Phi Theta Kappa

Phi Theta Kappa
Founded November 19, 1918
Stephens College
Type Honorary
Scope International
Motto International Honor Society of the Two-Year College
Colors      Blue and      Gold
Symbol Golden Key, Athena, Oak Leaves, Laurel Leaves
Flower White Rose
Chapters 1,250+
Members 3,000,000+ collegiate
Cardinal Principles ("The Four Hallmarks") Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Fellowship
Headquarters 1625 Eastover Drive
Jackson, Mississippi

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, also ΦΘΚ or sometimes PTK (see usage note), is the international honor society of two-year colleges and academic programs, particularly community colleges and junior colleges. It also includes Associate's degree-granting programs offered by four-year colleges. It is headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi and has more than 2 million members in more than 1,250 chapters, in each state of the United States, U.S. Territories, British Virgin Islands, Marshall Islands, Canada, Germany, Federated States of Micronesia, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Palau, and Peru.[1]

Phi Theta Kappa's mission statement:[2]

The purpose of Phi Theta Kappa shall be to recognize and encourage scholarship among two-year college students. To achieve this purpose, Phi Theta Kappa shall provide opportunity for the development of leadership and service, for an intellectual climate for exchange of ideas and ideals, for lively fellowship for scholars, and for stimulation of interest in continuing academic excellence.

Name origin and usage

Phi Theta Kappa has a name similar to, and is heavily based on, Phi Beta Kappa, which is an international honor society for universities and traditional four-year colleges. Phi Beta Kappa presidents have spoken at Phi Theta Kappa conventions, and the two societies have formed joint programs to encourage community and junior college graduates to advance to four-year institutions.

Although the acronym "PTK" is sometimes used informally, it is heavily discouraged by the society and is not permitted for official business. The only notable exception is the use of "PTK" in URLs, such as the official international website,, and similar regional and chapter websites. This is due largely to perceived disrespect for the institution by the shortening of the name, and also an attempt to prevent confusion with the Greek letters Rho Tau Kappa, or ρτκ, which look like the Latin letters for P, T, and K that do not truly correspond to the proper Greek letters Φ (Ph), Θ (Th) and Κ (K). Members who use "PTK" in speech at official events are typically corrected, and no written or printed materials using "PTK" can be released to the public.

Members of Phi Theta Kappa are known as Phi Theta Kappans; any other form of reference, such as "Kappans" or "Phi Thetans," is deemed an "incorrect usage" by the organization.[3]


The society was established in 1910 at Stephens College, a Missouri two-year women's college, under the name of Kappa Phi Omicron. The society grew quickly and, in 1918, it became known as Phi Theta Kappa and was organized nationally. In 1924, an amendment to the society's constitution was passed to include all two-year colleges, regardless of single-sex or coeducational status. In 1929, Phi Theta Kappa was officially recognized by the American Association of Junior Colleges and became the official honor society of two-year institutions. It has been regarded as an honorable organization that promotes a service-oriented member in the community and at large. It's now considered to be the largest honors society in the world.


The distinctive gold key membership pin was adopted in 1930 and is officially described by Phi Theta Kappa as follows:

The Key is a golden slab, keyed at the top and bottom. Across the center of the slab is a black enamel band upon which three Greek letters appear, which are the initials of three mystic Greek words meaning phronimon (Phi), thumos (Theta), katharotes (Kappa) and meaning "wisdom," "aspiration," and "purity."

Behind the band is a wreath, on one side composed of oak leaves, and on the other, of laurel. The wreath of oak leaves denotes stability and strength of character, and the curling leaves of laurel signify achievement and success. Above the band is a representation of the head of Athena, Goddess of Learning; in the base appear the mystic Greek letters meaning light, the light of learning and knowledge.


According to Phi Theta Kappa,also pay a one-time international membership fee, plus any chapter or regional dues that may apply. Thereafter, a Phi Theta Kappa member must maintain a high academic standing, generally a 3.5 GPA or higher, to remain a member in good standing.[1]

Members of Phi Theta Kappa have opportunities to receive some of more than $37 million in scholarships provided exclusively for Phi Theta Kappa members. Members in the United States are also eligible to participate in the All-USA Academic Team program, co-sponsored by USA Today, and by extension their own statewide academic teams. Members also receive automatic nominations to the National Dean's List and job postings exclusively for Phi Theta Kappans.

Finally, members have the opportunity to get elected as Chapter Officer, Regional Officer, and International Officer. All of those leadership positions help the students to grow as professionals. It provides them with experiences they will use as professionals in the future.[4]


Phi Theta Kappans participate in several gatherings each year, with the Annual Convention (also called NerdNation or the International Convention) generally held in early to mid-April. There have been a total of 92 international conventions for Phi Theta Kappa. International conventions take place in different areas of the United States each year. The 2008 convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at which some 3,000 Phi Theta Kappa members attended. The 2009 convention was held in Grapevine, Texas. Around 4,000 Phi Theta Kappa members attended. The 2010 convention was held in Orlando, Florida with over 3,600 attendees.[5] The 2011 convention was held in Seattle, Washington with more than 3,600 attendees representing more than 500 chapters.[6] The 2012 convention was held in Nashville, Tennessee with a total number of 4,030 attendees.[7] The 2013 convention was held in San Jose, California with 3,450 attendees. The 2014 convention was held in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World Resort, where a record 4,102 members attended. The 2016 convention was held in National Harbor, Maryland, where 3,876 members from 591 chapters attended.

At the international convention, Phi Theta Kappans recognize achievements by chapters for their work on an Honors in Action Project and/or College Project, as well as recognizing distinguished chapter members, officers, officer teams, advisors, and administrators. High scoring chapters are recognized as Distinguished Chapters. Elections for the five international officers are also held at the Annual Convention.

In addition to the Annual Convention, Phi Theta Kappans participate in the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Institute, a week-long meeting generally held in June. The Honors Institute features guests speakers and workshops relating to the current Honors Study Topic.


In recent years, Alumni Associations have become an integral part of the growth of Phi Theta Kappa. Although the oldest of the Society's Alumni Associations are college-based associations affiliated with existing chapters, the last years of the twentieth century saw the evolution of Regional Alumni Associations as a vehicle by which to increase alumni participation and support. Among these is Zeta of New York, the New York Region Alumni Association, which offers membership to Phi Theta Kappa Alumni residing in New York or who are alumni of a New York chapter. Chartered in 1996 under the Leadership of Founding President Paul "P.J." Cataline, Christopher Strang, and Rebecca Chapin, Zeta of New York, like other regional associations, has used the larger platform of the Regional Association to expand membership, increase programming, and provide broadened support of the New York Region and the Society. Since 1996, Zeta of New York has grown from 10 members to nearly 1,000 members. The Association provides substantial annual scholarships for college students and assists the Region in providing an Annual Convention, Honor's Study Weekend, and Leadership Retreats each year.

In the years since Zeta of New York chartered, other states and regions such as Carolinas Region (Alpha Omega), Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Nevada-California, New England, and the Middle States have followed suit and transitioned to Regional Associations.

Notable members


  1. 1 2 "Phi Theta Kappa Today". Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  2. "About Phi Theta Kappa". Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  3. "Proper Use of the Phi Theta Kappa Name". Retrieved on November 13, 2010.
  4. "Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship Opportunities". Retrieved on November 12, 2010.
  5. "Phi Theta Kappa 92nd Annual Convention, 2010 Highlights". Retrieved on November 13, 2010.
  6. "Convention 2011". Retrieved on March 8, 2012.
  7. "Convention 2012". Retrieved on March 8, 2012
  9. "COA student named to All-California Academic Team" (PDF). College of Alameda. 2001-04-02. Retrieved 2008-12-08.
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