In the spring of 2016, the Iota Zeta Chapter at Northeast Mississippi Community College inducted 300 new members, keeping it on track to once again have one of the highest membership acceptance rates among Phi Theta Kappa chapters. How do they do it? It’s surprisingly simple.
Iota Zeta is a large chapter — in 2016 it had 672 members on its roll. An 85-member induction ceremony in the fall of 2015 gave the chapter a 59 percent membership acceptance rate for 2015, ranking it sixth on Phi Theta Kappa’s President’s List, a listing of the Top 25 chapters by their 2015 acceptance rates.
“We make a concerted effort to not marginalize ourselves, assuming that the ‘right students’ will find their way to us,” chapter advisor Ray Harris said. “We try to use PTK membership as a way to encourage and incentivize students to develop themselves academically and intellectually.”
The chapter also uses a personal approach when issuing invitations to prospective members. Harris meets with each potential inductee to explain the benefits in person.
“We issue a personal invitation from the chapter and ask the students to come to the advisor’s office to join,” he said. “We take time to meet each candidate and talk to them. We believe that it really does make the invitation more prestigious.”
The chapter also works to keep its one-time membership fee low — it’s currently $70. And, it has gotten creative in helping members pay the fee.
Iota Zeta has a strong relationship with Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Foundation and, until the start of the 2015-16 school year, depended on the Foundation to provide loans to help members pay the induction fee. This past school year though, the chapter successfully persuaded the school administration to let new members pay their induction fees through their financial aid packages.
Additionally, a fund has been established to cover the fees for members who have no other means to pay.
“The need for loans has all but disappeared,” Harris said. “The Foundation can still provide the loans, but none were needed in the past year.”
Iota Zeta has a presence at campus events such as NE NOW and Freshman Orientation so incoming freshmen can learn about Phi Theta Kappa early. Senior colleges who recruit at Northeast often include the benefits of Phi Theta Kappa membership in their presentations so students can see the transfer scholarships available to them.
The chapter participates in many projects throughout the year including an Honors in Action Project and a College Project. Currently, the chapter has about 180 members who are active participants in their projects.
In the 2016-2017 school year, the chapter will implement an Enhanced Membership program that will include a service component.
“We work very hard to provide service activities for the general membership, such as blood drives, canned food drives, Relay For Life and fundraisers for organizations such as the American Red Cross,” Harris said. “This helps keep the Phi Theta Kappa name in front of the student body.”
All of these things work together to show the college’s students that Phi Theta Kappa is more than just another club on campus. The chapter values personal interactions and word-of-mouth marketing to keep its induction rate high.
“We try to show students that the life of the mind is not exclusive to an ivory tower setting,” Harris said. “I think we do a good job of using our members as down-to-earth ambassadors of the PTK experience.”
This story is part of a series highlighting chapters on the 2015 President’s List.