Need to Recruit New Members? Start with Your Faculty

It can be difficult to reach every student on your campus with information about Phi Theta Kappa. An easy fix is to educate those at your college who see the most students and likely get the most questions — faculty and staff — and turn them into evangelists for your chapter.

This was one step the Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter from Asnuntuck Community College in Connecticut took to increase the visibility of their chapter, and they’ve seen a steadily increasing member acceptance rate as a result.

The chapter boasted a 41 percent acceptance rate in 2015, ranking them 21st on the 2015 President’s List. The President’s List was released in April and lists the chapters with the Top 25 acceptance rates last year.

“Last I looked, I believe we were over the 50 percent mark for the spring,” Advisor Michelle Coach said. “This is probably close to a 10 percent increase from the prior year.”

The chapter developed a sheet answering common questions about Phi Theta Kappa and distributed it to every professor, both full time and adjunct, at the college. All professors also receive copies of the list of those students who have been invited to join Phi Theta Kappa.

Armed with the FAQ’s, instructors can now answer any question their student may have and encourage them to join. Some professors are also selected to give out Phi Theta Kappa invitations in class.

“The students get personal recognition in class, and the professors explain the honor bestowed on the students,” Coach said. “The professors have become aware, so now the students are aware.

“The more times the student hears about Phi Theta Kappa, the better chance they will join and have life-changing experiences.”

The idea for an FAQ sheet for professors stemmed from a review of the chapter’s marketing materials by one of the college’s marketing classes. The marketing class had recently adopted Alpha Lambda Zeta as a course project.

In a presentation, the class recommended that the chapter redesign its informational brochures to be less wordy, more eye-catching and more straightforward with the benefits of membership. The class also offered ideas on how the chapter could promote itself in an awareness video for the college.

Like many other chapters, Alpha Lambda Zeta has also found that a personal approach to member recruitment has helped increase acceptance rates. About two years ago, chapter officers began contacting eligible students personally to talk with them about Phi Theta Kappa.

“Several of our members know Phi Theta Kappa has made an incredible impact on their lives, and they want to share that experience with others,” Coach said. “A personal touch lets another person know that they have a support system that wants them to succeed.”

This personal approach extends all the way to the college president and his fellow administrators, who attend and participate in the chapter’s induction ceremonies. The administrators support the chapter’s projects, and they make sure the chapter is funded to attend regional and international events.

This acknowledgement of success has a great impact on chapter members and prospective students, Coach said, resulting in more students joining Phi Theta Kappa and more members taking on an active role in the chapter.

“Engaged and involved students are students that will complete college and have a strong goal in life,” she said. “I have watched many students step out of their comfort zone because someone has reached out to them.”

Lessons from the NEW Leadership Program

Editor’s Note: This blog post was written and submitted by Sara Hwang, 2016-17 International Vice President for Division 1.

I recently had the great honor of attending this year’s NEW Leadership New Jersey Summer Institute, hosted by the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. I applied to be a participant of the program because it was a chance to learn from women leaders in the community. Not only would I be joining a network of influential leaders, but I also believe everyone has the responsibility to be aware of what rights they have as citizens and the power they hold to affect and change policies. Although the NEW Leadership program concentrates on the role of women in politics, it really focuses on empowering the next generation of female leaders.

I joined approximately 40 young women from throughout New Jersey for six days of events that gave us opportunities to grow personally and professionally, both as individuals and as teams. What really surprised me was the diversity of the participants. From our nationalities to our academic backgrounds, we were nothing alike.

Looking and talking to each member, I would never have imagined some of the obstacles these women have overcome, whether it was financial trouble, family problems, sexual harassment or gender discrimination. The more I got to know each of them, the more I admired their courage and determination. Instead of picking out our differences, we became unified and celebrated our uniqueness.

We attended workshops and seminars on topics such as effective presentation and communication; how to get involved in government; do’s and don’ts for professional conduct; how to network; and diversity and political decision-making. The program also included a day trip to Trenton, where we were able to tour the State House and listen to the story of Kim Guadagno, Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey.

I especially enjoyed the keynote address by Leecia Eve, who shared her story of working for Hillary Clinton and running for a government position. She talked about the hard decisions she had to make while campaigning and the knowledge she gained from her experience in government. Although she did not get elected, she didn’t let that stop her, as she now works as the Vice President for State Government Affairs for Verizon.

I saw many teary eyes in that room that night, and her story resonated with so many of us because all of us have had to face obstacles. It all comes down to what one does with the knowledge gained from the experience. She didn’t think of her campaign as a loss, but an experience that made her stronger.

The program culminated in a political action project focusing on Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of Criminal Justice Reform. We were divided up into a senate judiciary committee, a pro or con bill press conference, or an anti or pro bill testifying organization. On the last day, we had a mock press conference, in which groups had to defend their points of view.

NEW Leadership introduced me to a network of women leaders who support each other and anyone willing to join. These sessions helped break down the myths that surround politics and showed how anyone can get involved depending on the degree of participation they are willing to give. Although I want to go into pharmacy, a field that’s not usually related to a career in government, I was able to consider my options to build my role as an active global citizen.

Honors Institute is Over — Now What?

Honors Institute often serves as the unofficial kickoff to Honors in Action Project planning. It’s an opportunity to delve deeper into the Honors Study Topic, gain insights from peers and hear wide-ranging takes on the topic’s various themes from notable speakers.

Now that the 2016 event is behind us, what’s next for your chapter?

Start Planning Your Project

“Honors Institute really gets students focused on the academics,” said Dr. Becky Tate, advisor to the Alpha Rho Mu Chapter from Lone Star College-Tomball in Texas. “It’s a wonderful inspiration for them.”

The Alpha Rho Mu Chapter has been named the Most Distinguished Chapter two years in a row, in 2015 and 2016. Tate typically brings two chapter officers with her to Honors Institute and credits the event with the chapter’s success. She’s developed a timeline for tackling the Honors in Action Project:

  • Summer — following Honors Institute, identify potential topics/themes
  • Early fall — chapter buy-in, research and project identification and planning
  • Mid-to-late fall — project completion
  • Winter — writing Hallmark Award applications

Now is the time to research the Honors Study Topic, How the World Works: Global Perspectives. Let your chapter’s Honors Institute participants use what they learned to spark ideas about which theme to use as the cornerstone of your project.

This is also a good time to start studying the Hallmark Award rubrics, which will help ensure that your project aligns with the Hallmark applications.

“The people at Headquarters who created the programming know that the rubrics, which are lists of elements, skills and outcomes that they’re looking for, create meaningful projects,” Tate said.

Turn to Your Region

Some regions will host their regional meetings and Honors Institutes late in the summer. If you weren’t able to attend the international Honors Institute, a regional one can be a good way to capitalize on the experiences of others.

“Our region, Mississippi/Louisiana, hosts a Regional Honors Institute after Honors Institute, so the excitement reverberates back to our region,” said Robin Lowe, advisor to the Upsilon Sigma Chapter at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. “The advisors and students who attend lead sessions about their experience and their knowledge pertaining to the study topic.”

Remember to Share

Let your Honors Institute attendees share what they learned in the Regional Officer training sessions and Honors in Action Educational Forums held throughout the week. If you did not send a representative to Honors Institute, don’t worry: stories about these sessions will be posted on The Reach blog over the next few weeks.

Look for presentations by most of the Honors Institute keynote speakers to be added to soon. Share these presentations with your chapter by scheduling some watch parties, and then discuss the ideas related to the Honors Study Topic.

Finally, meet with your college administrators and share what you learned from the speakers, the Place as Text event and from your travels in general. Your enthusiasm will likely be contagious, and you could use it to drive conversations about attending the 2017 Honors Institute.

Inspired to Succeed: Noah Griffin

Editor’s Note: This post has been submitted by Dallas Baptist University, a four-year college partner.

From the small town of Pittsburg, Texas, Noah Griffin was set on accomplishing big things.

Griffin began his college career at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. During his two years at NTCC, he earned his Associate of Science in General Studies degree as a Presidential Honors Student.

Through the influence of his older brother, who served as the District III Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa’s Texas Region, and the guidance of his teachers and fellow honors students, Griffin decided to get involved with Phi Theta Kappa early in his college career. After careful consideration, he even decided to run for president of his chapter.

As president, the most impactful lesson that Griffin learned was the necessity of teamwork in any communal effort.

“As the president I was the official leader of my chapter, but as a person I was just as reliant on everyone else in the chapter as they were on me,” he said. “I could not have accomplished anything without the incredible people in my chapter and the advisors who made real sacrifices to serve our cause.”

From Phi Theta Kappa to Dallas Baptist University

While attending a Phi Theta Kappa convention, Griffin heard multiple presentations of colleges to attend after graduation from NTCC. His attention was drawn to Dallas Baptist University in Texas.

Though he did not have much interest initially, Griffin felt that God was pushing him to look into the university’s programs. He was struck by DBU’s close partnership with Phi Theta Kappa and the way DBU staff related to Phi Theta Kappa members. As soon as he could, he got on DBU’s website and began searching.

DBU’s music business degree caught Griffin’s attention, and he decided to apply. Originally, the Christian nature of the school was not a factor in his desire and decision to attend. However, after he got accepted into the school and experienced the orientation process, Griffin began to realize the value of what DBU strives for in its Christ-centered education. He appreciated the professors’ diligence to integrate faith with learning in every class they offered.

Griffin recently completed his second year at DBU, which he now calls his “home.” Over the course of his two years at DBU, Griffin has come to realize the gift that DBU is in his life and the opportunity he has had to grow as a student and a believer in Christ. The encouragement of the faculty and staff, as well as the student body, has made that possible.

A Hope and a Future

Griffin has learned many things during his time at DBU.

“The most special and precious thing God has taught me and is continuing to teach me through DBU is how to love and be loved,” he said. “The beautiful result is a place where God can use each of us to build each other up and help us experience Jesus in all His fullness.”

Griffin has found DBU to be a place of rest as well as a training ground in learning to minister to people in all stages of life.

After graduation, Griffin hopes to pursue music vocationally and desires to produce music that is enjoyable. He is excited to take everything he has learned in his time at DBU and apply it to the next chapter of his life.

5 Big Training Tips for Regional Officers

For the first time, a training track exclusively for Regional Officers was held during the 2016 Honors Institute. Topics included professional etiquette and leading virtually — and in case you missed it, here are some of the highlights.

1. Be Strategic: Setting Regional Goals

Goals do matter. The 2015-16 International Officer Team set a goal to create a structured Regional Officer training program, and this track at Honors Institute was the result!

Be intentional with the goals you set — how will your goals enhance the mission of Phi Theta Kappa, and how will they make Phi Theta Kappa stronger?

Let Phi Theta Kappa’s strategic priorities guide the goals you set as a Regional Officer team:

  • Mission Alignment — How can you create the Phi Theta Kappa Experience for those in your region?
  • Membership — How can your region ensure more eligible students understand the full benefits of membership? Promoting initiatives like the REACH Rewards program may be a great place to start.
  • Programs — After members are inducted, how can your region inspire them to get involved in Phi Theta Kappa programs that build their personal and professional development skills?
  • Building Relationships — Serving as a Regional Officer is all about relationships — being a servant leader, a support system and a cheerleader for your chapters.

2. Leading Virtually: Why You Should Care (…Really)

Develop a strategic, intentional communication plan for email, videoconferencing and social media, and implement it as a Regional Officer team.

Email: Make consistency and quality your trademarks. Some tips:

  • Work closely with your Regional Coordinator.
  • Be consistent and timely.
  • Read backwards and aloud.
  • Assume every message will be forwarded.

Videoconference: Determine the best platform for your audience.

  • Set your strategic design —advertise, set up, practice, structure, event management, record it or not?
  • Make eye contact, exaggerate and over smile.
  • Find best practices here.

Social Media: Tips to keep in mind:

  • Assume that what you post will gain wider traction.
  • Build as much positive professional content as possible.
  • Have a designated officer who is concise, responsive, respectful and strategic to post on behalf of the team.

Parting words:

  • Complete Five Star Competitive Edge.
  • Study how others — especially those in positions to which you’d like to advance — market themselves and project their image online.
  • Ask someone in a hiring position to audit your online presence and provide constructive criticism.
  • Recognize that leadership = service; be a good steward of resources.

3. Ambassadorship: Representing Yourself and Phi Theta Kappa

As a Regional Officer, your public speaking, your participation in class and on campus, your personal interactions, your electronic communication and your behavior will all face scrutiny. Make your interpersonal communication more effective by

  • Focusing your message — create an elevator speech; know your subject; personalize your message
  • Magnifying the listener’s attention — be precise and as descriptive as possible; consider the first impression you’ve offered; identify what’s in it for your listener
  • Breaking through barriers — eliminate noise; consider perception
  • Listening actively — listening is to hearing as observing is to seeing; gauge if the listener understood
  • Following up — send electronic introductions; contact Headquarters for answers to questions; say “thank you”

Your ambassadorship can make a difference. Use it to enhance the Phi Theta Kappa Experience for those in your region. Share the experiences you’ve had with the widest possible audience. And work with your team to leave a legacy, even if it’s as simple as consistent leadership.

4. Professional Etiquette: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Let’s brush up those social skills.

Dining Do’s and Don’ts:

  • At a buffet — Don’t overload your plate. Your focus should be on visiting and networking with others, not the food.
  • At a restaurant — If you’re being treated to a meal, always ask what your host recommends before ordering. This will give you their expectation of the cost of the meal.
  • Only order the basics — This means a nonalcoholic drink and an entrée. Your host will let you know if it’s okay to order an appetizer and/or dessert.
  • Don’t panic if you use the wrong utensil; just carry on without drawing attention to it. Key tip: move from the outside in.
  • Place your napkin in your lap once everyone is seated.
  • Don’t begin eating until everyone is served.
  • Solids (bread plate) go on your left; liquids go on your right.
  • Put butter on your bread plate first, then on your roll.
  • Cut only enough food for the next mouthful.
  • Don’t season food before you’ve tasted it.
  • Sit up straight and keep arms off the table.
  • Don’t push your plate away when finished.
  • Conversation — Avoid controversial topics.
  • Excuse yourself quietly if you leave the table. Be sure to push your chair in.
  • Place your napkin in your chair if you’re coming back.
  • Don’t reapply lipstick or use a toothpick at the table.

Should you find yourself at the head table:

  • Remember that you’re on display — everyone can see you, so be on your best behavior.
  • Visit with guests of honor — be sure to greet the others at the head table, especially any special guests.
  • Put away your smart phone — no talking or texting. Be engaged in what is happening at the event.
  • Actively listen — be engaged and look interested in what is happening at the event.

Tips for remembering someone’s name:

  • When the name is spoken, concentrate on the person and their name.
  • Use the person’s name in conversation.
  • Visually write the name on the person’s forehead.
  • Associate the name with the person’s appearance.

What if you forget someone’s name?

  • Reintroduce yourself.
  • Confess.
  • Ask how he/she prefers to be addressed OR how to spell his or her name.
  • Ask a mutually respected third party.
  • Ask for the person’s business card.

5. Leading Regional Meetings and Workshops

Workshop planning:

  • Do your research, and consult experts.
  • Organize your content.
  • Consider your presentation platform.
  • Share your presentation with others for feedback.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Regional Meeting planning:

  • Be sure to work closely with your Regional Coordinator.
  • Carefully and thoughtfully select a speaker.
  • Develop a script and rehearse!
  • Communicate with your sponsors and vendors.

The day of the event:

  • Arrive early.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Be flexible. Have a back-up plan if audiovisual equipment doesn’t work.
  • Know your topic and your audience.
  • Don’t “wing it.” Use your notes.

Show time:

  • Maintain control of your presentation.
  • “If you don’t know, don’t lie.”
  • Avoid excessive joking or sarcasm.
  • Remain professional.

How to nail your delivery:

  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Be brief.
  • Show your passion and excitement.

Regional Officers: make plans to attend a special Virtual Office Hours training session on Wednesday, July 13, at 4 pm CT. The topic will be “Best Practices for College Projects.” Register today!