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Honor society adviser named PTK faculty scholar

Nov. 13, 2013

Laurie Sherman Laurie Sherman

Associate Professor of English Laurie Sherman said she wasn’t planning on getting into academia more than 20 years ago when she accepted an adjunct position at the Community College of Rhode Island. She had just finished her graduate studies at Boston College and moved back to her home state when the opportunity came up, and she “just sort of fell into it.”

Her involvement with Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year college students, came about in a similar way: A colleague approached her with the opportunity to become one of the organization’s advisers, and she accepted. Like her commitment to teaching, her commitment to PTK has grown over the years; recently, the organization named Sherman one of 26 faculty scholars for 2014.

“I was thrilled,” she said of learning that she had been chosen after the society’s rigorous application process, which required her to write and submit essays on this year’s PTK Honors Study Topic, “Frontiers and the Spirit of Exploration.” “I’m so honored to be chosen. Even as an English teacher and a writer, you have that anxiety: ‘Was my essay good enough?’”

Evidently, Sherman’s work spoke for itself. In addition to describing her own teaching style, which she notes is more conversational and interactive rather than formal and lecture-based, she wrote about what a future would look like in which humans lived to be older than 100. In her essay, she balanced the pros and cons of ultra-longevity: “I think it would be kind of wonderful, as long as you could deal with the financial challenges and medical problems that come along with old age,” she said.

According to a release from PTK, the scholars who were chosen all demonstrated excellence in teaching as well as the desire to surpass the traditional duties of an adviser. The group will continue to contribute by participating at the annual Faculty Scholar Conference in the British Virgin Islands this winter, where they will prepare to serve as facilitators for the society’s Honors Institute, which will be held in St. Louis next summer. During the Honors Institute, the scholars will lead groups of students in seminar discussions on the aforementioned topic.

This distinction, and the responsibilities that come with it, are a natural fit for Sherman. She said she enjoys advising the PTK inductees, which number between 75 and 120 each year at the college, about the opportunities that their PTK credentials can create for them as they move forward in their academic lives. Sherman said that each year, PTK awards $40 million internationally in scholarships – closer to home, for instance, students can automatically receive $7,500 off of tuition at JWU upon transfer, or $2,500 at URI.

And then there is the satisfaction that comes with being rewarded for valuing the life of the mind. There is a GPA requirement of 3.75 to be inducted into the organization, and the service and learning opportunities that students gain through the group expose them to other high-caliber students throughout the region.

“Some of our students are just so smart and thoughtful and can really prosper and grow in an academic environment, and I think sometimes these students can feel overlooked. It’s a nice thing to have where students can get together and share their ideas,” she said.

Apart from the intellectual opportunities PTK affords, Sherman said that the college will offer an honors colloquium this spring titled “The Culture of Competition” where students can engage in the seminar-style academic exchange of ideas that Sherman promotes in her own classes.


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Last Updated: 1/31/14