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Phi Theta Kappa Presents During Annual NISOD Conference

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Phi Theta Kappa Executive Director Dr. Rod Risley and other staff members presented informative breakout sessions during the recent International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, held May 27-30 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and hosted by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD).

Established in 1978, NISOD is the "outreach vehicle and service arm" to the Community College Leadership Program (CCLP) at The University of Texas at Austin, a doctoral-level program training community college presidents, vice presidents and deans. More than 700 community colleges around the world are members of NISOD.

The organization is dedicated to "the professional development of faculty, administrators and staff, and to the continued improvement of teaching and learning, with the ultimate goal of student success."

The annual NISOD conference brings together more than 2,000 professionals typically representing more than 400 community colleges and other institutions of higher learning worldwide. Phi Theta Kappa is a "Friend of NISOD" and has partnered with the organization and others on the Community College Completion Challenge, dedicated to increasing student completion rates by 50 percent over the next decade.

Dr. Risley presented a pre-conference session on establishing a "Culture of Completion" within a community college. Presenting with him were Dr. Robert Exley, President of Snead State College in Alabama and a former National President of Phi Theta Kappa; Dr. Sandra Massey, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Arkansas State University - Newport; and Bentley Wallace, Director of Business and Transportation Technology at Arkansas State University - Newport.

Dr. Risley shared with attendees national data that builds a compelling argument as to why college completion matters. He then presented Phi Theta Kappa's work in launching the Community College Completion Corps (C4) and explained how students from more than 200 colleges were helping to build a culture of completion from the ground floor of a college upward to the faculty, staff and administration.

Dr. Exley illustrated the presentation by sharing how Snead State College had significantly increased graduation rates by establishing "an institutional culture supporting student success," Dr. Risley said. Dr. Massey and Wallace shared how they engaged all college stakeholders at Arkansas State University - Newport in the college completion conversation and provided professional development to help faculty and staff improve learning outcomes of their students, leading 100 percent of the faculty and staff to sign the NISOD pledge for student completion.

As a member of the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, Dr. Risley also participated in a special breakfast meeting with a select group of commissioners attending NISOD: Dr. John Roueche, University of Texas CCLP; Dr. Kay McClenney, Director of the Center for Students of Community College Engagement; and top leadership from Pearson Education Group. The group discussed possible student success strategies that could be developed to address the recently released 21st Century Task Force recommendations, Dr. Risley said.

Also participating in the conference were Phi Theta Kappa's Honors Program Deans Susan Edwards, Monika Byrd and Jennifer Stanford, who presented a breakout session on how to "Unite Classroom and Co-Curricular Activities with a Common Theme," using the Honors Study Topic, The Culture of Competition, for inspiration.

"With today's workplace demanding more meta skills, such as global awareness and competency, critical thinking, communication and teamwork, the Honors Study Topic provides a way to engage all students on campus in active, experiential learning that extends beyond the classroom," Stanford said. "It also allows students an opportunity to take an active role in their community while underscoring the importance of civic engagement."

Jennifer Blalock, Phi Theta Kappa's Director of the CollegeFish.org Community College Program, and Joshua Hancock, CollegeFish.org Training and Development Specialist, presented on the commonalities of the basic challenges that hinder completion and transfer - many of which are rooted in a lack of awareness of easily accessible on-campus resources and in students who lose sight of their initial goals and motivation. ­

Sustainable strategies to empower students and overcome these challenges, using CollegeFish.org as a resource directory, a motivational and inspirational venue and an organizational planning piece that can be integrated into coursework, programming and advising and student services models were then discussed, Blalock said.

"We were really excited to meet with faculty, staff and administrators from community colleges who were interested in enhancing their completion and transfer initiatives and programming," she said. "Many had heard about our Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant and wanted to inquire about being involved in the all-student roll-out."

The $3 million grant, announced in February, will provide funding to launch the college completion and transfer planning program in community colleges in five target states, among other things.