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Reaching the Heights, Together

Mikelle BradyBy Mikelle Brady, National Housing Corporation President
(Alpha chapter, DePauw University)

Together let us seek the heights. If you’re like me, you’ve thought about our open motto a time or two.  Seems pretty simple—not much interpretation needed.  But recently, I’ve been pondering the motto from a slightly different point of view.  Exactly how does this apply to the Alpha Chi Omega housing world?

The National Housing Corporation (NHC) has been changing the focus lately.  Rather than concentrating on the owner of our Alpha Chi Omega properties, we’ve centered on facility pride.  If our letters are on it, it’s an Alpha Chi Omega house.  With a focus that’s more broad and all-encompassing than in previous years, we’re able to really keep our motto in mind.  Working together, we can be sure to offer safe, affordable, competitive housing to our members.  And when I say “we,” I mean all of us affected in some way by Alpha Chi Omega housing: Alpha Chi collegiate and alumna members, local housing corporation (LHC) and NHC volunteers, university personnel, parents.  Have you ever thought about how far-reaching the “together” of our open motto can be?  I recently found two examples.

Over the summer I purchased a copy of our most recent history book, which tells different stories from Alpha Chi Omega’s first 25 years.  In it, I read the account of how the first Alpha Chi Omega-owned house was built—completed only 10 years after our Fraternity’s founding.  The details of how our members at Beta chapter at Albion College so quickly built their own house make me proud.  Those sisters wanted to accomplish a goal, and they were resourceful!  The members built not only a brick structure to live in, but also built partnerships with important college personnel, alumnae and parents in order to get the job done.  Were they nervous?  I’d imagine so!  But the members reached out to the supportive community around them and built a lodge of their dreams.

Fast forward more than 100 years.  Another group of Alpha Chi Omegas dreams of building a new house for our Delta Pi chapter at the University of Tennessee.  Over many years these sisters build partnerships with important university personnel, a strong group of local alumnae, vital parents of members and the NHC.  Together, the many members and non-members work to raise funds, secure state bonds, make and execute plans, and lay the financial framework for the new chapter house to be self-supporting.  As you can see in the photo spread on pages 32-37, the new Delta Pi house is a dream come true for those who worked on the project.  But take away one of the partners, and that dream would not have become a reality.  I can only imagine in 100 more years, as members are reading our history book, they too will be impressed by the resourcefulness of how together this dream was realized.

Yes, our motto Together let us seek the heights still rings true today, and applies very much to our Alpha Chi Omega housing.  It stretches far beyond our chapter sisters, local alumnae and national headquarters.  Working together to form strong partnerships with all who can influence our success truly allows us to make those dreams come true—with the help of others, we can reach the heights.

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The Lyre, Summer 2012 / A New Step in the NHC Journey

Corner_Officeby Aggie Smith Steiner, National Housing Corporation President
(Beta Eta, Florida State University)

In 2010, the Fraternity, Foundation and National Housing Corporation (NHC) embraced a strategic plan to continue our fraternal journey to excellence.  Each entity committed to develop strategies and set programs in place with an understanding that “being a relevant organization, driven by a strong reputation, will enable Alpha Chi Omega to recruit members, retain them and ultimately generate the resources necessary to sustain and grow the whole organization.”  For the NHC, this included taking an in-depth look at who we are, what we do and where we want to be.  These efforts were not only directed at NHC-owned, -leased and -managed properties, but also local house corporations.

When it comes to our local house corporations, many are doing their best to function as a “business with a heart.”  Board members are actively engaged in the process.  They selflessly volunteer their time and expertise in amazing ways to ensure that our collegiate women enjoy premier living environments. Health and safety concerns are quickly identified and addressed.  Décor and maintenance issues are updated on a recurring calendar.  These local house corporation boards benefit from strategic plans.

Unfortunately, not all of our collegiate chapters have such engaged alumnae.  Some chapter facilities are in need of décor updates or major renovations.  On an increasing number of campuses, the collegiate housing environment is changing with little or no warning.  The result is insufficient time available to acquire the funds and support necessary to build.  Economic times continue to be uncertain.  But we all must understand that if Alpha Chi Omega’s letters are on the property, it does not matter who technically owns it.  All Alpha Chi Omega facilities, like our members, represent our organization as a whole.

With increasing regularity, local house corporations are, fortunately, seeking guidance from the NHC on ways to perform their responsibilities and to meet the expectations of the national organization.  Recognizing that fully functioning house corporations are critical to the success of our collegiate chapters, the NHC called upon a group of local house corporation presidents to develop a tool for gathering information—setting expectations and identifying benchmarks for premier living environments.

Last fall, the Housing Corporation Certification Task Force (HCCTF) announced the first-ever certification program meant to identify best practices through a rating system designed to recognize local housing corporations that follow good organizational policies, implement quality business strategies and achieve high-performance facilities.

“We feel this program allows for self-assessment, opportunities to achieve higher performance levels and recognition of the outstanding work of our housing volunteers,” said HCCTF Chair Christina Greenwell Mullins.

This certification program is a major first step in the NHC journey to excellence for all Alpha Chi Omega facilities.  During this year’s national convention, we will be recognizing those local house corporations who have completed the program as “certified” and honoring those who have achieved silver and gold levels.

The NHC’s journey to excellence has not finished, but we are definitely well on our way!

For more information about the Housing Corporation Certification and Recognition Program, please visit alphachiomega.org, Resource Center, Chapter Housing, Housing Tool Kits, Certification & Recognition Program.

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The Lyre, Summer 2011 / Summer Projects

Corner Officeby Aggie Smith Steiner, National Housing Corporation President
(Beta Eta, Florida State University)

The last time I wrote, I shared some of my current favorites with you—The Blind Side, a red carnation and the color red. Let’s continue that conversation…

My favorite season is summer. The days are longer; the sun shines brighter; people tend to smile more; life seems to slow down.

Growing up, I looked forward to summer and still do! Floral sundresses with white sandals; sweet-tea and freshly squeezed lemonade; freedom from school and classes; family trips to the beach.

The lyrics of a Nat King Cole song sum up what I used to think of summer:

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer/Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

Just fill your basket full of sandwiches and weenies/Then lock the house up, now you are set/And on the beach you will see the girls in their bikinis/As cute as ever but they never get ‘em wet”

It never occurred to me that people actually worked during the summer months. Now that I serve as the National Housing Corporation President, I know the truth.

The work of our dedicated housing volunteers and professional staff does not stop when school is out. Major maintenance and renovation projects are planned for summer completion, so that our collegiate women do not have to deal with construction schedules and the inevitable noise, dust, workers and life interruptions that accompany housing projects.

Here’s a snapshot of just some of our summer 2011 housing projects:

  • Zeta Nu, Texas A&M University, is being updated inside and out—paint, landscaping, redecoration.
  • New laminate flooring is being installed throughout our Gamma Omicron, Marshall University, chapter facility.
  • Beta Tau, Miami University, is adding new storage and meeting spaces for their executive board.
  • Redecoration projects are scheduled for Beta Delta, College of William & Mary, and Zeta Eta, Bradley University.
  • We are partnering with the University of Pennsylvania to update the kitchen and an upstairs bathroom in our Alpha Epsilon facility.
  • New energy efficient windows are being installed in the Epsilon Phi, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Gamma Rho, Texas Tech University, houses.
  • An energy audit is being performed in the Epsilon Eta, Stephen F. Austin State University, chapter house.

Here are some even larger projects:

  • New house construction is underway for Delta Pi, University of Tennessee. The 11,000 square feet facility is the first house for this nearly 50-year-old chapter. The Greek Revival style home will sleep 52 women and includes gracious formal and informal entertaining spaces, study rooms, separate executive board and house mother suites, a commercial kitchen, and outdoor terraces.
  • Pi, University of California-Berkeley, will be refreshing their kitchen and kitchenettes with paint, cabinets and floors. Additionally, work outside includes the removal of a tree that damaged the fence in their outdoor patio area and installing new gutters and downspouts.
  • Omega, Washington State University, is replacing flooring in individual sleeping rooms; painting rooms and hallways; and repairing a leak in the computer study room, which requires taking out and then replacing the stairway under the deck.
  • Alpha Psi, University of California-Los Angeles, is adding insulation to their house, installing energy efficient windows and tackling bathroom renovations.
  • Kappa Nu, Carnegie Mellon University, will be moving from their current location to a new University owned property on campus. As this facility is a former men’s fraternity house, there is much work to make this “frat house” into a welcoming sorority home. All common spaces will be updated—living room, study area, kitchen and basement— with new paint, design and décor.
  • On the national scale, our headquarters staff is completing the House Director Guide this summer for fall distribution to facilities associated with a house director.

Whew! So, when do our housing volunteers and staff get to enjoy the lazy days? Candidly, I am not sure we do. What I do know is that we love what we do and those for whom we work. Our single mission is to support all things housing for all our members.

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The Lyre, Summer 2010 / Best Practices of the National Housing Corporation

aggieby Aggie Smith Steiner
(Βeta Eta, Florida State University)

When I was growing up, my favorite colors were yellow and green. Pollyanna was my favorite movie and a yellow daisy my favorite flower.

Pollyanna was the story of a young woman who lived her life by seeing the best in others, and expecting the same of herself. Every Sunday, she and her cousins were made to dress-up and sit for hours on uncomfortable wooden  pews in a stifling hot church where a minister preached fire and brimstone. When told that there was no way she could find good in that, she quickly responded, “Sunday only comes once a week.”

I joined Alpha Chi Omega as a shy, naïve 18-year-old. My sisters always expected the best from me. They saw something in me of which I was unaware–a potential for leadership–and gave me opportunities to succeed. Fast forward 40 plus years and I am serving as the National Housing Corporation President. When I was asked to write the “Corner Office,” I began by thinking about what makes our NHC the best. Quite simply, it’s our philosophy.

We believe that a premier living environment adds value to the overall Alpha Chi Omega experience. And, we believe this provides a competitive Panhellenic advantage. We are in the business of providing our sisters a home away from home.

In mid-March, Alpha Chi Omega leaders met in Indianapolis to determine future directions. We reviewed where we are today with read-outs on the Strategic Plan 2005-10 and discussed where we want to be five years out. We discussed best practices and agreed upon a shared vision.

In 2005 the NHC embarked upon a forward-looking plan to work more closely with all Alpha Chi Omega facilities by being the best that we could be.

  • We seriously focused on operating within our means and becoming revenue neutral.
  • We grew total assets by 12% and our general fund to 108%.
  • We refinanced our owned/managed properties to secure more favorable interest rates and pay-back periods.
  • We grew inventory of our owned properties by 20%, leased 60%, custodial 10% and developed new models to support un-housed chapters and locally owned properties.
  • We reduced administrative costs and facilitated cash positive positions for the majority of NHC properties while providing 10-year maintenance and repair plans for 100% of them.
  • We implemented a vibrant housing volunteer structure and supported the creation of a Housing Advisor position to better focus the Chapter Advisor on programming and member issues.
  • We further defined our grant policies and provided $30,000 for health and safety related projects such as sprinkler and fire door installations, replacement windows and bathroom remodels.

For me, I think that is a very good list of results for our best practices work!

Over time, my favorites have changed. I learned that I should never wear yellow and most greens aren’t that good either. My current favorite color is red and movie is The Blind Side, a movie about seeing the best in others and providing opportunities to achieve. I guess I haven’t really strayed that far from my youth. Oh, and my favorite flower—a red carnation.

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The Motherload

lexiby Lexi Swinimer
(Iota Psi, Elon University)

Remember when your Mom used to tell you to “keep your hair out of your eyes, always wear clean underwear, and be careful, or you’re face will freeze like that”? And then of course there was the famous, “You’ll miss me someday.”

Well the truth is, that “someday” usually hits you square in the face in late August of your 18th year, when you aren’t willing to admit everything you don’t know but are still really afraid of doing it all on your own… and figuring out how to wash delicates to boot! So when your daughter comes home, knowing how to keep cookies from burning, which cycle to wash her jeans on versus her towels, and is chastising her little brother to keep the toothpaste goop off the bathroom counter “because it requires a blade to scrape it off,” and you are left wondering what alien has invaded her body think back to that quick text about a “House Mom” that left you thinking, “Do those still exist?”

In an age where we are quick to pass on the duties of adults to our children, the Fraternal world has held onto the belief that those who ‘have been there, done that’ still have something to offer; enter your daughter’s “House Mom” or if we are being politically correct, House Director. But to be honest, I prefer House Mom and it’s how I refer to myself, because the job requires a lot of mentoring that is very reflective of a Mother. (Okay, in my case it’s more like the big sister, but hey – it works.) 

As a House Mom, I have famous sayings too, “Have fun, keep it classy,” “Remember, you’re always wearing your letters” and of course “Would you treat your mother’s furniture like that?” Because when your daughter becomes a member, and even more so if she is offered the opportunity to live in an Alpha Chi Omega facility, it’s her House Mom (and Chapter Advisor, too) who step in and help tap her on the shoulder when she’s about to make a mistake she’s going to regret, but let her make those mistakes she needs to learn from.

Finishing school isn’t very popular anymore, but manners and class still are. Fraternal life offers young women the opportunity to learn these values, which all Alpha Chi Omegas share, in a caring, supportive, and fun environment. I’ve taught women how to clean a banister, why you should chew with your mouth closed, that napkins belong in your lap, and what it means to be a good hostess. I’ve also taught them how to paint a room, why metal doesn’t go in the microwave, the meaning of ‘rinse your dishes’ and how to install a doorknob. (We’re not helpless creatures!) But most importantly, I’m present. Which means I hear lots of stories (you’d be surprised how many are about home and their parents), give advice, help mend rips, and raise an eyebrow (it’s called the “Lexi look”) when I notice they’re wearing the same outfit from the night before. And I feel blessed to also call Alpha Chi Omega home. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of your daughters lives.

P.S.- Mom’s also say, “I’ll always love you, no matter what.” Same rings true here.

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The Lyre, Summer 2009 / Celebrating the Gamma Theta Chapter House

updatedchapterhouse

When the University of Maryland announced the renovation of its “Graham Cracker” properties, a block of university owned sorority housing, the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Chi Omega was one of the first on the list. Thanks to state bonds from the university and supplemental funds from the National Housing Corporation, the chapter house is one of the latest and greatest housing projects of our organization.

In the fall of 2007, the make-over officially began by tearing down, out and apart the entire house; all that was left of the house was the frame. Furnaces, flooring, roofing and more were completely replaced and brought up-to-code. The house was equipped with a brand new commercial kitchen and two study areas, something the original house never had. The house is now up to ADA government standards and is considered “green” housing—light fixtures and equipment are low wattage, and a recycling program has been implemented.

This past spring, members of the Gamma Theta chapter were able to move back to their much-loved sorority home. The women have been enjoying the “brand new” chapter house ever since.

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The Lyre, Summer 2009 / Alpha Chi Omega Coming Back to UCLA

House

For more than a decade, Alpha Chi Omegas in southern California have anticipated reopening the Alpha Psi chapter at the University of California – Los Angeles. Well, sisters, the time has come! This fall, the women of UCLA will have another option. Alpha Chi Omega will grace the campus to recruit those women who want to feel the difference themselves and create the difference for others.

Exciting opportunities loom on the horizon, not only for potential new members at UCLA, but for Alpha Psi alumnae, southern California collegians and alumnae, and Alpha Chi Omega members across the country who are energized about the future of Alpha Chi Omega as a whole.

With the current average chapter size on UCLA’s campus at 130, the bar is high right out of the gate! When opening a new chapter or recolonizing a closed chapter, it is imperative to make a splash from the beginning. Alpha Chi Omega is preparing to do just that. It’s time to get real, anticipate what it will take to be a success at UCLA, and make things happen!

The conversation starts here.

Can you spare some time?

Coordination between Headquarters staff, local alumnae, local collegians, campus Panhellenic and university administrators is key to a smooth introduction of Alpha Chi Omega. A colonization team is being established to guide the process. There will be opportunities to participate in the colonization process as well as ongoing roles as advisors, mentors, and special projects teams. You will begin to see marketing efforts this summer, which began with a web site dedicated to providing information about Alpha Chi Omega to potential new members. Check it out at www.axoucla.com. But, we need to do more. If your professional background is such that you could volunteer your time and expertise to assist with getting the word out, we’d like to hear from you. Are you a graphic designer, printer, event planner, or someone with boundless energy and enthusiasm for Alpha Chi Omega and the idea of organization growth? Let us hear from you. If you’ve got the time and/or talent to assist the local colonization committee, please contact Jana Accaccia at justjana@verizon.net.

Can you spare a dime?

When the Alpha Psi chapter closed in 1996, the local house corporation did not sell the Alpha Chi Omega house in the hopes that the chapter would be revived in the future. Instead, it has been rented to boarders for the past 12 years. Now, plans are being made for major renovations anticipating the return of tenants who live in the Alpha Chi Omega bond.

While the local house corporation, led by Mary Davids, Chi, Oregon State University, has worked hard through the years to ensure that the frame, or structure , of the property has been well maintained and is in good condition, the time has come to focus on the public areas of the residence.

“A beautiful, up-to-date and classy looking house is a must when it comes to recruiting new members,” she says. “It will create a very positive image as the young women contemplate being a part of the new Alpha Psi chapter.”

Cosmetic updates include paint, carpeting throughout, and refurbished bathrooms and study hall. In addition to these aesthetic and continued structural repairs, living necessities such as furniture, mattresses and kitchenware will need to be purchased.

The local house corporation’s goal is to have the facility in move-in condition for the 2010-11 academic year. Your contributions are crucial to meeting that goal. The Alpha Psi House Association needs your support today!

For more information on how you can help the Alpha Psi House Association, contact Mary Davids at mgdavids@aol.com. Donations may be mailed to:

Alpha Psi House Association
c/o Treasurer
638 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90024