As you prepare to leave your two-year college behind, make sure you keep Phi Theta Kappa with you by joining an alumni association.
Alumni associations can be tied to a specific four-year college or to a specific region, chapter or college. Regardless, they serve as venues for committed Phi Theta Kappa members to continue networking with other like-minded individuals and serving the Society as a whole.
“Our alumni and alumni associations are invaluable to Phi Theta Kappa, its advisors and especially its members,” said Courtney Taylor, Phi Theta Kappa’s Annual Giving and Alumni Relations Coordinator. “The work they do to support our chapters and members has a tremendous effect on the success of the students and chapters on a local, regional and international level.”
Alumni associations often volunteer for local, regional and international events, allowing chapter members to focus on the programming and to network with others. They provide workshops for their local chapters and act as mentors for chapter officer teams.
And on a more personal level, alumni associations – especially those associated with a four-year college – serve as a ready-made network of friends as well as a support group for Phi Theta Kappa members who long to stay connected with others like them, said Mary Kohls, advisor to the Alpha Gamma Pi Chapter at Austin Community College in Texas, which has a local alumni association. The Alpha Gamma Pi Alumni Association was among three associations named outstanding in 2014.
“I joined an alumni association because I wasn’t ready to leave Phi Theta Kappa yet,” said Aaron Neely, the Vice President of Alumni Relations for the Kansas Region and an alumnus of the Eta Gamma Chapter at Coffeyville Community College. “This organization has given me so much and has been such an integral part of my life. Phi Theta Kappa gave me opportunities that I would otherwise not have.”
Neely, now a student at Kansas State University, has served as a campaign manager for an International President candidate at NerdNation 2014 in Orlando, Florida; an induction speaker for various Phi Theta Kappa chapters across Kansas; and as a liaison between chapter advisors and officer teams both locally and regionally. He has worked with community college presidents to increase college completion, and he has represented the Kansas Region at local, regional and international events.
Neely received a 2014 Alumni Award of Appreciation during NerdNation 2014.
“An organization is only as strong as the impression it makes,” he said. “Alumni dedication shows members and potential members the impact that Phi Theta Kappa has had on their life.”
The ability to give back to Phi Theta Kappa and its members is just one reason alumni associations exist. Many alumni associations offer scholarships to pay membership fees. Others raise money to support existing scholarship programs, such as the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship.
“Without the help of alumni, some students might not be able to join Phi Theta Kappa, some might not get to finish their college education, and some chapters/regions might not be able to get the help they need to be successful,” said Hannah Kilpatrick, past president of the Phi Theta Kappa Alumni Association at Athens State University (ASU) in Alabama.
The ASU Alumni Association offers Golden Opportunity Scholarships to assist chapters in the Alabama and Tennessee Regions in defraying the cost of Phi Theta Kappa membership. The group received a 2014 Alumni Award of Merit during NerdNation 2014.
Alumni associations also encourage member engagement in Phi Theta Kappa programs. Members serve as role models for two-year college students and work to instill the importance of degree completion and academic excellence. They also promote an engaged citizenship in communities, transfer universities and the international Society as a whole.
“We can offer advice and stories of experience to eager new chapters or even to chapters who just want some insight,” said Brooklyn McCarley, incoming president of the ASU Alumni Association. “In addition, they offer a continued venue for leadership.”
The Alpha Gamma Pi Alumni Association at Austin Community College in Texas conducts workshops with both its local chapter and the Texas Region on such topics as “Phi Theta Kappa 101,” “Running for Office” and “Improving Your Phi Theta Kappa Experience.” Before presenting, many associations are asked to conduct training with Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters.
The group also raises funds for various regional scholarships and offers Golden Opportunities Scholarships to potential Phi Theta Kappa members.
“Being a part of an alumni association allows us to help with our chapter,” said Katherine Petsche, president of the Alpha Gamma Pi Alumni Association. “Doing something as small as handing out ice cream bars during an ice cream social at a regional meeting allows host chapters more time to socialize and participate in events.”
And alumni associations aren’t only for members. Kitty Spires, an alumna of the Alpha Eta Kappa Chapter at Midlands Technical College, returned to the college as a professor and began serving as the chapter advisor.
“I joined the Carolinas Alumni Association as a model to the students in my chapter,” she said. “By doing that, I felt students would feel the importance of continuing their association and their service with Phi Theta Kappa.”
Remaining active and engaged in Phi Theta Kappa initiatives allows members to take on a “strategic servant leadership role,” said Dr. Kim LaFevor, advisor to the ASU Alumni Association. They’re there for the chapters when they need support; and, they’re able to provide working knowledge of Society programs.
“Individuals like to be a part of success, and the aim of Phi Theta Kappa is all about success and excellence in scholarship, fellowship, leadership and service,” she said. “It is more than a membership; it can be a very rewarding life-long experience.”