The best recruitment number in KON for the 2020-2021 academic year is held by Omicron Theta at Kansas State University. They had 200 members at the end of the chapter year including 89 initiates. Omicron Theta’s students are under the College of Health and Human Science. Which includes departments of Applied Human Sciences; Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health; Hospitality Management; Interior Design and Fashion Studies; Kinesiology; and Personal Financial Planning.
Besides being a part of a large college that encompasses many human science departments, what’s the secret to getting 89 initiates? I called to find out. It turns out that Omicron Theta is in a time of change. They have moved from long established adviser Mary Molt, PhD, and Erika Lindshield, MPH, to a new adviser since August 2021, Barbara G. Anderson, MArch.
I had the luck to speak to both Mary (asking her to speak at Conclave) and Barbara, to tell me a bit more about their recruitment processes and member retention practices. Here are their tips from Omicron Theta.
- We send an invitation email to potential members with an invitation to join. In the past this email was very long. This year we streamlined it. We send a reminder message as well a couple of weeks later, reminding them that they received the invitation and inviting them to an informational meeting if they want more information before making a decision.
- After sending the invitation emails to qualified students, we email each department head a list of students from their department who received invitation emails. We ask the department heads to please contact the students on the list and encourage them to join. Most department heads send an email to the students invited to join KON and say things like: ‘This is a great organization. This is what it can do for you…’
- We hold an informational meeting for those interested in learning more about KON before they decide if they want to join. This includes online and in person students – two separate meetings one for the virtual students and one for in-person students. All of our meetings are in the late afternoon or early evening.
- We let students pay dues in multiple ways. Students still pay their initiation fee and our chapter dues of $10, but we’re flexible in how we collect those dues. Students can bring cash or a check to the advisor’s office, mail a check to the advisor, or bring either to the informational meeting, or the initiation. We attempted to develop a digital means of paying dues, but it didn’t work for our chapter.
- We invite family members to attend initiation and many do. This fall our guests included parents, siblings, and grandparents. It helps to schedule initiation on the Sunday afternoon after a Saturday home football game. We simultaneously have a room of face-to-face attendees and our online (Zoom) attendees. The Dean welcomes everyone to the initiation ceremony. After a brief presentation on the history and purpose of KON, the initiates take the pledge. Initiates are individually introduced based on answers to questions about their major, year in school, goals, and the like. If they are physically in the room with our book, they sign it. Those on Zoom, type their names in the chat. Our book is used at each initiation to keep a record of Omicron Theta chapter members. We serve refreshments.
- Initiation includes an inspiring speaker. This is usually a faculty member or maybe an amazing graduate who lives nearby. This year we had a young faculty member who had just earned a Ph.D. from Cornell. She spoke about growing up in Kansas, attending K-State as an undergraduate, and her experience in KON. She specifically described how KON helped her take advantage of opportunities and how belonging to the group gave her confidence and allowed her to meet people who guided her through her graduate education and early career. The students loved her, she was an engaging and charismatic speaker with whom they identified.
That in a nutshell is recruitment. In regards to member retention, the chapter plans both meetings or events that include getting to know each other and those that get to know the faculty in their college. They always make sure to include food at the meetings. Last, they plan one meeting each semester, usually around final exam week, for stress relief.
Talking with Barbara, she made two things crystal clear. First, that Omicron Theta was built by her predecessors and any congratulations should be offered to previous advisers Mary Molt and Erika Lindshield. Second, that Omicron Theta’s recruitment efforts are powered by its student member officers. The chapter has a subgroup of officers which drives the recruitment with each person taking responsibility for small, but important tasks. They work together as a team to make the collective goal come together. The adviser provides the guidance but credit for the hard work belongs to the students.
There was also some discussion of current thoughts on growing membership. At least once, and preferably twice, per year Omicron Theta’s leaders want to invite all students in their college to attend a social event or benefit in some way because KON includes them. It can be as simple as distributing healthy snacks to students in Hoffman Lounge (the primary college public gathering space) during finals week or inviting them to yoga on the lawn. The goal is to increase our presence among the students in our college. Our hope is when a student is invited to join KON, they will recall a positive interaction with KON members. Being a member of KON has many personal benefits, but we should also lift others up.