By Liz Ragland,Gamma Tau
MacDowell Month is my favorite time of year! The performance art has a special place in my heart: I grew up dancing, singing, and performing in school plays from age 3 to age 18. Although I am no longer as involved in the arts (does Zumba count?) I still love going to art museums, the opera, or seeing a new play.
I wanted to get to know some of our sisters who are involved in dance, theatre, art, and music so, to celebrate MacDowell Month on the blog this year, I’ll be profiling sisters in the arts. This first post features dancer/singer/actress Sarah Fagan and graphic designer/hand-letterer Gillian Tracey.
Spotlight Member: Sarah Fagan, Gamma Tau
How are you involved in the arts?
I am a professional dancer, singer, and actress in musical theatre. (Sarah is currently in the national tour of 42nd Street!)
How did you first get interested in your art form?
I took dance lessons from a very young age. I have always loved movie musicals and was lucky to see live theatre many times while I was growing up. As a dance major in college I saw even more shows and learned about dance in theatre, and realized I had a passion for musical theatre. I am lucky that I’m able to successfully apply my dance background to the musical theatre business, and that I enjoy singing and acting equally as much as dancing!
How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
I try to be focused, kind, calm, and supportive so I can spread positivity through any cast of performers I am a part of. When a cast is happy, unified, and having fun backstage it shows onstage. In turn when we give an inspired performance we have the chance to change someone for the better. At every performance, it’s exciting to think that I could turn someone’s bad day into a great day, or inspire someone to find and follow their passion.
What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory?
Definitely senior year Bid Day. I was VP recruitment two years in a row, and the feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and relief that washed over me when the new members ran to us that day really sums up my experience in Alpha Chi. There are so many moments I can think back to where my overwhelming feeling was “I have no idea how, but we did it, and did it well!” The exhilarating feeling of triumph runs through a majority of my most memorable Alpha Chi experiences, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. We often worked together to pull off big events that required huge amounts of time, energy, and willpower. The proud feeling I had when I got to watch or participate in the successful results of our hard work was my favorite part of Greek life.
Spotlight Member: Gillian Tracey, Delta Chi
How are you involved in the arts?
I’m a freelance graphic designer and hand-letterer.
How did you first get interested in your art form?
I’ve always loved art since I was a little kid, but when I started college I wanted to take my passion for creating and learn how to apply it in a practical way, which is how I came to study graphic design! After working for a few years at a magazine, I decided to take the leap into freelancing full-time where I could work one-on-one with small business owners.
How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
This line of the symphony acts like a thermostat for my business. Just as a thermostat maintains a particular temperature, this portion of the symphony helps me maintain the right mindset and approach situations in the best way possible.
While running a business is extremely gratifying and exciting, there’s a lot of unknown factors, major competition, and crippling comparison that can happen every single day. The symphony is an anthem for treating others with respect, encouraging and uplifting fellow creatives, and for reminding me that the hard work is worth the joy found in creating what I’m passionate about.
What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory?
There are so many incredible memories it’s hard to choose just one! While I was a collegiate member of Delta Chi, we all lived in the same house the whole time we were in school. Living across the hall from your best friends for years made for a lot of memories of piling on the sofa to watch rom-coms in pajamas, writing papers together, and getting ready for formals. It’s the simple everyday moments that make up my favorite and fondest memories.
By: Haleigh Robers
Delta Zeta, Central Michigan University
Resident Consultant – Loyola Marymount University
With one of the most beloved American holidays, Thanksgiving, right around the corner, there’s no doubt that our minds are filled with anxious thoughts. Whether it’s anticipating a much-needed break or already tasting the Thanksgiving Day menu, I can see the urgency in everyone’s faces for the holiday to arrive.
As a chapter consultant, being on a college schedule comes with the territory, so I still mirror this anticipation felt by students all across the country. Although I can cook for myself, I’m ready for a home-cooked meal. Although I call my Mom almost every day, I’m ready to fly those 2,032 miles and be surrounded by family again. And yes, although I love my job, like anyone, I’m ready for a relaxing break!
As it is with many holidays, we tend to get preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of life. Sometimes, we forget what the holidays are truly about amidst the agendas, the planning, the food and the parties.
Thanksgiving sometimes gets overlooked as that one holiday that falls between Halloween and Christmas, but the beauty of Thanksgiving is that, in its simplest form, it’s a day devoted to giving thanks, gratitude and appreciation.
I have always been grateful for Alpha Chi Omega. During my collegiate years, my chapter gave me a home away from home, some of my best friends, personal development, leadership opportunities and endless experiences and memories that I will forever refer to as the best four years of my life.
After becoming a consultant, however, I have exponentially added to my gratitude list. In this position, I’ve learned a few things. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work for an organization that I love and meet other women who love it too. I am lucky enough to work with some of the best women I have ever met, and even luckier that they are my sisters and my support system. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to give back to an organization that changed my life in amazing ways. Alpha Chi Omega has provided me a world of opportunity, and none of it would be possible without the women who came before me and the women today who work so hard to see Alpha Chi live up to everything it is meant to be.
So this Thanksgiving I ask you to do one thing; when you start to feel that anxious feeling to get home and away from it all, pause and reflect on everything you have to be thankful for. We waste so much time wanting to get to the next place instead of taking a moment to send some gratitude into the world.
“To appreciate every little service rendered; to see and appreciate all that is noble in another…” – words of wisdom from our very own symphony. If there are sisters you are thankful for, let them know. I know I’ll be doing just that this Thanksgiving holiday.
Thank you, Alpha Chi Omega, for all the wonderful things you’ve given so many women over the years to be thankful for.
By: Jennifer Daurora
Delta, Allegheny College
National Vice President; Foundation Trustee
On a cold January day in 1996, I celebrated with 22 of the most amazing young women I could have ever hoped to know as a freshman at Allegheny College. We didn’t realize it at the time, but each of us was destined to do amazing things to make this world a better place.
It’s funny now when I think back to our lives during college. Whether it was studying to pass organic chemistry or trying to finish that 25-page paper, did we have any inkling of the women we were about to become? The clues were all around us. It’s that spark you see in someone that you can’t quite put into words, but you know her and you know that she is someone special. This is how I felt then about the women I joined Alpha Chi Omega with back in 1996. To this day I am still amazed by the women we have become.
From Beth, who is working in the cardiac unit of Children’s Hospital, and Erin, working in neurosurgery, to Amie, who is fighting for justice at the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Kim, who took a teaching job right out of school in one of the poorest schools in a Baltimore just to make a difference in a child’s life. Allison set her vision and now runs a successful chiropractic practice in New York. Lisa is so committed to her community that she runs a soccer association giving more than 500 kids a safe place to develop learning skills on and off the field. Kathy, the doctor of physical therapy, is also a crusader for children, and Paula is now the executive director of the Metropolitan Ballet in Maryland. These sisters followed their dreams and are models for the real, strong woman within each Alpha Chi Omega.
This spring we will celebrate 20 years of membership in Alpha Chi Omega. I knew them when they were dreaming, and I will support their future dreams wherever they may lead. But I know they will lead to us someday seeking the heights.
By: Elizabeth Donaldson
Alpha, DePauw University
Associate Director of Operations, Alpha Chi Omega Foundation
If you had told me as a high school freshman from Dallas, Texas, that I would end up going to college in a tiny town in the middle of Indiana corn fields, and that it would change my life in ways I could never anticipate, I would have thought it unlikely.
And if you had told me I would meet friends who would become not only college roommates, but sisters who would make me laugh like never before and help introduce me to my husband, it would have seemed too good to be true.
But all that happened, and more. The “more” is the part I least anticipated. I never imagined meeting women who would inspire and support me for more than 18 years now. We have shared our dreams with each other and, better yet, are watching those dreams become reality together.
Paula Frederick Hoage and Jenny Breck Kovach have always been special Alpha Chi Omega friends. We enjoyed ridiculous college adventures, were post-college roommates navigating the trials of first jobs and have stood by each other’s sides at our weddings. But over the course of the past year, we have all shared one very important experience. We have all become mothers.
Paula and Jenny were a few months ahead of me in bringing their bundles of joy into the world. And although we may be thousands of miles apart, they have provided such great advice and support through the first year. Whether it be something silly like a teething toy recommendation or a more serious parenting moment, I can count on them for input. They are real, strong women who I am confident are raising real, strong little people.
When I met Paula and Jenny on the Alpha chapter lawn on bid day, I had no idea the years that lay ahead and the dreams we would watch unfold. And it brings me such joy to know that one of those dreams we are sharing together, the journey of motherhood.
By: Rachel Haley
Omicron, Baker University
Foundation Coordinator, Alpha Chi Omega Foundation
In August of 2011, I sat on the steps of Mabee Hall after signing my bid card waiting for my friends to finish signing theirs inside. My favorite recruitment counselor was sitting on the steps keeping me company. Throughout the process of recruitment, she encouraged me and made me feel confident in my final selection. Her deeply rooted passion for Greek life made me admire her even more. In a matter of four days on campus, she became a role model for me. Little did I know that in the hours ahead, I would soon be joining the very sisterhood to which she belonged. I will always remember coming home to the Omicron chapter of Alpha Chi Omega that late August night to find her welcoming me as a sister.
From that night forward, Rachel Shuck became a mentor and friend providing me with guidance and support throughout my collegiate years. She encouraged me to take active leadership roles on campus, within the chapter and on a national level with Alpha Chi Omega. She was always searching for ways to help me accomplish my dreams, from early on. In turn, I have been able to watch Rachel accomplish a number of her very own.
Rachel was always open about pursuing her dream of teaching mass media and journalism. She was the editor of the campus newspaper and the VP of public relations and marketing in the chapter. She paved her way to future success. However, in the last semester of her senior year, Rachel’s dreams changed. Her heart was no longer in education; her passion became more aligned with the Fraternity. Following her instincts, she shifted her career path towards Greek life. In the weeks prior to graduation, Rachel was thrilled to announce that she was hired by Pennington & Company as an alumni relations consultant, allowing her to combine her love for Greek organizations and mass media – a happy medium.
In four years’ time, Rachel has made her dreams a reality. She continues to work for Pennington & Company, now as senior alumni relations consultant, where she has spearheaded five capital campaigns and 11 annual campaigns for fraternities and sororities across the country. And today she proudly serves Omicron as a co-chapter advisor, continuing the legacy of real, strong women at our alma mater.
I have learned so much from Rachel throughout our friendship. Most importantly, she has taught me to never let my dreams grow stagnant, but to let my dreams continue to evolve and align with my passions. Supporting each other’s dreams and watching them become realities has been a privilege, for which I gratefully thank Alpha Chi Omega.
By Corinne Wolfe
Zeta Eta, Bradley University
Most people only consider the big R when they hear the word ritual, our initiation ceremony. It’s the “event” that supposedly defines us as Alpha Chi Omegas, and to an extent that is true. Without that beacon, we don’t always know where to point our Alpha Chi compass. It’s what makes us unique, the embodiment of our name, defines our bond, etc.
I, on the other hand, often consider ritual to be mostly made up of the little r; the one that resonates in my day to day life and seeps into my being whether it’s when I am walking out the door into the world, or into chapter on a Tuesday night.
The little r is what defines me to the rest of my world. It’s what my husband and our two boys see; it’s how my friends, colleagues and my community perceive me. Little r is what drives my behaviors. Little r is our shared values of friendship, leadership, learning and service; which continue far past the day you put on a cap and gown. Little r is why I strive to be the best version of myself every day and to learn from the mistakes of yesterday so that I am stronger tomorrow.
The little r is also why I continue to advise my local chapter. Little r is the journey we all take in Alpha Chi Omega. I always marvel each spring as graduation nears. As our seniors prepare to take on the world, I pause to reflect on their first day as members, of bid days come and gone. I remember how unsure some of them were of themselves (and the few who were overly sure). I think of the time between then and now, of the majors changed, the semesters abroad, the loved ones sometimes lost, the bonds that tightened and ones that broke apart. Most importantly though, I think of the women they become. As those girls who entered our chapter each fall prepare to leave four short years later, I am amazed at the real, strong women they become. Women who possess the strength, grace and authenticity of our Founders.
So as another year approaches and I prepare myself for another marathon recruitment season (which at my age requires a lot more Starbucks and under eye concealer with each passing fall), I feel the little r in the air and it’s electric. It’s sisters embracing after a summer away, it’s an executive board with sights set high on a new school year and it’s the excitement of welcoming a new group of women into our sisterhood to share our bond and continue our legacy. Being part of their journey reminds me why I chose Alpha Chi Omega, literally, a century ago. It bridges the little r of our sisterhood to the big R of our Ritual and reminds me of that amazing thing that brings us all together.
By Kim Kelly
Kappa Xi, University of West Florida
Our Symphony can be applied to so much of the Peace Corps experience. Every day I saw “beauty in the common things of life,” because everything else was stripped away. Living in a rural village where many people didn’t have electricity or running water, TVs or iPads, or extravagant toys for the little ones; I saw people who lived a simple, common life. And I realized that even without all these things, they were happy and loving, and there was true beauty in that.
Another line from our Symphony, which rings so true for my PC experience, is “to see and appreciate all that is noble in another, be her badge what it may.” In this case, her badge would be her culture. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be completely immersed into a culture that is so far from your own. There were times when I would experience something and think to myself, “No way. No way is this actually happening!” For example, during the ceremony where we volunteers were paired to our host families, I experienced oralating for the first time. This is where the women come from out of nowhere and circle you while dancing and making a very loud sound, which is made by moving your tongue very quickly back and forth (it’s not easy). It was so unusual and something I had never seen before; all of these women dancing and making this funny, loud noise, but it was beautiful. There were so many incidents where I was able to appreciate the culture here. And throughout my experiences the people of Botswana reciprocated. They made me feel welcomed and loved, always referring to me as their daughter or auntie. Regardless of our “badge,” we were able to appreciate all that is noble in another.
Although I could come up with a relatable moment for every line of the Symphony, this one sticks out to me the most: “to shed the light of love and friendship round me.” The mission of Peace Corps is to promote world peace and friendship, and I think that’s exactly what the Symphony is saying. Although I found great joy in the projects that were successful at my site, such as a boy’s empowerment camp (GLOW Camp) or the after-school peer educators club, the most fulfilling and rewarding part of my service was the friendships I was able to create with my students and the love that I both shared and received. The moments of learning traditional games from Gontle and Tono, or when Thati would come over to show me how well he did on his math exam, or when Lentle and Kelebogile would tell me about their latest crushes and then cover their faces with their hands, in spells of giggles, if I dared to tell the boys… These were my favorite moments. These were the moments when the light of love and friendship was glowing brightest, when I knew my Peace Corps service was worth it, when I knew I had created relationships that would last a lifetime.
Lastly, in the last line of the Symphony, “to let my lyre send forth the chords of love, unselfishness, sincerity,” these are all such important traits for a Peace Corps volunteer to carry. The thing is, as Alpha Chis we already carry these traits; Peace Corps just gives you the chance to exemplify them. They say it’s the hardest job you’ll ever learn to love – and that couldn’t be truer – but it is so worth it. You will learn so much about yourself, you will grow in unimaginable ways and you will have the opportunity to live out the Symphony in the most rewarding way possible.
By: Selby Werner, Epsilon Psi
Let’s begin with a simple question: what is Greek licensing? (And why are we talking about it in a Ritual themed blog post?? Don’t worry, we will get there.) Essentially, Greek licensing is a formal process for Alpha Chi Omega and other Greek-letter organizations to protect the intellectual property assets of the organization. Since the trademarks of Alpha Chi Omega are the property of the organization, they must be controlled and deserve to be protected.
When you close your eyes and think of Alpha Chi Omega, what do you see? I’m sure we all have very different experiences and memories that come to mind, but in addition to those we all see the same symbols: our Greek letters – ΑΧΩ, the lyre, the red carnation, a pearl, perhaps even our open motto, “Together Let Us Seek the Heights!” I want to reiterate that… that we all imagine the same symbols. Despite there being more than 130 collegiate chapters and over 130 years of Alpha Chi history, we all imagine the same symbols when we think of our beloved sisterhood. Why is that?
The answer is two-fold. The first reason is, of course, the fact that those are the emblems our Founders decided upon when establishing this organization. Each was chosen deliberately and each has its own special significance. The second reason being that these symbols have been maintained and respected as emblems of the organization since its inception. One of the primary ways they have been maintained is through proper control via trademark licensing; by monitoring and controlling how the marks are being used commercially by vendors, Alpha Chi is able to ensure that they are only being used in ways that are appropriate representations of our sisterhood. Consequently, the integrity and value of the marks are preserved for future generations of sisters to enjoy.
There is no doubt in my mind that every Alpha Chi Omega sister can remember the first set of letters she received. It’s a moving experience; that special moment when she is able to proclaim to the world in big bold letters, quite literally, that she is a member of Alpha Chi Omega! Those letters mean something. They represent the truest nature of our organization – our heritage; our Ritual; our values; and our sisters, past, present, and future.
Too often though, that is unfortunately forgotten. It’s too easy to take the letters we wear for granted and forget that they represent something bigger than our four-year collegiate experiences. My call to you is this: to remember that those marks have a meaning beyond your own experience in Alpha Chi Omega.
Alpha Chi Omega’s licensing program is fundamentally a process through which product quality control is managed. Buying licensed products is one of the easiest ways to help reinforce our organizations’ values and make sure our Ritual it is protected for generations to come! Luckily for all of us, Alpha Chi Omega has made it easy to participate in this form of Ritual protection by establishing their licensing program. Give the gift of our sisterhood by buying items that have been approved.
For more about licensing and where your chapter can find licensed vendors, visit greeklicensing .com.
By Sami Holley
Gamma Rho, Texas Tech University
With our next class of consultants currently in training, Sami reflects on her time as a chapter consultant.
After two fantastic years as a chapter consultant for Alpha Chi Omega, it has come time for me to say goodbye (and I haven’t even grabbed for a tissue—yet). It is a bittersweet departure as I am equally excited for the consultants that will fill my shoes as I am sad about leaving my memories, friends and sisters.
I came into my first day of training as a fresh college graduate who had no idea what was in store for the next couple of years. I have always been told that Alpha Chi Omega has the best consultant training out there, and it proved to be true that summer. I made memories with friends I will never forget, and I learned what it means to be a real, strong woman and to truly change lives.
While I was daydreaming about my experience as a consultant, I decided I would love to share some of my favorite moments with you.
Summer training: Wow! What a challenging yet rewarding experience. Going in, I don’t think anyone knows that to expect. It’s a really cool concept to work with your sisters. The level of confidence they treat you with is comforting, but the respect that they have for you is what really seals the deal.
Moving (away from Texas): Who even knew that just moving to a different state would change your attitude toward home?! Not only did I move out of the only place I knew, but I moved in with two sisters I had only known for six weeks—talk about really getting to know each other. These women became my best friends and my home. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into on day one. I can’t speak for them, but I know that I wouldn’t take back one day of our time together.
And, it’d be a shame if I didn’t mention my second-year roommate. During hard times she picks me up, she keeps me happy when I’m sad and she never, ever gives up on me! Talk about a true sister. I wouldn’t have made it without her, and I will never forget the joy she brought me when I needed it most.
Creating long-distance friendships: When you first hear about the consultant position, everyone always says you’re going to make so many friends. What I didn’t know going in is that your consultant sisters can become constant companions, even when you’re not in the same state. They are your biggest supporters and push you to be your best as soon as they meet you.
Colonization: There may be no greater joy in my heart than the joy I felt on bid day for our new chapter at the University of Southern Mississippi (shout out, Kappa Sigma chapter). I will never forget the moment I saw all of our new members running home to Alpha Chi. The women at Southern Miss have completely taken my heart, and for that I am forever grateful. They have praised my big wins, as well as my small wins; they have taught me what being a servant leader is all about; and they have brought out my passions.
Two years really have flown by. Thank you to all the women I met along the way. While I had the chance to change lives, you all were changing mine. It has been a fun ride, Alpha Chi Omega.
Photo courtesy of travlingirl.com
By Susan B. Barnes
Zeta Sigma, Missouri State University
Inspiration to travel can be found nearly everywhere – through movies we watch, books we read, stories relayed by our friends, world music… the list goes on! We thought it might be fun to take a look at our founders – all adventurous in their own ways – and suggest destinations that they may have liked to visit in today’s day and age.
Anna Allen Smith, who graduated DePauw’s School of Music at the young age of 19, lived in Greencastle, Indiana her entire life, and rarely, if ever, left the Hoosier State. A day’s drive – a perfect introduction for a beginning traveler – could easily transport Anna to a wealth of musical destinations, including Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Louisville, Nashville and Memphis.
Olive Burnett Clark – but we’re all friends here, so let’s call her Ollie, as her friends did – studied the piano, violin, cello and double bass while at DePauw. With her love of stringed instruments, Ollie may have left her comfort zone and traveled to the Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy, which opened last year, or all the way to Australia to learn to play the didgeridoo!
An intense commitment to music led Bertha Deniston Cunningham to become an accomplished performer and teacher at DePauw’s School of Music, not to mention the envy of the school’s students due to her stellar composing skills. Bertha would probably enjoy the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, or the unaffiliated MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) in Brussels, Belgium; a quick hop from Brussels is the charming, picturesque town of Dinant, where Adolphe Sax, creator of the saxophone, was born.
As the “little girl with a big voice,” New York City’s Broadway would likely be high on Amy Dubois Reith list, especially to see prodigies just like her. Closer to home, she could take in stage productions in Chicago, where she could also see a few shows at Second City to appeal to her sense of humor; she had a tendency to pull pranks on her sorority sisters!
In addition to music, Nellie Gamble Childe was passionate about roses and loved to garden. What fun it would be for her to visit gardens around the country! Starting with the gardens at the Biltmore in Asheville, NC, she could easily travel west and make her way to the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Ore. And if Nellie wanted to hop the pond, I’d definitely suggest the gardens at Hampton Court outside of London, and Chateau de Versailles outside of Paris.
When Bessie Grooms Keenan had to give up her life’s ambition of being a pianist due to an injury, she threw herself into building AXO; her daughter Hannah followed her footsteps and eventually became director of what is now headquarters. This mother-daughter team deserve a getaway, don’t you think? For these two, I’m thinking of a summer at Tanglewood in the Massachusetts’ Berkshires, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra summers. The two could spread a blanket on the lawn and enjoy cool summer evening picnics under the twinkling stars and floating musical notes.
Of all of our founders, Estelle Leonard was the most like me – a travlin’ girl. Known to have a “developed independence, decision, and a rather bohemian attitude,” I could see Estelle hopping a plane for destinations unknown. Even more, she’d grab a bag and hop the Eurail, traveling Europe by train to whichever stop piqued her interest – perhaps Turkey, Finland, Croatia, or (maybe not surprisingly), Greece! She’d write about her travels, too – after all, she spent some time reporting for the local newspaper!
How about you? Where do you see our founders traveling to?
Susan B. Barnes (aka travlin’ girl) is a freelance travel writer based in Tampa. A proud Army brat, she was born on a military base in Belgium and has been on the go ever since, graduating from (Southwest) Missouri State University (Zeta Sigma). Susan enjoys traveling to new destinations and inspiring readers to travel themselves – whether around the world or in their own backyards. Connect with Susan on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.