Bellevue College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Alpha Epsilon Rho, attended the annual international conference this past weekend. Phi Theta Kappa is an international honor society created for two-year colleges. It focuses primarily on volunteer projects in the local community, but there are certain academic requirements necessary in order to be eligible for membership. Nine of Alpha Epsilon Rho’s most active students and advisor Katherine Oleson travelled to San Jose, Calif. and joined 3500 other Phi Theta Kappa members from all around the world in various workshops and lectures. Every two conferences, a study topic is chosen around which the conference is constructed, and this year’s topic was the culture of competition.
Every year the conference features two keynote speakers. This year they were author Geoff Colvin and tennis player Billie Jean King, both of whom used their unique experiences to approach the study topic. Their presentations were one of the highlights of the conference. The conference also featured education forums, intended for both students and advisors. In addition to discussing what the keynote speakers presented, Oleson explained that the education forums also allowed students to learn “about everything from scholarship opportunities, to preparing a professional resume, and interview skills…Things about fundraising ideas, leadership developments; there was a great one…this year about making the transition from a two-year college to a four-year college. So, not just the application process, but what it looks like when you’re in that new environment.”
The conference also featured a competition where chapters had the opportunity to create a project based on the study topic. While BC received a second place recognition at regionals, they did not place at the international level. Chapters were also required to vote together for international officers, an activity which required interviewing candidates and listening to public speeches. The overall experience of the conference was a positive one as Kristianto, an active member, recalled. He spoke of not only the educational opportunities, but the opportunity to “meet other people from other states, new people…It was really fun.” Oleson echoed Kristianto’s reflection, saying, “There’s a lot going on with the international conventions, [it’s] a wild three days! And students always get so much out of it, and I always do too. It’s really fun.”
The conference emphasized what Phi Theta Kappa values the most. Oleson said that while the society is passionate about honoring students for their academic achievements, “elements of it are also focused on leadership and service and fellowships… and you end up bringing all four of those elements together.” However, Kristianto noted that perhaps the most inviting characteristic of Phi Theta Kappa is its vast scholarship opportunities and encouraged all students to consider joining.