Category Archives: Phi Theta Kappa

a man smiling for the camera Ferdinando Castro Wins Hall of Honor Medal for Phi Theta Kappa

Congratulations to Ferdinando Castro, who recently won the Hall of Honor Medal for Phi Theta Kappa. He is one of seven students in Texas, which has a total of 55 Phi Theta Kappa chapters, to win this award.  

Ferdinando is an international student from Venezuela, speaks five languages, is a former professional athlete and completed 300 hours of service-learning last semester, earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award – Silver. This semester, he is going for gold, which requires completion of 500 service hours in a year. He is involved in 14 student organizations at Richlandhe is the SGA Region 2 Resolution Committee Chair who led the creation of several resolutions with fellow SGA members and he recently presented original research at the Richland Honors Conference on Gun Violence Prevention. Fernando will graduate in Dec. 2020 with the designation of Richland Honors Scholar, the highest honors designation available at Richland.  

“I am honored knowing that thousands of chapters in the nation apply for this award, and very few students are able to win it,” said Ferdinando. “Volunteering is important to me because I experienced what happens when communities do not support each other. 

When he lived in Venezuela, Ferdinando was a professional athlete in two different sports. His twin brother (a current Richland student) and his older brother (a former Richland soccer player and student) convinced him to visit them in Texas when the political and economic system in Venezuela started to fail and showed no signs of recovery. He resisted at first because he was living with his mother in Venezuela and playing soccer professionally, but his path became clear when a serious injury resulting from an illegal tackle ended his career. 

I regret that I was not involved in my communities back then, so I decided to take this opportunity as a chance to grow as a human being,” explained Ferdinando. “I do not want anyone to go through what my country is experiencing right now, and I will do whatever I can to ensure that it does not happen. I was not sure how to do so though, so my response was to join as many organizations as I could and volunteer for as much as it was possible. It turned out that I was able to do more than I thought I could, and in doing so, help others feel more motivated as well. So, it has become a passion for me and a fulfilling way of living. 

He is working hard to get the gold presidential volunteering service award this year to prove that an international student can get this type of recognition from the White House. He also thought it would look nice for the Hospitality, Exhibition and Event Management Club to have recorded hours of service to the community. His involvement led to many students and clubs wanting to be more active on campus and asking Ferdinando for advice on how to do that. Being an inspiration helped motivate him to keep trying. Finally, he loves volunteering because he always likes to aim to be better, and he loves a good challenge.  

Last semester, Ferdinando completed 275 hours of community service, and this semester he has more than 350 hours (and he is still doing some despite being quarantined). “I believe that now, more than ever, it is important to show that no matter the circumstances in which we are living, we can still achieve our goals; moreover, our communities need help more than ever,” he said.  

Ferdinando is currently pursuing his associate degree in Applied Science in HEEM at Richland College, where he expects to graduate in fall 2020. He then plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a meeting and event planner. “I plan to create events where people gather to share ideas on how to improve our world or to provide a better community service,” Ferdinando explained. “I am fascinated by how much human interaction can shape our world, by giving them a tool to have a better future. After earning my bachelor’s degree, my goal is to be able to work internationally and help as many other cultures as possible. I want to make an impact and create international events where we can ensure a better future for the next generations.” 

If there is one thing Ferdinando has learned, it’s that life is unpredictable. All he can do is focus on what’s ahead of him and take every opportunity that is available. He hopes that he can reach those who are feeling limited or hopeless and inspire them to take action 

“I was not aiming to obtain recognitions; I just wanted to be engaged in my communities and to give back to the institution that gave me a second chance in life,” he said. “Before I started this path, I was depressed, feeling alone in a country that seemed to despise my culture, and not knowing exactly what to do after losing everything I built. My goal was only to learn from my past mistakes and to help others, and in the process of doing so, I obtained so much more than I asked. I am now happy, full of wonderful people I can call friends all over the world, and I have a clearer objective in life. If I was able to do so, I guarantee you that anybody can as long as they take actions and stay authentic.” 

“We are thankful for Ferdinando’s engagement with Richland and the DCCCD and his influence on the entire state of Texas,” said Kathleen Stephens, honors program director. “His engagement has made our college, state and country a better place, and we can learn much from his example, engagement and excellence.” 

Congratulations to Ferdinando and thank you for all your service to the community! 

Headshot of Kay Eggleston Richland College President Honored at Richardson State of the City Address

Richland College and its president Kathryn K. Eggleston, Ph.D., were honored by Richardson mayor Paul Voelker during his Jan. 31 State of the City address as examples of the quality of education available locally in the Richardson area.

“[Eggleston] was one of 19 campus executives in the U.S. awarded last year’s Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction from Phi Theta Kappa, the world’s largest and most prestigious honor society for two-year colleges,” said Voelker. “The award recognizes educators who advance the goals of academic scholarship, leadership and service.”

This distinguished higher education award is named for the late Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, Phi Theta Kappa’s longest-serving Board of Directors chair. College presidents and campus CEOs are selected for this award based on outstanding efforts in promoting the goals of Phi Theta Kappa at their institutions. Nominees must have served as president at least five years at the current institution and demonstrated a strong level of support for Phi Theta Kappa during their tenure.

Along with Eggleston, Richland College was also recognized for being awarded more than $2 million in workforce training grants to support Richardson-based companies RealPage and Associa in delivering training programs to their employees. In addition, in support of Richardson’s “Telecom Corridor” legacy, Richland was credited for its exceptional science, technology, engineering, digital arts and math (STEAM) programs, particularly its partnership with Girls Inc. for an annual summer camp focused on young women to encourage them to pursue careers in robotics, digital arts and other STEAM-based programs. Also mentioned was Richland College’s vital role in college degree completion through its focused work with local primary and secondary school students and its dual credit course delivery in local high schools, which was expanded last year to include a study abroad program in China.

Richland College President Receives Shirley B. Gordon Award from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
Dr. Eggleston on stage waving at the crowd after accepting her award

Richland College president Kathryn K. Eggleston, Ph.D., recently accepted the Phi Theta Kappa Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction at the annual Phi Theta Kappa convention in Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Phi Theta Kappa.

Richland College president Kathryn K. Eggleston, Ph.D., was one of nineteen presidents/campus CEOs awarded the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction at Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention in Nashville, Tenn., Apr. 6-8.

College presidents and campus CEOs are selected for this award based on outstanding efforts in promoting the goals of Phi Theta Kappa at their institutions. Nominees must have served as president at least five years at the current institution and demonstrated a strong level of support for Phi Theta Kappa during their tenure.

The award is named for the late Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, Phi Theta Kappa’s longest-serving Board of Directors chair. Gordon was named Phi Theta Kappa’s Most Distinguished College President in 1984.

Following acceptance of the award, Eggleston said, “I am honored to be recognized as a national recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s 2017 Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction for advancing the goals of academic scholarship, leadership and service among Richland College’s outstanding honor students. I am proud to note that Richland’s Alpha Alpha Xi Chapter continues to sustain annually its Five Star Chapter rating, the highest level of accomplishment by college chapters.”

In addition to the Shirley B. Gordon Award, Eggleston was also recently inducted into the Texas Hall of Honor for Chief Executive Officers for the Texas region of Phi Theta Kappa for her and Richland College’s outstanding support of Phi Theta Kappa.

Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society for community colleges. Founded in 1918 to give prestigious recognition to students with excellent scholarship and character, Phi Theta Kappa has always maintained fidelity to its founders’ commitment to provide enrichment in four hallmarks: scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. Phi Theta Kappa features some of the nation’s finest educational programs for community college students.

Richland College’s Phi Theta Kappa Alpha Alpha Xi Chapter was recognized as a 2015 Top 100 Distinguished Chapter at the International Level, was the 2015 8th Most Distinguished Chapter in Texas Region and was the 2015 Most Distinguished Chapter for Honors in Action Theme 3: Quest for Human Expressions. In 2017, chapter secretary Elizabeth Mareesa won a “Distinguised Member” medallion at the Phi Theta Kappa Texas Regional Conference.

For additional information about Phi Theta Kappa at Richland College, visit

Richland College Student Named Undergraduate Transfer Scholar by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently announced that Richland College student Muaz Mohammed is one of 75 outstanding community college students with financial need nationwide to be awarded its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

The Cooke Foundation received more than 2,300 qualified applications for this year’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarships. The scholarship is worth up to $40,000 annually and is awarded to scholars with strong records of achievement as shown by grades, leadership, skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Muzak Mohammed standing outsideAt Richland College, Mohammed was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honors society for community colleges, completed the Student Leadership Institute in the fall of 2015 and served as the vice president of membership/public relations for the Honors Student Organization. While Mohammed has not yet made a decision on which four-year institution he will attend this fall, he is strongly considering Southern Methodist University.

“[Mohammed] is always excited about learning, and he shows this enthusiasm through his high grades and participation in honors classes,” said Kathleen Stephens, Ph.D., coordinator of the Richland College Honors Academy. “Muaz’s excellence in academics was recognized through his being awarded an honors scholarship in the fall of 2015. These scholarships are highly competitive and selective. Only 8 scholarships were awarded from our roster of 470 honors students in the fall of 2015.”

The Cooke Foundation scholarship is the largest private scholarship in the nation for students transferring from two-year community colleges to four-year institutions that award bachelor’s degrees. In addition to funding college costs not covered by other financial aid, it also offers academic advising, stipends for internships, study abroad and opportunities to network with other Cooke Scholars and alumni. Upon the completion of a bachelor’s degree, each Cooke Scholar is eligible to apply for a graduate school scholarship worth up to $50,000 annually for up to four years.

Since 2000, the Cooke Foundation has awarded approximately $147 million in scholarships to more than 2,000 students and $90 million in grants to organizations that serve outstanding low-income students.

Phi Theta Kappa chapter inducts fall members
Elizabeth Kennickell

Elizabeth Kennickell

At the conclusion of the fall 2012 semester, the Alpha Alpha Xi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Richland College inducted 284 new members, many of whom are the first individuals in their families to attend college. Phi Theta Kappa is the national academic honor society for two-year college students and institutions. In addition this semester, Alpha Alpha Xi member Elizabeth Kennickell was nominated for the prestigious All-USA/Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team programs.

RLC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, advisor honored at convention

Larry Polk

The Alpha Alpha Xi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) at Richland College received the following awards at the 2010 PTK Annual Convention: Top 100 Chapter and Distinguished Chapter Advisor Award – Larry Polk.

This year, more than 400 chapters competed for PTK’s most coveted awards. The Hallmark Awards Program is the Society’s capstone awards competition annually recognizing excellence in programs that promote the PTK hallmarks of scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. Exceptional members, officers, advisors, college administrators and chapters are recognized annually at the convention for their achievements. Complete lists of awards winners as well as award category descriptions are available here.

About PTK
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society is the largest honor society in American higher education with 1,250 chapters on college campuses in the United States, Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions.

This week’s RLC update – Former T-duck works at the White House

Student Success – There’s a Thunderduck in the White House. Former Richland student Keome Rowe is serving in the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. During his studies as a first-generation college student at Richland from 2004-08 and a LeCroy Scholar, Keome had a history of success as he was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) in April 2005 and served as PTK Texas District II Vice President in 2007-2008. He transferred to Texas Christian University on full scholarship, and has also served as an intern for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

This week’s RLC update

Institutional Effectiveness – The Thunderducks soared this week at the Malcolm Barldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) Quest for Excellence Conference, White House-sponsored 2007 Award Ceremony, and 20th Anniversary MBNQA Gala. RLC President Steve Mittelstet helped kick off the national celebration with 20th Anniversary best wishes from the public and private K-16 education sector.  Vice President Kay Eggleston was a Special Topics co-presenter with Cargill Corp. and Bronson Healthcare on Applying for the Award. Planning, Research and Institutional Effectiveness Dean Fonda Vera and Directors Gloria Washington and Bao Huynh represented RLC/DCCCD and the education sector throughout the conference. In a national  academic research study of high-performance institutions, Dr. Mittelstet was interviewed for 4 1/2 hours regarding Richland’s performance excellence model, with specific interest in how RLC’s deployment of sustainable community building throughout its operations and curriculum might help infuse all seven MBNQA categories more explicitly with expectations of sustainability’s triple bottom line:  social equity and justice, economic sufficiency, and healthy environment. In Dallas, immediately prior to the conference, RLC hosted leaders of Yale College, recipient of the Welsh Quality Award, exploring potential partnerships in performance excellence and joint curriculum, similar to that between RLC and Saratov State University.

Community and Economic Development – Richland Humanities hosted its Fifth Annual Carnival of Steel and Caribbean Steel Band Music Festival on April 19. Hundreds of community members enjoyed inspiring performances by the Richland Steel Band and World Drumming Ensemble, the Midwestern State University Caribbean Steel Band, the Plano Sr. High School Pan Cats, the North Garland High School Steel Band, the Shields Elementary School Steel Band (Red Oak, TX), the Krum Texas High School Steel Band, and a professional group called Island Groove. The day-long outdoor festivities concluded with a Caribbean Carnival costume parade. The festival was directed by Joe Perea, Richland’s Director of Instrumental Studies, and assisted by numerous Richland music student and Emeritus volunteers.

Student Success – Richland Chronicle Photo Editor Tambra Sanders recently won Best of Show in the Photography Department’s Student Photo/Imaging Exhibition. In addition, Tambra and Tasleem Khan won Third Place in the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association (TIPA) Two-Person Photo Essay live competition on April 3, competing against junior and senior photojournalism majors from every major public and private university in Texas.  While at the TIPA convention in College Station, Tambra was elected TIPA’s parliamentarian.

Employee Success – At last week’s National Conference on Sustainability for Community Colleges, Richland’s Chief Sustainability Officer David Henry, GREENRichland Co-chair Eddie Hueston, and Academic Enrichment Dean Carole Lester led a session entitled GREENRichland: Building Sustainable Local and World Community. David also served on a panel with Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Director Walton and Lane Community College President Spilde on the national beta test for the AASHE STARS (Sustainable Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System), in which Richland and the DCCCD District Offices are participants. Dr. Mittelstet — serving as the national director for the Wingspread-hosted initiative co-sponsored by the Continuous Quality Improvement Network, League for Innovation, AACC, and CCSSE, entitled Sustainable Community Building: A 21st-Century Vision for Community and Technical Colleges — networked with leaders of these groups in advancing this multi-institutional partnership initiative.

Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS) seniors Megan Erickson and Melanie Weller and RCHS junior Katie Bierschenk  were three of the 12 members of Richland’s Alpha Alpha Xi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa who recently journeyed to the 90th Phi Theta Kappa International Convention in Philadelphia to bring home top honors in a number of categories. As President of the Texas Region of Phi Theta Kappa, Katie is also believed to be the first dual-credit and youngest Phi Theta Kappa regional officer. RCHS PTA President Fred Henley and the fund-raising and planning committees, hosted RCHS’s first junior-senior prom this past Saturday at the Texas Woman’s Museum in Fair Park. Principal Kristyn Edney, Deputy Superintendent David Canine, Superintendent Mittelstet, and the entire RCHS staff helped PTA volunteers chaperone the festive event.

This week’s RLC update

Institutional Effectiveness – At its national convention in Philadelphia last week, AACC announced two new publications that included prominent references to Richland. President Steve Mittelstet was among the authors hosted for a book signing event at the AACC Exhibit Hall booth. Richland is one of 13 community and technical colleges featured in the Roueches’ The Creative Community College: Leading Change Through Innovation. Chapter six, “Richland College: Whole People, Whole Organization, Whole Lot of Fun,” was authored by Dr. Mittelstet. Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan’s The Hiring Game: Reshaping Community College Practices describes 30 innovative hiring strategies at eight community colleges (Cascadia, Central Piedmont, Cuyahoga, DCCCD, Humber, Richland, Springfield, Valencia), based in part on interviews conducted by Richland Executive Dean of Humanities Sherry Dean of Steve Mittelstet (Richland) and historical perspective from earlier DCCCD leaders Don Rippey (El Centro), Byron McClenney (Eastfield), and Monique Amerman (Mountain View). Featured in the winning strategies are the DCCCD Visiting Scholar program and Richland’s getting the right people on the bus cultures/values interview strategy and hiring non-negotiables approach.

Community and Economic Development – At Sen. Florence Shapiro’s request, Dr. Mittelstet gave testimony earlier this week in San Antonio to the Joint Select Committee on Public School Accountability. Dr. Mittelstet reinforced the value of dual credit as an important strategy in closing student retention/success gaps in seamless P-16 education. He stressed the need for business-chamber-university-K-12 partnerships with community colleges to address not only accountability for student retention and transfer but for offering what the community and workforce need. Dr. Mittelstet’s two partnership examples were the community partnership which led to the creation and early successes of the Richland Collegiate High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering (RCHS) to meet local workforce needs for engineering, computer science, and other engineering-related careers; and the community partnership now underway in the creation of the new Richland College Garland Campus, which will also house Chamber of Commerce and Dallas County Manufacturing Association partners (and related conversations about a potential Career Pathways ISD High School Academy that might be housed at Richland’s new Garland Campus, benchmarked off RCHS successes and linked to Garland’s workforce development needs).

Student Success
– Richland’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Chapter took numerous honors at the recent AACC convention in Philadelphia, including being named to the Distinguished Top 25 Chapters and Leadership Hallmark for outstanding leadership programs. Richland international student Dharmesh Patel was one of 20 students named to USA Today’s All-USA Community College Academic First Team for which he received a $2,500 cash award. His application also judged Best in Texas earned him a $2,000 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar scholarship, and he was also awarded the $5,000 Guistwhite Scholarship. Richland PTK member Keome Rowe was first runner-up in the PTK International Presidential election and was named Distinguished Regional Officer. Richland PTK Advisor Aliene Pylant won the Paragon Award for new PTK advisors, and Richland PTK Advisor Larry Polk was elected Secretary of the Association of PTK Chapter Advisors.

Employee Success – Board Trustee Kitty Boyle and former Trustees Jerry Gilmore and Pattie Powell joined in Richland’s recent Exalted Order of the Snowy White Fillet festivities to celebrate the longevity of the order’s newest inductees. Twenty-three Richlanders were honored for their 10 years of service; six for 15 years; 8 for 20 years; five for 25 years; one for 30 years; 10 for 35 years; and Vice President for Business Services Ron Clark was honored for his 40 years of service to Richland and El Centro.  Snowy White Fillet members Sandy Hawkins and Helen Noble each delivered a testimonial roast describing how being a member of the Exalted Order of the Snowy White Fillet has changed their lives. Former Trustee Powell delivered her testimonial in a commemorative poem she composed.

Sen.Florence Shapiro, accompanied by DCCCD Chancellor Wright Lassiter and Justin Lonon, spent nearly two hours last Friday interacting with Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS) students, parents, and staff, after a tour of facilities by Superintendent Steve Mittelstet and an introduction of staff by RCHS Principal Kristyn Edney. Sen. Shapiro was very attentive in hearing from RCHS students, PTA members, and high school leaders about the differences between Advanced Placement and Dual Credit and the need for the legislature and TEA to “even the playing field” regarding incentives to high schools for offering Dual Credit, at least equivalent to the incentives currently provided for offering Advanced Placement. She was enthusiastic about what she learned and indicated she would assist community colleges in the next legislative session regarding dual credit offerings.

This week’s RLC update

Institutional Effectiveness – Oscar Lopez, Dean of Admissions, Advisement, and Registration, served on an AACC Convention panel presentation, “Putting into Practice: Hispanic Community College Success.” The session focused on research and campus practices that lead to student success, as well practices that cause barriers to retention for Hispanic students. Oscar was joined by a university researcher and another community college administrator, and together they offered hands-on experience in increasing and promoting success and retention among Hispanic students. Also at the AACC Convention, Richland’s Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness Kay Eggleston described Richland’s Baldrige-based practices toward becoming a diversity-competent institution in a presentation entitled, “Diversity: Meeting Multiple Expectations.”

Community and Economic Development – Thomas Adams, Multicultural Center, and Jean Carter, Educational Transitions, recently spoke to about 30 Conrad High School refugee students and staff from the Dallas ISD Fair Oaks Youth and Family Center about the advantages of a college education. The refugee students in attendance represented countries including Thailand, Eritrea, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, and Hasasimari. Richland’s Teacher Preparation Institute recently hosted 120 GISD high school students, all interested in becoming educators, who participated in an information session covering the Educational Personnel program and a tour of the campus.

Student Success – Richland student Doris Brogan was named winner of the 2008 Eleanor Fordham Jones Award in Creative Writing, presented annually to an outstanding DCCCD student who excels in prose or poetry composition. Doris has twice served as editor of Richland’s award-winning Parallax literary magazine and has been honored nationally by Phi Theta Kappa for her poetry. The staff, writers, and artists of Richland’s Parallax also collected seven Texas Intercollegiate Press Association (TIPA) awards during the recent TIPA convention, with revised judging categories placing Parallax in more direct competition with larger school publications in which they received three first place awards, two second place awards, one third place award, and an honorable mention. The Richland Chronicle and KDUX Web Radio students also won 18 awards at the TIPA convention in categories in which four-year universities compete. The awards include Amy Michelle Leverett’s third place for a KDUX Web Radio story on Richland’s Gaming program, (the only reporter from a community college to earn an award in a previously broadcast radio category). The online Chronicle staff, led by Editor Robin Everson, earned an honorable mention for best interactivity. Chronicle reporters also earned two first place, one second place and three third place awards, and ten honorable mentions, competing in a division that includes UT-El Paso, UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American, Texas State, Stephen F. Austin, and Sam Houston State universities.

Employee Success – Zarina Blankenbaker, Richland’s Dean of Adjunct Faculty and Teacher Preparation, was appointed to the Board of the National Asian Pacific Islander Council (NAPIC) as President-Elect during the AACC Convention in Philadelphia this week. Richland is a founding member of NAPIC, an affiliate of AACC serving as a national body within which Asian/Pacific Islander constituents of community colleges can affiliate and identify in the interest of more effective leadership and education for Asian/Pacific Islanders. Also, Richland Academic Enrichment Dean Carole Lester served as an AACC Convention session panel member on the topic of Contemporary Film & Curricula for a Diverse World: Discover ITVS Community Cinema & Classroom, a new resource for community colleges in which Independent Television Service’s (ITVS) Community Classroom video content from the PBS series Independent Lens is incorporated into innovative curriculum modules to support service learning and community outreach.

The following Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS) students have been accepted to SMU with junior status: Fatima Quadir, Mariam Abushanab, Razan Hamideh, Cindy Trujillo, Alaha Khalil, Mafaz Sadoun, Justin Pham, Melanie Weiler, and Ishan Yassine. These students were awarded a total of $1.1 million in SMU academic scholarships, bringing the total to date to $1.8 million in RCHS student university transfer scholarships.