Choosing a College Project

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A lot of planning goes on during the summer; and as any successful Phi Theta Kappa chapter can attest, that planning should include a College Project.

Just as the Honors in Action Project engages chapters with their surrounding community, the College Project encourages chapters to look closer to home — on their college campuses — for needs and opportunities to engage and give back.

“The College Project is a great opportunity to foster communication with your college administration,” said Susan Edwards, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Academic Affairs and Honors Programs.

A College Project can also help a chapter achieve Three, Four or Five Stars in the Five Star Chapter Plan. More than 450 chapters submitted College Project Hallmark Award entries for 2014. Of those, 182 of them had a college completion focus. The rest focused on other service needs at the college.

“Your College Project does not have to be sexy,” Edwards said. “It is all about communication between your chapter and your college administration to find a project that addresses a need related to your college’s mission.”

Chapters should start by meeting with college administrators to discuss those needs. Conversations and reflections with the administration should be ongoing throughout project planning and implementation and the assessments of outcomes.

2015 Hallmark Awards applications will be available this fall, and rubrics for each category will be online soon on the Hallmark Awards page. Scores for 2014 College Project award entries have been emailed to the contact advisor for each chapter. Arm yourself with all of this information, and begin the planning process with the end in mind.

“Check out the College Project judging rubric, and consider it a planning rubric,” Edwards said. “Write up your project as a Hallmark Award entry, and share it with your college administration.”

Below are samples of successful and award-winning College Projects. These projects were among the Top 25 submitted for 2014 Hallmark Awards.

Alpha Omicron
Tyler Junior College, Texas
Topic: C2C – Tyler Junior College’s Completion Initiative: Partnering C4 with Achieving the Dream

The Alpha Omicron Chapter and the Tyler Junior College administrators met in January 2013 to reflect on the previous year’s College Project and discuss the focus for 2013. As discussions turned toward the chapter’s C4 outreach in 2012, it became apparent that the chapter had succeeded in addressing the student body but failed to address faculty, who had not been fully engaged with the college’s C4 campaign.

Administrators suggested that the current focus should be on addressing faculty and added that the college’s Achieving the Dream (ATD) initiative — aimed at improving student success — should be integrated. A comprehensive program designed exclusively for the college and highlighting the combined resources available through C4 and ATD was requested.

The C2C Committee began hosting small, informal discussions with faculty in conference rooms and faculty lounges, leading to conversations with approximately 80 percent of the faculty by the end of the fall semester. More than 185 faculty members signed Commit to Complete pledge cards. Talking points from the C2C program were incorporated into general education courses, required of all students, beginning with the fall 2014 semester.

Alpha Nu Sigma
Horry-Georgetown Technical College, South Carolina
Topic: Mentor Incoming Freshmen

The college president emphasized a need for the College Project to promote the use of resources available on campus for student success, including writing, math and computer skills labs boasting low student engagement. Never Overlook Roads That Help (NORTH) became the chapter’s project, to coordinate with the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan entitled Guided Plan for Success (GPS).

Chapter members arranged visits with Freshman Skills classes to present the resources available to them for success on campus and the value of utilizing them. They developed a document containing tips for success in college — including a “First Day of School” checklist — and facilitated three new student orientations.

NORTH reached nearly 600 students through the orientations and classes. Chapter members trained as public speakers and improved their communication skills in preparation for their presentations. And, feedback from freshmen revealed that they enjoyed the student-to-student interaction because they were able to relate more easily.

Zeta Sigma
Texarkana College, Texas
Topic: Hispanic Outreach and Recruitment

A meeting with administrators revealed plans for the college to increase its Hispanic population through community outreach efforts. Therefore, the chapter chose to work as college ambassadors to educate the area Hispanic population on degree planning and financial aid options. Objectives included informing them of financial aid options for both documented and undocumented students and offering personal administrative assistance to those who may need help when applying for college and financial aid and choosing a degree plan.

The chapter planned a presentation to be held following the Spanish Mass at local Catholic churches. College administrators and Hispanic students addressed parishioners, presented bilingual fliers and encouraged them to sign the Commit to Complete banner. In addition, a Hispanic Outreach Committee was formed and included several Hispanic community leaders.

The college noticed a slight increase in the number of Hispanic students in 2013, from 208 in the spring to 243 in the fall. The chapter reached approximately 400 people through presentations at local churches and plans to expand the presentations to more churches in the future.

Alpha Kappa Sigma
Red Rocks Community College, Colorado
Topic: Community Service

The chapter adopted The Fox-Star Challenge to inspire and encourage students to participate in volunteer opportunities on campus and within the local community in an effort to boost their leadership and networking opportunities while encouraging them to embrace the “community” aspect of community college. Participants were encouraged to perform community service hours both individually and through group projects, and service opportunities ranged from rebuilding a scenic trail on campus to walking dogs from a shelter.

Service hours were recorded and displayed on a leader board in the main hallway on campus. Students recording the greatest number of hours were honored at a special recognition luncheon and received a personalized recommendation letter from the college president. Challenge participants were eligible to receive various other prizes, including a free three-credit class courtesy of the Marketing and Communications department.

Forty-six students completed a total of 2,111.75 hours of community service during the fall 2013 semester. In 2014, the program was expanded to include a Volunteer Fair featuring diverse organizations from the community.