” said Alissa King, William Carey’s director of admissions. “(Phi Theta Kappa members) are leaders both academically and through campus involvement. They are the perfect transfer student.”

3. Schedule a visit to each college you are seriously considering

Don’t underestimate the importance of feeling at home or like you fit in to the campus community. There are literally thousands of colleges and universities for you to choose from — you will find the one that is just right for you.

Mississippi State, for example, offers a 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio and is located in a small college town. Others, like William Carey, offer advanced professional degrees in education, nursing, physical therapy and other fields that are ideal for PTK transfer students.

“Mississippi State University recognizes the hard work that goes into being a member of Phi Theta Kappa and knows that PTK members can thrive at MSU by easily finding their place on campus,” said Admissions Counselor Lauren Porter. “Nearly a third of our undergraduate students are transfers, and our own president, Dr. Mark Keenum, was a college transfer student.”

4. Ask questions, and use your status as a Phi Theta Kappa member

Colleges and universities want to recruit you. You would be a valuable member on any college campus, so use that to your advantage. Ask about PTK-specific scholarships. Ask about their student support services. Ask about your transfer credits and how they will be applied toward your degree.

Scholarship amounts and requirements vary. Many institutions offer more than one type of PTK scholarship — say, for chapter officers or even International Officers — or, like Mississippi College, they give higher scholarship amounts to students planning to stay on campus. The Academic Excellence/Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship at Dallas Baptist University may be awarded up to 25 percent per semester.

Many also allow PTK scholarships to be combined with other offers. Some scholarships are awarded automatically, while others require an application and proof of membership.

Research early, and contact the transfer admissions counselor or scholarship counselor directly to get the exact requirements, details, and timeline. If transfer or PTK scholarships aren’t currently listed on the school website or in CollegeFish, it could simply mean that the scholarships are new and haven’t been added yet. Or, the college may have other funding to allocate for you — it never hurts to ask.

“These students are the cream of the crop of transfers, and every student we get that is in Phi Theta Kappa performs incredibly well at our school,” said Angie Hardin, director of transfer recruitment at Mississippi College. “They bring so much to our alumni chapter and are a vital part of our student body.”

What to Expect from Honors Institute 2018

To celebrate Phi Theta Kappa’s centennial, we’re changing up Honors Institute 2018 to incorporate our Leadership Development curriculum. It’s an exciting move that will benefit both the students and advisors who attend the weeklong event, June 18-23 at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Advisors will be certified (or re-certified) to teach the Leadership Development curriculum on their campuses. Students will explore their own leadership philosophies through seminar group discussions and collaborative learning experiences and exercises. All participants will take away skills to help them become leaders in their chapters and beyond.

Don’t worry — the “Honors” in Honors Institute isn’t going away. Faculty Scholars will connect the leadership curriculum and Honors Study Topic, Transformations: Acknowledging, Assessing, and Achieving Change.

For instance, when Faculty Scholars use examples to highlight leadership concepts, they can use those that relate to societal transformation. When participants work on exercises, Faculty Scholars will use those debriefs as a way to discuss how the concepts relate to working on Honors in Action and other chapter projects.

So, what can you expect? Let’s break it down.

For Everyone

The opening session on Monday evening will feature Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the best-selling author of Everybody Lies who uses Google search data to gain new insights into the human psyche. All Honors Institute participants will attend his lecture, “Search and Discover: What the Internet and Big Data Reveal about Who We Are.”

All attendees are divided into smaller seminar groups with whom they will meet throughout the week following the general sessions.

On Thursday, June 21, all participants will visit Historic Philadelphia to view the Liberty Bell as part of the Place as Text session. The group will then split, with members touring Independence Hall and advisors visiting the new Museum of the American Revolution.

For Students

PTK’s unique Leadership Development curriculum is based on great leaders in the Humanities — writers, historians, and filmmakers. Classic cases, leadership profiles, film studies, and experiential exercises are used in a small, discussion-based setting to promote the development of a personal leadership philosophy.

In the second, third, and fourth general sessions, students will gather to watch film clips that are directly tied to the leadership curriculum unit they will be examining. They will then meet with their seminar groups, where activities will include discussing the clips, solving puzzles, and possibly even performing skits.

One sample activity is “Setting Goals for Your Community,” which gives students the opportunity to experience goal setting in teams.

For Advisors

Advisors will participate in a Leadership Instructor Certification Seminar. They will break down the best ways to teach the curriculum to others by performing skits, solving puzzles, and having in-depth discussions about the curriculum units. They will also use the curriculum and exercises to develop their personal leadership philosophy.

One such exercise is “Values Sort,” which allows participants to reflect on their core beliefs and values and identify the ones they value most highly. This helps people consider the personal value systems, beliefs, and attitudes that guide and motivate their behavior and the behavior of team members.

If you can’t make it to Honors Institute, we have another opportunity to get certified: July 9-12 at the Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi. The early registration deadline is May 25. Learn more.

The deadline to register for Honors Institute 2018 is Monday, May 21. Register now!

WE ARE PTK: 2018-2019 International Officers

Five Phi Theta Kappa members face an especially exciting year ahead — they were named the 2018-2019 International Officers during PTK Catalyst 2018, held April 19-21 in Kansas City, Missouri.

We posed a few questions to each officer to help you get to know them a little better. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Elda Pere
International President

What’s the one thing you would want someone to know about Phi Theta Kappa?
I would love it if people knew that having this grand family is worth much more than the membership fee.

What led you to seek International Office?
After serving as a regional officer, I simply could not get enough. Guiding members throughout my region has brought me such a great sense of joy and belonging that I want to extend it to the rest of the country and beyond.

How do you encourage engagement and participation among your fellow members?
I mostly encourage engagement and participation with games and competitions. For example, our regional team made a video where members had to note each setting difference throughout the clips, earning the winners a free registration to our (regional) convention. On a daily basis, however, I speak to Phi Theta Kappans about my amazing experiences as an active member and how much they can gain, hoping that it will inspire them to participate.

Won Joon Kang
International Vice President, Division 1

Why did you become a Phi Theta Kappa member?
During my first week, I had a tough time finding my classrooms. I found myself wandering until I discovered the Honor’s office. Not only did the members help me map out my classrooms, but I found myself immersed in all the PTK posters around the room. After a quick information session, I found myself dedicating my first semester to getting into the Honor’s Program at Bergen Community College and applying for Phi Theta Kappa at the end of my first semester.

What do you see as the biggest benefit of Phi Theta Kappa membership and why?
The biggest benefit is being able to embrace the hallmarks that Phi Theta Kappa emulates. Working with others, spreading awareness, partnering with pre-existing campaigns on the same missions, and giving back to the community in some form is not only rewarding, but life changing. None of it would be possible without the guidance of Phi Theta Kappa’s support.

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
I’m looking forward to following through with the hallmarks of my own campaign and meeting members of Phi Theta Kappa from all over the world. For every chapter, regardless of achievements or location, I will make sure to spend all my efforts in following through with what I’ve offered. For every new face I meet along the way, I hope to impact them in any positive manner possible.

David Parker
International Vice President, Division 2

Why did you become a Phi Theta Kappa member?
After doing well my first semester of college, I looked into what opportunities opened. I saw Phi Theta Kappa on my college’s honor page, looked into it, and anxiously awaited my membership letter. After attending my induction, I was hooked and knew that I wanted to be involved as much as I could. Though I was looking for a way to be recognized, I think I found what I was really looking for — a community of scholars.

What led you to seek International Office?
Phi Theta Kappa has changed my life and gave me so much, I wanted to give back to the Society and serve it in any way I could. However, it was my advisor who first planted a seed in my mind to run for International Office. She had always believed in me as a leader, and it was with her support that I built up the courage to run for office.

Describe the moment you knew you’d been elected.
It was surreal. Realizing that all the work my team and I put into making this dream come true paid off felt so rewarding. I couldn’t have gotten here without all their help.

Carol Comer
International Vice President, Division 3

What led you to seek International Office?
I wanted to do more to help the students I meet. Almost every day, I hear from so many students who don’t feel they are on the right path in life and don’t know who they are meant to be. I want to empower them to find what inspires them and build on that inspiration and gift to fulfill their lives and enrich their communities.

How do you encourage engagement and participation among your fellow members?
I tell all members that you will get out of Phi Theta Kappa what you put into it. You reap what you sow. If you don’t like what is going on, step up and change it. It also feels amazing when you become engaged and connect with your community. It feels like you matter and that you are important in the world. Because, the truth is, you are.

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
I am most looking forward to working with the other International Officers, becoming a team member, and meeting more Phi Theta Kappans from all over the country. It excites me to know that I will be able to make a positive impact and encourage and empower all members of this prestigious honor society.

Philippe Schicker
International Vice President, Division 4

Why did you become a Phi Theta Kappa member?
Coming from Germany, I did not have a lot of friends when I started at my community college. I had heard about Phi Theta Kappa and joined to surround myself with like-minded students who desire to stand out, but also to make new friends.

What do you see as the biggest benefit of Phi Theta Kappa membership and why?
I think the biggest benefit of Phi Theta Kappa is the drive everyone brings to the table. We are all really good students who challenge themselves to do more while helping to make the community a better place. It is the kindness everyone is treated with no matter where one is from, as well as everyone’s will to work together that I find incredibly attractive about Phi Theta Kappa.

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
I am really excited to meet Phi Theta Kappa students from all over the country. I think one of the most exciting factors about Phi Theta Kappa is its diversity. Every student, whether traditional, non-traditional, or international, has a different story, and I cannot wait to hear them.

Read more about the 2018-2019 International Officers.

Meet the 2018 Most Distinguished Chapter

It’s been a long time coming, but at PTK Catalyst 2018, the Omicron Psi Chapter from Grayson College in Texas was named the Most Distinguished Chapter.

The award recognizes the chapter with the highest combined score of its Honors in Action Project and College Project Hallmark Award submissions. It is the greatest honor a Phi Theta Kappa chapter can receive.

“When our chapter was called for Most Distinguished Chapter of 2018, I was in complete disbelief,” said Rebecca Gillespie, the chapter’s director of committees. “Not that I didn’t think we had worked hard all year to earn it, but I was in shock that we had come so far from where we were just a few years earlier.

“Many have made the statement that our chapter has always been in the top, but this could not be farther from the truth.”

Mary Linder became advisor to Omicron Psi in 2009 — then a One Star Chapter with only three active members — and she spent her first five years learning as much about Phi Theta Kappa as she could. Omicron Psi won its first international Hallmark Award in 2014 for its College Project.

More success followed in 2015, with three international awards and member Elizabeth Taylor being elected to International Office. In 2016, the chapter won the same awards as the previous year. In 2017, it received four international awards and was named runner-up to Most Distinguished Chapter.

“There’s an equalizing force in the fact that we start over each year with new officers and members, as well as new projects,” Mary said. “And when you are competing against other amazing chapters, nothing is guaranteed.”

Omicron Psi is very intentional in its approach to Honors in Action and College Projects. Discussions about the Honors Study Topic begin mid-spring during weekly chapter meetings, and the research team is identified by the end of spring.

This is also around the time that new chapter officers are selected and installed, so two leadership trainings and orientations are held during the summer where officers learn about strengths-based leadership and Phi Theta Kappa, while also setting goals and planning the calendar.

A special tradition to inspire fellowship among new officers is “Fried Chicken Fellowship,” which Rebecca hosts in her home for the new officers and their families. She cooks a homemade Southern-style dinner, and they play games.

“This is beneficial for many reasons,” she said. “It permits us to put aside our study and work projects and have a little fun, but it also is a good time to bring our families so they can learn why we care so much about our involvement in Phi Theta Kappa.”

The officer and research teams meet weekly throughout the summer to plan research and discuss findings. Advisors also provide specific training on Honors in Action as a process and discuss the rubric for the Hallmark Awards submission, which helps the team focus on their journaling.

They also attend Honors Institute and the Texas Honors Institute.

“This has been pivotal in our understanding of the Honors Study Topic, the Honors in Action process, and Hallmark Award application writing,” chapter co-advisor Dr. Molly Harris said.

Teams aim to complete research during the summer so they can focus on the project’s action component in the fall. In 2017-18, Omicron Psi focused on the barriers to Internet access in nations around the world. (Read about it on page 10 of Civic Scholar: Phi Theta Kappa Journal of Undergraduate Research.)

The College Project was to plan and execute the launch of a new campus-wide initiative linked to “Life Activated,” a community program that creates opportunities for healthier living in mind, body, and soul — which is directly related to student success and employee productivity. The chapter coordinated with several organizations and departments on campus to identify and develop the program.

This cooperation with other campus organizations has benefited the chapter in many ways. Because of the chapter’s close ties to the International Students Office in particular, Omicron Psi’s membership is now more diverse than the campus population.

“This has created an environment where our rural Texas students are exposed to diverse perspectives, cultures, and practices,” Molly said. “Because of the global perspective of our Honors in Action Projects, open dialogue has provided tremendous learning opportunities.”

These opportunities are what drew chapter secretary Brittani Welch to Omicron Psi and Phi Theta Kappa. As a non-traditional student, she was looking for a way to get more involved and make her mark on campus and in the wider community.

When she saw that the chapter sponsored the college’s food pantry, she knew she’d made the right decision. Conducting successful research, partnering with community business leaders, and connecting with a diverse population of students are just a few of the lessons she will take with her to Texas Woman’s University this summer.

“I want to change the world and help others in making our community a better place for all people, and Phi Theta Kappa is doing that,” she said. “Grayson College, like many other community colleges, is where our future is being built. Community colleges are places for everyone and where anything is possible.”