Jackson, MS – It’s time to blow out the candles and make a wish, as Phi Theta Kappa celebrates the sixth birthday of “Ike,” the bright orange fish mascot for the Society’s web-based transfer tool, CollegeFish.org. Launched six years ago, CollegeFish.org is already revolutionizing the transfer process for thousands of community college students seeking to complete a baccalaureate degree at a senior college or university.
“Ike” the CollegeFish prepares for his birthday celebration at Phi Theta Kappa’s Center for Excellence.
Developed by Phi Theta Honor Society, CollegeFish.org is a highly interactive website aimed at facilitating credential completion and transfer. The extensive database offers profiles on more than 2,000 colleges and over $37 million in transfer scholarships and is designed to enhance transfer advising, connecting students to resources that allow them to plan for completion of their two-year degree and successful transfer to a senior college or university.
Aimed to increase successful completion of associate and baccalaureate degrees, the site also provides the sequence of tasks to be completed for transfer, as well as a personal automatic calendar noting deadlines. It also allows students to narrow their top transfer choices and communicate directly with admissions representatives at those institutions. Additions to CollegeFish.org in the past year include a course planner, exploration of majors, a tuition planner and college comparison tool.
October has been named “CollegeFish.org Transfer Challenge Month” in honor of the sixth anniversary of the site’s inception and rollout in 2007 and one year since Phi Theta Kappa debuted the new interface of the website, new branding and features. Transfer Challenge Month sponsors include Kettering University, Michigan and Johns Hopkins University, Maryland (Platinum Level); University of North Texas and Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts(Gold Level); and University of Texas Pan American (Bronze Level). As part of Transfer Challenge Month free webinars are being offered for students on topics such as applying for scholarships, writing effective essays and academic resumes. Local celebrations are being held on community college and university campuses, and Missouri celebrated the milestone at its Phi Theta Kappa Leadership Conference held in Kansas City October 18-20.
The event culminated on October 23 with a birthday party for “Ike” at Phi Theta Kappa’s Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi, which included festivities for staff, local dignitaries, students from three Mississippi community colleges, and a number of partner universities showcasing their undergraduate and graduate programs. Guests from Florida, Oklahoma and California joined the celebration remotely.
Phi Theta Kappa’s Executive Director and CEO Dr. Rod Risley, who addressed guests on the role CollegeFish.org has played in college completion, said the concept originally grew from conversations he had with previous All-USA Community College Academic Team winners.
“As they walked across the stage to receive their awards in April, a month or two prior to graduation from community college, I asked them to share their plans for transfer. Most shared with me that they had not yet started to plan for transfer, which meant their options were extraordinarily limited as most senior college scholarship, admissions, financial aid, housing and course registration deadlines had already passed,” he said. “These students were the best and brightest we had in our community colleges, and they had not started planning for transfer – they didn’t even know where and how to start. That is when I realized we had to develop a tool to help students begin thinking about and planning for transfer the day they enroll in a community college.”
In 2012, the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further enhance CollegeFish.org by institutionalizing use of the transfer tool in five states, with a total of 125 community colleges and 50 senior colleges. Today the program has expanded to 18 states. Conferences have been held for community colleges and senior colleges selected to participate in the grant-funded project. During these conferences CollegeFish.org training specialists help project colleges plan for the use of CollegeFish.org campus-wide and provide follow-up technical support.
Northwest Community College in Mississippi was one of the first to adopt CollegeFish.org, which is free to all community college students, not restricted to Phi Theta Kappa members.
“We are so pleased to partner with CollegeFish.org,” said Northwest President Dr. Gary Lee Spears. “This online transfer success tool will help our students headed to a four-year institution after Northwest find a college that is the best fit for them and help them find scholarships to finance their future.”
CollegeFish.org has ridden a wave of support over the past six years as community colleges and universities have signed on, and students are already finding transfer success.
As a student at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago, Illinois, Melissa Brand admits that while she wanted to transfer, she was lost at first. But, thanks to CollegeFish.org, she successfully transferred to Northeastern Illinois University on one of the more than 750 transfer scholarships offered by Phi Theta Kappa’s senior college transfer partners exclusively for Society members. A journalism and social science major at Truman, Brand said she talked with advisors a couple of times and attended transfer fairs, but her search really didn’t pay off until she logged in at CollegeFish.org.
“CollegeFish.org showed me all of the universities that were near me and matched my criteria,” Brand said. “The site also showed all of the scholarships available to me as a Phi Theta Kappa member.”
As for “Ike,” he’s become quite a celebrity making the rounds in college social circles – appearing on the CollegeFish.org website, logos, on campuses, in photos with students, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Jennifer Blalock, Chief Student Support Officer for CollegeFish.org and Phi Theta Kappa, said Ike’s name came from “ichthys,” the Greek word for fish.
“Today, we celebrate Ike CollegeFish as the champion and the spirit of our nation’s community college students,” Blalock said. “They are are poised for greatness that does not end with them earning their community college degrees, but dives even deeper towards success as they swim into the next phase of their higher education careers through transfer, with Ike CollegeFish swimming alongside them all the way.”