This April, thousands of the nation’s brightest community college students journeyed to San Antonio, Texas, for the Phi Theta Kappa national conference, also known as Nerd Nation. Waiting to greet them was Kathy Klein, associate director of transfer student initiatives at Colorado State University. But Klein was there for another very important mission: to accept the CollegeFish Transfer Champion award on behalf of CSU.
CSU was one of three schools to take home the 2015 Transfer Champion award from Collegefish.org in acknowledgment of outstanding transfer innovations through scholarships, student-counselor collaboration and other outreach programming. An online resource created by Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for Community Colleges, CollegeFish promotes transfer pathways and supports interaction between community college students and higher education personnel to encourage seamless transitions into the four-year institutions.
Phi Theta Kappa hosts a national conference each year that allows chapter members from community colleges to participate in workshops and network with representatives from four-year institutions. As part of the conference, an annual awards dinner is held for two- and four-year institutions in recognition of their effort and commitment to the Phi Theta Kappa initiative.
CSU has sponsored regional Phi Theta Kappa meetings for the past five years. As a sponsor, the Transfer Center has the opportunity to attend five regional meetings and hold a booth at the national meeting that allows CSU representatives to gain valuable face time with the nearly 5,000 students that attend the conference each year.
The Transfer Center works with Phi Theta Kappa students in transitioning to a four-year institution by offering scholarships specific to chapter members, and in return Phi Theta Kappa promotes CSU’s scholarships on their website. The Phi Theta Kappa scholarships offered by CSU grants in-state students $2,000 a year and out-of-state students $6,000 a year for up to two years. In 2010, Vice President of Enrollment and Access Robin Brown worked with Student Financial Services to begin offering this scholarship to all transfer students who meet the requirements. One-hundred and fifty Phi Theta Kappa scholarships were awarded for fall 2015 alone.
“Receiving the award from Phi Theta Kappa means a lot for us internally. It was nice to be acknowledged for the work that we do and for them to see that we are putting forth the effort,” said Klein.
Transfer students make up 25 percent of each incoming class, 53 percent of which come from community colleges, said Klein. The Transfer Center’s partnership with Phi Theta Kappa is important to the recruiting process, because it allows CSU access to high-achieving community college students.
“Phi Theta Kappa chapter members are great students with ambitious goals,” said Klein. “They are leaders on their campus who are doing amazing things, so we want to bring them here to CSU.”
Students must have at least 15 credits at a 3.5 GPA or higher to gain Phi Theta Kappa membership. Members participate in a number of community service projects, fundraisers and leadership training through their chapter, as well as receive invitations to the national and regional meetings.
Apart from their relationship with Phi Theta Kappa, the Transfer Center is taking steps on their own to promote active engagement and successful transfer for prospective students. They work closely with the Colorado State University Registrar’s Office to ensure equivalency of credits through programs like Transferology. They also work with students to do tentative evaluations through their 40 transfer guides and state articulation agreements.
The Transfer Center is actively involved in the recruitment of transfer students year-round. Recruiters visit every community college in Colorado at least once a year and host CSU day at Front Range Community College. They also have a full-time representative in Denver and two in California. Once admission is complete, the Transfer Center works to transition students to Ram Orientation in which students are paired with transfer transition leaders to aid in the adjustment to CSU campus life. Transfer dormitory communities are also available for interested students.
“Transfer students are an important part of our institution and we need to treat them as such,” said Klein. “It’s all about getting these students through to graduation. We want to make sure they have found a successful outcome to their education and a home here at CSU.