Winning Ways: How Alumni Support the Phi Theta Kappa Experience

For some Phi Theta Kappa members, the Society experience ends as they walk across the commencement stage in stoles and tassels. For others, the journey is merely taking a path in a different direction as they become a part of a Phi Theta Kappa alumni association and turn their attention to supporting the efforts of new members.

The top alumni associations in Phi Theta Kappa were honored at NerdNation 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, along with some of the Society’s most outstanding alumni. For all the newly minted alumni members out there, they are willing to share a few of their secrets.

The Outstanding University-Based Alumni Association for 2015 is Athens State University Alumni Association from Athens, Alabama. These university students paid forward their Phi Theta Kappa experiences by providing 30 Golden Opportunity Scholarships to chapters in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee to cover membership fees.

Athens alumni also visit their former two-year college chapters to describe the opportunities available at the university, write letters and make telephone calls to prospective two-year college transfer students and assist with campus tours and transfer student orientation. They also serve as tutors and mentors for Phi Theta Kappa members and host a transfer student social at the beginning of each semester.

The Outstanding Community-Based Alumni Association for 2015 is Alpha Gamma Pi Alumni Association from Austin, Texas. One of Phi Theta Kappa’s newer associations, the group works closely with chapter officers to provide training and professional development for the Alpha Gamma Pi Chapter at Austin Community College in Texas.

The association set annual objectives designed to result in college completion – including providing scholarships for membership dues and workshops about C4, Competitive Edge and Honors in Action, among others, both live and online. They also created a video entitled “Phi Theta Kappa 101 – How to Wear Your Regalia,” which was shown to 90 chapter members to prepare them for induction and commencement.

The Outstanding Regional Alumni Association for 2015 is the Texas Region Alumni Association, which also received the Award of Merit, presented to one association annually that has excelled at conducting outstanding programs for the benefit of Phi Theta Kappa members.

This year the Texas Region Alumni Association increased their scholarships, providing support to the Mary Hood Leaders of Promise Scholarship Endowment, awarding more Walter B. Cooper Transfer Scholarships, and doubling their Golden Opportunity Scholarships – awards given directly to chapters to defray induction costs for deserving students. To provide training support for chapters, alumni volunteers invested 3,987 hours of service and logged 1,267 miles to guide members through the programs of Phi Theta Kappa – including Five Star Competitive Edge, C4 and college fairs.

One of their major projects included hosting a Hallmark Awards Workshop for the fifth year in a row. This year 97 members and advisors from 28 chapters and eight alumni attended – tripling attendance from previous years. At the request of their Regional Coordinator, they also began to share this workshop via Skype and videos with those chapters unable to attend.

Eighteen alumni were honored with the Alumni Award of Appreciation, and there’s one thing they all agree upon – half the battle of being effective as an alumnus and helping out is showing up, asking what is needed and being willing to do that.

Recipient Shawn Van Horne, who was nominated by the Beta Alpha Chi Chapter in Tennessee, said alumni have been blessed with opportunities and that he is happy to lend his “strong back” to do whatever the chapter or region needs. He returned to college hoping to find a better career. However, his plan for a quick two-year degree grew into a desire to pursue a bachelor’s degree and graduate school.

“In my time back in education I’ve found that I’m more passionate about education, so any opportunity I have to be able to help someone else to get their education, then that’s the important thing,” Van Horne said.

“If they are having a car wash, then I wash cars,” said Julie Gore, who was nominated by the Beta Theta Xi Chapter in Iowa. She also counts setting up marketplaces and college fairs among her alumni specialties.

“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn things, and that experience can be passed on to current members,” she added. “Then they can pass it on to future generations and give them the opportunity to grow.”

Kenneth Ruemke, an alumnus of the Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter at Lone Star College-North Harris in Texas who also serves as advisor and treasurer of the Texas Regional Alumni Association, received the Board of Directors Alumni Achievement Award at NerdNation and addressed guests at the Alumni and Friends Gratitude Banquet.

“Kenneth’s dedication has earned the trust and respect from all alumni, advisors and headquarters staff,” said Phi Theta Kappa Foundation CEO Dr. Nancy Rieves. “He is a true model of alumni commitment.”

Ruemke said he does “anything possible” to assist the chapter and region, from helping prepare award entries and cutting cakes at receptions to ushering students at chapter and regional events. According to fellow alumnus and Phi Theta Kappa advisor Laura Dupree, he hasn’t missed a chapter induction since 1997.

“At every induction we recognize our new inductees and then they light candles,” Ruemke said. “I am always honored to bring that first lit candle and start that process.”

Indeed, many Phi Theta Kappa members all over the world have the opportunity to grow because supportive alumni members are helping to pass that flame from one generation to the next.

Don’t miss the opportunity to nominate your alumni associations or individual alumni for awards to be presented this spring at NerdNation. For more information, visit the Hallmark Awards website.

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