Guttman’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College has achieved five-star status for the first time in the college’s history. In addition to the five-star honor, Guttman’s chapter was one out of 57 chapters in New York state to recently win three other awards at the NY Regional PTK Conference: Outstanding Chapter Progress Award, Excellence in Virtual Programming Award, and the Distinguished Honors in Action Award for the theme of “Expressions in Truth.” To grasp the full significance of these accomplishments, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the evolution of Guttman’s PTK program, from where it was four years ago to where it is today.
In the fall of 2019, Guttman’s Dr. Grace Pai, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Krystal Liriano-Gonzalez, Associate Director of Student Support and Academic Achievement, took over the PTK program. At the time, the PTK chapter was a relatively inactive chapter. “Guttman’s Beta Phi Gamma chapter had never completed a PTK project or participated in regional conferences. After completing PTK’s advisor training, we saw potential to provide more leadership development and service opportunities so Guttman students can reach even greater heights.” Dr. Pai explained. Dr. Pai and Director Liriano-Gonzalez set out to change the culture of the chapter. Through intensive recruitment, restructuring of the program, and rewriting of the bylaws to fit the needs of Guttman’s students, Dr. Pai and Director Liriano-Gonzalez created a chapter where success could not be attainable by prioritizing student involvement in PTK leadership. Through making the application, induction, and election process both more accessible and rigorous, Dr. Pai and Director Liriano-Gonzalez worked towards creating a program that stressed student leadership, academic excellence, and professional development. In 2019, the PTK program opened elections for a student-led executive cabinet. Today, Guttman students fill the roles of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and public relations officer.
These efforts paid off. Despite immense challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote learning, Guttman’s PTK chapter identified lack of student belonging as an issue they wanted to tackle through two projects. In Fall 2020, they launched Amplifying Student Voices—a student-run website to publish student work on diversity, wellness and social justice. In Spring 2021, they collaborated with the Pulitzer Center to design and host a student-led “Ending Single Stories” virtual event to disrupt stereotypes and build student connection. Chapter officers also presented on their Amplifying Student Voices project with Director Liriano-Gonzalez and Dr. Pai at the CUNY Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Conference. These efforts and successes led Guttman’s chapter of PTK to win five PTK regional awards including third runner-up for the Distinguished Chapter Officer Team award, as well as one of the top two awards: the Distinguished College Project award.
The positive momentum continued in 2021-22. In fall 2021, Guttman’s PTK program worked on a collaborative College Project with Kingsborough Community College and Queensborough Community College to promote mental health and wellness among CUNY students. The project consisted of a virtual panel of wellness clinicians as well as an open mic event for students from all three campuses. In the winter, PTK members participated in a scholarship and transfer application mentoring program supported by Professors Daniel Collins, Meghan Gilbert-Hickey, and Tau Battice. Two PTK members—Camila Rodriguez and Bashir Juwara—were semi-finalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. Most recently, PTK President Jason Montoya and PTK member Claire Wilgus were nominated to the New York State All-USA Academic Team; they were recognized in Albany for their achievements.
Phi Theta Kappa History
Established by Missouri two-year college presidents in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society serves to recognize and encourage the academic achievement of two-year college students and provide opportunities for individual growth and development through honors, leadership and service programming. Today, Phi Theta Kappa is the largest honor society in American higher education with more than 2.5 million members and 1,275 chapters located in 50 United States, U.S. Territories, Canada, Germany, Peru, the British Virgin Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United Arab Emirates. In 1929, the American Association of Community Colleges recognized Phi Theta Kappa as the official honor society for two-year colleges.