Dr. Norman Session has learned a lot in his 20-plus years as an educator; but there are two key lessons he’s especially passionate about, and he shares them often: the value of community college, and the value of Phi Theta Kappa.
As vice president of the Rankin Campus and Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center (JATC) at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, Session speaks to high school juniors and seniors about taking dual credit courses, attending a community college and joining PTK.
“It looks really strong on a resume,” he said. “Every leg up you can get on your resume when you’re competing for scholarships — even at the high school level — is going to help.”
The value of community college came early. Session received his associate degree from Hinds in 1988 and then transferred to Mississippi College, where he received a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. After completing his first master’s degree, Session taught as an adjunct instructor at Hinds’ JATC.
Session earned a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi in 2000.
He began his professional career teaching in local public schools. He served as assistant principal at several middle and high schools before becoming principal at Pisgah High School in 2002.
As Session was settling in to his new position, Hinds was expanding its dual credit program to area high schools. He saw the potential, and soon his small, rural school was offering more dual credit hours than high schools in his district that were twice as big.
His students began receiving invitations to join Hinds’ Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Session and his colleagues learned more about the honor society, found out which students were invited and encouraged them to become members. He was made an honorary member in 2016.
“When I first got to Hinds Rankin (in 2015), I saw a list of PTK members with their ages listed,” he said. “I knew every 17-year-old student on that list except for one, because they all came from my high school.”
As Session began talking up community college and Phi Theta Kappa, he focused on the one thing he knew would resonate with students and parents alike: money.
Students attending high schools partnering with Hinds’ dual credit program can earn college credit for free. If they become Phi Theta Kappa members, attend a two-year college, get involved on campus and develop their leadership skills, they often stand to receive a better scholarship offer from their university of choice than they may have been initially offered as freshmen.
“I was a high school principal for 13 years, and I did not know it was fairly easy for a transfer scholarship to be larger than a freshman offer,” Session said. “The average parent and the average student do not know it’s possible.”
But Phi Theta Kappa isn’t only for dual credit students planning to attend community college. Session also encourages those enrolling in universities as freshmen to join the Society and become involved.
“If they’re going head-to-head with other freshmen for scholarships, anything they can do to get an advantage is worth it,” he said. “These are things we need to make sure the students know. It’s our job to prepare them for the next step.”
In addition to money, Session has seen students’ confidence levels grow after becoming involved with PTK and taking on leadership roles. They’re taking that confidence with them to interviews for scholarships and admission to honors programs, and one day they’ll take it with them to job interviews.
Session saw it in his own son, a dual credit student who came to Hinds and then transferred to Mississippi College. His son was named to the All-Mississippi Community College Academic Team and received additional transfer scholarships.
“He just had one year of community college, but he had more confidence going into scholarship and business school interviews,” he said. “Phi Theta Kappa really gets some of them to come out of their shells and embrace or fine-tune their leadership skills, and they come away with a whole new level of self-worth.”