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Leading By Example

Advisors d'Erizans and Maldonado with PTK students. (Credit: Stephen An)
Advisors d'Erizans and Maldonado with PTK students. (Credit: Stephen An)
October 25, 2012

BMCC is such a popular college that even non-students want to come here—well, at least for a weekend.

For the second consecutive year, BMCC hosted the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) New York Region Leadership Conference. PTK students and regional members from all over New York State attended. 

Participants met with guest speakers and engaged in workshops designed to teach and refine leadership skills.

Phi Theta Kappa is the official honor society for two-year colleges, as recognized by the American Association of Community Colleges. BMCC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa is called Alpha Kappa.

The conference was sponsored by St. Bonaventure University, which provided PTK students with tote bags, brochures, and pens, encouraging them to consider transferring to St. Bonaventure after graduating from their respective 2-year colleges.

“The best”

Dr. Sadie Bragg, BMCC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, spoke at the Leadership Panel. She was introduced to the students and guests by Alex d’Erizans, Senior Faculty Advisor for Phi Theta Kappa at BMCC. 

d’Erizans oversees the organization with assistance from advisors Acte Maldonado, John T. Means, and Zhanna Yablokova.

“I’m also here on behalf of BMCC’s President Antonio Pérez—we fully support PTK because you make things happen,” said Bragg. “All of you are leaders; we are delighted to have you here at our college. You are among the best.”

After officers from the New York Regional Team spoke about the perks of Phi Theta Kappa memberships, the first panel of the weekend got underway.

Leaders are “self-aware”

The opening panelists were Louis Oberndorf, Phi Theta Kappa Foundation member; Luke M. Davis, Associate Director, Regional and Chapter Development – Div. 1, Phi Theta Kappa; Dr. Alex d’Erizans, PTK Senior Advisor and Assistant Professor of History, and Victoria Dombroski (’12), Alumni Coordinator for PTK.

“My friend Antonio Pérez taught me about the importance of community colleges,” said Oberndorf, founder of METI, a world leader in medical technology used for educational purposes.

Oberndorf shared his advice about leadership and control.

“I think the real question is, how do you deal with failure? Because you’re going to have failure—none of us are perfect,” he said. “Knowing how to deal with failure is another step in becoming a leader. You don’t set out to be a leader, you become one.”

Oberndorf  also reminded students that every leader needs to be self-aware.

“And remember—arrogance is a pitfall of being a leader,” he said.

“Be humble”

Panelist Luke M. Davis, Associate Director, Regional and Chapter Development, Div. 1, Phi Theta Kappa, advised students to listen—carefully—when others speak, especially in a group forum.

“It takes a strong leader to listen; we don’t engage as much with others if we say, ‘Everything’s OK,’ or ‘I’m fine.’ Focus on others; people need to know others care about them. We all have to help each other succeed.”

D’Erizans agreed.

“One loses sight of the little things. Say ‘thank you, how are you?’ Building relationships is part of being a leader,” he said, adding, “a leader makes things happen in a profound and visible way. Learn about others—their strengths and weaknesses—and acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, which can be humbling.”

According to d’Erizans, being a leader also means, “having a vision and the confidence to make ahead with an action plan. But also realize you just can’t do it all.”

BMCC graduate Victoria Dombroski is a former PTK board member.

“I liked the public speaking tips I picked up from PTK,” she said. "Today, I’m much better at interviews and taking charge of tasks while remaining poised.”

More than grades

The panel moderator was Liberal Arts major Michael Guttentag, a PTK board member.

“Joining PTK was one of the best decisions I ever made—honestly,” said Guttentag. “PTK taught me how to multi-task. For me, time management is crucial, especially since I want to attend law school, where multi-tasking is key."

Part of the whole BMCC experience is "enhancing your social skills," added Guttentag.

“College isn’t just about grades, it’s also about meeting diverse people, and understanding how much the whole college experience matures you,” he said. "Being an active PTK member has taught me the importance of networking and how to bring leadership skills into the job market."

Business Administration major Romina Moyano agrees.

“Being active with PTK is great way to meet standout students while putting yourself in a better, stronger mindset to complete your academic goals,” she said. “I came back to school later in life, so I wanted to take advantage of everything PTK offered. I joined to better myself, to push myself, and I thought today’s panel was inspiring.”

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  • Panelists imparted career and life advice to students
  • PTK chapters from various NY-state community colleges traveled to BMCC

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