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College's Phi Theta Kappa chapter earns high honors at annual regional ceremony

March 17, 2021

Members of the Community College of Rhode Island’s Phi Theta Kappa Pi Omicron chapter brought home four awards at this year’s PTK New England Region Spring Convention, held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PTK is the national honor society for two-year colleges with more than 250,000 members nationwide, providing opportunities for students to grow as scholars and leaders.

Among this year’s noteworthy achievements, CCRI won the 2020 Most Distinguished Chapter Award in addition to earning designation as a 5 Star Chapter by the regional committee, honoring the college’s PTK members for their involvement during the pandemic, and Chapter President Alicia Vallette of West Warwick was named New England Regional President for 2021-22 after serving as Vice President of Leadership last year.

CCRI also won the Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award in addition to the Distinguished Honors in Action Theme Award for PTK's "Perceptions of Progress" and finished second in the Distinguished College Project Award.

The PTK New England Region serves 58 college-based chapters and all alumnae in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Regional winners in each category are automatically entered to compete at the PTK Catalyst 2021 international convention, which will be held virtually from April 8–10.

“This is a great accomplish by our students,” said English Professor and PTK Faculty Advisor Laurie Sherman. “Internationally, there are more than 1,000 chapters, so it’s stiff competition, but we did pretty well in the regionals among the more than 50 chapters that participated. I’m extremely proud of their effort.”

CCRI’s PTK members typically begin preparing for the annual conference a year in advance, said Sherman, but plans for the 2020 convention were temporarily derailed when the pandemic forced the cancelation of all in-person events at the college and prompted a switch to remote teaching and learning. The adversity, she said, brought the students closer together. They worked more efficiently during the pandemic, meeting frequently via Blackboard Collaborate, and submitted projects to the regionals for the first time in two years, according to Sherman, earning top-three finishes in two categories.

CCRI’s chapter won the Honors in Action Project Award for its look at the history and growth of the Knight Estate at the Warwick Knight Campus, following the PTK’s “legacy” theme. The project detailed the origin of the estate in 1830 as a home built for industrialist William Sprague II until it was purchased by the B. B. & R. Knight form in 1875 and eventually donated to the state of Rhode Island in 1964, eight years before CCRI officially opened its doors.

“We were always looking at the history of CCRI as our ‘legacy’ project,” Sherman said, “but it was a matter of what to do with it and what we wanted to say about it. I think the pandemic created a kinder, gentler topic in showing how CCRI truly has a legacy in all the things we do, such as Rhode Island Promise and our multiple campuses, and how it keeps changing and adapting, even during a pandemic.”

For the College Project Award, students worked to improve voter registration at CCRI prior to the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election as part of the ALL IN to Vote program, a subsidiary of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and its efforts to change civic culture and institutionalize democratic engagement activities and programs on college campuses. The students met virtually during the process with Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, the initial footprint in a long-term commitment to “increase CCRI voter participation among our students,” Sherman said.

Winning the Most Distinguished Chapter Award for the first time, Sherman said, validated the students’ effort to maintain a dominant presence on social media and within the community and promote continuous inclusion and activity among its members despite the cancelation of the chapter’s annual events.

The current members assisted their advisors in mailing tassels to last year’s graduated and created a video montage of messages by incoming members for CCRI’s virtual commencement in May. The Pi Omicron chapter also held its own virtual induction ceremony for new members in November.

Vallette, a former PTK New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar, earned the highest honor as the incoming Regional President. She has been the President of CCRI’s Pi Omicron chapter since December of 2018, joining Vice Presidents Maggie Quillin, Ryk McIntyre, and Julia Plante.

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