by Josh Welch
(Assistant Director Residence & Greek Life, University of Central Missouri)
Alpha Chi Omega’s Alcohol Skills Training Program Approach to Empowering Women
As a part of the Alpha Chi Omega ASTP facilitator team I am excited to join the women of Alpha Chi Omega in REAL conversations, specifically about alcohol use and how to approach the choice to drink in a way that one is able to avoid the negative consequences sometimes associated with consumption. The Alcohol Skills Training Program (ASTP) is an approach that gives drinkers and non-drinkers information about alcohol and helps to facilitate dialogue with chapter members to clarify social norms using facts and evidence based practices. The program addresses alcohol’s affects on the body based on expectancy, how alcohol enters and leaves the body, and gives participants the opportunity to ask questions and develop personal strategies. By arming these women with knowledge they are better equipped to make decisions around their use of alcohol or abstinence from. Thankfully ASTP is a REAL risk management prevention approach that meets students where they are and empowers them to use skills and facts to make decisions that affect their life.
As a facilitator of the ASTP program I have seen chapter members engage in the REAL conversations about alcohol use, identify ways to promote change in consumption behavior and clarify the social norms in their chapter about the REAL acceptability of alcohol use. The women identified REAL situations in their lives and with information from the program made REAL informed decisions on how those situations would affect them and their chapter. One of the more powerful moments of a recent program was hearing women in the chapter send a STRONG message that misuse of alcohol was not acceptable behavior from members.
I am reminded of a saying that “if we are going to send our kids to the pool, we better make sure that they know how to swim.” Alpha Chi Omega has realized that our students on college campuses are faced with decisions about alcohol use, and from that realization they’ve worked to develop a program to equip their women with knowledge to face that decision. As Alpha Chi Omega works to offer ASTP to more of their chapters my hope is that the real, strong women who are attending these programs will take the information they learn and start conversations about safer ways to consume alcohol within their other networks on campus.
Fighting the Inevitable and Winning
Rebecca Norman Holmes, a 1990 initiate of the Beta Eta chapter at Florida State University, did not have cancer. Her mother did. Her father did. Her grandmother did. Rebecca did not have cancer, but by the age of 27, she had lost her closest family members to the disease. When she too had her first cancer-related health scare, she decided that cancer was not an option for her. Mustering the mental, emotional and physical strength it needed, Rebecca took control of her health and future through a preventative mastectomy. And through her loss, she gave her daughter and son a living mother—something Rebecca did not have.
It was 1989 and Florida State University was dominating college football and the Normans were definitely an “FSU family.” She joined Alpha Chi Omega in the fall, and found herself surrounded by 150 new sisters in a house full of fun and laughter. Rebecca was having the time of her life; unfortunately, that all quickly changed. Rebecca’s mother, a young, athletic, healthy woman of 41, had a history of fibrocystic breast disease. She saw her doctor regularly and had the usual benign lumps biopsied and removed. However, six months following a clear mammogram, the unthinkable happened. Rebecca’s mother was diagnosed with an aggressive, stage 4 breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver and lungs. She was given just months to live.
“I remember getting the phone call that changed everything…the confusion, the fear…the ignorance in not knowing what was to come,” said Rebecca.
Rebecca immediately rushed home to Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout her mother’s struggle with the cancer, Rebecca witnessed her mother endure painful surgeries, countless rounds of chemo and radiation, and multiple medications. In 1992, Rebecca’s mother passed away at the age of 44.
Rebecca returned to school; however, her grades had plummeted. Her collegiate future was very sparse, but she persevered—just as her mother would have wanted. Rebecca had already studied abroad in Belgium during high school, so she continued her travels by serving as an au pair in the south of France. Rebecca really counted on her Alpha Chi Omega family to her help her finish school, and they stepped up. The chapter house cooks, Sam and Ms. Evelyn, became surrogate parents, and her new member class sister Karen Leemkuil Nielsen offered great support and friendship. Finally, Rebecca graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and geography.
The celebration was cut short when soon after her graduation, her father died of a newly diagnosed esophageal cancer, and her grandmother was soon to follow.
“…as if I was living in some horrible nightmare, my beloved grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like my mother and father, she, too, died in my arms,” said Rebecca.
That same year and at the age of 27, Rebecca, like her mother, was diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease. Year after year, she was plagued with suspicious spots on mammograms, MRIs, biopsies and many sleepless nights—but Rebecca lived on. She traveled as a Delta flight attendant, married and had two children.
“As I approached the age of my mom’s diagnosis, the pain of her reality set in. For the first time, I could relate to her as a woman and as a mother,” said Rebecca. “Would I, too, leave my children motherless?…It wasn’t a matter of ‘if ’ I would have breast cancer, but ‘when.’”
Rebecca had been under the care of a very well-respected breast surgeon; she received checkups on a regular basis; and had even had a recent digital, diagnostic mammogram with results reading clear. Due to her personal and family history, Rebecca pushed to have a more conclusive MRI done above and beyond her regular mammogram. Immediately, a small pea-sized “hot spot” was revealed. Although the doctor felt that it was most likely benign, Rebecca’s concern was that it had been missed in the first place. The issue reminiscent of her mother’s, it was in that very moment that Rebecca decided to take matters into her own hands. Rebecca underwent genetic counseling, and it was determined that she qualified for a prophylactic “preventative” bilateral mastectomy. Through her doctor’s personal referral, Rebecca was matched with a plastic surgeon who specialized in her breast type. It was decided that a Latissmus Flap Reconstruction was the most befitting option. Rebecca discussed the breadth of information given to her and the reality of the situation with her husband. She had to overcome the psychology of losing her breasts—not unlike postpartum depression—and actually commit to the decision of moving forward. Although it was difficult and not taken lightly, Rebecca did move forward with the surgery.
“Everyone else kept telling me how brave I was…I didn’t feel brave. I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” said Rebecca.
Reality and Support
On the same date she had lost her mother, Rebecca underwent her first surgery. Under anesthesia for eight hours, Latissmus “lats” muscles were taken from her back, tunneled through her body and around the front to help rebuild the chest wall. Tissue expanders were put in place of the implants that would be inserted during the second surgery. She was left with two 6-inch scars on her back and the outlook of recovering for many, many weeks.
Rebecca remembers, “On August 12…the day a life was taken from me, I would be giving a life to my children. It could not have been a more poignant, beautiful day.”
The days following the surgery were filled with challenges. Rebecca was met with unexpected complications—respiratory distress and debilitating pain. The one thing that got her through each day was the love from her family, friends and Alpha Chi Omega sisters. Reconnected with her sisters via Facebook, Rebecca felt the same affection and support that she had felt during her collegiate years. Phone calls, visits and meals all arrived with precision. Rebecca’s new member class sister Karen, once again, came to her side with care and emotional support.
“When they say that your Alpha Chi sisters are yours for life, they mean it! So many years had gone by, yet when I called upon them in a real time of need, they showed up, ready to fight alongside me,” said Rebecca.
Following her second and final surgery, Rebecca now has decreased her chances of developing breast cancer by more than 95 percent, and she plans to have a BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutation test completed for her daughter’s sake. The possibilities of Rebecca and her family’s future are endless, now that she no longer is weighed down by the inevitability of cancer.
Rebecca; her husband Cha; and their two children, Clint (4) and Hollis (3), reside in downtown Atlanta. The family enjoys traveling, water sports and creating memories at their beach house in Daytona Beach, Florida.
by Victoria Cardamon Gigoux
(Alpha Psi, UCLA)
Sisterhood is nothing new to me. I am one of three sisters, and I have daughters. Also, three! I get it. I always have. But, the older I get and the more I watch my little legacies grow, the more I come to realize that their sisterhoods branch further out than just our home. Sisterhood starts young, from the time they start to socialize with other children.
My seven year old, has been best friends with her BFF since they were four year old Pre-Ks. Fluke. Maybe not! My youngest, who we call “Squeaks,” already has a BFF. Squeaks and “She-She” (as she calls Jaycie) are inseparable. They are two years old! Having been a military brat, and never having had a childhood friend for longer than the two years we lived anywhere, it never dawned on me that sisterhood is almost a subconscious power. It’s innate. I think this is why sororities have survived the tests of time. We women have a calling to spend time with, bolster successes and support other women.
It’s easy for me to see, and encourage the development of deep sisterhood in my own children. But, equally interesting, entertaining and all the more fulfilling, is watching sisterhoods growing between girls who have no biological connections. Even more compelling is being able to foster these relationships and build stronger ties between them.
In addition to my time spent as an Alpha Chi Omega national volunteer, I am the head Girl Scout leader for the largest scout troop in our entire council. Most people think me and my seven co-leaders (which is what is required to support our troop!) are insane. But, watching these girls grow, develop and build life long friendships is more fulfilling for me than I ever could have anticipated. I obviously don’t spend my troop time being an Alpha Chi Omega “recruiter” but it is my job as a leader to “recruit” these young girls into being the women our community wants, and needs them to be.
According to www.girlscouts.org, more than 50 million American women enjoyed Girl Scouts in their childhood. Many of these are notable, including our very own Condoleezza Rice, and some not so notable like me! Every school year that number grows, as more future leaders step foot into their first troop meetings. We have an opportunity as Alpha Chi Omegas, as women, to make an impact. Whether through Girl Scouts of the USA or another organization established to encourage strength, independence and leadership in little girls, I feel it is our job to do so.
I remember a quote, “We are Alpha Chi Omega sisters. We seek the heights of this experience called Life.” I think my time with the Girl Scouts is exactly that. I am seeking the heights of my life experiences. In doing so, I am giving back to my children, a community and an entire generation. I could sit here all day and list the reasons why it is important to volunteer. But, I feel more compelling are the reasons to foster young girls into strong women. Aside from what our genetics have offered us, our fraternity has taught us lifelong skills, not limited to the importance of owning your responsibilities, having a good moral fiber and cultivating friendships. Shouldn’t we pass this on?
Each of us, whether we are raising our own legacies, has the “tools” and innate abilities to teach the real, strong women of the future. Focus for a minute on this. Then, however you choose to do so, make the rewarding choice, to take action! If, in the end you have had an impact on just one little girl who chooses to go the way of the golden lyre, more power to us!
Genna is somewhat of a celebrity on the United States veteran “campus.” Not because of her many USO performances overseas; not because of her many televised and public appearances with Achilles International, a nonprofit organization providing athletes with disability a community of support. Genna Griffith, a 1998 initiate of the Beta Rho chapter at American University, is widely known among our nation’s veterans for helping them find their love of life and personal strength amid their own wounds and scars.
Originally from Newington, Connecticut, Genna moved to Washington D.C to attend American University. She was a musical theatre major who kept herself busy with plays and University performances. Immediately following graduation, Genna made her move to New York City with the goal of a Broadway career. Ten days following her move, the events of September 11, 2001 changed her whole reality; she wanted to give back to her country.
Finding a Way to Serve
In 2003, while still pursuing a performance career in New York City, Genna saw a casting call in the newspaper for USO performers. She attended the call and got the part! She and three other singers shipped overseas and began their service through song. The troupe traveled to Korea, Germany, Japan and all over the United States entertaining veterans and those stationed at active bases. The troupe averaged 150 to 200 shows per year.
Genna remembers her first USO show on a U.S. military base, “It was difficult to hold back the tears, seeing all of the soldiers faces the first time. I sang God Bless America.”
The Start of Something Special
During one of her performances state-side, Genna’s USO group sang the national anthem at the Achilles Hope & Possibility Race in Central Park, where she met many wounded veterans—mostly amputees who were running on their prosthetic legs. She was inspired by what she witnessed; wounded veteran men and women were not letting their scars weigh them down. In awe of their bravery and accomplishments, she immediately spoke with the Achilles International organization and became a volunteer.
In 2007, Genna’s tour with the USO came to an end; however, she and the original singers formed their own group, “United We Sing,” and they continue to perform. And due to her great fervor for volunteering, her position at Achilles International transitioned into a full-time career. Currently, she is the director of the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans.
More than Just a Job
Today, Genna coordinates 16 national marathon wellness trips each year for the Achilles Freedom Team. She works closely with many of the military hospitals’ physical therapists, marathon directors, sponsors and volunteers to ensure a successful integration into mainstream athletics. More specifically, Genna, through her work at Achilles International, has aided wounded veterans by giving them the opportunity to set achievable goals on their road to recovery while developing skills and capabilities needed for personal independence and emotional stability. Genna has had the honor of working with such celebrities as Prince Harry of Wales; however, the work she has done with the organization’s more than 500 wounded veterans is what really inspires her.
Genna states, “It is such an honor to be working with these individuals who have just gone through so much to protect our country…and then to see double amputees running the New York marathon, it’s amazing!”
Genna’s choice to be immersed in the veteran community has not only changed her life, but helped her find the love of her life. In 2006, while performing with her USO troupe, Genna met Captain Marc Giammatteo, who was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center at the time. Marc had endured over 30 surgeries to save his right leg, following a rocket-propelled grenade hitting his vehicle while serving in Iraq. The two were married at the United States Military Academy at West Point in September 2010.
The Importance of Giving Back
Being involved with an incredible charity like Achilles International has enhanced and enriched her life in so many ways; she wants other women to understand the importance of giving back, too.
Genna’s advice: “Just find something you are passionate about. Feel that sense of adding value. Get involved with a charity that interests you, as you can make a difference!”
Genna and her husband reside in Manhattan, New York. To learn more about Genna, watch the NBC Nightly News’ “Making a Difference” series entry “Love for Country, and One Another” at msnbc.com, Nightly News, Making a Difference. For more information on Achilles International and/or the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, visit achillesinternational.org. Genna may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridging the Cultural Gap
Amid an international politically charged environment and civil unrest, bridging the cultural gap between the American people and the Arab world is an extraordinary goal that many would not aspire to achieve. Kathryn “Kathy” Fortune Hubbard, a 1971 initiate of the Alpha chapter DePauw University, however, has made it one of her life’s missions to not only provide a two-way cultural awareness, but break down and eradicate the misunderstandings that exist.
Raised in the college town of West Lafayette, Indiana, Kathy and her three siblings were greatly encouraged by their father in regards to international and cultural studies. Rightly then, following a high school interest in the French language, Kathy chose to further her studies when she began her freshman year at DePauw. As her siblings studied abroad in England, Greece and Japan, Kathy chose to spend her junior year oversees, studying at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. While there, she took it upon herself to spend as much time among the Swiss, rather than her American counterparts. Kathy truly wanted to immerse herself in experiencing the language, history and literature. Following her studies abroad, in 1974, Kathy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French.
Kathy’s interest and concentration on foreign affairs increased as she took on her first employment after graduation—a position with the Indiana Department of Commerce, International Trade Division. In this position, she was able to interact with many companies overseas as she encouraged the exporting and importing of their products. Eventually, she was promoted to the position of Assistant Director and was able to travel to Europe to speak with company representatives in regards to their business opportunities in Indiana.
Where It Began
Kathy’s career has been well-rounded, having worked on several political campaigns—Vice President Dan Quayle, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush—and through her work with Hudson Institute where she was engaged in raising funds for their international and domestic policy research. By the early 90s, Kathy and her husband, Deputy Chief of Staff to Dan Quayle and future chairman of the President George W. Bush’s National Economic Council, were living in Washington D.C.
In 2006, while working on a project for the U.S. Department of State that related American and Arab businesswomen, Kathy met Karim Kawar, Jordan’s former ambassador to the US, and his wife, Luma. The couple shared with Kathy that they were well aware of the misunderstandings and curiosities between the American and Arab worlds—a view long since held by Kathy as well. The Kawars and the Hubbards began discussing and meeting in order to address the need for cultural awareness across the two very different worlds. The couples spoke to their political counterparts and this need of awareness was of much interest, particularly among women and those already seeking an understanding. Funds were raised, along with their own contributions, and the Bridges of Understanding Foundation was founded.
Today, Bridges of Understand—a non-partisan, non-profit, privately funded 501(c)3 organization—has implemented many projects, including:
- Sport 4 Peace, a program that brought three Iraqi coaches and 10 girls interested in improving their basketball skills and global knowledge to the U.S. for a two-week trip to Washington D.C. and Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Youth Talk, a collaboration with Global Nomads Group that facilitates videoconferences between U.S. and Arab high schools. In 2008, three US high schools and three Jordanian high schools participated. In 2009, the number grew to 12.
- Boston Children’s Chorus, a two-week cultural exchange tour that brought together youth from the U.S. and Jordan who love making music. They performed at local venues in Amman and in many rural towns in the Kingdom.
- Support for Heal the Rift, a one-day youth rally that recently took place at New York City’s Washington Square Park and generated a solidarity movement among moderate forces from both the U.S. and Arab worlds.
- Support for the Youth Initiative for Progress in Iraq, a conference designed to provide Iraqi and American youth with a voice and the tools necessary to progress toward a sustainable future between the two countries.
As the organization grows, annual trips to such places as Jordan, Dubai, Egypt and Abu Dhabi for travelers wanting to learn the customs and histories of the area have been organized as well. Through these trips, women of both American and Arab backgrounds have gained friendships, offering the great opportunities to directly learn from one another.
Beyond her cofounding of the Bridges of Understanding Foundation, Kathy has continued her work abroad, concentrating on bridging the cultural gaps and promoting the importance of studying abroad. Kathy states that “we have stereotypes, just as they do.” Through her ongoing efforts, she encourages all to develop an open mind and interest in other cultures in order to tear down these misconceptions. Kathy works alongside international dignitaries and supporters of a greater U.S. and Arab relationship.
Stateside, she has stayed very involved by serving on the Board of Trustees at DePauw University and on many other education and arts-related boards. In 2006, Kathy was appointed to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President George W. Bush—the U.S. government’s international educational exchange program. And venturing back into the for-profit world, Kathy and her husband have recently gained the majority shares of Udi’s Gluten Free Foods, based in Denver, Colorado.
Kathy and her husband, Al Hubbard, reside in Indianapolis, Indiana. They have three children: Will, Katie and Sara. For more information on Bridges of Understanding, visit bridgesofunderstanding.org. For more information on Udi’s Gluten Free Foods, visit udisglutenfree.com.
March 1-7 is National Ritual Celebration Week, and Alpha Chi Omegas everywhere are encouraged to spend a little time each day for the next 7 days reflecting on the Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega and those values that make each of us the real, strong women that we are.
Our NPC friends at Phi Mu orginally organized this week long celebration of Ritual. These ceremonies and beliefs differentiate our Fraternity from a club or typical organization. They speak to the heart of who we are and why we exist. They are powerful ideals made stronger when members choose to honor them and to use them as guiding principles every day.
In our 24/7 world filled with round-the-clock TV, Twitter, Facebook, texting, blogs and more, it’s easy to forget that 125 years ago 7 women came together to create something much larger than themselves – and organized their activities without text bombs or even telephones. They sought a connection they could find nowhere else and to serve each other – and their communities – in a way no one else could.
You have the same gift and have chosen a similar path. As you reflect on Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual this week, here are some suggestions of things you could do to outwardly celebrate:
- Take time today – Hera Day – to be of service of others, even if you don’t have a formal service project organized give of yourself to something/someone today.
- Perform the Rededication of the Bond ceremony at your chapter meeting. Invite area alumnae to your meeting and perform the ceremony for both collegians and alumnae. If you don’t live near a collegiate chapter, don’t have an alumnae chapter near you or don’t have a meeting scheduled that week, take a minute to reflect on your Initiation ceremony. Where were you? What did you wear? How did you feel? More importantly … are you living the life you pledged to live that day? If so, how else could you show that every day? If not, there is no time like the present to start!
- Reconnect with a sister you haven’t spoken to for awhile. Go to lunch. Have a phone date. Send a card. Write a text. Make time one day this week to reach out to someone and tell her why you’re glad she’s your sister. (Even better, pick a person to connect with every day.) If you have regular conversations with sisters, take time this week to talk about the common bond you share with your closest Alpha Chi Omega friends.
- Reflect on the meaning of The Symphony of Alpha Chi Omega. Re-read “The Symphony” at least one time during the week. How does it relate to where you are in life right now? What is your favorite part of the passage? Why?
- On Facebook? Join your sisters in changing your profile picture to the National Ritual Celebration Week logo. Consider posting your reflections and other Alpha Chi Omega stories and thoughts as your status updates and on the Alpha Chi Omega Facebook page this week. On Twitter? Tweet your celebration ideas and reflections during the week – tag your tweets with #AXORitualWeek and follow that tag throughout the week to see what others are saying on Twitter.
- Reflect on how you personify Alpha Chi Omega’s values of Wisdom, Devotion and Achievement. You might consider a conversation about one of these ideals with a non-member and tell him/her why you value your Alpha Chi Omega experience so much.
- Participate in National Panhellenic Conference’s International Badge Day on March 7. Proudly wear your lyre badge to work, on campus and to your community gatherings. Doing so not only honors Alpha Chi Omega, but gives you a chance to connect with other sorority women in your area and celebrate the history of women’s fraternities.
It’s a great time to celebrate … there are so many good things happening in Alpha Chi Omega and across the fraternity and sorority landscape. Plus, kicking the week off with Hera Day is a perfect tribute to Hera, the guardian of women. The service you are doing today and the reflection you will do this week make your organization stronger. More importantly, they will make you an even more real, strong woman.
An Experience for a Lifetime
“Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.” ~Marianne Williamson, creator of “The Miracle Matrix.”
These words from author and lecturer Marianne Williamson are at the heart of a program currently being field tested by 12 chapters across the country. This pilot program is in preparation for the implementation within every chapter across the organization. This (yet-to-be-officially-named) program, currently being referred to as the Four-Year Experience, is designed to provide relevant, timely and life-skill-based education for collegians at every level. Creating a transformational experience for every member is just one of the lofty goals behind this experience.
How the Program Works
After recruitment, new members will complete the seven week Dedication program. This Alpha Chi Omega specific education prepares all members for the initiation exam, with new members learning about Alpha Chi Omega’s history, founders, structure and more.
Dedication makes new member education a universal experience across all of Alpha Chi Omega. Women joining in Florida will have the same education as women joining in Washington. If a woman transfers from a chapter in Massachusetts to a chapter in Southern California, she will have experienced the same fundamental education as the members in her new chapter.
But It Doesn’t End There!
Alpha Chi Omega will be providing every chapter research-based, student-development focused curriculum created for each year of our members’ college journeys.
- How to make laugh out loud, know my deepest darkest secret and most embarrassing moment kind of friends.
- Dreaming for the future. Setting goals for today.
- Last hired. First fired.
- Help me, help you. The role of a mentor.
- Yes, I do have an opinion.
- Real. Strong. Women. know their values.
- Here comes the real ‘real world’ – preparing for post-graduation finances
All programs are categorized based on Alpha Chi Omega’s shared values—wisdom, devotion and achievement—with each class having the choice of which programs they complete. Leaders within every chapter (not advisors or campus staff) will be trained peer-facilitators offering all of the programs.
This is an unprecedented program giving collegians the opportunity to create their own Alpha Chi Omega story that extends far beyond four years on campus and into whatever every woman’s future holds.
Why Now? How Did We Get Here?
In 2008, Alpha Chi Omega partnered with leadership consultants from The Leadership Institute – Women With Purpose to help Alpha Chi Omega conduct research across the entire organization to identify strengths and areas for improvement within the member experience. More than 1,500 collegians, alumnae, volunteers, staff and resigned members responded to surveys and focus group questions.
The data from that research is very clear. Alpha Chi Omega collegians asked for a change. Your National Council listened and the Four-Year Experience has been designed to (among other things):
- Intentionally connect Alpha Chi Omega’s core values to each member’s everyday life.
- Help juniors and seniors feel a greater sense of connectedness, value and purpose to their chapter.
- Promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle far beyond each member’s college experience.
- Encourage self-reflection to show how the Alpha Chi Omega experience helps every member personally and professionally.
These programs are also designed to be fun, informative and worth the time it takes to participate (usually less than an hour).
Who’s Field Testing the Four-Year Experience?
To help guarantee this is the transformational experience it is intended to be, 12 chapters are serving as pilot chapters and truly give the curriculum a real test drive. Each chapter’s feedback, along with feedback from alumnae, volunteers and staff, will be used to make necessary adjustments before implementation across Alpha Chi Omega. The program is currently being “test driven” at the following chapters:
- Eta, Bucknell University
- Lambda, Syracuse University
- Omicron, Baker College
- Alpha Beta, Purdue University
- Beta Eta, Florida State University
- Delta Kappa, Sam Houston State University
- Delta Tau, Minnesota State University-Mankato
- Epsilon Chi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
- Epsilon Omega, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
- Iota Nu, University of California-San Diego
- Iota Sigma, Southern Methodist University
- Iota Phi, Quinnipiac University
These chapters are currently testing the dedication, freshmen and junior programs. In the fall of 2011, each chapter will add sophomore and senior programming to the testing experience.
Assuming field testing is as successful as anticipated (all feedback from pilots has been incredibly positive so far) fraternity wide implementation will begin in fall 2012.
How Can My Chapter Participate?
If your chapter has deferred recruitment, you can begin using Dedication as early as this spring for your New Member Education program. Plus, all chapters across the organization can opt to use the dedication, freshmen and junior curriculum as early as fall 2011.
Before opting in you will receive information about the cost to participate and how to participate in facilitator training.
What About a Name?
This program cannot be called the Four-Year Experience forever. It has to have a ‘real’ name with ‘real’ Alpha Chi Omega significance. Some ideas that have been suggested so far include Project Alpha Chi, Symphony Institute and Pearl College.
What do you think? Do you have a great idea on how to capture all this program brings in one simple name? If so, we would love to hear it! Who knows, your suggestion could go down in Alpha Chi Omega history!
For more information, contact Education and Leadership Initiatives at Alpha Chi Omega Headquarters by calling 317.579.5050. Information may also be found at alphachiomega.org.
(Photo courtesy of Western University of Health Sciences)
Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis is a proud sorority woman. She is a 1969 initiate of the Epsilon chapter at the University of Southern California. She has served for over 23 years on the Los Angeles Superior Court. The Los Angeles Superior Court is regarded as the largest single trial bench in the world. This award-winning court is located in a unique intersection of business and creative arts—interfacing daily with international business disputes to celebrity cases. Keeping motivated and persistent in the face of gender stereotypes in the academic and career worlds, Maureen has become a true inspiration for women aiming to succeed.
Amidst a nation in draft turmoil, a time of student activism, and America’s race to the moon, Maureen Duffy began her “summer of ’69” touring overseas with the USO. She and her entertainment partner, original Disney Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni, voluntarily traveled through Vietnam and Thailand entertaining the troops with song and dance. Being bombed off stage, having their hotel assaulted by members of the Vietcong, “…it was definitely eight weeks to remember.”
Following her USO tour, Maureen continued her collegiate career and professional ballet dancing. She also continued moonlighting as a television commercial actress, which included stints as the Ivory Soap Girl and fast food restaurant ads. Although she attended classes related to the arts as her electives, Maureen pursued Speech Communications as her major, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree and earning a California State Teaching Credential in 1971. “In 1971, you were either a dental hygienist or a teacher… It’s what people thought you were supposed to do,” she remembers.
Despite the social norms and with the full support of her family, Maureen applied to Loyola Law School-Los Angeles, where in 1974 she received her Juris Doctorate. She attended law school with her then boyfriend and now husband, Ronald J. Lewis, to whom she was pinned her senior year at the University of Southern California. Maureen worked her way through law school. On days that she was not making a television commercial or teaching dancing at her Mother’s dancing school, she taught elementary and special education classes as a substitute teacher.
Maureen always saw the opportunities in both the traditional and nontraditional female norms and occupations, pursuing a career as a lawyer and judge. Law was a traditional male environment and she worked hard to fit in, but not lose herself as a person of the arts. Maureen consciously did not discuss her professional ballet or acting careers with law colleagues and fellow students. She did not want to create any more distraction than what she was already dealing with—a barrier of stereotypes.
“When I was a trial lawyer in the [District Attorney’s] office, I was handling a serious kidnap for ransom case… the defense attorney stood up in front of the jury and said, ‘I wonder what she is doing in a courtroom rather than at the mall shopping.’ …you could feel the entire courtroom cringe, and I knew that my time had come. I was a trial lawyer and I was beating this male lawyer badly. He was desperately trying to attack me, since he was losing on the facts of the case. I completely ignored his remarks and convicted his client of a major felony. I was grateful and so were the victims. Justice was served by a trial lawyer who refused to play the gender game.”
As the 1980s progressed and Maureen was appointed to the bench by California Governor George Deukmejian, she still often confronted sexism on the bench. Male lawyers would call attention to her age and/or her youthful looks. Older lawyers would often take a fatherly approach and tell her how she should rule because “that is how it had always been done.” However, this behavior did not affect her confidence, instead, she strived to elevate the conversation and expectations. She always addressed the lawyers in a gender neutral term, calling all who appeared before her as “Counsel.” The quality of a lawyer has nothing to do with gender, so she looked for every opportunity to “level the playing field of justice.”
Looking back on her education and her teaching degree, Maureen pointed out that many successful trial lawyers were school teachers. “All the classes I took about ‘how’ to teach and student’s different learning modalities assisted me when I was presenting a case in court. I would always access the Jury and how they were receiving the information (evidence), and I would quickly change my delivery techniques and tone if I thought it was necessary. I found that a trial courtroom was just another classroom and the students understanding of the information and message was my responsibility. Your responsibility as a teacher is to bring the conversation to the student and with every conversation, you have another opportunity to rise above stereotypical expectations and be an example for others.”
The Women Who Came Before
Although Maureen has overcome gender stigma, she attributes her persistence and success to the women who came before her. She understands that without their life trials, her opportunities would never have been possible. In gratitude, Maureen has begun to collect the lost and abandoned keys of the Phi Beta Kappa Society—a honor society founded at the College of William & Mary in 1776—that have been awarded to women around the turn of the century. “I never earned one,” she states, “but I’m here today because a woman earned it when women did not [traditionally] go to college… her hard work gave me a voice.” And today, as she sits on a university Board of Trustees and a large University Advisory Board, she brings those women to important events by wearing one of their keys. “Recently I wore a key at the ground breaking for a new 300,000 square foot dental school and multidisciplinary practice building. I know she would have loved the event and she earned the right to be there along with me—a grateful beneficiary of her hard work and vision.”
Maureen stresses that our world has been enriched by generations of real women making real decisions that have impacted our day-to-day lives. Each woman, young and old, has a story and a lesson to teach. She encourages us that it is each of our responsibilities to “not take our stories with us as we graduate and move on with our lives, but stay and share with the women who will come after you.” Our daughters, nieces and grandchildren will be the beneficiaries.
Alpha Chi Omega has always been held in high esteem to Maureen. Her cousin’s great aunt was a charter member of the Epsilon chapter, so she always thought of the chapter as having a family-tie. As a collegiate member she learned responsibility, leadership and the art of networking. As an alumna, she served as a Hera Day chairman, participated in alumna groups, and participated in Career Day activities for collegiate chapters.
One of Maureen’s fondest memories: Maureen had to put her sorority skills to work when she was in Vietnam, because her tour with the USO ended three days before the beginning of fall recruitment. Her USO group kept getting bumped from flights home, and she was supposed to be the house choreographer for a Theme Day presentation. Not wanting to let her sisters down or miss a moment of recruitment, she met a Navy Pilot in the military airport, who was a member of a fraternity at The Ohio State University, and informed him of her dilemma. He managed to squeeze her onto a full flight back to the States, just in the nick of time for recruitment.
Maureen thanks Alpha Chi Omega and all of her sisters for many life lessons. During her time as a collegiate member, she had instant friendships, a never-ending closet of clothes and she developed a keen sense of proper etiquette. Robert’s Rules of Order became a staple and, even to this day, she is often asked to chair committees because of her ability to run orderly and well timed meetings with purposeful agendas. Through her sorority, she learned to appreciate differing opinions and ideas, along with the art of brainstorming for solutions. Most importantly though, she acquired her first sense of leadership and the responsibility it carries because of Alpha Chi Omega.
Maureen feels that, Alpha Chi Omegas are “girls who know how to make things happen.” And she admits, “…the Fraternity is a lifetime commitment that I’ve gotten more out of than given.” It is comforting to know that no matter where I go in the world or what I do in the future, that I will never be without sisters in the bond, and there will always friends.
Alpha Chi Omega has also helped to start conversations and partnerships throughout her career. Even now, in her chambers, her Alpha Chi membership certificate proudly hangs below a picture of General Creighton Abrams, the father of the A1 Fighting Tank, giving her an award and her undergraduate and law school diplomas.
In 2009, Maureen was named a United States Fulbright Scholar and taught for a semester at the Law Program at Sofia University, Bulgaria. Not knowing the language and far away from home, Maureen welcomed the challenge. While serving in Bulgaria, she was requested by the United States Department of Justice to assist with the development of the Judicial Mentoring Initiative for the Bulgarian Court System. This groundbreaking initiative encouraged the courts to evaluate their case management system. Maureen also developed and assisted in implementing a National Mediation Program to assist in overall case management. She consulted with the Bulgarian Courts and its European Union partners on developing special courts to investigate organized crime and corruption cases. Maureen put her teaching skills to work developing curriculum and teaching Mediation and Judicial Ethics at Bulgaria’s National Institute for Judicial Education. And finally, while in Bulgaria, she was named a Visiting Fellow at the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives—a think tank devoted to transparent and democratic developments in the law. She has plans to return to Bulgaria, lecturing with the Fulbright International Summer Institute in the area of law and public policy.
A teacher, panelist, author, lawyer, judge, wife, and mother, the Honorable Maureen Duffy-Lewis is a humbling example of how women can succeed. In the face of negativity, her perseverance pushed through the female stereotypes of her generation, and she continues to display that force as she aids in creating justice around the world. Although she recognizes her success, she attributes her achievements to the ground-breaking women who came before her. In sharing her story and experiences, she hopes that it will motivate other sisters to stay connected, share their stories and remember the legacy that is Alpha Chi Omega.
Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis has been married to her Pi Kappa Alpha and college and law school classmate, Ronald J. Lewis, Esq., for 37 years. Together, they practiced law and raised a son and a daughter.