PTK emphasizes student engagement

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For more than 100 years, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) has helped millions of high-achieving community college students reach their full potential.

Last week, member students of PTK, which has 1,285 chapters including 60 outside the U.S., joined the weekly virtual joint board meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees to offer their perspective on the impact of the pandemic on the student experience.

PTK’s International President Lavada Burse, a student at Grayson College in Texas, said diversity in communication methods has been key in maintaining engagement with other students and college faculty and staff.

Student leaders have found videoconferencing, social media and email have all been effective. In fact, Burse noted, communicating with instructors via email was preferable to working within a learning management system.

“Streamlining the ways in which students can get information or ask questions is important to students who are juggling online classes with work and home life,” she said, adding that engagement via remote learning is also important.

Staying connected

Burse commended faculty leaders at Grayson for developing creative ways for students to connect with one another outside of the virtual classroom.

“We have hosted bingo, trivia and online puzzle games that provide ways to engage with other students while we are all studying from home,” she said.

Elena Wong, a student at Oakland Community College in Michigan and PTK’s Division III international vice president, agreed that maintaining connections is critical. PTK provides tools and resources that students need through virtual conferences, including transfer fairs, professional training and speech competitions.

“I have been able to participate in virtual conferences and leadership programs,” Wong said. “But some students need support in terms of access to technology in order to participate.”

An uncertain future

Lynn Tincher-Ladner, PTK’s president and CEO, noted that, because of the pandemic, the organization held an online convention to elect officers and to maintain continuity for students during this time of uncertainty.

“Students are trying to navigate their college career and need information and support,” said Tincher-Ladner. “We know that students are asking about putting a hold on their transfer aspirations and considering taking fewer classes in the coming semester.”

Attendance in PTK leadership programs has increased more than 230 percent, Tincher-Ladner said. That shows “they are interested in and looking for ways to stay connected,” she said.

As PTK looks to the future, diversity, equity and inclusion will continue to be a primary focus for the organization, Tincher-Ladner said.

PTK is also working with business and industry partners to understand the needs of students in workforce programs at community colleges, she said. Students in those programs deserve increased opportunities for leadership development and fellowship with a cohort of students, which is a key factor in student success.

Students benefit from PTK membership with increased completion rates and leadership training, Tincher-Ladner said.

“PTK is proud of its work because we know that the supports and experience outside of the classroom are so beneficial to student success,” she said.

Articles about previous AACC/ACCT joint board meetings this spring:

About the Author

Martha Parham
is senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.