The Middlesex College chapter of Phi Theta Kappa – Upsilon Gamma – has been selected to receive an Honors in Action grant in the amount of $1,000 to enhance its 2021 Honors in Action (HIA) project.
HIA is a program that combines academic research, problem solving and service to address real-world challenges in communities. Participating students gain job-related experiences while helping to create impact in their communities as they engage in their HIA activities.
For participating members, the ability to conduct and utilize research and apply it to service improves by leaps and bounds, according to Charlotte Quigley, director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships at Middlesex College and lead advisor for Phi Theta Kappa/Upsilon Gamma Chapter.
What’s more, she says, their HIA experience leaves a lasting impact on their leadership skills.
“It’s closing the loop in what they learn academically and then applying it to be able to really have an impact on their community. I think it’s eye-opening in many ways in understanding that what you’re doing is beyond you – academically and then making change in the communities that we serve and the communities that we’re part of,” she said.
The grant funds will support PTK students in conducting the research and service components of the project, and can be used in a variety of ways, such as to help pay for training, supplies or a guest speaker.
“Every two to three years, Phi Theta Kappa issues a wide variety of topics, identifying 10 themes. You pick within those themes and then drill down to arrive at a research project that involves service within that theme,” Quigley explained.
At Middlesex College, past HIA research projects include a focus on mental health disparities within the Perth Amboy area, reducing individual carbon footprint, and support for STEM education for elementary students.
The focus of this year’s HIA research project will be on challenges facing students who are parents of young children. Nathalia Allenza, PTK vice president of HIA at the College, elaborated on the difficulties student-parents like herself face while attending school.
“I have a baby who is 18 months old, but I can’t rely on the child care center on campus because she’s not of age. I want to be active on campus but it’s hard because I don’t have childcare. We would like to have a space on campus so parents don’t feel that they cannot engage in more college activities because they have children,” Allenza explained.
The grant is a first for the Middlesex College chapter, which has participated in HIA for the past six consecutive years.
It was thanks, in large part, to a strong application submitted by Allenza and the other members of the HIA team, Joysleen Morales and Kimberly Garcia, as well as faculty members Cristobal Espinoza-Wulach and Crystal Quillen, who helped refine the topic and ground the research question.
“We so appreciate your willingness to go above and beyond with your Phi Theta Kappa engagement to apply for the grant and are proud of the work you do at your college and in your community with your participation in a robust Honors in Action project. We can’t wait to hear and read about your Honors in Action adventures as you move forward,” Susan Edwards, associate vice president of Honors Programming and Undergraduate Research for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, told the Middlesex College HIA team in her announcement of the award.