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.
By Meredith Denton-Rines
Zeta Sigma, Missouri State University – Springfield
It’s been five years since I was a collegiate member of Alpha Chi Omega. I carry lessons from Alpha Chi with me every day and plan to do so for the rest of my life. Some of my favorite memories are of laughing with my sisters. However, the Ritual of Alpha Chi has deep roots in my heart and is what guides me.
Alpha Chi was the place where I first learned about being financially responsible, a lesson I had to quickly learn as the director of finances for Panhellenic.
The love of finance came quickly to me. I am now a financial advisor with a mission to help women create a path to reach their specific goals. I’ve realized that our Ritual keeps us in tune to reach our financial goals. With our Ritual and values in mind, I want to share tips on making healthy financial decisions for the rest of your life.
Wisdom & Devotion & Together Let Us Seek the Heights
You must work as a team to reach your goals, just as Alpha Chi Omega’s motto states, “Together let us seek the heights.” Your team may no longer be your sorority sisters. Maybe you’re an independent single woman, or perhaps you have a spouse and family. In college you demonstrated wisdom and devotion by studying to achieve good grades. You even took time to help others by getting involved in and taking an interest in others’ success. Now you have the chance to use your focus and study skills to make savvy money choices.
You are an educated, bright woman who understands the value of knowledge. As you get older, you also understand the importance of continuing your education. In doing so, you are able to make sound financial decisions. Planning for your retirement is like planning for a class project: you list your priorities and research options, construct a plan and then move forward.
TIP: Gain knowledge about retirement planning and saving. I recommend talking to a financial advisor early to create a plan. It’s easy to let life get in the way of preparing for the future, but you need to make sound financial decisions now, when it matters most. Starting a savings plan while in your 20s can make a huge impact on your future retirement. Start now.
You may have achieved a leadership role in Alpha Chi and on campus during college; now you must continue being a mentor by taking leadership of your life. You control our own destiny. If you do not take ownership of your goals and your path, no one else will. In today’s world it is becoming more and more acceptable to expect others to take care of you, but you cannot allow that. Only you know what’s the most valuable to you. You must stand up as a leader and know your worth.
I’d like to pull in one of our membership criteria here: financial responsibility. Our sisterhood definitely values being financially responsible, and it fits well with making healthy financial decisions. You learned how to balance your finances in college. Between chapter dues, girls’ nights out, and being able to afford the time of your life, you had plenty to think about. As you graduate and leave college, those financial worries only shift. Instead of chapter dues, you now have mortgage payments. In college you budgeted your time and money so you didn’t have to miss out on any fun adventures. Now you need to budget your money so you can live a debt-free life. You can be a step ahead of others by staying out of debt and “to keep [your] life in tune with the world.” Learning to balance early puts us a step ahead of others.
TIP: Create a budget and learn “to meet with courage the challenges of daily living.” Budgeting is a key to success. You can see where you are and where you want to go, and you can map a clear path to follow.
“To give graciously and to receive no less graciously that others may know the thrill of giving”
This line from our 75-year member ceremony is a great reminder to be philanthropic throughout your life. You learned the importance of philanthropy while in college. Alpha Chi does wonderful things to support real, strong women and prevent domestic violence. By budgeting and saving you will be able to achieve greatness in your life. The ability “to give graciously and to receive no less graciously that others may know the thrill of giving,” is an amazing virtue that you can continue to pass on.
TIP: As you grow older and your time commitments become more involved, it’s easy to stop giving to organizations about which you are passionate. You simply don’t have the time. However, you can give so much more than time by creating a budget and sticking to it. You need to carry on Alpha Chi’s passion for philanthropy throughout your life.
Making healthy financial decisions is not as hard as you might think. You, an Alpha Chi Omega sister, have learned many valuable lessons from our Ritual and values. You get the opportunity to carry these standards and values with you every single day and to apply them to many aspects of your life, including financial decisions.
About the Author: Meredith Denton-Rines is Director of Marketing and a Financial Specialist at Dairel L. Denton, Jr. & Associates, an accounting and financial planning firm in Southeast Missouri. She enjoys working with women, helping them create an individualized plan to reach their life goals. Connect with Meredith on Twitter and on her blog merelynne.com.
Sisters across the country celebrated Hera Day by bringing happiness to others in their communities. Here are 10 ways chapters from Utah to Florida spread happiness and well-being to others earlier this month:
1. Alpha Chis at William Woods painted nails of residents at Fulton Nursing home.
2. Chapter members at William and Mary volunteered at the Heritage Humane Society.
3. Utah State University had fun brightening the day of Legacy House residents.
4. Indiana State Alpha Chis served food at the Haute Light House Mission.
5. Sisters from UNC Chapel Hill made cards for patients at the Duke Children’s Hospital.
6. Oregon State members added some cheer to everyone’s day by handing out red carnations on campus.
7. Western Michigan Alpha Chis wrote letters to hospital patients.
8. Sisters from Purdue wrote letters to volunteers of Court appointed Special Advocates (CASA) thanking for their service to their community.
9. Arizona Alpha Chis made blankets for a local children’s hospital.
10. The Arlington, TX Alumnae Chapter Delta Eta Delta, built 28 bears to give to kids staying at a local shelter.
Did you celebrate Hera Day? Let us know by posting a comment!
Happy MacDowell Month!
February is the time of year that Alpha Chis celebrate the arts. Our heritage is deeply connected to the arts: our seven founders were all musicians and our first philanthropic project was supporting the MacDowell Colony.
We wondered: how are our sisters celebrating MacDowell Month?
Here are some of the responses we got from collegiate and alumnae members:
The Nashville Alumnae Chapter will be hosting a craft day with Zeta Omicron!
Bridget Gorta, Epsilon Phi
Studying Art Education at Missouri State University! Also plan on visiting Crystal Bridges in Arkansas on Valentine’s Day.
Erin O’Sullivan, Zeta Sigma
I’ve got 2 little girls starting rehearsals for The Ugly Duckling ballet. And I’m starting to learn how to paint.
Karen Carter, Zeta Nu
Off to the Metropolitan Opera next week! We will be attending two performances at The Metropolitan Opera: Iolanta / Bluebeard’s Castle (double bill) and Don Giovanni!
Susan Esco Chandler and Susan Chandler, Psi
The Tulsa alumnae club is touring the downtown Brady Arts District and eating Mediterranean together on Saturday.
Bethany Wood, Gamma Epsilon
AXO UCLA at the LAC Museum of Art
The Alpha Omega Alpha Alumnae chapter is hosting a Painting with a Twist sisterhood event!
Kelly Cardova, Zeta Rho
I’m taking a painting class!
Jacilyn Kennedy, Gamma Tau
The OKC Rho Rho Alumnae Chapter will celebrate MacDowell Month at the Oklahoma Art Museum. We will be having drinks and appetizers at the cafe and enjoying their “Fakes & Forgeries in the Art World” exhibit!
Samara Terrill, Gamma Tau
I will be volunteering and attending “A Needlepoint Love Story: Chapter 2” at Fort Worth’s Thistle Hill Mansion (February 25 – March 1).
Christine Borand, Zeta Nu
On our Facebook page, virtual chapter Pi Omega Pi has been listing something weekly pertaining to appreciation of the fine arts, such as: a link to lyre music or artwork featuring lyres, carnations etc., along with something about the artists of each piece.
Carol Lutz, Epsilon Chi
…and Lee Anne Romberg White of Tau chapter is doing a special project:
I have decided to celebrate MacDowell Month by sharing the work of women artists through posts on facebook, twitter, tumblr and Pinterest. Please feel free to follow along and to share your own work with me @leeannewhite.
It doesn’t stop there; you can view some great photos of sisters painting, at concerts or at the theatre on Instagram.
Whatever you decided to do, we hope you had fun celebrating our artistic heritage and MacDowell Month!
Loyally, The Ritual Specialist Team
By Melanie Batenchuk for Coffee with Celia
(Epsilon Tau, Virginia Tech and Epsilon Chi, UNC Chapel Hill)
Four years ago, I wrote about my unique experience with Alpha Chi at two different universities. My time as an Alpha Chi left a lasting impression, and I believe I carry with me in my day-to-day life the tenets of the organization.
There are countless examples of successful Alpha Chis sprinkled across the country – take former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and successful TV chef personality Melissa D’Arabia, for example. The women who make up this fraternal sisterhood are united by one common thread – the desire to seek new heights.
So, how do we become successful as individual parts that make up the greater whole? Where can we apply the values instilled in us through Alpha Chi Omega to develop both personally and professionally?
I focus a lot on branding in my daily life, often speaking to young professionals and graduate students about the importance of developing an online persona that is the best representation of themselves – and one that aligns with their long-term life goals. But today, I’d like to focus on obtaining career success by revisiting our core values as a sisterhood. Repurposing a few of our ritual themes, I’ve put together some tips to guide the development of your professional brand.
Applying Ritual to Career Success & Your Professional Brand
Wisdom – In today’s always-connected atmosphere, wisdom is better translated as discernment, such as the choice not to post your college sorority party photos (not that you would have any of those!) to your publicly accessible Facebook page.
TIP: Use discretion! If you don’t want to read or see what you’ve shared on the front page of the newspaper, then maybe it should stay out of public view altogether.
Devotion – The job market is vastly different today than it was when our parents were committed to their lifelong jobs at one or two companies. Today, Generation Y and the Millennials could not imagine staying in a job for 20 or 40 years. The environment for young professionals today is far more competitive with little long-term security. We must each be our own champions, our own brand ambassadors.
TIP: Stick it out! If you make a written or verbal commitment to your employer to stick it out through a certain project or a time limit, then honor that commitment. You never know what type of opportunity lies just on the other side of that seemingly impossible-to-overcome challenge. Also, you’ll feel more rewarded in the end for having seen it through.
In a world where it’s acceptable to job hop, I can’t express how important it is to stick it out when you first really want to give up on that job. This is a tough lesson I’ve learned at a few points in my career. I became impatient, thinking there was nothing more for me to accomplish, but the truth is that I probably missed out on something valuable.
Achievement – Goal is a four-letter word. Do you have a goal? Do you have a dream job or important cause that’s near and dear to your heart?
TIP: Set realistic, achievable goals that you can measure on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. What is your ultimate goal? Break it down into smaller, achievable goals, and then break it down even further into actionable steps. What steps will it take to work toward or achieve that goal? Also, achievement is not just about what you can do for you, it’s about how you can help better an organization, a team, a colleague or even a stranger.
The Symphony of Alpha Chi – In order to make music and to sound beautiful, a symphony must have balance. An orchestra must work together for one common goal. Like an orchestra, your actions and career steps must align with your overall goals. If not, it’s like an orchestra missing an entire section – it’s incomplete.
TIP: Identify your passions and skills. Determine what it is that you love to do. What topic or issue area do you know more about than your peers? What area do they look to you for advice? There could be a hidden passion right in front of you!
What other lessons from your time as an active Alpha Chi Omega member would you apply to career success? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments!
About the Author: Melanie Batenchuk is Chief of Operations and Brand Management at Scope Group, a boutique IT recruiting firm founded in 2011. She enjoys mentoring young professionals, helping them identify their life’s passions and teaching them how to build and manage an online brand. In true AXΩ fashion, Melanie gets her ‘me time’ in by playing violin with the Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia. Feel free to reach out to Melanie personally on Linkedin or Twitter.
By Holly Thompson
Epsilon Lambda, University of Texas – Arlington
As Thanksgiving is upon us, it’s natural to reflect on our blessings and I cannot help but to think of one of the greatest blessings in my life: my decision to join Alpha Chi Omega. I was initiated in November 1997 at The University of Texas at Arlington, and am so thankful for the members of Epsilon Lambda chapter who extended a bid to me so that I may join their sisterhood. I can remember initiation well and looking back, now seventeen years after (which seems impossible!), I’m grateful to still have many of those sisters in my life as loyal friends.
As a new member I had heard sisters talking about this being a “lifetime commitment.” But I had no idea that Alpha Chi Omega would continue to bless me beyond my imagination after my collegiate years with unparalleled support, friendship and sisterhood.
As this is the season for thanksgiving, I have a few specific reasons to give thanks for this wonderful sisterhood:
I am grateful for Alpha Chi’s constant reminder to be a lifelong learner, to give back to others and to push myself to be the best person I can be. As a former educator (once a teacher, always a teacher) I understand the importance of modeling behavior to teach others. I owe a sincere gratitude to all those sisters who strive to be good examples of wise and devoted women, those seeking achievement in all their endeavors and inspiring women around them.
I am grateful for Alpha Chi’s volunteers who inspired me as a collegiate member. Volunteers, such as my sister Kara, have had a long lasting impact on my life. Personally, I owe her a great deal of gratitude for seeing potential in me as a young collegiate officer and recommending me for an internship that opened the door to my professional world and future career. Her support and influence not only helped me but also many other Alpha Chis, who can share similar stories of ways Kara has inspired them to seek the heights. Kara’s devotion of twenty-plus years is such a gift for which all sisters can thank her.
I am grateful for the values Alpha Chi instilled in me; like wisdom, devotion, and achievement. I am blessed to have a sisterhood that shares my appreciation of the arts, encourages its members to cultivate themselves personally and professionally, and values the importance of academic interest and lifelong learning.
By Liz Ragland, Gamma Tau
I can’t pretend that it’s not true. It’s not a dirty secret or anything to be embarrassed about so I’m just going to put it out there: I’m kind of obsessed with all of the things that remind me of Alpha Chi.
I’m taking a detour from the typical ritual-themed post and borrowing a trick from Buzzfeed- a list! There is no sensational title or pictures of boy bands, or cats (or boy bands with cats) just an honest list of why our symbols, rituals, traditions, and history remind me of our common bond as sisters. Next time you see a red carnation, lyre, or a lyrebird out in the wild I hope you’ll think of our sisterhood!
- Red carnations are everywhere – If you have ever been tasked with buying red carnations for bid day or any Alpha Chi ceremony you may think that they are hard to find but really, they are almost always available! It’s kind of awkward to get sentimental standing in the floral section at Trader Joe’s, but every time I spot a red carnation it reminds me of the important events in my life as an Alpha Chi. It takes me back to many times I was handed a red carnation: Bid Day, after Initiation, after Hall of Commitment, and after my last formal meeting.
- Lyre spotting makes me smile – Next time you are in museum, go lyre spotting. Our beloved symbol was used in many styles of art and architecture and it’s always fun to count how many times you can find our symbol in art, or even at Walt Disney World. Next time you do spot a lyre, snap a picture be sure to send it to Coffeewithcelia@gmail.com so we can feature it on Facebook!
- Stars are always present (and so are your sisters) – Look up. You may not see the stars right now but they are there. Just like your sisters, stars are always present even when it’s daylight. In good times and in bad, remind yourself that your sisters are always there to help you along your journey even when they might not be totally visible, they are there. Perhaps it’s time you get away from the pollution of light and a busy life and seek them out.
- Fall, full of olive greens and scarlet reds, reminds me of a fresh start – Our sisterhood was founded during the season of olive green and scarlet red. To me, Fall is a fresh start. This is most likely because it’s the beginning of the school year but there is something in the crisp air that reminds me to refocus and reorganize. Do you know what I mean? Perhaps this Fall you can use the season as an opportunity to reboot your attitude, your studies (or your work’s to do list), and your commitment to help your sisters seek the heights.
- Hera Day makes you a better you – Part of being a Real. Stong. Woman. Is donating your time and skills to make someone else’s life better. Every March 1, in honor of our patron goddess Hera, we are called to do work that brings happiness and well-being to others by engaging in projects in our own communities. When was the last time you donated an hour or two of your time to make someone else’s life better? If it’s been too long, find an opportunity! Visit serve.org for some ideas.
- Life would be dull without the arts – Music, dance, theatre, and visual art bring joy to our lives and help us explore new ideas or shine a light on an old idea. Our founders were bonded by their mutual love for music and I think any sister who has experienced a piece of music that gives you goose bumps or brings a tear to your eye understands why their passion for music was so strong and why it’s important to our heritage.
- Who doesn’t want to “seek the heights”? – Our open motto was just as relevant in the late 1800s as it is now. Together, as sisters, we are called to support and inspire each other to seek the heights in every way possible. We seek the heights in our professional and personal lives. We seek the heights so we can continue to grow emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Next time you’re faced with a challenge or stuck in a rut, remember our open motto and reach out for help if you need some support so you can reach your own “height” whatever that may be.
- Because doing a lyrebird impression is awesome – need I say more?
by Ally Hirst
(Theta Sigma, University of North Florida)
“G-O LET’S GO STARZ, G-O LET’S GO!” are some of my favorite words to hear each week. They may be in hushed tones from some of our more shy cheerleaders, or not as fully articulated as some of the teams we compete against, but they sound even more beautiful to me. Did I mention the Starz is the cheerleading team for the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville? Working with the Starz over this past year has brought new meaning to living our Ritual, specifically that of achievement.
Bragging about our two first place titles is definitely fun, but regardless of their awards, these girls have created a new place in my heart. Seeing them achieve so much throughout the season is inspiring: at the beginning of the season they barely make the steps in the right order, and forget about being in sync! But eventually, they perform like pros in front of crowds, smiling from ear to ear. Performing like they have practiced every night brings new light to achievement. We do many more performances than just our two competitions. In fact, we did one almost every week of the season. No matter the stakes, these girls rock the crowd every time.
Don’t let my bubbly post mislead you to think that it’s easy coaching 15 young women with Down Syndrome. They are just like any other kid. They have their moments of not wanting to practice, not wanting to listen, but we work through it, just like any other coach would. I spend a decent amount of practice bringing our wanderers back to the floor, helping up the “wet noodles” (as I like to playfully call them when they decide to melt to the floor and no longer want to dance), and supervising bathroom runs. However, getting hugs over and over from each and every smiling face has me anxiously awaiting practice every Tuesday night.
Whether we’re in a special teams category, or competing against the most decorated teams in the state, these cheerleaders truly embody achievement. They work hard every day to prove that they can do anything anyone else can do. They show me that putting your mind to something can definitely make your dreams come true. And most importantly, they prove to me just how real our Ritual is. Seeing these girls work hard towards achievements, both big and small, is inspiring. Thanks to the Starz for reminding me of Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual and challenging me to live it every day.
Follow Coffee with Celia on Facebook and Twitter.
by Christi Tennyson
(Delta Chi, William Woods University)
We talk a lot about living our Ritual in Alpha Chi Omega. Yet, for all of our talk about living our Ritual, I doubt very many of our sisters have consciously drawn a connection between living the Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega and how that relates to risk management and chapter relations and standards. Perhaps you’re even wondering now as you read this—what on earth is she talking about? What is this connection between our Ritual, risk management and CRS?
For starters, effective risk management utilizes the backstops of Alpha Chi Omega. The backstops recognize that in any given situation, we have a choice to make. When we make that choice, we simply have to ask ourselves, “Is there dignity in what I am doing?” If the answer is no, we should reassess the situation and make another choice. If the answer is yes, and we find ourselves consistently in situations in which we can say there is indeed dignity in what we’re doing, chances are the decisions we are making will lead to wisdom, devotion and achievement—the embodiment of our Ritual. So, living the Ritual and risk management are absolutely interconnected.
Likewise, CRS and Ritual are similarly interconnected. As a values-based organization, there is a need to ensure our values are being upheld. There is a need for accountability when we fail to uphold the values of Alpha Chi Omega; for example, when we ask ourselves, “Is there dignity in what I’m doing right now?” and the answer is, “NO!” We had a choice, we made our choice, and chances are, we’re going to wind up being held accountable for that choice. I’m not going to sugarcoat things here—accountability is hard. Nobody likes to be held accountable. Having our personal failures pointed out to us doesn’t exactly rank on anyone’s favorite things to do list. Because of that, there is a very natural and human tendency to want to “shoot the messenger” when we find ourselves being held accountable for something. Yet, despite that tendency, we still have sisters in our collegiate chapters willing to serve on the CRS board—women who understand that they are needed to do something that is absolutely necessary in day-to-day chapter management but is really, really hard sometimes.
Our CRS boards and the women serving on those boards demonstrate wisdom when they reflect upon the actions of individual members and how those individual actions have affected the chapter as a whole. Our CRS board members are the living embodiment of devotion in our Ritual. Through their willingness to risk the ire of their individual sisters for the greater good, they demonstrate devotion to both their chapter sisters and the fraternity at large. This wisdom and devotion bring achievement to our individual members and our collegiate chapters as a whole. From the grade contracts that improve members’ grade point averages and academic success to recognizing and celebrating the individual achievements of their chapter sisters, our chapter CRS boards achieve much while occasionally nudging their chapter sisters along on their journey as they seek the heights. Thus, the connections between living our Ritual, risk management, and chapter relations and standards, while perhaps not immediately obvious, are in fact utterly inseparable from one another.
Follow Coffee with Celia on Facebook and Twitter.
by Gabrielle DeFranceschi
(Gamma Theta, University of Maryland)
“To see beauty even in the common things of life.”
These lines of our symphony are central to our character as a Fraternity. We not only see beauty in common things, but also advocate for the creation of beauty from common things—spreading that beauty throughout our communities by practicing love, selflessness and sincere habits.
This ideology and these values are a large part of what motivated me to found The Language Effect.
The Language Effect’s mission is to realize the value of language and its role in affecting culture; to empower individuals to understand how language is used; to challenge it’s misuse; to applaud and promote the use of language for progress; and to encourage individuals to freely choose and develop alternative language for increasingly collaborative and inclusive conversations.
Put into “Alpha Chi words,” The Language Effect challenges the use of words and phrases that do not “send forth the chords of love, unselfishness and sincerity” and encourages individuals to use alternative rhetoric that does, in fact, send forth those chords.
Serving as president of the Gamma Theta chapter at the University of Maryland caused me to grow passionately aware of relationship violence, sexual assault, rape and more. Stories and experiences helped me to understand just how many people I knew who were carrying inside them tragedies and secrets. Quickly, I realized there are always people in our lives who have stories, experiences and pasts that we do not know everything about—so, we can always make an effort to be sensitive to the unknowns by choosing inclusive and compassionate language.
I stopped using the phrase “Facebook stalk” because many of my friends had actually been, or were at the time, being stalked. By using the phrase “Facebook stalk,” we can unintentionally normalize stalking, and in turn, make it seem less of a traumatic experience than it truly is. This can be devastating to someone who feels lost, alone and fearful as a result of being stalked.
Intervening when I hear one of my guy friends say, “Dude, you’re such a girl,” by asking, “What’s bad about being a girl?” I can help to end the normalization of gender stereotypes, and also question the idea that girls are less than guys.
Actively avoiding exaggerations like “I ate so much…I need to vomit,” as this kind of language can desensitize individuals to disordered eating habits, or perhaps harm someone who is actively recovering from an eating disorder.
Always, what was most profound to me, was actually witnessing cultural transformation. The communities I was part of seemed effected by these conversations about language. People I knew, and with whom I spoke about language, stopped using the words or phrases and began to critically think about the other words and phrases they also used.
It all comes back to realizing that love, strength, joy, peace and wisdom are all best shared in simple, yet sometimes small, ways. I have witnessed many a sister share her individual story with a chapter, in turn, motivating the chapter to inspire a university and then, in turn, a state.
After all, it is these small and common beginnings that leave the most profound and beautiful impact on each of us, and collectively, on our world.
Follow Coffee with Celia on Facebook and Twitter.