Northeast State’s Alpha Iota Chi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society won several team and individual awards at the society’s national convention held in National Harbor, Md., on April 7-9.
PTK international judges awarded the Alpha Iota Chi chapter the Distinguished Chapter Officer Team Award as well as the Distinguished Chapter Award. The chapter’s officer team was named one of the 30 most distinguished teams in the nation. PTK judges selected the chapter’s Honors-in-Action Project as one of the top 35 projects submitted nationally. Alpha Iota Chi was the only chapter in Tennessee to receive both the Distinguished Chapter and Project awards.
“They care about what they do and work to achieve it,” said Jane B. Honeycutt, associate professor of English and Women’s Studies and faculty advisor for the chapter. “They feel passionate about their projects and that is why they are willing to work so hard.”
This is the second consecutive year the chapter received the Distinguished Chapter and Distinguished Officer Team awards. Distinguished Chapter Officer Teams are nominated by the chapter advisor through the Hallmark Awards application process, and are chosen based on the team’s demonstration of an exceptional atmosphere of teamwork, leadership abilities, promotion of Honors in Action, other engagement in the Society, and enthusiasm for the Hallmarks of the Society.
Honeycutt said the chapter flourished this year thanks to the leadership of 2015-16 chapter officers: Carly Sluder, President for fall semester; Myka Baker, President, spring semester, and Vice-President of Communication; Cassandra Ross, Vice-President of Scholarship; Victoria Hewlett, Vice-President of Leadership and Tennessee Region Vice-President—East; Kyla Faust, Vice-President of Service; and Tessa Ross, Secretary/Treasurer.
“Every year the new officers come in and see the standard set by chapter officers from the previous year,” said Honeycutt. “While that motivates them, they form their own ideas and create the projects based on research and what they want to pursue.”
The team organized and carried out the Honors-in-Action and the College project during the 2015-16 academic year. Chapter members designed their College Project to help mentor the first class of Tennessee Promise students through Keeping Our Promise. Members and honors students worked with first-year Tennessee Promise students to help them with class registration, filing deadlines for the FAFSA accounts, meeting advisors, and supporting them through the first year of college. Their contributions were significant as the retention rate for those Tennessee Promise students at Northeast State reached 81 percent for the academic year.
The Honors-in-Action Project focused on the community garden concept. Chapter members reached out to community garden site representatives around the region and organized the “Community Garden Symposium: Building Visions for a Healthier Appalachia” event held in November at the College’s Blountville campus. Their research found many community gardens in existence but few were coordinated regionally. Participating garden representatives submitted a list of goals and a five-year plan to guide their garden. The project also created a database for regional gardens to share information among community gardeners.
Chapter members researched food insecurity in Southern Appalachia, contacted representatives to community gardens in the region, and organized the symposium. The event featured guest speakers David Cooke with Grow Appalachia and Samantha Benjamin Kirk with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Individual students also racked up awards and honors for their work. Hewlett was selected as one of only 12 regional officers recognized as the most distinguished in the nation, and she was selected as a New Century Scholar. Chapter member Paul Taylor received an All-USA Gold Team scholarship. Faust received a Midway Honors Scholarship from East Tennessee State University.
Headquartered in Jackson, Miss., the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society is the largest honor society in higher education with 1,250 chapters worldwide. More than 3 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with about 134,000 students inducted annually.