Kansas Regional Coordinator and chapter advisor Tammy Fuentez has one piece of advice for chapters who want to increase their chapter’s on-campus visibility – don’t be shy about Phi Theta Kappa.
Fuentez, who serves as Tau Theta chapter advisor at Labette Community College, set out on a mission with her chapter officer team. Their goal? To show others what Phi Theta Kappa has to offer.
“We do a good job of telling the story of Phi Theta Kappa, but not necessarily in showing others what Phi Theta Kappa has to offer,” Fuentez explained.
So Fuentez and her team set out to spread the news.
Tau Theta found visibility through its multiple collection drives on campus. Pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House; loose change for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Million Meals Kansas; old cell phones and ink cartridges for Holden’s Hope; all of these activities gave prospective members a good look at the fun and fellowship of the chapter. It also helped them put faces with their campus’ Phi Theta Kappa members.
“If members see chapter officers having fun while being servant leaders and gaining scholarships, they are more likely to participate in activities,” Fuentez said.
Chapter leaders also provided weekly email communication to members, informing them of upcoming activities and opportunities for participation. The result was a huge increase in participation and a 32 percent increase in membership.
Likewise, the Beta Pi Theta Chapter at Miami Dade College-Hialeah Campus turned to a grassroots campaign of good old-fashioned word of mouth to increase its membership. In 2012, the chapter had only four active members.
The then-incoming chapter president Jeffrey Romeu and new chapter advisor Dr. Kelly Kennedy needed a plan to overcome their biggest hurdle – the small size of the Hialeah campus meant only one main academic building and a smaller pool of eligible members.
“We put posters on every floor of the buildings on campus,” Kennedy said. “We set up a Facebook page. We had faculty members promote the benefits of Phi Theta Kappa membership in their classrooms.”
The chapter also garnered about 800 signatures during a C4 event, lending further visibility to the chapter. The chapter also promoted Phi Theta Kappa programming by displaying the results of its Honors in Action Project in the campus library, which also generated buzz and interest, Dr. Kennedy said.
The Beta Pi Theta Chapter also partnered with college administrators to send out an email invite to all eligible members. A follow-up email and passcode were sent, allowing students to accept membership online.
Adding payment via credit card was important to the chapter, whose college campus is located in a low-income area. Many eligible students have been unable to pay the fees otherwise. Adding online acceptance was also a boon to the chapter.
“Allowing students to accept membership online and pay by credit cards has been the best thing we’ve done related to making membership more accessible to our students,” Kennedy said.
They were small steps, but they resulted in approximately 160 new members in about a year.
“An increasing number of students operate in an online environment, spending less and less time on campus,” said Courtney Lange, Director of Regional and Chapter Development. “These are our students. In fact, 45 percent of students who accept membership online do so between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. We think that is significant.”
Online students represent untapped potential for many chapters. A 2013 study by Babson Survey Research Group found that the percentage of college students taking at least one online course has more than tripled over the past decade.
After holding his first induction ceremony as advisor for Darton State College’s Chi Xi Chapter, Frank Malinowski met a new member who was interested in a leadership office. But, he was an online student.
“So I just created a position for him – Vice President of Online,” Malinowski said. “Phi Theta Kappa was completely new to me, so I was just learning as I went. We wanted to test the waters.”
Malinowski, who also serves as Georgia Regional Coordinator, estimates that about a third of the students at Darton State College are online only. And, he said about another third take at least one online class. He believes that engaging these students in addition to the on-campus ones is critical to the success of his chapter as well as to student success on his campus.
“(Online students) can’t participate in everything we do, but they can participate in most things that we do,” Malinowski said. “With things like our Honors in Action and College Projects, online students have just as much of an ability and desire to participate. It’s really a matter of being flexible and letting them know they can be involved-especially if you’re willing to leverage technology.”
The Chi Xi Chapter streams its regular chapter meetings online to help increase member awareness and participation. A meeting moderator runs a live chat with online members so they can ask questions and make comments.
Malinowski said engaging online students “completely changes” the college experience they’re having. It also helps them gain visibility with faculty, staff and administrators, putting online students in the running for awards and scholarships that they may not have had access to otherwise.