Four students from Umpqua Community College’s Alpha Sigma Upsilon, which is UCC’s chapter of the Rocky Mountain Cascade region of the international Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) nation, attended the first annual Catalyst Awards convention. And it was, for them, quite an experience.

President Jantyne Bunce, Vice President KC Perley, Adviser Diana Kelly, Honors in Action Officer Tanya Williams and Hanya Vargas made the long journey to Nashville, Tennessee to represent UCC. “Our team returned catalyzed,” Perley said. “We laughed, learned and cried together, and in the end, we came back to our chapter to finish out the year and be a catalyst for next years’ team.”

Formally known as “Nerd Nation,” the Catalyst convention is a rebranding of an event where PTK members from around the nation gather to receive awards, attend many of the educational experiences offered, and sit in on seminars with high profile speakers such as Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” co-host Jamie Hyneman.

UCC’s Alpha Sigma Upsilon team was motivated to submit its application for a Hallmark award as it hasn’t done so in 10 years. Hallmarks are an explanation of how a chapter grew and worked through writing a research paper about a chosen local service topic and/or taking on a chosen college project.

According to the main PTK website, Hallmark Awards recognize individuals, chapters and regions for excellence in the Society’s Hallmarks of scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship.

The Alpha Sigma Upsilon team completed both options, a research paper and the college project. The team chose to do their research paper on how other countries, communities and colleges handle waste. “We learned that in our community there isn’t necessarily adequate ways to properly recycle because different locations take different recyclables,” Bunce said.  For the college project, the team planned to take on the on-campus garden and turn it into a community project where staff and student clubs can have a plot to grow.

Ultimately, the goal for the team is to be recognized as a five-star chapter. For a chapter to achieve five-star status, it must submit three Hallmarks such as these reports and service projects. The team was only able to submit two, the Honors in Action recycling report and the college garden project.

Currently, Alpha Sigma Upsilon is a 4-star chapter. “We have worked hard to get to get to that status,” Bunce said. Bunce ultimately wanted to bring out the best in the team. “I personally wanted to instill a sense of teamwork throughout our chapter. Leadership isn’t about how successful you as an individual can be, but how successful a team can be,” Bunce said.

In the opening ceremony of the Catalyst convention, with thousands of PTK members in attendance from numerous chapters, Honors in Action Officer Tanya Williams carried the Oregon flag during the Parade of Flags. President Bunce went on stage to represent the Rocky-Mountain-Cascade region. Williams was nominated by the regional office to carry Oregon’s flag.

However, their trip came not with a final exam but rather with a test of their resiliency. The team stayed in the Opryland Hotel. The hotel was under construction. “We got lost a lot,” Perley said. Adding more excitement to their adventure, Perley’s room flooded during their stay, which happens to be common for student leaders of UCC this school year. ASUCC officers and Peer Mentors returned to campus after summer term to find the ASUCC offices flooded during the first week.

The fun didn’t stop there, on the trip back, Delta cancelled the UCC students’ flight due to severe weather. They had to stay an extra day and took United Airlines home hours after the video of a passenger being dragged off a United flight went viral.

To get to the Catalyst Convention, Alpha Sigma Upsilon had to raise funds. On their own, they recycled materials to raise nearly a quarter of the money needed. The team also sold carnations for Valentine’s Day. The rest of the needed funds, around $2,000, was supplemented by funds from the Student Activity Fee which was approved by the Student Leadership Board.

Now that the Alpha Sigma Upsilon team is back in their comfort zone they have big plans for spring term. The Spring Regional convention is right around the corner. It takes place on April 28 through April 30 at Columbia Gorge Community College. It is the closing ceremony for regional officers. The event will pay respects to the current regional officers along with electing new officers. This will be a red-carpet affair.

On May 25, Alpha Sigma Upsilon will have their own induction ceremony where the team celebrates and acknowledges students and their academic achievements. “We induct past years’ members and elect new members,” Perley explains.

PTK will also be reaching out to students, staff, clubs and organizations to manage a plot in the garden located adjacent to the Tech. building as part of their Hallmark commitment.