Community college, often mistaken for a pit-stop in the education career journey, has much more “college experience” to offer than one may think. The experience factor is advertised by large, four-year schools who have larger budgets, but community college has emerged as the “diamond in the rough,” in terms of school experience. What better way to feel a part of an institution than get involved with a club, sports team or honor society. Raritan Valley Community College is home to an internationally recognized chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. PTK has just under ten officers and advisors who have dedicated this year, and semester, to tackling the Honors in Action Project.
The RVCC chapter, Alpha Epsilon Pi, will complete their Honors in Action Project by Jan. 25 for the “How the World Works: Global Perspectives” honors topic. All projects will be judged April 2018, at the PTK International Conference, held in Missouri. “PTK does amazing work every year and our chapter is often recognized at the international level for their projects,” said Russell Barefoot, RVCC’s director of student life. This will be the first year that PTK officers and RVCC students, Lena Hadler and Brooke Crane, attend the international conference. The collaboration between student officers, advisors, and volunteers is one of the key hallmarks practiced by PTK. “We have strong supportive advisors, in Dr. Steve Schwartz and Dr. Sarah Banfield, who give them direction each year and support them to become an award winning 5-star chapter consistently year after year,” Barefoot explained. The hallmarks that the Honors in Action Project will embody are scholarship, leadership, service, and fellowship. The strength of both the RVCC community and PTK is apparent through the efforts going towards the Honors in Action Project.
Alpha Epsilon Pi’s current president, Lena Hadler, along with fellow vice president of secretary and membership, Brooke Crane, explained in detail the theme that this year’s Honor in Action Project would entail. Like many great ideas and inventions, the settlement on a theme was partially by accident. Once the theme of beauty and vulgarity was chosen, extensive research and a plan to execute their theory, that there isn’t a clear definition of what beauty is, commenced. “There shouldn’t be [a definition of beauty] because every single culture, every single location, thinks about things differently,” stated President Lena Hadler. The group plans to filter out these differences in opinions by use of three specific kinds of research. “We want to explore if people view beauty and vulgarity subjectively,” continued Brooke Crane. The three methods of research are a survey, a question and answer session with a panel of experts, and an art show field experiment.
“For example, we created a survey with pictures of people and art, like graffiti, sculptures, and other varieties. We have three different versions, one is the neutral, which has no information on who drew it or who the person is. The second has a positive bias and the third has a negative bias. If you see a picture of a person, and the description says that person is a bank robber or a murderer, how does that affect your perception of whether the person is beautiful or not,” explained Hadler.
The panel of experts, from different departments at RVCC, will be gathered to talk about the influence beauty and vulgarity has in their areas of expertise. The pool of experts is made up of RVCC professors, who will each have a chance to speak, followed by a question and answer session with the audience. This public event will be held on Nov. 21 in the RVCC atrium, during college hour. There will be Professor Lauren Braun from the history department, Professor Jennifer Pearce-Morris from the sociology department, Professor Deborah Corbett from the psychology department, Professor J.C. Svec from the film production department, and a representative of the art history department. With their survey research based on description, and the impact of that description, PTK’s panel of experts will allow for a more detailed explanation of what factors into how people interpret these descriptions, focusing on certain areas of study.
One specific topic that both PTK officers expressed interest in was the perception of beauty and vulgarity, in regard to tattoos and piercings. This practice, and culture, is moving further away from its negative meaning and becoming an accepted form of self-expression. Crane explained that along with the idea of body art, PTK would factor in graffiti and other art forms, and question if the placement of these result in a different score on a one to ten, beauty/vulgarity, continuum. The argument being that cultural ethics are a determinant of beauty and vulgarity, and that, “perception changes by the information you’re given by generation, as well as what your background is; like what your story is, and what your experiences are,” said Hadler. In using art, PTK is able to suspend one bias people may hold, based on an algorithm of facial symmetry, and focus on bias influenced by one’s own country view and the influence of western ideals.
PTK has an active presence, and constantly hosts events, on the RVCC campus. One of the more recent contributions was PTK’s involvement in the College Completion Project, displayed at their “Just for the Health of It” day, Oct. 18. PTK’s goal for this year is to get more people involved with their honor society, including current members and new students. Strength of community is just one of the many values of PTK. Crane found that, “PTK brought attention to education and the value it has,” for involved students. Crane stated that joining PTK was “life changing” for her, because, “I personally believe that if somebody is educated they have more power over their own lives…they’re given more knowledge about the world and they are stronger individuals because of that…for me PTK acknowledged that.”
PTK asks for any and all volunteer involvement from the RVCC community to aide in the completion of this year’s Honors in Action Project. President Lena Hadler and Vice President of Secretary and Membership Brooke Crane both encourage students to reach out to either of them concerning art for the art show, volunteers for setup of the panel question and answer session on Nov. 21, and those who are interested in joining Phi Theta Kappa. Contact information is listed below.
President, VP of Scholarship & Service, Alpha Epsilon Pi Email: email@example.com
VP of Secretary & Membership, Alpha Epsilon Pi Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited by Garrett Cecere