Phi Theta Kappa Year Was Like a ‘Championship’

Oct 24, 2010 by

The biggest headlines associated with colleges and universities these days are usually devoted to sports accomplishments and athletic rivalries.

And even though TJC did claim four national athletic titles during the year – that’s right, four in one year – those championships cannot match the feelings the year’s academic achievements brought to TJC, President Dr. Mike Metke said.
“I can’t tell you how proud I felt to be a part of a national conference and to hear TJC mentioned so many times for so many honors,” he said. “It was like winning the national championship in academics.”

Metke attended the American Association of Community Colleges conference in Seattle along with Phi Theta Kappa sponsors Gigi Delk and Dr. Alan Barnes and pre-nursing major Luke Bazil.

Bazil was one of 20 students to be named to the All-USA Community College Academic Team by Phi Theta Kappa and USA Today. His presence at the AACC convention was recognized at the President’s Breakfast. Bazil was
highlighted in an article in that morning’s USA Today and received a $2,500 scholarship.

The following day, Bazil was one of a handful of All-USA students selected to meet with Melinda Gates and other representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bazil’s honors were icing on the cake for the best year ever for Alpha Omicron, TJC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.

The honors accumulated during the year for Alpha Omicron and its students read like a lifetime achievement introduction.

In April, at the Phi Theta Kappa international convention in Orlando, Alpha Omicron was awarded a Service Hallmark indicating the chapter’s service programs and initiatives ranked in the top 25 in the nation, a Top 100 Chapters award and a 2010 Distinguished Chapter designation.

Chapter officer Darren VanMeter was named one of 30 Distinguished Members nationwide during the International Hallmark awards. Regional President Matt Oates was recognized for his leadership efforts, which resulted in Texas being named a 2010 Distinguished Region.

Bazil was named the state’s lone selection as Coca-Cola Foundation New Century Scholar, an honor that includes a $2,000 scholarship. And, Bazil and classmate Melanie Bishop were named the only Texas Guistwhite scholars. The Guistwhite scholarship program recognizes 20 students nationwide. Each Guistwhite Scholar is awarded a $5,000 scholarship for baccalaureate studies. Also, Bishop and Danielle Robinson were named Coca Cola Gold Scholars and will receive a $1,500 scholarship to continue their baccalaureate studies.

Gigi Delk helps Luke Bazil show the awards he earned during the April TJC Board of Trustee meeting.

In March, Bazil, Bishop, VanMeter and Robinson were selected Phi Theta Kappa All-Texas honorees. Each All-Texas selection receives an offer for a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Arlington.

Perhaps it is more than ironic that all four TJC All-Texas representatives were also nominated by TJC faculty to receive Promises to Keep scholarships last Fall. More than one hundred students were selected for Promises to Keep scholarships for the Spring semester, awards of $1,000 to assist with college expenses.

Bishop – whose husband, Ryan, was killed in Iraq in 2007 – describes the scholarship as “a blessing!”

“I was not able to receive my GI Bill for the Spring 2010 semester because I only had to take one class to graduate. I was able to pay my tuition and make the Dean’s List because of this scholarship.”

Bishop said her husband had recommended TJC to her. A 1996 graduate, Ryan Bishop had majored in surveying and mapping at TJC.

“I chose to be involved in Phi Theta Kappa because I lost my husband to the war in Iraq and I wanted to give back to the community and develop my leadership skills so that I could carry on the legacy that Ryan had left behind. I was excited to receive an invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa in Spring 2009.

My participation in Phi Theta Kappa led me to become chapter president, to the nomination and participation in the International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation on Medicine in South Africa last summer, and to receive scholarships such as the Guistwhite and Coca-Cola Gold Team, that will help pay for my university studies,” she said.

“One thing that really stands out: the TJC faculty and staff are incredible.”

“One thing that really stands out: the TJC faculty and staff are incredible.  Without the support of Judith Batemen, Gigi Delk, Betsy Ott, Rodney Whetzel,  Gene Branum, and Alan Barnes, I don’t know where I would be. I do know that I would not have accomplished so much without these wonderful people.”

Bishop plans to transfer to Austin College and major in biochemistry. Her goal is to become a physician and participate in genetic research.“I am proud to say that the students at Tyler Junior College are recognized on every level for their excellent academic preparation, for their commitment to community service, and for the exemplary leadership they display at the collegiate, community and national level,” said Gigi Delk, a long-time Alpha Omicron sponsor and professor of computer information systems and gaming and simulation development.

“There are over 1,200 Phi Theta Kappa chapters internationally, and the Alpha Omicron chapter at Tyler Junior College is consistently ranked among the top 25 chapters in the nation based on the chapter’s scholarship, leadership, and service activities.

“Our chapter has a rich history of community service, and an even richer monetary history of scholarships awarded for All-USA Academic Team members, Guistwhite Scholars, and Coca Cola Foundation scholars. Chapter members have received thousands of dollars in Texas STAR scholarships and Promises to Keep scholarships to continue their education at TJC, and many have received full academic scholarships or thousands of dollars in renewable scholarship funds to further their studies at prestigious senior universities.  Prospective students could not ask for a more nurturing environment for fostering academic excellence and world-class leadership skills than the vibrant student leadership experiences offered at TJC.”

Bazil, who worked as a paramedic during his TJC studies – often working shifts that ended after midnight – is grateful not only for the recognition and scholarships, but that he chose to become involved on campus.
“The main reason I originally joined Phi Theta Kappa was for scholarships,” he said. Looking back I am glad I did join, not just because of scholarships but because of the many friends I have made.  Before I became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, I really didn’t do anything or have any friends on campus. I would just show up to class and as soon as they were done I would be out of there.  Being in Phi Theta Kappa kept me a lot more involved with on campus things, community service, and gave me many opportunities to travel around Texas and the USA.”

Bazil praised biology professors Josephine Coursey and Dr. Lynn Gray for their academic preparation.

“They are the instructors who really motivated me and pushed me. Their classes were definitely the hardest I had to take, but were the ones that I enjoyed the most. They are awesome instructors and I just wish that I could have had them for more classes,” he said.

“Also, if it weren’t for Gigi Delk I wouldn’t have received half of the awards and honors that I have received.  She is an amazing person and I really don’t know how she does everything she does.”

Bazil is transferring to the University of Texas at Tyler, where he will apply the Guistwhite, New Century, and All USA Academic Team scholarships to further his education. He plans to major in nursing and complete his studies to become a nurse anesthetist.

“This group of Phi Theta Kappans has been not only been responsible and hard-working but also a tremendously fun group with which to work,” said Shannon Cross, Phi Theta Kappa sponsor and a TJC English professor. “Much of the praise for Alpha Omicron’s success goes to Gigi Delk, however. She is the driving force behind scholarship searches, leadership opportunities, service projects, and successful conference experiences.”

Fellow sponsor Dr. Alan Barnes agrees. “For me, the best part of being an advisor for Phi Theta Kappa is the time that I get to spend with the best students of Tyler Junior College,” said sponsor Dr. Alan Barnes, professor of English. “Some students are natural leaders, some are easy to guide to greatness, and others are strong-willed, but all come to love the organization and local chapter so much that they put aside their own agendas and work for the goals established by the national organization and local chapter. There is a legacy here, thanks to previous advisors like Lena Exum, Judy Turman, Cathryn Cates, Dennis Mayfield, and now Gigi Delk, who helped to make this organization special. It is an honor and a pleasure to be an advisor for Alpha Omicron.”


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Academics, Fall 2010, Features, Students

About the author

Fred Peters is the Director of Public Affairs at Tyler Junior College. He can be reached at 903-510-2627 or at fpet@tjc.edu