PRCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Chapters Secure Top Honors at Worldwide Catalyst Event

May 25, 2023

Pearl River Community College’s Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society chapters returned from the annual Catalyst conference with a plethora of awards and distinctions. Representatives from both Beta Tau Gamma Chapter (Forrest County Campus) and Iota Mu Chapter (Poplarville Campus) traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the event. 

Groups of adults stand holding trophies.
PRCC representatives attend Phi Theta Kappa Catalyst 2023.

Iota Mu Chapter from the Poplarville Campus placed in the top three out of nearly 1300 chapters worldwide. Less than one percent of all chapters receive the Most Distinguished Chapter designation, with ten chapters given the designation. This is the first time that a chapter from PRCC has placed in the top ten for Most Distinguished Chapter. For Catalyst 2023, Beta Tau Gamma placed in the Top 100 Chapters of Phi Theta Kappa. 

Stage with people scattered on it. Screen above says Most Distinguished Chapter Second Finalist Iota Mu Chapter Pearl River Community College

“We are so proud of our students this year in being named top 3 out of 1,262 chapters internationally!” said Kira Arthurs, Instructor of Sociology and Chapter Advisor for Iota Mu. “They put in a lot of hard work researching ways that play impacts our well-being as we age and taking those findings into the community to bring play to local nursing homes through Virtual Reality.  

“Our students also worked hard to bring a final exam study week to students in the fall, giving them access to study tips and tutors for free.” 

Several individual advisors received recognition at the event. Dr. Terri Smith Ruckel, Instructor of English, Advisor to Beta Tau Gamma, and Co-Director of the MS/LA Region for Phi Theta Kappa, received the prestigious Mosal Award for Advisors, an award given to one advisor each year.

Dr Terri Ruckel holds the large medallion for the Mosal Award.

Arthurs was one of 20 recipients of the Paragon for New Advisors Award. The Distinguished College Administrator Award was given to Michelle Wilson-Stokes. Dr. Ryan Ruckel received the Continued Excellence Advisor Award.  

Group of men and women by a table hold various awards.
PTK Advisors from PRCC

“It’s always exciting to attend the Catalyst awards and to have students walk up on stage in front of thousands to receive trophies,” said Dr. Terri Smith Ruckel. “The trophies, however, are only the icing on the cake. These students have given a lot of their time and efforts to research, provide services to the community, and develop strong relationships with each other, the faculty, and administration.” 

Both Beta Tau Gamma and Iota Mu received the Distinguished College Project Award and the Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award. 51 chapters were presented with each of those awards. Iota Mu placed in the Top 3 Distinguished Honors in Action Theme for “Systems of Play.” 

Poplarville student Kellie Watts served as a flag bearer for the Mississippi/Louisiana Region and was recognized as a Coca-Cola Academic Scholar. For the 2022 – 2023 school year, she had served as President of the Iota Mu Chapter. 

“It was so jarring representing all of Mississippi as the flag bearer,” said Watts. “I was very nervous about it all, especially at rehearsal. However, as I was walking out on stage, it made me realize how grateful and proud I am to be taking part in the expansive universe of Phi Theta Kappa.” 

Students attending Catalyst were excited to see how they would do after an extraordinarily strong showing at the Mississippi/Louisiana Region Gala in March. At the Gala, Iota Mu (Hancock & Poplarville Campuses) was awarded the designation of Most Distinguished Chapter while Beta Tau Gamma (Forrest County Campus) placed fourth on the Distinguished Chapter list. 

“When our chapter was called out as 3rd highest chapter in all the world…it was so surreal,” said Watts. “Tears were shed and hugs were given. There was a point I did not even imagine we would have made it so far.  

“We were at least expecting top 50 chapters or high, but it never crossed our minds to be in 3rd place. It was exhilarating, a dream come true, and it was all possible thanks to the excellent members of Iota Mu Chapter at PRCC. As 2022-2023 President, it was my honor to work and deliberate these possibilities of success with them. I will never forget this year’s Catalyst.” 

The freshmen who attended this year had a wonderful experience and are setting goals for the coming school year. 

“Catalyst was truly an unforgettable experience!” said Abbilyn Jones, recently elected President of Beta Tau Gamma Chapter. “Not only was it educational, but it was also a lot of fun!  

“Our chapter was blessed to have the opportunity of accepting our awards on stage in front of thousands of people. Overall, it was absolutely incredible, and I can’t wait to go back next year! 

For the latest news on Pearl River Community College, visit and follow us on Twitter (@PRCC_Wildcats), Instagram (PRCCWILDCATS), and Facebook (@PRCCMKTG). 

Article by Laura O’Neill. Photos submitted by members of the Phi Theta Kappa Iota Mu and Beta Tau Gamma chapters.

Each community college president is asked to bring two (2) wrapped door prizes, minimum value of $50 each. We will have a station set up at the conference for you to drop off the door prizes.

Each community college is asked to provide name tags for their Board members, administration, and staff attending the conference.