Student Organization Spotlight: Phi Theta Kappa

(left to right) Carsten Berend, Rachel Volkert, Hayley Ahr, Connie Vait, Gunnar Johnson

Honor society provides two-year college student members with valuable benefits

Alpha Omicron Beta is the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at Inver Hills Community College. Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society for two-year college students. As a PTK member student at Inver Hills, you are welcome to participate as often and as much as you like in chapter activities, projects, and events.

Tanya Smutka

Tanya Smutka, a biology instructor at Inver Hills, serves as a Phi Theta Kappa faculty advisor. Tanya values her contribution to the success of a student organization as significant as PTK, which has thrived as an active chapter at the college for 23 years with more than 2,100 alumni.

“It’s an honor to work with Phi Theta Kappa students,” Tanya reported. “I get to help them grow as leaders and scholars, but I learn from them in the process.”

PTK is a community of student leaders and scholars

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023

For more than 100 years, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society has helped millions of high-achieving, two-year college students reach their full potential. PTK not only recognizes stellar academic success, but also provides member students with opportunities to develop professional acumen and leadership skills, earn scholarships, and investigate a full range of career paths, making their worlds a whole lot bigger and more inclusive.

Phi Theta Kappa students enhance their scholarship and learning capacity by exploring important topics together. PTK student leaders work with college administrators to advocate for positive change on campus. Through volunteerism, scholarly research, and advocacy, PTK officers and members seek to serve their college and neighboring communities.

The Phi Theta Kappa Alpha Omicron Beta chapter at Inver Hills creates a network of scholarly fellowship for students. College is way easier when you have a team of faculty, staff, and fellow students working in unison to help you achieve your academic and career goals.

PTK advisor perspective: Kimberly Swinney

Kimberly Swinney

“I am proud of the leadership and commitment to PTK this current officer board has demonstrated. They have taken our chapter to the next level by implementing impactful projects that focus on mental health,  blood donor registration, and incentive programs to increase engagement in our chapter.

“We have 583 newly eligible members this spring. We are excited to enter another round of recruitment to share all of the great benefits PTK has to offer members. Whether it is scholarships, transfer scholarships, leadership development, service-learning, or simply building a community of friends, our chapter officers and advisors are eager to connect with these students and help them get connected.”

Kimberly Swinney
Director of Student Life
PTK Staff Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

PTK advisor perspective: Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD

“What I like best about PTK is the range and level of student engagement provided. Students can become campus leaders and experiment in developing their leadership style and skills, or they can be members in a range of other ways, including simply having accomplished the honor of being a Phi Theta Kappa member.”

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD
Sociology Faculty
PTK Faculty Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

Upcoming PTK Information Sessions

Phi Theta Kappa at Inver Hills is hosting Information Sessions for all newly eligible students or for returning students who would like to know more about the honor society. This is a great opportunity to learn more about PTK, membership benefits, and the impact PTK can have on your college experience.

The sessions should last about a half hour.

  • Monday, February 5, 2024, at 1 p.m. (CC 117)
  • Tuesday, February 6, 2024, at 11 a.m. (CC 117)
  • Thursday, February 8, 2024, at 6 p.m. (Zoom)
  • Tuesday, February 13, 2024, at 6 p.m. (Zoom)
  • Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at 12 p.m. (CC 117)

Receive a calendar invite to a PTK information session by filling out this form:

PTK Spring 24 Information Session

Phi Theta Kappa
Alpha Omicron Beta Chapter Officers


Connie Vait

Connie Vait

Phi Theta Kappa President
Inver Hills Community College

Age: 20
Hometown: Farmington, Minnesota
Current residence: Farmington, Minnesota
High school and year graduated: Farmington High School, Class of 2022
Major and degree earning at Inver Hills: Psychology Transfer Pathway A.A.
Extracurricular activities and clubs at Inver Hills: Phi Theta Kappa president, Psi Beta co-president
Inver Hills planned graduation date: Spring 2024
Transfer plans after Inver Hills: Plans on transferring to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities fall semester 2024; hoping to major in Psychology and minor in Behavioral Biology; eventually plans on graduating with a Ph.D. in Psychology
Career plans: Hoping to become a psychiatrist; helping others is what she strives to do—and mental health is her passion
Other degrees, diplomas, and/or certificates: Mental Health First Aid certification (training completed at Inver Hills)

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

MOMENTOUS

Connie Vait Q & A

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023
What are your primary duties as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) president at Inver Hills?

As the Phi Theta Kappa president, my duties include overseeing the officer board and ensuring I am assisting my team where help is needed, planning events, service projects, and meetings, and, most importantly, creating a welcoming environment for all PTK members.

How has your engagement with PTK helped you pursue your academic goals?

Being involved with PTK has encouraged me to shoot for the stars and strive every day to be the best student that I can be. After all, at the end of the day, I am a student first, and PTK truly finds value in the academic journey of its members.

Three words that describe you as a college student:
MOTIVATED. DRIVEN. HARDWORKING.

What advice would you give students who meet the GPA requirements and are thinking about joining PTK?

Just do it! This organization is a wonderful one that showcases the academic excellence of students around the world. To be invited is such an honor, and that alone is worth taking the next step of joining. I would invite you to talk to me or any of the officer board members, or you could attend a PTK meeting. There is something in PTK for EVERYONE!

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

I would make it so everyone would listen to each other. This does not mean that everyone needs to agree necessarily, but I think there is so much value in the act of listening. So many different perspectives and ideas are out there that would benefit all of us if we just listened to each other.


Gunnar Johnson

Gunnar Johnson

Phi Theta Kappa Vice President of Publicity
Inver Hills Community College

Age: 22
Hometown: Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Current residence: Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota! 😊
High school and year graduated: Homeschooled; graduated through South Heights Christian Classes, Class of 2018
Major and degree earning at Inver Hills: A.A. specializing in Information Technology (IT), Computer Science, and Mathematics
Extracurricular activities and clubs at Inver Hills: Phi Theta Kappa vice president of publicity, Study Skills and Computer Science peer tutor
Inver Hills planned graduation date: Spring 2024
Transfer plans after Inver Hills: Still searching for right fit; currently looking at Caltech as a top option; transferring for certain
Career plans: Would like to start a couple of companies in fields he is passionate about; currently starting up a nonprofit automotive firm with an old friend to assist lower-middle class individuals who can’t afford high labor rates for automotive service
Other degrees, diplomas, and/or certificates: Full Stack Web Development certification, University of Minnesota; Engine Performance and Diagnostics diploma, Dakota County Technical College

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

FRIENDLY! 😊

Gunnar Johnson Q & A

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023
What are your primary duties as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) vice president of publicity at Inver Hills?

My primary duties are helping engage with my peers by working to coordinate events and publicize them online.

How has your engagement with PTK helped you pursue your academic goals?

The biggest resource that I think PTK is helped with my academic goals is their college comparison site that allows you to see what different colleges support, what scholarships you might be available for, and a whole bunch of other information that would take a long time to go through an analyze by yourself.

Other than that, as with any extracurricular, it takes time away each week that I could be studying or reading, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it! I’m very grateful for the connections I’ve made with PTK and look forward to utilizing it as I continue to pursue my academic goals. 😊

Three words that describe you as a college student:
ENGAGING. EXPLORATIVE. EVERYWHERE.

What advice would you give students who meet the GPA requirements and are thinking about joining PTK?

It’s a no-brainer! Even if you aren’t available to dedicate time to being an officer, or even to make it to the member meetings, it gives you access to a lot of scholarship opportunities! There are also a lot of resources for members to get discounts with certain companies like Valley Fair or hotels, or even just looks good on a resume.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

The basic needs of every human alive would be met. Although the United States ruled against it, I would say food would be on that list.


Hayley Ahr

Hayley Ahr

Phi Theta Kappa Vice President of Leadership
Inver Hills Community College

Age: 20
Hometown: Farmington, Minnesota
Current residence: Farmington, Minnesota
High school and year graduated: Farmington High School, Class of 2022
Major and degree earning at Inver Hills: Business Transfer Pathway A.S., Small Business Development and Project Management certificates
Extracurricular activities and clubs at Inver Hills: Phi Theta Kappa vice president of leadership, Student Senate, student ambassador
Inver Hills planned graduation date: Spring 2024
Transfer plans after Inver Hills: Plans on transferring to Metropolitan State University to finish her degree in Business Administration with a minor in Human Resource Management
Career plans: Plans on getting into entry-level HR after college and move up the ladder; goal to eventually become an HR manager

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

UNFORGETTABLE

Hayley Ahr Q & A

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023
What are your primary duties as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) vice president of leadership at Inver Hills?

My main jobs as VP of leadership are to help plan and run PTK events throughout the semester, as well as promote the great leadership development courses and transfer prep resources PTK offers!

How has your engagement with PTK helped you pursue your academic goals?

My engagement with PTK has given me many opportunities to expand my own leadership knowledge and capabilities, as well as help others find the resources to expand their own. Being able to expand on these skills has also helped me improve my own study skills and methods!

Three words that describe you as a college student:
BUSY. EXCITED. LEARNING.

What advice would you give students who meet the GPA requirements and are thinking about joining PTK?

I would 100 percent advise them to join PTK, even if they choose to not be very active. PTK has so many incredible resources for members both from an educational and financial standpoint that any eligible student can access—it is truly a great tool for college students.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

I would make gas free for everyone!


Carsten Berend

Carsten Berend

Phi Theta Kappa Vice President of Scholarship
Inver Hills Community College

Age: 17
Hometown: Richfield, Minnesota
Current residence: Richfield, Minnesota
High school and year graduated: PSEO student and homeschooled; graduating from high school spring 2024
Major and degree earning at Inver Hills: Associate of Arts (A.A.)
Extracurricular activities and clubs at Inver Hills: Phi Theta Kappa vice president of scholarship, Student Senate
Inver Hills planned graduation date: Spring 2024
Transfer plans after Inver Hills: Transferring to the University of Kansas with goal to earn a PhD in History
Career plans: Aiming to become a college professor

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

ENJOYABLE

Carsten Berend Q & A

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023
What are your primary duties as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) vice president of scholarship at Inver Hills?

I promote our scholarship programs to our members. I try to let our members know how and when to apply for a scholarship and how to navigate the PTK website, along with any task that supports the other officers and our goals.

How has your engagement with PTK helped you pursue your academic goals?

PTK has definitely helped with encouragement to continue to strive to be a good student and give 100 percent effort in all that I do. I plan to get a B.A. and then a Ph.D. and so I will need the inspiration and motivation to continue to be a student for a number of years. The support and encouragement I have received through PTK has given me the confidence to pursue all of my academic goals.

Three words that describe you as a college student:
JUST. KEEP. WORKING.

What advice would you give students who meet the GPA requirements and are thinking about joining PTK?

I would say just do it. It isn’t as scary as it seems. I was very worried I would be way out of my depth, especially as a high school student, but the chapter was welcoming and enjoyable to be a part of. Additionally, I would really encourage students to not only join, but to be an active member and even an officer.

It is really a lot of fun to be an active participant in the events, activities, and meetings. I am so glad I got involved right away and got to know my fellow officers and advisors.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

Eliminate climate global warming. Hopefully, switch most power sources to renewable energy. I don’t really know too much about the science, but I do know that it is one of the most important issues.

Although I must acknowledge that I am aware if we were to actually stop global warming in real life, it would take many steps to make corporations and governments comply. I also acknowledge that doing this in a capitalist economy would be very difficult. However, if I could snap my fingers and make it happen, that’s what I would do.


Rachel Volkert

Rachel Volkert

Phi Theta Kappa Secretary and Historian (Recording Officer)
Inver Hills Community College

Major and degree earning at Inver Hills: Business Transfer Pathway A.S.
Extracurricular activities and clubs at Inver Hills: Phi Theta Kappa secretary and historian (recording officer), Student Senate
Inver Hills planned graduation date: Spring 2025
Transfer plans after Inver Hills: Earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college (TBD)
Career plans: Eventually, run her own company
Other degrees, diplomas, and/or certificates: Interior Design A.A.S., Dakota County Technical College

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:

INTERESTING

Rachel Volkert Q & A

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023
What are your primary duties as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) secretary and historian (recording officer) at Inver Hills?

My primary duty as Phi Theta Kappa secretary and historian (or recording officer) is keeping a record of everything that happens involving our chapter. I also connect with students who are interested in joining and members with meeting reminders.

How has your engagement with PTK helped you pursue your academic goals?

Phi Theta Kappa has helped me pursue my academic goals by encouraging me to keep good grades and offering scholarship opportunities.

Three words that describe you as a college student:
ORGANIZED. HARDWORKING. TIRED.

What advice would you give students who meet the GPA requirements and are thinking about joining PTK?

My advice for students who meet the requirements and are thinking about joining Phi Theta Kappa would be to just do it and join. There are many great benefits and opportunities for those that do.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

If I could make one thing happen on Earth right now, it would be making everything affordable for everyone.

More about PTK…¹


What is Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society?

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) recognizes the academic achievement of college students and provides opportunities for its members to grow as scholars and leaders. Established in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa has a presence on almost 1,300 community college campuses in 11 nations.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recognized Phi Theta Kappa as the official honor society for two-year colleges in 1929. More than 3.8 million students have been inducted since 1918, with approximately 250,000 active members in the nation’s community colleges, making Phi Theta Kappa a true catalyst among members and colleges.

How do I become a member?

To join, you must receive an invitation* from the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at your college. The local chapter determines eligibility, and requirements can vary by chapter. Contact your college’s PTK advisor to determine if you are eligible.

Find your local advisor using the Advisor Search.

* If you have been invited already and received your pass code, you can accept membership HERE.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Be enrolled in an institution that has a Phi Theta Kappa chapter
  • Have completed at least 12 hours of coursework toward an associate or bachelor’s degree or at least 6 hours of coursework toward a 1-year certificate
  • Generally, have a cumulative 3.5 grade point average*

Once you’re eligible, you’ll receive an invitation (usually by mail or email) to join the chapter at the college where you’re presently enrolled. If you think you may be eligible for membership but haven’t received an invitation, talk with the advisor of your college’s chapter. Find your local advisor.

*A chapter may raise eligibility standards, as long as they are in accordance with the Society’s Constitution.

What are the benefits of joining?

RECOGNITION

  • Phi Theta Kappa Golden Key Membership Pin
  • Phi Theta Kappa Membership Certificate
  • Recognition during chapter induction ceremony
  • Opportunity to wear Phi Theta Kappa graduation regalia*
  • Official Phi Theta Kappa seal placed on your college diploma*
  • Notation of membership on your college transcript*
  • Letters of recommendation citing your membership
* Contingent on college policy

SCHOLARSHIPS

  • Up to $90 million in scholarships to help you complete your associate, bachelor’s, even master’s degrees
  • Access to $46 million in transfer scholarships offered by nearly 800 four-year colleges and universities across the country
  • Awards specifically for career-bound students, including some field-specific opportunities that cover the cost of certification exam fees
  • Leadership and service experiences that will boost your resume, making you more competitive for both PTK and non-PTK scholarships

CAREER TRAINING

  • Professional skills employers seek through our exclusive online Competitive Edge program
  • Navigate the job market with our one-of-a-kind PTK EDGE for Employment training course
  • Request personalized letters of recommendation for job applications

TRANSFER SUCCESS

  • Use PTK Connect to search for four-year colleges and universities that are transfer friendly and see the scholarships they offer community college students — including those exclusively for PTK members
  • Take the trickiness out of transferring and get advice from admissions pros through our exclusive PTK EDGE for Transfer online course

LEARN LEADERSHIP

  • Free access to our custom, nationally recognized Leadership Development Studies curriculum
  • Develop your own personal leadership philosophy inspired by classic leaders from the Humanities and today’s top thinkers
  • No textbook required — we use open source materials, so our curriculum is accessible to all
  • Practice your skills through leadership roles within your chapter, in service projects, and on campus

MEMBER BENEFITS

Learn more about Phi Theta Kappa at Inver Hills by contacting:

Kimberly Swinney
Director of Student Life
PTK Staff Advisor
651-450-3544

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD
Sociology Faculty
PTK Faculty Advisor

Tanya Smutka
Biology Faculty
PTK Faculty Advisor
651-450-3797

¹ SOURCE: Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Benefits
View PTK event photos by opening the Inver Hills Flickr album:

PTK and Psi Beta Induction Ceremony Fall 2023

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