Beta Rho Zeta, Northcentral Technical College's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, was recently recognized for their exceptional work in tackling loneliness on campus, earning several awards and acknowledgements at the regional and international levels.

A group of students at Northcentral Technical College (NTC) are doing what they can to combat loneliness.  

Beta Rho Zeta is NTC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, which is the official honor society for two-year colleges. College Project is an opportunity for students to work with administrators at NTC to address a challenge impacting the college community. In the fall of 2023, the student leadership team met with administrators to decide on an issue to address.  

“Our Chapter has a great relationship with administrators,” said Krista Reince, Student Development Coordinator and NTC Beta Rho Zeta co-advisor. “Sometimes students have ideas, and sometimes administrators have ideas. They work together to choose a topic that matters to NTC.”  

They chose to concentrate on addressing loneliness amongst students. The student leaders learned how damaging loneliness can be to one’s health; according to a report from the Office of the Surgeon General, a lack of social connection can be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  

“All Leadership Team members had some experience or opinions about feeling disconnected or lonely on campus,” said Anna Rydeski, Vice President of Scholarship for Beta Rho Zeta. “Further discussion with College Administration confirmed that this is an area that could be improved with student contributions.”  

NTC has so many great resources that already exist to help students connect, but it appeared that students didn’t know where to find them. Knowing this, the members of Beta Rho Zeta decided they wanted to gather all the various resources, including clubs, advisors and mental health resources, and compile them in one place to help students better access them. Once they had collected the resources, they created a website, Get Connected, with access to all of the information. The next step will be to distribute Get Connected stickers that contain a QR code that will direct people to the site. Eventually, the hope is that the information will be given to all new students as part of the onboarding process. The website can be found here: 

"I’m excited to see where this will take us and if this resource will be utilized by students to combat loneliness and feel more connected,” Rydeski said.  

Beta Rho Zeta also recently participated in Honors in Action, a Phi Theta Kappa program that helps students in the chapter to meet a need at their school or in the larger community. Students identify and research an issue on campus or in the community and then complete a project based on what they learned.  

The theme for 2023 was “The Art and Science of Play” and its importance, and members of Beta Rho Zeta chose to focus on the benefits and drawbacks of using video games as a coping mechanism for adolescents. Students started by conducting research, and then, to gather their own observations, they visited the Boys and Girls Club of the Wausau area.  

“Several students started the project with the mindset that video games have a negative impact,” Reince said. “They thought video games would be isolating and encourage violence.”  

What they actually saw was a different story.  

“Yes, there were kids playing video games, but they were doing it in collaboration,” Reince said. “They were talking, interacting and helping one another. They were collaborating in a really positive environment.”  

The students used their research and observations to create a handout with six tips for creating healthy video game habits. They plan to distribute the handout through the Boys and Girls Club and area schools.  

“Observing at the Boys and Girls Club shed some light on the positive ways that children and adolescents are interacting with each other via the use of collaborative video games like Minecraft,” Rydeski said. “We got to see kids of varying ages, genders, and interests coming together to experience a shared interest.”  

Beta Rho Zeta had a very successful year. Members of the chapter participated in the Phi Theta Kappa Wisconsin Spring Regional Convention in early March. All-Wisconsin Award recipients were Anneliese Berndt, Jean Drake, Isabella Fallos, and Megan Peddie. Beta Rho Zeta earned second place for the Distinguished Chapter Officer Team, which includes Arianna Bartoli, Trisha Dallman, Megan Peddie, Brendan Raboin, Anna Rydeski, Haley Satterfield, and Morgan Satterfield. The chapter earned third place for their College Project, first place for Honors in Action Theme 4: Architecture and Design of Play, first place overall for Honors in Action, and first place Distinguished chapter. Beta Rho Zeta has also been recognized as a 5-Star Chapter for the 11th time.  

In early April, several members of the chapter attended Catalyst, Phi Theta Kappa’s annual international convention, in Orlando, Florida. There, Beta Rho Zeta was named a Top 100 Chapter based on the hard work the students and advisors put in throughout the year.  

Students are eligible for Phi Theta Kappa if they have completed 12 cumulative credits and earned a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Those who join the society receive recognition at graduation and on their transcripts.  

“At NTC, I feel like it’s easy to spend most of your time on campus with members of your program or cohort and don’t always get the opportunity to branch out and meet new people,” Rydeski said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with students from across many different programs since I get to hear different viewpoints and skillsets when working on projects like College Project and Honors in Action.”  

Members are also eligible to apply for various scholarships from the organization; some of these scholarships can be applied at a two-year college, some are for transfer to a four-year institution, and some scholarships apply to the workforce; these scholarships can be used to help offset costs of transitioning to the workforce, such as uniforms, tools and equipment.  

Eligible students can join Phi Theta Kappa without becoming active at the local level, but Beta Rho Zeta offers a way for members to get involved at NTC and help make a positive impact. Being involved at the local level also helps students stand out in scholarship applications.  

“I see students who come in, not sure who they are or where they fit in, and start to build lasting relationships and friendships,” Reince said. “I see students transform from caterpillars into butterflies all the time.”