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Parkland Rocks It at Phi Theta Kappa Regionals!

A dozen Parkland students and I hopped into a Parkland bus and headed south to Frontier College and Mt. Vernon this past weekend. It was Phi Theta Kappa’s 2015 Illinois Regional Convention. This was the largest Parkland group ever to attend a regional or international meeting!  Phi Theta Kappa is the official honor society for two-year colleges. Membership is by invitation only, and to be eligible, students must complete at least 12 hours of 100-level coursework and have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale).

Proudly displaying our 2015 Regional Awards. Front row: Victoria Price, Kalista Lutes, Danielle Segerstrom, and Jenny Olmsted. Back row: Jordan Bidner, Megan Counter, Sarah Pawlicki, Danielle Carter, Courtney Davis, Ashley Eisenmenger, Lori Garrett, Erin Kristovich, Kyle Harriger.
Proudly displaying our 2015 Regional Awards. Front row: Victoria Price, Kalista Lutes, Danielle Segerstrom, and Jenny Olmsted. Back row: Jordan Bidner, Megan Counter, Sarah Pawlicki, Danielle Carter, Courtney Davis, Ashley Eisenmenger, Lori Garrett, Erin Kristovich, Kyle Harriger.

Along for the ride were our chapter’s four outgoing chapter officers: Jenny Olmsted (President), Kyle Harriger (Executive Vice President), Kalista Lutes (Vice President of Leadership), and Sarah Pawlicki (Vice President of Communications). We also had eight new members along for the road trip: Jordan Bidner, Danielle Carter, Megan Counter, Courtney Davis, Ashely Eisenmenger, Erin Kristovich, Victoria Price, and Danielle Segerstrom. Jenny and I each presented educational forums at the convention, some of us tried pork burgers (a southern Illinois staple), and on Saturday, we attended the regional banquet and award ceremony.

Alpha Psi Eta chapter had a really big night!  We received the following recognitions:

  • Five Star Chapter (this was announced at International, but we received the certificate at Regional);
  • Hall of Honor Chapter Officer Award for Kyle Harriger;
  • Outstanding Chapter Officer Award for Jenny Olmsted;
  • Regional Spirit Award for Jenny Olmsted;
  • Regional Leader of Distinction Award for Kalista Lutes;
  • Mary Anne Player Award for co-hosting, with Kankakee Community College, last year’s Illinois Region Honors Institute and Leadership Conference;
  • Illinois Advisor Continued Excellence Award for yours truly (I was the only Illinois advisor to receive this);
  • First place in the Regional Yearbook Competition (our yearbook was designed and constructed by Kalista Lutes, and the award gives us three free registrations to next October’s Regional Honors Institute and Leadership Conference);
  • Honors in Action Project Award;
  • College Project Award; and
  • Outstanding Chapter Award.

We have never received this many regional awards. The awards represent a year’s worth of complex programming and activities—a lot of hard work by the chapter officers and members. To add some perspective, there are 57 total chapters in Illinois (we include a few private and tech schools). Many chapters in Illinois receive no awards. Those that do are most likely to receive individual awards. Only 8-10 chapters receive regional chapter awards (Honors in Action, College Project, or Outstanding Chapter). Only five Illinois chapters—including us—received all three of these. The Outstanding Chapter award is based on a chapter’s combined scores for both Honors in Action and College Project awards.

All of our chapter officers but one graduated and are moving on, so the new school year will find us with an all-new officer team.  Phi Theta Kappa offers so many opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, and fun for its active members—who wouldn’t want to stay involved?  We will have some meetings and social events over the summer, including a summer sport social, and we are hosting a region-wide Leadership Development and Officer Training Academy at Parkland on July 17.  Even though I am off campus for the summer, Phi Theta Kappans keep me hopping!

I want to extend a special thank you to this amazing outgoing officer team and former chapter president, Amber Simmons, for all their hard work and for keeping me going during some extraordinarily trying times on the home front.  You guys ROCK—but I’ve told you that often and you each know how proud I am of you.

It’s been a great year!  If you want to see pictures from our experiences or follow us, you can find us on Facebook (Phi Theta Kappa ~ Alpha Psi Eta).  And if you are a Parkland student and you meet the eligibility requirements, why not embrace your inner nerd and join us?


[Top image: Copyright © 2015 by Phi Theta Kappa. All rights reserved. None of the official Phi Theta Kappa logos and emblems may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Phi Theta Kappa. Phi Theta Kappa has registered the name, logo, and various titles herein with the U.S. Patent Office.]

A Bee’s Life for Me


I am a beekeeper, but the truth is that beekeeping did not come naturally. When someone gifted me with a hive about seven years ago, I spent the first year being terrified every time I opened it.  Honey bees pick up very quickly on a beekeeper’s fear, so I knew I had to get over it.

When I started talking to my bees, I started to relax.  Then I started to listen. They were talking back through their buzzing.  Over the course of many conversations, my bees wrapped their tiny legs around my heart.  Today I talk to them every chance I get.

Being a beekeeper brings you into direct contact with nature.  You start looking at the world like a bee, seeing flowering plants and insects like you’ve never seen them before.  The weather becomes super important.  You know just by looking at the sky if it’s a good day to fly.

Beekeeping has also brought me closer to the land.  I maintain about 50 hives, so I need good agricultural landscapes for my bees.  The five farms around Champaign-Urbana where most of my bees reside are organic or natural farms far from conventional corn fields and deadly pesticides.  Like me, the farmers on these farms take pleasure in observing their bustling little charges at work among the flowers.

My company is called Second Nature Honey, and gourmet-infused honey has been my main product.  Chocolate honey is my most popular flavor, followed by honey infused with chamomile or hibiscus flowers.

This year I am partnering with Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch to implement a USDA grant to capture varietal honeys. I work closely with the Curtis beekeeper, Rachel Coventry, to improve pollination.  We use a microscope to examine pollen in honey to determine which plants they prefer to pollinate.

I love to teach beekeeping.  I teach at Parkland and at Common Ground Food Co-op.  Parkland is a great place to connect with beginning beekeepers and help them get started.  My students’ enthusiasm for the bees keeps me going!


Maggie Wachter is a master beekeeper and a certified honey judge. Her goal is happy, healthy hives all year long. Maggie’s expertise has led her into “Second Nature Honey”, an award-winning local business that specializes in gourmet honeys and mead making. Her beekeeping is based entirely on  sustainable and natural principles.

Check out Maggie Wachter’s bee classes in the 505, Community Education’s summer class listing.

Student Union Ribbon Cutting 2014: Live Updates!

Thanks so much for joining us for today’s celebration of the new Student Union!


FREE! Chair massages, photos with friends, food at Student Union! 4:50 p.m.



Beautiful group shot taken of entire crowd before refreshments and open house exploration begin, 4:35 p.m.group


Cutting the ribbon!



Dr. Thomas Ramage, Parkland College president
Dr. Thomas Ramage, Parkland College president

Dr. Ramage announces $2.1 million Title III grant awarded recently to Parkland College, 4:30 p.m.: “We’re very pleased to have won this competitive grant from the Board of Education.”


Parkland Student Government President, Abby Vanderkloot from Monticello, addresses visitors next: “Say goodbye to the cold pizza and hello to the stone ovens that bring out fresh hot pizza all week long. With all of this new space comes new opportunities for student success.”

Abby Vanderkloot of Monticello, Student Government President
Abby Vanderkloot of Monticello, Student Government President


Vice President for Student Services Linda Moore speaks to Student Union’s design flexibility and sustainability, 4:25 p.m.: “Look carefully today and you will see a lounge that converts to book buy-back space for the bookstore, and a conference room that converts to a stage.”

Dr. Linda Moore, Vice President for Student Services
Dr. Linda Moore, Vice President for Student Services


Senator Chapin Rose comments at 4:20 p.m.:  “What a wonderful, wonderful facility…and if you’re standing around looking up instead of at who’s speaking it’s because of this beautiful facility. We appreciate what Parkland has done for our entire region. Congratulations, Parkland.”


Board of Trustee Chair Tom Bennett gives official welcome, 4:11 p.m.: “We have stood firmly behind the concept of giving our students quality ‘elbow room’ as they learn within our walls.”


Parkland President Tom Ramage leads off the festivities, 4 p.m.: “Our Student Union shines as an example of what is best about Parkland College and its mission.”


It’s 3:59 and the Student Union lobby is abuzz with anticipation!


Stop by campus at 4 p.m. today for the big event! Check out this gorgeous new space,  take in some food, and get to know how Student Services units help students at Parkland.