By Carlie Mankin and Jennifer Doherty-Restrepo, Phd, ATC, LAT
According to the founder of Iota Tau Alpha (ITA), John Anderson, MEd, ATC, the saying "We heal those contending for the prize", is the direct translation of Iota Tau Alpha in Greek (Iatreuomen Tous Athleuontes) and therefore serves as the motto for this prestigious honor society. Founded at Troy University in 2005, Iota Tau Alpha serves as the only professional honors society for students pursuing a degree in athletic training. This non-funded organization stimulates interest, scholarly attainment and investigation in athletic training education as well as promotes the dissemination of information among athletic training students. Mr. Anderson established Iota Tau Alpha after attending Troy University’s Honor Convocation because he felt that “…the athletic training program should be a part of the convocation just as nursing, business, and other academic programs.” He said, and still says, “We should be proud of who we are and what we are.”
The emblem which represents ITA is the statue of Nike, the Greek goddess that personifies victory, encircled by an olive wreath and the three Latin initials I.T.A. Mr. Anderson created ITA to be an academic society dedicated to excellence, honor, competition and aiding of the weak; a society that derives its morals from the symbolism of the Olive Wreath and the statue of Nike. Through the ages, the Olive Wreath has been the ultimate symbol of honor, excellence, glory and victory. Today, the wreath is mostly associated as the highest honor awarded during the ancient Olympic Games competition. However, throughout history, the Greeks incorporated the wreath not only to celebrate victory and honor, but also to celebrate death. For the Greeks, funerary wreaths for the deceased signified that glorious living continued after death. In keeping with this tradition, ITA members aim to continue serving the inflicted even when their participation as active fraternity members has long expired. The presence of Nike personifies ITA’s aspirations for victory in the most adverse medical circumstances. The palm branch, the permanent symbol of victory and honor, in Nike’s right hand, carries a double purpose for the organization. It reminds its members of the essentiality and the imperativeness to always strive for honor along with victory.
To be eligible for ITA, athletic training students are required to meet four criteria in order to be invited into this honor society: (1) be enrolled in an athletic training education program where an ITA chapter exists, (2) have completed a set minimum amount of academic work towards an athletic training degree with an earned minimum of a 3.5 cumulative grade point average, (3) rank no lower than the highest 35% in class relative to cumulative grade point average, and (4) be in good academic standing in accordance with set program criteria.
When ITA was first started, the idea was that there would be a national organizational structure to facilitate the establishment of chapters, to develop and maintain the constitution and by-laws, to oversee initiation rituals, to process and administer membership dues, to develop and maintain a member registry and to manage the distribution of member certificates and ribbons (the colors of ITA are red, blue, and yellow). Upon establishing ITA, it was also intended that an annual national education conference would be held for members as well as to promote the advancement of athletic training education and clinical practice.
The Alpha Kappa Chapter of Iota Tau Alpha, which was established at Florida International University in 2009, is an example of a chapter that has been flourishing. The officers of the Alpha Kappa Chapter make their own pins and ribbons for members, update their chapter constitution yearly and provide athletic training students with various opportunities to grow professionally. Alpha Kappa established four subcommittees based on four pillars: (1) guest speakers, (2) community involvement and outreach, (3) philanthropy, and (4) legislation. The aforementioned pillars promote student education, professional development and engagement in the profession. To remain in good standing with Alpha Kappa, members must maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPA, attend at least three guest speaker events and two community service events per academic year and pay the annual dues. Nicole Molander-Barraza, current ITA Alpha Kappa Chapter President, understands the important and underlying motivation that being an ITA member brings. “At ITA, Alpha Kappa Chapter, we are able to provide students with diverse experiences in athletic training. We have been able to give students leadership positions in the society, trips to visit unique settings of athletic training, such as NASA RehabWorks, and also offer a variety of opportunities to hear guest lectures by both athletic training celebrities as well as athletic trainers talking on exclusive topics, such as vestibular rehabilitation. As a student officer, the opportunities are endless. We have had the chance to meet, spend one-on-one time with, and help promote ITA to a variety of professionals.” said Molander-Barraza.
Iota Tau Alpha has infinite significance for the athletic training profession and it deserves more recognition at the national level. The value of ITA should be enhanced on a national level to elevate awareness of the core concepts upon which it was founded. Jeremy Stevens, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Student Leadership Committee District IX Representative, says that “…as we look forward to the future, I know that ITA will grow in recognition nationally. After collaborating with the Young Professionals Committee, they have agreed to help bring recognition to ITA members, past and present, at the Annual Pinky Newell Breakfast beginning this year at the 67th NATA Clinical Symposia and AT Expo. At all of the conferences that I have attended and brought up ITA to gain recognition, I have had at least one individual that is interested in starting a chapter at their respective institution of higher education - this is promising.” Also at the upcoming NATA convention, there will be name tag banner attachments to identify ITA members. There are additional ideas planned for the future by the NATA to continue spreading the message of ITA, which includes an updated website that contains all of the necessary information to establish a chapter as well as the creation of a national member registry. The NATA is also discussing the establishment of a recurring ITA spotlight section in the NATA News or in the Range of Motion e-newsletter to highlight the accomplishments of ITA chapters across the country. Stay tuned….and special thanks to Mr. John Anderson for being a pioneer and establishing the Iota Tau Alpha honors society for athletic training.