In 2013 the Alpha Phi Kappa Chapter successfully enrolled more than 800 students from Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Kentucky in CollegeFish.org – more than any other Phi Theta Kappa chapter in the world. This year, they’re shooting for a thousand.
The Alpha Phi Kappa Chapter holds a series of workshops to help more students realize the benefits of CollegeFish.org, which offers all two-year college students the opportunity to begin planning for the completion of their associate degree and preparing to successfully transfer to the four-year program of their choice.
“We’d already been hosting workshops on different topics like C4 and talking about CollegeFish.org in our chapter meetings,” said chapter advisor Cindy Baker. “But when our state became one of the first to allow all community college students to use CollegeFish.org, these new workshops just seemed like a natural step for us.”
Throughout October, CollegeFish.org has celebrated Community College Completion and Transfer Month. A series of webinars has featured a variety of topics related to college transfer and completion, including one on October 21 that was hosted by the Alpha Phi Kappa Chapter and focused on their successful campus-wide rollout of CollegeFish.org.
“The hard work and enthusiasm of the Alpha Phi Kappa Chapter is such an inspiration,” said Jennifer Blalock, Phi Theta Kappa’s Chief Student Support Officer. “Cindy and her chapter have done an amazing job of increasing awareness of CollegeFish.org at their college, giving their students a better chance of securing a transfer scholarship, completing an associate degree and transferring to the four-year school of their choice.”
To kick off the campaign, the chapter hosted two workshops for college faculty, staff and administrators that featured Blalock and Joshua Scott Hancock, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Director of College Relations. Engaging these key college personnel helped build understanding and enthusiasm, Baker said.
As part of the larger workshops for students, the Alpha Phi Kappa Chapter incorporated the teaching of a variety of vital college processes, such as setting up a school email account; accessing PeopleSoft, an online program students use to register for classes, view grades and receive information about financial aid; and scheduling an appointment with an academic advisor. All of this information is also important to create a comprehensive CollegeFish.org profile.
“We’re providing a huge service to the college at the same time,” Baker said. “Students are getting more involved in their academic planning.”
Faculty members contact the chapter to request that a workshop be hosted for their class. The chapter currently hosts anywhere from five to 15 workshops a week on the college’s six campuses. Chapter members first attend training workshops – offered weekly – and then take turns leading the CollegeFish.org workshops for their peers.
The workshops last between 30 minutes and an hour and are held in a computer lab when possible; however, because students can also access CollegeFish.org on their smartphones and tablets, a computer lab isn’t a necessity. Chapter members walk attendees through the process of creating a CollegeFish.org profile. Gift bags of goldfish crackers and handouts listing a how-to guide to CollegeFish.org and a schedule of any upcoming webinars are distributed, and the attendees’ email addresses are collected for follow-up.
In addition to the workshops, CollegeFish Extravaganzas have been held. This is a three- to six-hour drop-in workshop, where chapter members are available to introduce attendees to those vital college processes, enroll them in CollegeFish.org and promote the college scholarships program application.
The chapter also set up tables in high-traffic areas on campus to generate interest and increase visibility among students. To garner support from faculty and staff, the chapter hosted a Faculty Appreciation Day during a day of staff meetings. Phi Theta Kappa members set up tables to distribute goldfish crackers, literature about CollegeFish.org and the workshops, and little origami fish as gifts.
“Doing the workshops in the instructor’s classrooms has allowed us to help many, many more students realize the benefits of CollegeFish,” Baker said. “Sometimes students need more incentive to do what’s good for them.”
Baker has also seen the chapter members benefit from the workshops. Leadership skills have been developed, as members have had to prepare for the workshop presentations, improve their communication skills and often overcome a fear of public speaking.
“All of our members are building these skills that will help them later in life,” she said. “It encourages peer-to-peer interaction, and it allows us to promote Phi Theta Kappa and encourage students to engage in some student group, which helps contribute to their success.”