C4 Fever Sweeps New Jersey

Community college campuses all across New Jersey held a unified series of events to launch New Jersey’s statewide Phi Theta Kappa’s Community College Completion Challenge (NJ C4), spreading the importance of college completion, engaging faculty and staff as completion champions, and urging students to commit to completing a college degree or certificate.

A Signing Banner collects signatures from students committing to the completion of a college credential during the NJ C4 Initiative.

Each of the state’s 19 community colleges held completion events October 14-18 during the NJ C4 Initiative. The New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC) and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) partnered with the colleges’ local Phi Theta Kappa chapters to host events ranging from Signing Events, C4 rallies, transfer counseling workshops and more.

Students from Mercer County Community College man a booth during the NJ C4 Initiative.

“For the past four years, New Jersey’s community colleges have worked collaboratively to identify policies and strategies to transform ourselves from access’ institutions to access to student success institutions,’ ” NJCCC President Dr. Lawrence A. Nespoli said. “What better way to advance this cause than to involve our Phi Theta Kappa student leaders, our faculty members and staff members in this effort? We are grateful to partner with the NJEA on this initiative.”

The NJ C4 initiative aims to increase the number of community college students completing their associate degrees and certificates. More than 172,000 credit students were enrolled in New Jersey’s community colleges in 2012; only about 20 percent of community college students in the state receive a two-year degree within six years, according to NJCCC statistics.

“The NJEA is proud to partner with New Jersey’s 19 community colleges to support this statewide initiative that aims to encourage students to persevere, succeed and ultimately earn the credentials they need to succeed in New Jersey’s workforce,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer.

The weeklong events culminated October 19 with the 2013 New Jersey Honors in Action Conference at Camden County College. Phi Theta Kappa Executive Director and CEO Dr. Rod Risley gave the keynote address.

“It is a great honor to be the first state to hold such an event,” said Pattie Van Atter, Middle States Regional Coordinator. “At no time was I ever concerned that the chapters wouldn’t rise to the occasion. They did just that and more – they were creative, inclusive and committed to the mission that was asked of them.

“I am very proud of the members and chapter advisors as they worked hard and gave up what little time they had to send a very important message. It will be through the efforts of the commitment makers and champions who will continue to work together that a culture of completion will be built in the state of New Jersey.”

At County College of Morris (CCM), scheduled events included TEDTalks featuring videos on success and leadership. The Alpha Kappa Kappa Chapter also hosted a Student Success Panel featuring honor student panelists describing their community college experiences. Selected faculty members were honored as part of a Professor Appreciation Day event.

“We’re excited that the students in the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at CCM are leading this effort on our campus,” CCM President Dr. Edward J. Yaw said. “NJ C4 is a terrific program, and our Phi Theta Kappa honor students put together an impressive platform of events to encourage college completion.”

Members of Raritan Valley Community College’s Alpha Epsilon Pi Chapter offered students an instant academic evaluation, during which advisors and counselors evaluated courses the students had taken toward their program requirements to make sure they were on the right track.

The Alpha Psi Pi Chapter at Gloucester County College enlisted an academic advisor to lead a workshop on study skills to help complete school. The chapter also informed students of math and Spanish study groups available.

“Helping each other, we can all accomplish our dreams,” said Tiffany Celeiro, an honors student and a Phi Theta Kappa member at Gloucester County College.

The statewide event is the first of many planned throughout the year in other states. Community college systems in Montana, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Kansas are either planning or considering statewide C4 events during this school year.

“Phi Theta Kappa is committed to actively promoting the completion of a college credential – an associate degree or certificate among college students,” Risley said. “Throughout this completion week in New Jersey, thousands of students have made that pledge and declared that they will, indeed, complete their education. Importantly, they have enlisted faculty and staff as Completion Champions to ensure their success.”

See full coverage of the New Jersey Statewide C4 Initiative, including local news stories and videos, on the Middle States Region website. Read more about the importance of this culture of completion at Inside Higher Ed.

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