Faculty member recognized by Phi Theta Kappa honor society

By Eric Devlin
Dr. Catherine Parzynski, a History Assistant Professor, was recognized for completing the training to become a five-star advisor to Alpha Kappa Zeta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society. Photo by Eric Devlin

Dr. Catherine Parzynski, a History Assistant Professor, was recognized for completing the training to become a five-star advisor to Alpha Kappa Zeta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society. Photo by Eric Devlin

A Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) faculty member was recognized recently for her work as an advisor to the Alpha Kappa Zeta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society for two-year colleges

Dr. Catherine ParzynskiHistory Assistant Professor Dr. Catherine Parzynski, of Hatfield, recently completed the training to become a five-star advisor to the group. She will receive a certificate and pin in her honor and be recognized at the national organization’s next annual convention in April.

Dr. Parzynski is originally from a small town in the Poconos called Madisonville, about 25 minutes outside of Scranton. She holds her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from Lehigh University. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the role of women healers in America over time from the colonial period to the Civil War.

She started at MCCC in 2000 as a part-time instructor and was hired full time in 2007. Dr. Parzynski is the current discipline coordinator for History and Political Science and the secretary for the faculty union.

Upon finishing the online PTK course to attain her five-star advisor status, she said she was incredibly proud and learned a lot about what her students go through in their leadership development courses as well.

“I think that was the biggest take away for me because now I understand how it feels for students to go through their leadership development courses,” she said. “When they do it, we are fortunate for our chapter in that we’ve always had students, whether they’re engaged officers or students who that we don’t necessarily meet at meetings who’ve gone through and taken these courses so that we can meet our five-star requirements. It was valuable. It reminds you what it was like to be a student.”

Maintaining a five-star status is important for a number of reasons, she said.

“I would argue that being a member of five-star chapter there are more opportunities for engagement,” she said. “There are hopefully more points of contact for getting recommendations or hearing about scholarship or internships. We try to get as much exposure for students and members to the benefits of PTK.”

Dr. Parzynski commended for years of service to PTKDr. Parzynski has been a co-advisor to the group since spring of 2008. When the opportunity first became available, she remembered how much fun it was as a student to be a member of a history honor society as an undergraduate and thought she could offer similar experiences to students.

“People have cycled in and out,” she said, “but it’s fun to get to interact regularly with the students.”

There’re two students she will always remember.

“The first president of PTK, a student president, his name was Michael Rosa,” she said. “There was a scholarship in his name. He passed away after his time at Montco. But his parents endowed a scholarship here. So, Michael was wonderful. That’s one end of the spectrum.”

The other was a student named Travis Ackerman, who now works as a principal in Arizona. He and Dr. Parzynski have stayed in touch through Facebook.  

Watching students grow and develop as leaders is something Dr. Parzynski said she enjoys most about advising the group and finds it rewarding to celebrate with students when they move on to the next phase of their lives. “It’s satisfying to think to yourself I had a little part in helping somebody go on to their next step,” she said.

Over the years PTK has led some incredible service projects. Dr. Parzynski said one year students collected Beanie Baby dolls and sent them to military members overseas to hand out to children in areas of active conflict. The organization once collected sandals for people in Haiti after an earthquake.

“We’ve done don’t text and drive,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of mental health projects, especially because of COVID. Students needed it because the world turned upside down. So, yeah, it’s fun.”

PTK students say Dr. Parzynski’s efforts have been tremendous and she deserves to be recognized.

“I will say Dr. Parzynski has been instrumental in getting everybody together and constantly telling us what is needed,” said Liberal Studies major Christina Smith, vice president of public relations for the chapter. She’s always going the extra mile to help students succeed not just for five-star status, but she really cares to reach every student’s greatest potential.”

“Dr. Parzynski really does care about the success of her students,” said Business Administration major Alayna Berkebile. “She’s helped with so many things. Within PTK, she’s been very diligent about making sure we plan our points of the star. What we have to do to acquire that status. She doesn’t make it seems like a chore. She’s the one who takes the brunt of the work and makes it as easy as possible for us.”

Baking and Pastry Arts major Katharine Boyle called Parzynski the “backbone” of the chapter.

“PTK is an opportunity to be with people striving academically and socially to make a difference in the world,” said Boyle. “Dr. Parzynski embraces that and helps us embrace that and we’re grateful we get the opportunity to do that.”

MCCC has two PTK chapters – Alpha Kappa Zeta at the Blue Bell Campus and Beta Tau Lambda at the Pottstown Campus. Both chapters have attained five-star status, the highest rank a chapter can earn. Dr. Parzynski and Dr. Cathy Hoult Shewring, History Professor, are the advisers for Alpha Kappa Zeta, and Douglas Powell, History Assistant Professor, and Meredith Frank, Communications Studies Instructor, are the advisers for Beta Tau Lambda.

To be eligible for the elite honor of being a PTK member, students must earn a minimum of 12 credits, maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and be of good moral character.

Invitations to potentially join PTK will be sent to students in February. The Alpha Kappa Zeta chapter will host its induction ceremony April 10 at 5 p.m. in Parkhouse Hall. For more information, contact Dr. Catherine Parzynski.