Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Ashlynne Banks, International Vice President for Division 2.
One of the biggest obstacles chapters can face is engagement. Phi Theta Kappans are overachievers, and that usually means we leave little room for free time.
So when it comes time for membership recruitment and hosting events, how do we appeal to the ultra-busy super student? If you also happen to be on a small and relatively disengaged campus, the uphill battle seems more like scaling a mountain.
I took to Facebook and asked what chapters are doing to solve the engagement puzzle. Overwhelmingly the responses included some type of food. Cake, pizza, potluck, bake sale — I’m feeling more engaged just reading those words!
“I’ve found that many [students] are happy to listen to a spiel about PTK if you offer them cake for the trouble,” Onyx Rose of the Alpha Sigma Alpha Chapter at De Anza College in California said.
Danielle Kuper, an officer in the Pi Epsilon Chapter at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus, said her chapter hosted a bake sale and found that it was a great way to raise money for the chapter and get the word out.
Yael Sykes is an officer in the Xi Pi Chapter at Polk State College’s Winter Haven Campus in Florida. Her chapter does a monthly potluck and movie night. One of the best things about this is that they ask members to bring a friend. This truly shows how inventive and inclusive activities can lead to membership growth, not to mention fantastic opportunities for fellowship.
Other than bribing students with food, members shared ways to encourage participation in various events. Zoa Phillips from the Alpha Iota Pi Chapter in Kalispell, Montana, talked about a treasure hunt her chapter does. They send students with a map to collect coins from each department, where they learn about the different student services and become more familiar with campus. Afterword they are given a small prize and entered to win a gift card.
“Our students love it,” Zoa said.
Some chapters organize group activities like attending a baseball game; others combine the draw of food with unique events like Murder Mystery dinners.
Recognizing the achievements of students is the first part of Phi Theta Kappa’s mission, and it seems to be a great participation tool. Ryan-Rose Mendoza of the Alpha Mu Chi Chapter at Northeast Texas Community College talked to me about how her chapter increases and sustains involvement from members.
“We appreciate the effort and accomplishments of our members by doing an ‘Alpha Mu Chi of the Week’ recognition during our chapter meetings,” she said. “[This includes] posting a picture of them on our chapter page with their education goals, where they are from and [their] favorite quote.”
With social media being Millennials’ main source of news, it’s easy to see why this program is so effective.
The Beta Beta Psi Chapter at Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin goes for the long-lasting recognition of specialized graduation medals.
“Our chapter has what we call the President’s Challenge, where members can earn medallions to wear at graduation depending on the level of involvement,” Valerie Baumann said.
Along the lines of recognition, many chapters are adopting the idea of “tapping,” where members go to the classes of eligible students and recognize them in front of their peers. This personalization and extra step has made the difference in whether some students accept membership or not.
Another common denominator of successful student engagement is collaboration. Synergizing with the other clubs and organizations on campus has helped students from numerous colleges make the most of the events on campus. Allison Barthel shared that Alpha Iota Phi at Oakton Community College in Illinois gets involved at transfer fairs and their “registration rally.” Many of their officers are members of multiple organizations on campus, so they reciprocate volunteer efforts and spread the word.
Whether your campus is large and buzzing with activity or small and quiet, any of these activities could be just the boost your chapter needs. Keep scaling those mountains — you could make the difference in someone’s life by sharing all the benefits and opportunities Phi Theta Kappa has to offer.