MUSCATINE, Iowa—As an honor society dedicated to recognizing high achieving community college students, most people familiar with Phi Theta Kappa associate it with students. At Muscatine Community College, their chapter of Phi Theta Kappa stays active with annual service projects to benefit the college and wider community and provides opportunities to recognize students who excel academically.
Each year though, Phi Theta Kappa chapters around the world take time to honor the community college presidents who create the academic and social opportunities students need to thrive and make a difference by presenting the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction to a select few. This year, Muscatine Community College President Naomi DeWinter will receive a Shirley B. Gordon Award in April at Phi Theta Kappa’s annual Catalyst Convention in Denver, Colorado. The award bears the name of Phi Theta Kappa’s longest serving board of directors chair.
Since starting as Muscatine Community College’s president in 2015, DeWinter has witnessed firsthand all the positive work Phi Theta Kappa has done. Over the years, their members have impacted the community and the larger world by volunteering to mentor students in the former Central Middle School’s Ricochet program and by sending holiday cards to United States service members deployed overseas. This year, members hope to improve Muscatine Community College’s sustainability by collecting food waste to take to the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center and working with a University of Iowa graduate student to draft a campus sustainability plan.
DeWinter has actively helped Phi Theta Kappa succeed by providing guidance to students as they explore causes that interest them and connecting them to the community members, college faculty and staff, area organizations, and resources they will need to put their plans into action. “I typically offer a few ideas and then the students decide which one best fits their interests,” DeWinter elaborated.
For example, to help students get started with their sustainability project this year, DeWinter assisted Phi Theta Kappa in setting up a tour of the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center so they could see how cities can put food waste to good use and how implementing food waste collection on campus could make a large impact with relatively little effort. DeWinter has also lent her support to their on-campus activities, particularly by attending their yearly new member inductions.
For community college presidents to receive the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction, students from their schools must nominate them for the honor. DeWinter represents just one of 13 presidents to receive the award out of the 617 nominated by numerous chapters this school year. DeWinter shared she felt, “very humbled,” that Muscatine Community Colleges put her forward for consideration. “There are amazing leaders across the country, and for MCC to be lifted up by our students, is fantastic,” she said. “We have awesome students here!” As an honorary member of Phi Theta Kappa herself, DeWinter looks forward to continuing to help the honor society thrive at Muscatine Community College.