Kamilah Mirza/ The Mainstream
Table display for Phi Theta Kappa

Phi Theta Kappa Honorary Society

Many students at UCC have seen the Phi Theta Kappa tables set out around campus or perhaps received emails asking students to join, however many students still don’t know what P.T.K. is.

 “When I hear Phi Theta Kappa, I immediately thought it was a fraternity,” said student Christian Deweese. While this is a common misconception with Phi Theta Kappa or P.T.K., it is actually an honorary society that has been functioning in the U.S. for over 100 years. 

Phi Theta Kappa origins began in 1918, with the original chapters in several women’s colleges. Throughout the 1920s chapters expanded throughout the entire nation and in 1929 the American Association of Community Colleges recognized P.T.K. as the official national honor society for junior colleges. P.T.K. came to UCC in 1991, in 2019 over 150 people attended the induction ceremony. 

Students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher and that have completed at least 12 credits receive an email invitation to join the honorary society explains it’s scholarship opportunities, professional networking and leadership training programs available to P.T.K. members. Membership is $85 and additional training courses have varied prices. UCC’s P.T.K. chapter is called “Alpha Sigma Upsilon” and the chapter co-advisor is Marjan Coester, Director of Student Engagement. 

P.T.K.’s Western District Executive, Jesika Barnes, was working with P.T.K. before she had become an official member, “I was working at the student center as a peer mentor, I heard about P.T.K. through my friend who was the chapter president. She was working on many different things. My GPA wasn’t quite high enough to join at the time, although I knew I would qualify after fall term. I was involved before I was a member, helping with the College Project and the Action Honors Project. We were doing a lot of work on that during winter break.” Barnes said.

“Once I was qualified I received an email, listing different benefits and the orientation. I filled out a paper application at that time, paid the fee, and then I was a member,” Barnes described. “You can also use financial aid to pay for the membership fee. You get a certificate in the mail, mine is framed, and members also get a lapel pin. Now we have an online application available, which is great.” 

Last spring UCC student and editor of the UCC student newspaper Owen Cherry joined P.T.K. for the scholarship opportunities. Cherry and Barnes have both been awarded the All Oregon Academic Team transfer scholarship from the Oregon Community College Association (O.C.C.A.) and will be attending an awards event in the spring. O.C.C.A. provides the scholarship opportunity on the P.T.K. platform, however any student in the US is allowed to apply. 

“The average scholarship award for P.T.K. members is $2,500, which seems like a great investment for students,” Cherry said. “I think it’s worth it for the scholarships and leadership opportunities. It can be whatever you want it to be. If I hadn’t found the Mainstream that would have been another option.”

P.T.K. has various volunteering options, one of which involved UCC’s college preparation program Upward Bound and UCC’s similar Educational Talent Search program. The volunteer opportunity had a great impact on Barnes, “This past year we did leadership training for highschool students.. It was amazing, I love working with young adults and we had great feedback. It’s actually one of the things that made me realize I wanted to move towards education instead of nursing. It was incredible and we will be working with them again to do a clean up project..”

P.T.K. is in all 50 states and 11 different countries. P.T.K. has a diverse group of members, accepting people from all different backgrounds. Barnes mentioned that even people with criminal backgrounds can be a part of P.T.K., “It’s a really great program. If convicts that are in school during incarceration are welcome to apply. Our current international president is an ex convict  who does a lot of education around turning people from convicts to scholars. He’s been on some different talk shows, encouraging people to use education as a tool to improve their life.” 

If students are interested in P.T.K. they can reach out to the group’s co-advisor Marjan Coester, chapter president Kayla Kilburn, or executive director Jessika Barnes in the student center. “I’d like students to know that the involvement with P.T.K. is open to everyone. We will be hosting the spring convention in may, if anyone wants to run for regional office positions they can come talk to me. I’m also running for an international officer position, international president. Anyone could talk to me or chapter president Kayla Kilburn.”


Kamilah Mirza