The University of Mississippi Phi Theta Kappa Alumni Chapter gives transfer students opportunities to network and get involved on campus. UM started the chapter as a continuation of the honor society that transfer students participated in at community colleges.
The chapter at Ole Miss represents almost every community college in the state. The organization has members from every academic department on the UM campus and varies in socioeconomic backgrounds and ages. Its 112 members meet twice a month.
Jay Fritts, a junior UM student and former international officer for PTK, immediately wanted to get involved in the chapter level of the organization after joining. He transferred to the university this year from Meridian Community College.
“Phi Theta Kappa played a big role in my life and in community college,” Fritts said. “As students, we realize to be successful we need to obviously do well in school, but I think we forget that that’s not the only ingredient. Phi Theta Kappa really teaches these members the importance of leadership, teamwork and the importance of serving your community and your campus.”
Fritts said being a part of the alumni chapter helped him overcome the difficult transition of becoming involved in organizations on the Ole Miss campus.
“(We), as transfer students, are starting that college experience all over again,” he said. “Being surrounded by people who we know have gone through our same past experiences at community college and are experiencing similar things that we’re experiencing now, it’s very comforting knowing that you’re not alone.”
To be eligible for membership in PTK, students must be enrolled in an accredited institution offering an associate degree program, have completed at least 12 hours of course work and have a 3.5 grade-point average. Community college transfer students may also be eligible for scholarships offered by the University of Mississippi.
Serenity Hawkins is PTK president for the 2018-19 school year. She said she enjoys the community the alumni chapter creates for her and other transfer students.
“We want to provide support for transfer students,” Hawkins said. “We also provide accountability because being around hardworking, successful people makes you want to do well too.”
PTK alumni members are involved throughout the UM campus and provide transfer-experience feedback to the admissions office. The society has a Big Event team, a community service initiative, and many members are ambassador leaders or Transfer Visit Days panelists at Ole Miss. The club also hosts a tailgate for football games by partnering with the Transfer Leadership Organization and provides trivia night activities for its members.
“We provide collaboration,” Hawkins said. “We share resources and tips with each other. We provide connections and opportunities by sharing events on campus and other ways to get involved.”
Hawkins and the PTK officers are working to create a random act of kindness week in the spring for the university and will challenge other organizations on campus to partner with them. The club also hopes to create a Relay for Life team to support the American Cancer Society.
Anna Lauren Inman, PTK faculty adviser and a UM admissions counselor, was a community college transfer student from Itawamba Community College and a former PTK member and chapter officer. She has been the faculty adviser for the organization since 2016.
“Advising this group of transfer students is important to me because I love seeing transfer students blossom at a four-year institution, but I also get to give back to an organization (PTK) that gave me many opportunities to get a higher education through service, involvement and scholarship opportunities,” Inman said.
Inman said she believes the organization allows transfer students to feel a sense of community on campus and helps them network with other students going through similar transitions. It also allows for transfer students to get involved on campus and become more aware of the opportunities the university has to offer them.
She hopes to see an increase in membership and active participation in the organization this year. She also wants to see the chapter develop more opportunities in fellowship and service projects.
“This organization serves to provide ideas on how to increase transfer student opportunities on campus, helps admissions to recruit new prospective transfer students, and provides the support these students need to feel welcomed onto campus as a new Ole Miss student,” Inman said.
To become a member of Phi Theta Kappa Alumni Chapter, the student must have been part of PTK at his or her previous institution. Phi Theta Kappa was founded in 1918 and is based out of Jackson, Mississippi.
Ally Langston is a journalism major and intern in University Communications at the University of Mississippi.