The T-shirt (and Other Miscellaneous Products of Interest) Approval Process
You’re in charge. You’ve been selected to chair the committee planning your chapter’s annual domestic violence awareness event. And, of course, you want this year’s event to be better than ever! You quickly discover that planning an event of this magnitude is no small task. You delegate as much as you can, like volunteer management, refreshment provisions, university permissions, and publicizing your event to attract participants and attendees.
Everything is going smoothly. Decorations have been ordered, the menu is set. Participant rules have been developed and the entertainment confirmed. You are feeling great. As soon as the T-shirts are delivered, everything will be good to go! And just as you are giving yourself a much-deserved pat on the back for a job well done it happens. You get the call.
The vendor creating your T-shirt informs you that Alpha Chi Omega headquarters will not approve the design you painstakingly thought out to match your theme in a fun and enticing way. Your palms start to sweat, the room grows smaller and breathing becomes more difficult as the only thought you can think right now is “What!?!”
You immediately begin to imagine the middle-aged group of very serious, very uncool women, women who have obviously forgotten what it was like to be in college, sitting around a table at headquarters squinting their eyes and banging a gavel every time someone comes up with a great idea to squash a little fun.
The reality is…sometimes T-shirt designs are not approved. But while the reasons vary and each instance is considered individually, one reason you will never hear is that the design is “too fun.”
The Approval Process
Here’s how it works. When you contact a licensed vendor to create a T-shirt for your event, they will either help you develop a design or use the design you provide to create your shirts. Licensed vendors have a contractual obligation to abide by the branding guidelines and design regulations that Alpha Chi Omega deems appropriate. Vendors submit their designs for approval to Affinity Marketing Consultants, Inc. (AMC). If there is a question whether a design is acceptable, it is forwarded to the marketing and communications department at headquarters.
If the question at hand merely pertains to logo usage, colors or brand alignment, it will be approved or denied at this point and AMC will communicate the answer to the vendor, who will in turn communicate to the chapter.
However, even when branding guidelines are met, if there is any question whether the design of the T-shirt or theme of the event carries any risk management concerns, the approval will be shifted to the collegiate experience department.
Many designs forwarded to headquarters for approval have one of three characteristics:
- sexual innuendos
- alcohol and/or drug references
- manipulation of Alpha Chi Omega insignia
While each case is carefully considered, it is highly unlikely that your design will be approved if it contains any of these traits. This is pretty straightforward and simple to understand. But, sometimes that’s not the case.
Every once in a while, a design comes to headquarters that is not so obvious. The following examples may help you when brainstorming design ideas:
Is the Alpha Chi Omega insignia placed in an appropriate area on the product?
Some sororities do not allow having letters on the butt of sweatpants. Alpha Chi Omega is not one of them. In most instances this will be approved. However, if you want to put the Alpha Chi Omega crest on pants, you may be disappointed to note this is not allowed. The crest is a significant symbol and should be treated with respect. The crest may only be reproduced in black and white or full color, with very few exceptions made.
Does the design and/or wording have a negative connotation?
For example, “Pretty Little Lyres” is not an acceptable association with Alpha Chi Omega. While the phrase may sound catchy, the fact is it is based on a television show about murder, sex, “mean girls” and dishonesty. Song lyrics often fall under this guideline as well.
Does the design represent something campus or community specific?
A citizen of Indiana, or student at Indiana University, is considered a hoosier. In other parts of the country, this term is derogatory in nature. So, what may be approved at one chapter, may not be approved at another based on the local culture, news or other extenuating circumstances.
Does the design and/or wording condone hazing tendencies?
Any term that can be construed as demeaning, subservient or ostracizing will not be approved. This includes terms such as pledge, pledge class, babies or angels.
Greek Licensed Vendors
Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity, Inc. owns the exclusive right to utilize its trademarked insignia. This means that in order to reproduce any piece of merchandise using the Alpha Chi Omega name, letters, crest, logo or other insignia a vendor must obtain permission from an appropriate headquarters representative. There are currently over 300 licensed vendors who may sell Alpha Chi Omega merchandise ensuring a wide variety of options when a chapter Is looking for creative ideas.
Alpha Chi Omega has partnered with AMC to manage the licensed vendor program and protect the integrity of the Alpha Chi Omega experience. Since 2000, AMC has worked to ensure Alpha Chi Omega is presented in the best light possible. Vendors who do not have a license to sell Alpha Chi Omega merchandise but do so anyway are breaking the law. Chapters who utilize non-licensed vendors are violating the Policies of Alpha Chi Omega.
When you use a licensed vendor and produce merchandise that is deemed inappropriate, the chapter is protected by the contract the vendor has with headquarters. If a vendor fails to seek approval and a design is revoked, the shirts will be confiscated, and the vendor will be required to issue a refund if the chapter has already paid. If the chapter uses an unlicensed vendor, the shirts will be confiscated and the chapter will not receive any reimbursements for monies paid out.
Alpha Chi Omega Pride
Although it may seem like just a T-shirt or a simple party favor, the products and memorabilia Alpha Chi Omegas of all ages wear and display really are so much more. Alpha Chi strives to create a healthy environment that cultivates real, strong women. To do this, it is each member’s responsibility to make fit individual choices. Wearing a T-shirt that displays suggestive language or explicit graphics does not promote human dignity; it does quite the opposite. Carrying a bag that is racially or culturally insensitive does not promote acceptance and respect; it promotes intolerance and aggression.
Take pride in your sisterhood, and help Alpha Chi Omega maintain its strong reputation among women’s organizations. A T-shirt today can do a lot for tomorrow!
Why doesn’t someone at Alpha Chi Omega contact the chapter directly to explain why a design is not approved?
You may, at any time, contact headquarters for further explanation regarding why your design and/or wording was not approved. There are, however, multiple reasons why we don’t contact you directly, including:
- Because approval is sought from the vendor, we often don’t know which chapter is associated with a design.
- Most vendors work on a very tight schedule and a quick answer is necessary to allow time for design adjustments as necessary.
- Most of the time, the approval process is easy and quick. We do not feel that opening a dialogue in every instance (and there are many in an academic year) is the most efficient use of time. However, a chapter is always welcome to initiate the conversation and seek further explanation.
Is there an appeals process if a design is rejected?
If you feel that your design and/or language was misinterpreted, you may absolutely feel free to send further explanation via email to Janine Grover, Marketing and Communications Director, or Darcey Nance, Assistant Director-Risk Management in the collegiate experience department.
It’s just a T-shirt. The event theme is everywhere else so why can’t it be on the T-shirt?
While there are contractual obligations for our vendors to seek approval on merchandise, chapters are obligated to carefully choose event themes that adhere to the standards of the organization. If your theme is contrary to the standards of Alpha Chi Omega, your chapter may face disciplinary action.
Why should I use a licensed vendor if an unlicensed vendor can make my T-shirt without going through the approval process?
Unlicensed vendors are breaking the law. Only Alpha Chi Omega headquarters has the right to decide who may use the trademarks that belong to the organization. The Policies of Alpha Chi Omega includes the following:
NF8.1 Licensed Vendors
Chapters are required to use vendors that have been approved by the National Fraternity for items bearing the trademarked insignia (the coat of arms, the words “Alpha Chi Omega” and the Greek letters “ΑΧΩ”), such as T-shirts, party favors, stationery, etc. A list of the approved vendors is available at the National Fraternity Headquarters or on the website.
Will you approve language adapted from a song or television show if it doesn’t have a negative connotation?
In most cases, song title and television show titles are trademarked, which means that to use them, even if they are changed slightly, is violating someone else’s trademark. Just as we expect others to respect our trademarks, it is important that we respect those of others. For example, “Pretty Little Liars” is a trademark owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. When a chapter uses a phrase like “Pretty Little Lyres” it is a violation of that trademark because it is meant to sound the same and it is being used because of the popularity of the television show. Likewise, although “Alpha Chi Omega” is our trademarked name, we are protected when people use the phrase “Alpha Chi” as a reference to or in conjunction with the sorority.
Why, why, why must this be such a big deal when it’s all in the name of fun?
Although it may seem like it, the headquarters staff is not trying to diminish your fun. It is possible to have a great time and still adhere to the Alpha Chi Omega brand and standards; many chapters do it every day and do it well. If you are having a problem developing a design or a theme you think would be approved, give us a call and we’ll help you in the creative process or connect you with other chapters who have had similar events and have been successful.
How to Extend Your Philanthropic Legacy
by Polly J. Dobbs
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)
When many women hear about planned giving they think, “Oh, that’s not for me.” You may think it’s for someone older or richer, or perhaps you don’t know what planned giving is. Your biggest concern may be making sure you leave enough money for your family after you’re gone. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed at the thought of which charity to choose, and you would prefer to let someone else make the decision after you’re gone. Planned giving can play an important role in every woman’s life. Alpha Chi Omega women are strong, and many of us control the purse strings of our family’s wealth. We need to be comfortable taking charge of our charitable giving decisions for the benefit of future generations. Here, we’ll examine some common objections to planned giving and how to move beyond those misconceptions into a place where you understand how planned giving can be an integral part of your overall estate plan.
“I don’t know what planned giving is.”
In the simplest terms, planned giving is any method of charitable giving other than getting out your checkbook and writing an immediate check with no restrictions attached. Planned giving techniques should balance your financial, personal and charitable objectives. It can be put in place during your lifetime or after your death and can take a variety of different forms.
“I’m too young to plan that far out.”
None of us know when we’ll die. Charitable giving should be a part of every young woman’s life. Start small. You should have a charitable giving plan that fits your lifestyle and goals today, and dust it off every five years or so and make sure it’s still a good fit. Ideally, an Alpha Chi has been writing small checks to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and other charities each year since graduating and securing that first job. Planned giving is the next step toward leaving a philanthropic legacy. As a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation’s Planned Giving Subcommittee, my goal is for every young Alpha Chi to name the Foundation as at least a 1-percent beneficiary of that first 401(k) plan she vests in after joining the work force. That small first step will be a reminder of the importance of our sisterhood and philanthropy as the years go by and jobs change, spouses and children come along, beneficiary designations are updated, and those retirement assets are rolled over and moved around.
“I don’t have enough money.”
This might mean a planned gift is a great option for you. If money is tight now, you don’t have to say no to your favorite charity—you can just give in a different way. Leaving a percentage of your assets or a set dollar amount to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and/or other chosen charities is easy to do through the beneficiary designation on your retirement plan, life insurance, annuity or in your will or trust. Even a small planned gift will be welcomed. For example, just imagine the impact if every sister left $100 to the Foundation at her passing—the results would be remarkable!
“I want my family to have enough after I’m gone.”
Estate plans can be written so that a charitable bequest is only made after certain other requirements have been met. Using flexible language in a will can address this concern; here’s a great example: “I give the lesser of $50,000 or 5 percent of my net taxable estate to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation upon my death.” A contingent bequest to charity can also help with this issue. Many of my clients include their favorite charities in their “wipe-out clause”—this clause states what happens to their assets if they and their children are “wiped out” in a common tragedy. Rather than having all their assets distributed to distant relatives, most clients would like to provide for some amount to go to charity. Once the idea of a charitable bequest at death gets into their head, they often move a charity “up in line” to receive some amount at the second spouse’s death, or even at the first spouse’s death. Including a charity in your estate plan can help you leave more than just money to your family; you can leave an example of philanthropy and a commitment to benefit an organization that was important to you during your lifetime. This is a way for you to teach, from beyond the grave, that giving back is an important family value.
“I’ll let someone else make the decision.”
Some may think it’s best to set aside an amount for charity and let family members decide which nonprofit organizations will receive the benefit. I encourage you to own the choice; it is yours to make. Without specific instructions, your charitable gift might not go where you intended. For example, we all know the positive difference Alpha Chi Omega can make in a woman’s life, and financial support of our Foundation ensures that future generations will receive the benefits we have received, but do your family members know? Only you can decide what charity values and benefits are important to you.
Planned giving as a part of an overall plan created with your attorney.
Planned giving must be considered as a part of an overall estate plan. The estate-planning process involves exploration of your desires, goals and your personal and financial circumstances. Your estate plan should be designed to conserve property before and after death, to provide for your care and lifestyle before death, to minimize death taxes, to provide sufficient liquidity at death, and to provide financially for family and/or others (including charity) in an appropriate manner before and/or after your death. Even very straightforward planned-giving techniques should fall into the “big picture” of your comprehensive estate plan.
Considering a planned gift expands your options for charitable giving. A planned gift may allow you to make a larger charitable gift than you thought possible. It also could provide a source of income for you, your spouse, your children or your grandchildren, while helping protect assets and ultimately providing for a charity. A planned gift may achieve specific charitable purposes (possibly for generations to come), and may reduce income taxes and/or estate and gift taxes.
If you make a planned gift to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation or any nonprofit entity, collaboration between you and the charity is crucial. Planned giving is not likely to be productive or rewarding if approached in isolation. For example, you may designate a cash contribution to your favorite charity and specify that such amount is to be added to your favorite charity’s scholarship fund, but if your favorite charity does not have a scholarship fund, that plan will fail. You should explore your desires and goals and also learn about the programs and tools already available within your favorite charity to make sure your planned gift is a success. While the professionals who work for various charities can provide you with valuable information about the methods of planned giving and the benefits of each, it is important for you to involve your own legal advisors in the process so that there is no conflict of interest and all aspects of the transaction can be appropriately considered.
It’s not (just) about the taxes.
A desire to minimize estate taxes may help motivate you to consider a planned gift, but avoiding estate taxes should not be the only reason to make a planned gift. Likewise, if your only goal is to maximize the amount of money going to your family members and minimize the amount of taxes paid to the government, then planned giving may not work for you. You need to have true charitable intentions to gain the most benefit from a planned gift.
Since Dec. 17, 2010, our federal laws have provided a maximum exemption level (i.e., the maximum amount a person may give away without incurring tax) of $5 million, indexed annually for inflation, for estate tax, gift tax and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. The gift and estate tax exemption are unified so that $5 million (indexed) may be given away during one’s life gift-tax-free. The maximum tax rate for estate, gift and GST taxes is currently 35 percent. Because of the “indexing,” for 2012, up to $5.12 million of an estate will be exempt from the current 35-percent estate tax. These provisions are only in effect until Dec. 31, 2012. Unless Congress and the President take further action before then, after Jan. 1, 2013, estates worth as little as $1 million will be subject to estate tax, the government will take 41 cents on the first dollar in excess of that $1 million, and tax rates will steadily increase from 41 percent to 60 percent on larger amounts.
This notorious fluctuating federal law has moved the exemption level all over the map from the low point of $600,000 to the current high point of $5 million. In light of this larger federal estate-tax exemption, you may feel that “enough is enough” in terms of the amount of money you wish to leave to family. Many of my clients feel that the amounts in excess of the estate-tax exemption should be left to charity.
Unrestricted vs. designated gifts to charity.
An unrestricted gift to a charity has no strings attached. Charities love these gifts! These are important to a charity’s daily operation and help them keep the lights on, buy paper and pay employee salaries. Some donors embrace this unrestricted type of giving, understanding that these essentials are necessary to provide for the charity’s basic needs.
However, in order to further a particular charitable interest or desire, planned gifts often involve “restricted” or “designated” gifts, which can be used only for a specific purpose. Again, collaboration between the donor’s legal advisors and the charity is crucial to make the donor’s intent clear and ensure that the charity is capable of complying with the restrictions in order to achieve the donor’s goals. When a charity accepts your gift, it accepts any restrictions or designations you placed on that gift and is legally required to fulfill them. I suggest drafting any designated charitable bequest to be made following death in the alternative, to allow the highest possibility for success. For example, a last will and testament could contain a provision such as this: “The lesser of $50,000 or 5 percent of my net taxable estate to [favorite charity] for the purpose of providing scholarships, but if the scholarship program is discontinued in the future, then any remaining funds should be used for [favorite charity’s] then-existing program(s) that benefit children, or if no such programs exist, then any remaining funds may be used for [favorite charity’s] greatest need.”
Another type of designated gift is an endowment. Endowments allow you to give an amount to charity, which is invested, and only the income earned from that investment may be spent for the purposes which you have provided.
Most charities will have a gift-acceptance policy, and a donor should expect to be presented with such a policy to review at the outset of any planned-giving discussions. Also, a planned gift may likely result in a gift agreement that commemorates the assets to be given by the donor and any restrictions the charity agrees to comply with by accepting such a gift.
Different types of assets can be used in planned giving.
The types of assets donated to a charity will influence the planned-giving process, even if the gift is unrestricted. Once you’ve decided that you want to make a planned gift, next you must decide which of your assets you wish to transfer to the charity. Cash is one straightforward option. Marketable securities are easy to transfer to a charity during your lifetime or at death. Stock or other ownership interest in a closely held business may be accepted by a charity, but certain steps must be taken before such a transfer. It’s not as easy as just transferring your Google stock.
Your IRA, 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan assets can easily be left to charity at death. I often suggest these assets as a great way to benefit a charity at death, because they may otherwise be subject to two types of taxes when you die: death taxes on the value of the account at the date of death, and income taxes on each withdrawal made by your named beneficiary after your death. If a charity is the beneficiary of your qualified retirement assets, then such assets are not subject to either death taxes or income taxes because your estate would receive an estate-tax charitable deduction, and the charity would be exempt from income tax when assets are withdrawn. Caution is required when considering lifetime gifts of qualified retirement plans, because income tax and penalties may be triggered when assets are withdrawn from such a plan, even if the ultimate recipient of the withdrawn funds is a charity.
Real estate may be given to a charity, but expect prior approval of the charity’s governing board to be required before such a transfer is made. Not every potential gift will be accepted by a charity. For example, if the real estate is the prior location of a gas station or a factory that used harmful chemicals and there are environmental issues involved, the charity may decline to accept such real estate. It is also likely that a charity would wish to sell the real estate upon receipt, rather than maintain the property, which can be a potential liability. A thorough negotiation and understanding between the donor and the charity resulting in a gift agreement is a good idea when real estate is involved.
Tangible personal property (works of art or antiques, for example) may be donated to a charity. Be aware that certain restrictions on the amount of your income-tax deduction may be imposed if the personal property is not used for the charity’s charitable purpose.
Life insurance also can be used to benefit a charity. Specifically, there may be a charitable-planning opportunity if you purchased life insurance when the federal exemption was lower ($600,000), for the purpose of helping to pay the estate taxes that would have been due upon your death. Now that the federal exemption is higher ($5,120,000), such life insurance proceeds may no longer be required because your estate will not be subject to estate tax. If that’s the case, you can make an easy adjustment to the beneficiary designation of your life insurance policy to have some or all of the death benefit paid to a charity. It also may be possible to benefit a charity by transferring ownership of no-longer-needed life insurance to the charity during your lifetime.
Methods and vehicles used in planned giving.
The nitty-gritty of planned giving covers a large spectrum from simple to complex. Some examples of simple (if unrestricted) deferred gifts are as follows:
- primary or contingent beneficiary designation of a life insurance policy: charity can be a partial beneficiary that receives a set dollar amount or a percentage
- primary or contingent beneficiary designation of an IRA or a qualified plan (remember, these are great assets to leave to charity at death): charity can be a partial beneficiary that receives a set dollar amount or a percentage
- outright bequest in a will or outright distribution from a revocable living trust after a grantor’s death: can be a set dollar amount or a percentage, or a formula that sets a floor and/or ceiling on the amount going to charity
All of the above are “deferred” gifts that may be revoked and/or changed prior to death. Any of the above become more complex if they are “restricted” for a particular purpose.
Some examples of more complex vehicles include:
- charitable gift annuity: a contract (not a trust) under which a charity, in return for a transfer of cash, marketable securities or other assets, agrees to pay a fixed amount of money to one or two individuals for their lifetime. This technique can produce an income-tax deduction and enhances income during retirement years.
- charitable remainder trust: assets transferred to a newly created “split interest” irrevocable trust in which a charity is a remainder beneficiary, but the donor (and perhaps donor’s spouse) retains an annuity (a CRAT) or unitrust (a CRUT) stream of payments for either a term of years or for lifetime. At the end of the specified term or lifetime, the remaining assets are distributed to the charitable beneficiary and the trust terminates.
- charitable lead trust: assets transferred to a newly created “split interest” irrevocable trust where a charity receives the lead interest (for a term of years) with the remainder to pass to non-charitable beneficiaries (the donor’s family or any individual selected by the donor). The charity can receive an annuity (a CLAT), in which a fixed annual distribution is made to charity, or a unitrust amount (a CLUT), in which the charity receives a fluctuating amount equal to a percentage of the CLUT’s value each year.
All of the above, if established during a donor’s lifetime, are irrevocable and may provide income-tax benefits to the donor. If established after death, the above techniques may provide estate-tax benefits.
However, there are potential pitfalls with any technique. Charitable lead and charitable remainder trusts are irrevocable. If circumstances change, they cannot be amended. If the assets owned by a CLAT or CRUT lose value, the benefit to the donor’s family (or other intended remainder beneficiary) will be less. Charitable lead trusts are somewhat of a hot topic these days, because the special interest rate the Internal Revune Service uses to predict how much assets will grow in a split interest trust such as this (the “hurdle rate”) is hovering at an all-time low, increasing the likelihood that assets transferred to a CLAT or a CRUT will appreciate in value over and beyond the hurdle rate, resulting in a discounted gift to the remainder beneficiaries, and achieving gift- and/or estate-tax savings for the donor.
No matter which route you choose, incorporate planned giving into your estate plan.
Planned giving means different things to different people and can fit into each donor’s estate plan in a unique way to achieve her goals. My suggestion: make a planned gift to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation in gratitude of the benefits you’ve received from our sisterhood as a way to pay it forward and extend your philanthropic legacy.
Disclosure Required by Circular 230
This Disclosure may be required by Circular 230 issued by the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. The federal tax advice contained herein is not intended or written by the practitioner to be used, and it may not be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. Furthermore, any federal tax advice herein may not be used or referred to in promoting, marketing or recommending a transaction or arrangement to another party. Further information concerning this disclosure, and the reasons for such disclosure, may be obtained upon request from the author.
As a freshman at American University, Corina Testa Elgart, a 1995 Beta Rho initiate, had her future completely planned. She was to study law, become a criminal defense attorney at a top firm, make lots of money, and live a very busy yet gratifying life. Fortunately for her, fate had some different plans. Even with some bumps in the road, Corina became exactly who she wanted to be—a woman of goals, accomplishment and reinvention.
Wanting to help the underdogs of the world, Corina Testa Elgart began her college career with the strict mindset of becoming a criminal defense attorney. She enjoyed all of her classes and made wonderful contacts—all of which reassured her choice in career. Following graduation, Corina received a prestigious job offer, and a salary to match, from a law firm in Washington D.C. Not only was she rising in her field and at such a young age, but all of her dreams were coming true.
As time passed, Corina continued to climb. Working alongside the D.C. Federal Public Defender, she was a part of high-profile national and international cases such as kidnappings and mass murders. She worked 14-hour days in high-tension arenas, and she was thriving.
In fall 2003, Corina met her husband and thoughts of family began to cross her mind. Her career was booming and she was on a great financial path. Was she willing to give up her success? Was she willing to put off having a family? That winter, her decision was made for her.
Out of Her Control
To help with her father-in-law who had become increasingly ill, she and her husband moved from the fast-paced, big-city life they had created for themselves to a life of Long Island suburbia. The culture change was a shock to not only her profession, but her personal life as well. Although she had grown up in the area and her family was close, her life had been built in Washington D.C. She had no ties to Long Island and, there, she had no individuality. She only saw herself as her husband’s wife.
She began a short-lived position with the Federal Defender’s Office in their Long Island branch, but her life still lacked the passion and excitement she had experienced and had gotten used to while living in Washington D.C. Unmotivated and bored, she needed to do something just for herself.
Trying something brand new, Corina dabbled in small business ownership and began consulting for local bridal needs. She remembers, “I went from being with people on the worst days of their lives to the best day of their lives.”
In December 2005, the birth of her first child, a son named Jasper, began her slow-down. She wanted to be with him more, and subsequently, her work began to lessen. By the birth of her second child in January 2008, a Daughter named Domenica, Corina found that she was staying home more and more. Working was no longer in the schedule.
During her second pregnancy, Corina developed anxiety. Her Doctor suggested that she was showing early signs of postpartum depression. She did not want to rely on medication, so she sought alternative remedies. To her amazement, some flour, eggs, vanilla and sugar seemed to do the trick.
Finding Herself On Her Own Terms
From a strong Italian background, cooking was definitely in her genes. Baking, however, was not. Following videos on YouTube, reading recipes in magazines and replicating online photos, Corina attempted one dessert recipe after another, but creating the perfect tasting vanilla cake was her focus. For months, her husband would come home every night to a lineup of cakes, just for his tasting pleasure, until they found one that topped the rest.
“I loved how exact the baking instructions were. My anxiety was gone. It calmed my Type A personality down to an A- .”
Watching her kids during the day, she began night classes at the local culinary school. She remembers, “When I wasn’t at school, I was practicing at home. I was truly finding myself. Who knew I could bake! I sure didn’t. I loved it, and I was good at it. I found a new passion and something just for me. Not my kids or my husband, just me.”
The Start of Something Big
As her time at the culinary school came to a close, an internship was the last piece before graduation. Disillusioned by the common practices of other area bakeries, Corina took a step back. She was continuously told that the part of baking that made her so happy—the use of fresh, measured ingredients—was not practiced by local bakeries. Using premade and premixed ingredients was how everyone was doing it, but it made her question her own values and standards. She felt it was cheating and left customers misinformed. Was she in this just to make money? No. Was she looking for convenience? No. She knew her passion, and she needed to follow it.
Corina soon opened her own “shop” out of her home and vowed to stay true to her own wants, needs and strengths. She vowed to take no shortcuts, and everything from her cakes and cupcakes to her own hard work was to be done from scratch. Through word-of-mouth, Corina’s home-based business was a local sensation.
“Our entire kitchen transformed into a little bake shop. I can remember me and my husband staying up until 2 a.m. to make fondant bows and Sesame Street figurines. It was all trial and error, but we were getting orders for five, six cakes per week!”
In 2010, Corina finally moved her little business out of her home and to a more permanent facility—a cottage of only 400 square feet in Syossett, New York. Her bake shop was aptly named TASTE: It’s In The Cake.
Battling the Competition and the Public
As TASTE was opening, Corina received the news that any pastry chef would love to hear: she had been cast in a reality show hosted by, none other than the “Cake Boss” himself, Buddy Valastro. Surprised that she would even be considered, questioning her own skills in comparison to the others, excited for the possible business publicity, Corina had no idea what she was getting into. But with her husband’s support, she went for it. That fall, she began filming on TLC’s “Cake Boss: Next Great Baker.”
Her bake shop was closed for three weeks, and she was unable to see her family. Although she was able to call her husband and parents each night, she was incredibly lonely and exhausted. Public opinion did not help matters.
At first her only worries were how she would physically look on television, she had no idea she would be criticized for her character and personality. Although there were many fans for whom Corina inspired, she was also given a spoonful of cyber bullying.
“I got painted as a stereotypical Italian girl from Long Island, hot tempered, nasty and loud…The show was great for my business, but it tested my personal strength. I was exposed to America the way T.V. wanted me to be seen. And let me tell you, America has loud opinions, and they are not afraid to share them. When you’re on national television, viewers believe only what they’re shown. Viewers were harsh and attacked me as a person, questioning my ability to be a mother and a business owner. I got hate-mail and the blogs, Facebook and other social media networks flowed with degrading comments that were brutal and hard to read. Having battled my share of bullies growing, up I knew this feeling all too well; I thought the days of people making me feel badly about myself were over. While the show was airing I felt like I was in middle school all over again.”
Rather than crying and feeling helpless, Corina turned it into something positive. She used her status as a finalist in the competition series to give back. She and her husband had “team Corina” T-shirts made for the final episode and donated 100 percent of the proceeds to “Stomp Out Bullying.” She wanted to take her experience and use it to empower people to be who they are and to be proud of their talents and passions in life. Today she is an anti-bullying advocate and hopes to someday form her own anti-bullying organization locally.
Having It All
Although the route may be a little different than others, at the heart of things, Corina is still a small business owner who just wanted to find herself and be able to set a positive example for her children. Like what so many other women across the country have experienced, what she believed at the age of 18 to be her calling, was just a stepping stone to finding her true passion in life: family and cake.
Today, Corina works five to six days every week, and loves it. And as for her earlier thoughts of having to choose between a career that she loves or having a family: When someone asks, “How do you do it?” She responds, “Do you walk into my husband’s office and ask how he does it? We make it work, we figure it out! If you want something bad enough you’ve gotta fight for it. With heart, drive and passion, you can have it all. Hard work, confidence and determination go a long way.”
Corina Testa Elgart, her husband Keith, and their two children reside in Huntington, New York. For further discussion on starting your own business or for opportunities to speak out against bullying, Corina may be reached through cakesbytaste.com or on Facebook. Photo provided by Lightful Photography LLC, lightfulphotography.com.
by Cherí O’Neill, Executive Director
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)
Before coming to Alpha Chi Omega, I was in the midst of a career change from 17 years in higher education to a private therapy practice focusing on women. My goal was to work with women to help them live the lives of their dreams, to help them succeed and thrive in ways that were meaningful to them. One woman at a time, I would be helping women transform.
I wanted to enrich my studies toward that career with some volunteer work, so I went to the Alpha Chi Omega website to see what was available. It was there that I found posted not only what I was seeking—volunteer opportunities—but also an executive directorship. Out of the blue, I discovered a role through which I might multiply my one-woman-at-a-time dream by more than 200,000 Alpha Chi Omega sisters.
As a result of being honored with this leadership role in Alpha Chi Omega, my dream, or at least the manifestation of that dream, didn’t come to pass exactly as I expected. Instead, my work with women has exceeded my dream. Rather than one woman at a time, I am now able to aid thousands of women. Alpha Chi Omega has made that possible.
Our sisterhood has often been the catalyst for big changes in my life. Like so many, I went off to college with a clear vision of what I was going to do: English Ph.D.; work at some small private liberal arts college; and, on the side, write the great American novel. At that stage, I was much more comfortable expressing myself through the written word than the spoken word. Books and studying were my safe zones.
Once on campus, however, the world began to change, to open up for me. Different possibilities, ones I’d never considered or imagined, came into view. The greatest change occurred through Alpha Chi Omega. I learned through our sisterhood that there was more to knowledge than what occurred in a classroom. There was more to life than what I found between the covers of books. Being surrounded by women with different gifts, abilities, goals and dreams inspired me to explore and broaden my own horizons. I learned about the power of women united to help each other and the strength it can provide. I learned that, by working together, we can achieve so much more.
It was that gift of Alpha Chi Omega—that sense of belonging, connection and relationships—that helped give me the strength to pursue new dreams, to make changes in my life, to not just “think” about what I wanted, but to go after it.
As writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders said (and Beatle John Lennon said years later), “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” It’s all well and good to plot out where we want to go, the route we want to take, and by what time we want to depart from one location and arrive at the next. But sometimes, the greatest discoveries and surprises lie along the detours, the wrong turns, the leisurely drives, the early departures, the late arrivals and, yes, the good company and conversation along the way.
Alpha Chi Omega has brought those discoveries and surprises, that good company and conversation, to my life and career. Tell me: What has it brought to yours? What are the differences being an Alpha Chi Omega has made in your life?
by Jenny Pratt, Director of Leadership Initiatives
(Pi Beta Phi, Franklin College)
I want to ask you a question. And, I do not want you to take it lightly. Your answer will be uniquely yours, and it is important. By important, I mean really important; it’s potentially of life-changing importance. It’s not a very long question, but your answer is critical to you being the best version of yourself you can possibly be. Here goes…What is your “why?”
Why do you do the things you do every day? Why do you go to work? Why do you go to class? Why do you volunteer for Alpha Chi Omega? Why are you studying what you are studying? Why does your chapter do what it does? Why are you hosting that philanthropy event? Why are you trying to lose weight?
“Why.” It’s a powerful word.
Simon Sinek is an author, educator and optimist who, to use his own words, is “leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them.” He leads conversations around the world to help people and organizations focus on their “why.”
He says, “People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with ‘why.’ It was their natural ability to start with ‘why’ that enabled them to inspire those around them and to achieve remarkable things.”
Sinek adds, “Any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. ‘Why’ is not money or profit—those are always results. Those who start with ‘why’ never manipulate, they inspire. And the people who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to.”
A couple examples
Your chapter hosts its annual philanthropy event. Chapter members are fairly involved, but no one other than the same people is really doing much to make the event a success. Nevertheless, you have decent attendance, and participants have a pretty good time. There are T-shirts and signs, banners and boys. You make at least as much money as last year, and you give a nice donation to the local shelter or service organization serving domestic violence survivors. All in all you consider the event a success.
OK, congratulations; you hosted an event and made a donation. Nothing wrong with that! But I have a question: Do you host the philanthropy event because you know it’s what you’re “supposed to do” as an Alpha Chi Omega chapter, or do you host the philanthropy event because you, personally, want to help create a world where no man, woman or child is ever harmed by someone they know, trust or love again?
To be fair, both reasons for hosting the event are completely valid, and both will help the organization your chapter supports. However, which one is a more powerful “why?” Which one gives you the opportunity to inspire action? Which one allows participants to walk away feeling like they were part of a movement? And realistically speaking, which one allows you to create messages that will help you raise a lot more money?
Now, think a little bit into the future. Think about your “why” after college.
It’s been a few years since you earned that coveted bachelor’s degree and victoriously moved your tassel from one side to the other—a graduate of your alma mater! Since then, you’ve gotten a job, moved a time or two, gotten married, and generally are living the life you always thought you would. Somewhere along the way, you have managed to find more than just a couple extra pounds. The doctor has been on you to do something; you’ve started and stopped more diets than you care to confess, and your new member class reunion is only a few months away.
The real question is, why do you want to lose weight?
Do you want to lose weight because you want to look good at homecoming? Do you want to lose weight because you want to prove to yourself that you can actually stick to something? Do you want to lose weight because you want the doctor to stop asking about it?
Again, all are valid reasons. However, what if your “why” was even more personal than all of those things—not losing the weight increases your likelihood of breast cancer; not losing the weight increases the chances you might not ever see your future children graduate; not losing the weight decreases your chances of completing any of your lifelong dreams.
Losing weight for an event is a fabulous motivator, but what happens after the event? Which of these “whys” make it easier to stay focused on the task at hand, even when the temptations are huge?
Beyond being great information to hopefully help you inspire yourself and others, Alpha Chi Omega has embraced this idea and created a program to help collegiate chapters—and individual members—find their “why” and live the Alpha Chi Omega “why.”
Finding their “why” and creating plans to accomplish it are two of the central themes of the newly created InTune. InTune is a chapter retreat that every Alpha Chi Omega collegiate chapter will experience over the next three years (and beyond).
Beyond the “why,” the program is designed to help every woman determine her personal values, connect her values to her chapter’s values, and then see how personal and chapter values impact Alpha Chi Omega’s values of wisdom, devotion and achievement.
More than 20 chapters have already experienced InTune, and another 20-25 are scheduled for the spring term. It is an intense, day-and-a-half program that gives chapters the chance to brainstorm big ideas for living their “why” and develop priorities for how the chapter can move forward. Following the program, each chapter works with an Alpha Chi Omega volunteer to make sure the progress made during the retreat continues after the weekend.
What if every Alpha Chi Omega member were connected to her personal “why?” What if every single Alpha Chi Omega woman were a walking billboard for being a real, strong woman?
What if you took time right now to re-declare your commitment to living your life to the values of Alpha Chi Omega?
Simon Sinek says it best: The ability to start with “why” enables you to achieve remarkable things.
by Malena Lott
(Psi, University of Oklahoma)
Andy Williams may croon that “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but then again, he’s a guy. Of course it’s wonderful for men! They wake up one day and the tree is decorated, the feast is prepared, the packages are bought and wrapped, and the holiday tunes playlist is booming from the speakers.
For many of us, the holidays—with all their merriment and laughter—are also the most stressful time of the year. Holidays don’t just “happen,” they are planned in meticulous detail by women and a few men with “Buddy the Elf” disorder. And then, just like a woman, we let a fat man with a cute suit take all the credit.
I’ll admit, I’m guilty as charged. Michael Bublé and the Rat Pack start serenading me with holiday songs the day after Halloween. I shop ‘til I drop. I bake, entertain like Martha Stewart on ‘roids, and overly deck the halls. I’m not about to take the “fa-la-la” out of your favorite time of the year, but I am going to ask for a pledge—nay, a sacred vow—that you will “let there be peace on earth,” and let it begin with you. That you will give yourself one silent night that doesn’t end in you doing the dishes. That you will give up all of your elfish and Mrs. Claus duties long enough to grant yourself some good old-fashioned serenity.
Oh, and Guilt? So not invited to this party! In fact, you had best lock Guilt in the nearest closet or she’ll sit on your shoulder the whole time you’re trying to finally get to your bubble bath and pleasure reading (ahem, Sleigh Ride), nagging that you should be putting away the ornaments instead.
Why does serenity matter? When we’re burned out, our fire literally goes out. We wake up one day and—BAM!—where did the years go? What happened to that dream you had when you were an Alpha Chi back in college? What dreams are still there, even if they’re tiny flames?
Being a real, strong woman means being true to ourselves, even if that means shuffling the deck and making some big life changes. The truth is, not everybody wants you to change. Those around you may like you just the way you are—in a box—fulfilling their needs, because that’s human nature. We don’t walk around verbalizing that we want people in our lives to reach their goals, because, honestly, that may put us out.
But I’m not simply guessing that you have someone in your life who wants you to fulfill your dreams, I’m betting on it. You have a network of women who care very much that you are living your purpose. Me. Her. Those cuties on alphachiomega.org. Your lyre sisters!
That “Together let us seek the heights” stuff wasn’t a bunch of hooey. It was a calling. A mission. We serve others—yes! When we give from the heart, we get it back tenfold. We state our dreams, and we give each other shoulders to stand on. We’re in this adventure together. Sure, you need to opt in. If you’re hiding somewhere, it makes it hard for me to find you. But we are here! I’ve found sisters on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and—get ready for this—in person at the chapter house!
I gave myself some time away from the family to spend it with my much younger Alpha Chi Omega sisters during recruitment this past August. I loved recruitment when I was in college, and that same excitement returned watching the women prepare the house for their skits and sharing the Alpha Chi story with potential members. What struck me on the visit was 1) these chicks are beautiful, smart leaders and 2) we’re all in this together. Not only could recruitment not happen as a solitary act, but neither could college, business success or family life.
We just need to take a breather once in a while to make sure we’re on the right track and that we’re wearing the engineer hat. Together, let’s make a commitment to reflect on 2011—not only what happened to us in our lives, but what we made happen and how we felt about it. Together, let’s be conscious about what we invite into our lives in 2012—passengers on our purpose that keep us feeling like real, strong women.
The following are some questions and statements we can ponder for the new year:
- What gives me energy and what depletes it?
- What activity do I love that I need to make more time for?
- What could I give up in my schedule to make room for a passion?
- Am I being fulfilled at my job? What could I do to improve my situation?
- Is there something holding me back from pursuing my dream?
- My weekend would be more enjoyable if I…
- If I could quit my job today, I would…
- If I could visit any place in the world, it would be…
Need some more inspiration? Let people who are already living their dream (or have lived it) motivate you. Oprah has her own magazine, television network and a school for girls in Africa. Steve Jobs pursued his dream to create personal computers despite everyone in the industry laughing at him, but he went on to revolutionize the way we communicate and live. Alpha Chi sister Maria Bailey is a mom-expert who has founded several businesses, written books and helps national companies connect with moms. Inspiration is all around us.
When I allow myself time to meditate on how I want to shape my life, the answers always come. One such aha moment was the creation of Sleigh Ride, a winter anthology featuring award-winning women authors. The same day the idea hit me, the phrase “good read/good deed” popped to the surface. The best way for me to fundraise for causes I care about was to incorporate what I do best.
I’d written novels before, but I’d never spearheaded an anthology. I had no idea who would be in it, but I felt a calling to move forward and the pieces fell into place. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Jessie Bliss McGrew Freedom Fund through the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, fulfilling the good read/good deed mission.
When I grant myself serenity, I’m in the flow. When I let the busy monster (that Grinch!) take over my life, it stops. I can hear my inner voice only if I quiet my mind to listen. I used to believe that meant sitting down with pen in hand in front of my calendar to jot down what I needed to do to kickstart my mojo. Now I realize it’s as simple as being in the present moment and paying attention.
We’re pulled in so many directions and each stage of our life presents its own unique challenges. No single stage provides the luxury of an “easy pass,” yet we wait for it like children hoping to unwrap the golden ticket. Instead of wishing for a flexible work life, I had to create one for myself. Instead of waiting for the “right time” to travel, to write a book, to start my own company, I had to shake the fear monkey off my back and go for it.
It’s not just about a “bucket list” of things we want to accomplish in our lives (Paris will still be there in 10 years, right?), but about living each day with serenity and passion, even if that’s five minutes carved out for deep breathing and meditation. What could you let go of that doesn’t provide true meaning in your life? Jersey Shore, perhaps? The Bachelor? How can we turn time into traction?
As Father Time passes the hourglass to Baby New Year, why not turn the hourglass into a rattle? It’s time to shake things up.
Seinquis Slater, a 2008 initiate of the Alpha Pi chapter at the University of North Dakota, was a typical college woman—studying hard during the day and having too much fun at night. Then, following a devastating sexual assault, her life turned upside down. Now, Seinquis is a healthy, thriving graduate student and advocate against assault and violence. This is her story.
Originally from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Seinquis Slater moved to the small town of Minot, North Dakota at the age of 7, as her grandfather’s military assignment required the move. Minot and the people of the area quickly became her home. When the time came to choose a college to attend, Seinquis decided to stay close. Her freshman year at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks began in fall 2007.
Starting her college experience just as any typical 18-year-old would—excited, having fun, making mistakes, enjoying her freedom— Seinquis moved into campus housing; became as involved in extracurricular activities as possible; and, in the following spring, joined the Alpha Pi chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. She found herself, at times, struggling with time management, but Seinquis kept her grades up, finishing the year with a 4.0 GPA. She expected her second year to be no different.
How Everything Changed
As her sophomore year began, Seinquis was asked to participate in a friend’s wedding. So, in October 2008, Seinquis found herself flying to Alaska for the nuptials, looking forward to every minute. Following the ceremony, the reception was definitely a party—food, dancing and a lot of alcohol.
Admittedly, Seinquis was underage and well beyond any smart alcohol consumption limit. She could not control her actions, nor could she hold herself up. Stumbling into the women’s restroom alone, she collapsed inside one of the stalls. When another member of the wedding party, the best man, came into the restroom, it seemed as if he was trying to help her. As others came into the restroom, he spoke on her behalf, telling them that she was fine and that he was taking care of her. Seinquis was so intoxicated, she was unable to speak.
When she woke up the next morning, she remembered very little of the reception. But as the morning went on, memories of the night before began to flash in her mind. She had not been safe in the restroom. The best man had not been taking care of her. Even with many others unknowingly in attendance, she had been raped.
When she spoke of the incident to a friend at the wedding, Seinquis’s claims were dismissed, and she was told she simply had drank too much. With resonating doubt, she told no one else.
Throughout the semester, Seinquis withdrew from friends, family and priorities. Her GPA dropped to a 2.0 and she was not handling pressure well. Knowing she had to “get better,” she focused on the only thing that did not need emotions: school. In spring 2009, Seinquis threw herself into her studies. Wake up; go to class; go home; study; go to bed. This was her routine, keeping her distracted and busy. Her grades improved, but Seinquis did not.
Recognizing she was unhealthy, her boyfriend at the time encouraged her to seek counseling. Reluctant because she did not believe there was a problem, she agreed and began counseling at the University of North Dakota Counseling Center. A year following the incident, the counselor diagnosed Seinquis with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Seinquis remembers, “It is the hardest thing to tell someone that loves you, that you have been sexually assaulted. But being able to talk with the counselor definitely helped.”
As the counseling sessions continued, Seinquis began to share her ordeal with friends and family, and she began to quietly advocate for the campus Women’s Center. Seinquis was encouraged to speak out to others—other young women who may be in the same situation—but she was afraid. Finally building up the courage, in October 2010, Seinquis spoke of her ordeal and the scope of feelings that she experienced and was still experiencing during the university’s Take Back the Night rally.
Seinquis remembers, “I was scared out of my mind, but I got on stage, told my story with every detail and encouraged women to break the silence. Afterwards, people sent me messages on Facebook and emailed me, wanting to talk about their stories. The Counseling Center even had an increase in women coming to them.”
With her newfound empowerment, Seinquis offered support by listening to other women as they spoke of their ordeals, and by helping with domestic violence awareness opportunities through her Alpha Chi Omega chapter. And although she feels strong now thanks to her efforts toward others, speaking to her friends and family about the incident, and finally coming to terms that it was not her fault, Seinquis knows that this will be a life-long struggle.
“You’re never over it. You never don’t have the associated feelings. But it is how you cope with those feelings that lets you move on.”
Seinquis graduated in May 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. By the time of her graduation, Seinquis had been involved in student government; the university’s curriculum committee, essential studies committee and Greek life coordinator search committee; Panhellenic council, the North Dakota Student Association; Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity; and much more. Among her many honors, Seinquis was named a NASPA Undergraduate Rising Star by the student affairs administrators in higher education, was given Student of the Month recognition by the University of North Dakota, was awarded the ALANA H.O.P.E (Helping Our People Excel) Award by the University of North Dakota’s multicultural student services, and was awarded the Gordon Henry Award by the University of North Dakota’s Greek life. Seinquis is currently pursuing a master’s in educational leadership, and she is employed full-time with the University of North Dakota as a traveling representative for enrollment services.
When asked whether or not she ever confronted the man, Seinquis stated, “I have never confronted him. At the time, I didn’t want the bride to think less of me or him. I was not ready for the confrontation. I thought that if I never saw him again, I would get over it. Yes, I do wish I had said something, but by the time I realized this, I felt like it was too late.” Unfortunately, this is not her only regret.
“Many underage women are offered alcohol depending on the situation they’re in. My advice to those women would be: just don’t do it. If you choose to though, really know the people you are around and be able to trust those you surround yourself with. I learned this too late.”
Advice to Others
Now, three years following her ordeal, Seinquis maintains that speaking out against, or just speaking to someone, period, is the best advice she can give to anyone in the same situation.
“Break the silence. You are going to encourage others and help yourself, even if you do not realize it right then.”
And to her Alpha Chi Omega sisters who are in their darkest times, Seinquis encourages that “through the best of time or worst of times, ‘Together let us seek the heights’ truly has so much meaning. Talk to and lean on your sisters when you need someone to listen; they will be there for you. When I was down, I always new tomorrow would be a better day because I had a family of women who understood what I was going through and were willing to help me. Always stand up for yourself; communicate with your sisters, friends and family; and never give up on your life goals, no matter which obstacles you face.”
To learn more about counseling options for those who have experienced sexual assault and/or other abuse, please visit womenshealth.gov. To learn more about Take Back the Night and to find a rally in your area, visit takebackthenight.org.
The Alpha Chi Omega Foundation is proud to honor our collegiate donors through membership in a unique giving society called the Scarlet Ribbon Club. With gifts of $18.85, these women can make a difference in the lives of their sisters all across the country. With the first donation to the Scarlet Ribbon Club, each member receives a scarlet crystal dangle for her lyre badge. This dangle is not just an accessory; it symbolizes the member’s commitment to the future of Alpha Chi Omega and shows her pride in being a donor to the Foundation.
Scarlet Ribbon Club Challenge
This year, the Foundation challenged each chapter to have all collegiate members join the Scarlet Ribbon Club. The Foundation is excited to announce that, with 44 percent of its chapter members being donors to the Scarlet Ribbon Club, the Omicron chapter at Baker University has the largest percentage of women involved! When asked why such an initiative was appealing to the chapter women, Omicron Chapter President Molly Schmeidler explained that, as college students, they all have financial obligations—car payments, tuition, books, Alpha Chi Omega dues—but just because they are still in school does not mean they do not want to support Alpha Chi Omega efforts.
“At Omicron chapter, we believe in the big picture of Alpha Chi, and that mission would not be possible without the support of the Foundation,” said Molly. “Once we had a better understanding of the Foundation and got over any misconceptions, we wanted to give. And $18.85 seemed completely doable! The Scarlet Ribbon Club is a wonderful opportunity for collegians to show their commitment to Alpha Chi Omega.”
Collegians (and alumnae), why should you contribute to the Foundation?
Giving means more scholarships and grants for collegiate and alumnae members. It means that more campuses across the country will get to hear Andrea Cooper speak about the tragic yet inspirational story of her daughter with “Kristin’s Story.” Giving means more financial support for the enhancement of existing Fraternity programming and the development of new, exciting initiatives such as MyJourney, the Alcohol Skills Training Program, InTune and global service projects. Giving to the Foundation ensures that the Alpha Chi Omega experience meets the needs of women both today and tomorrow.
Thank you again to the Omicron chapter and all of our Scarlet Ribbon Club members for your outstanding commitment to the future of our organization!
Interested in joining the Scarlet Ribbon Club? Visit alphachiomega.org.
by Lisa Young Stiers
(Epsilon Omicron, Indiana State University)
More Than Just Fun
Extracurricular activities are as much a part of college life as course work.
Choices abound—from Greek life to glee club, service projects to intramural sports, professional organizations to part-time jobs. Sure, they are fun. But do these extracurricular activities make any difference after graduation? Absolutely, career experts say.
“‘Well-rounded’ is at the top of a list of qualities employers are looking for,” says Randy Dineen, M.A., Internship Advisor at the Arts and Sciences Career Services Office at The Ohio State University. “Extracurricular activities, especially leadership roles that show initiative and leadership skills, help make a well rounded student.”
While coursework and grade point average continue to be important, extracurricular activity can provide additional influence on potential employers.
“I tell students that your major takes up one line, and the rest of your resume is extracurricular activities,” says Elizabeth Scutchfield, Vanderbilt University Career Center Career Advisor. “Extracurricular activities are ways you show initiative and leadership skills–that you can take a job and run with it.”
Extracurricular Skill Building
Ginny Carroll, of inGiNuity, has more than 25 years of management and consulting experience and is passionate about building personal capacity. She has studied the effect extracurricular activities, particularly Greek membership, have on developing a well-rounded student.
“The day a young woman joins a sorority and a man a fraternity, he or she begins to develop critical intrapersonal and interpersonal skills necessary to compete in an incredibly tough job market and world,” Carroll writes in the summer 2010 issue of Perspectives. “All of the experiences in which an undergraduate participates as a member of a fraternity or sorority build critical soft skills they will not get on Facebook, in front of a computer screen or while texting their friends. Fraternity/sorority membership always has been and continues to be a living laboratory of leadership skill development.”
Carroll cites a report from The Conference Board, a global organization that educates about management and the marketplace, that says U.S. employers continue to struggle with finding new hires who have more than basic skills, who possess higher level critical thinking and creativity. Many experts call these 21st-century skills:
- problem identification or articulation
- ability to identify new patterns of behavior or new combinations of actions
- integration of knowledge across different disciplines (diversity)
- comfort with notion of “no right answer” (ambiguity)
- fundamental curiosity
- originality and inventiveness in work
- problem solving (resilience)
Extracurricular activities offer a chance to build many of these skills while also exploring interests and nurturing passion. During early college years, career experts encourage students to get involved in multiple organizations.
“You never know when you’ll discover a passion that could lead to a career,” Scutchfield says.
During your final years of college, focus in on a few key activities—those most important to you—and take on a leadership role. Develop a network of contacts who may help with your career development or job search.
Do not forget about part-time jobs. When possible, take on extra responsibility or initiative. Can you close the kitchen, manage summer employees or train new hires?
“Students don’t always value their work experience,” Dineen says. “Do whatever you can do to show leadership skills.”
Extracurricular experiences also may offer a leg up in a coveted job interview.
When you find a job of interest, identify key qualities emphasized in the description. Examine your extracurricular activities to find areas that match these qualities. Then develop stories and examples you can use in behavioral interviews—those “tell me about a time” questions.
“Compare job descriptions with what you’ve done in the past,” Dineen says.
Dineen recommends students keep a list of activities, leadership roles, responsibilities and results throughout their college years to make matching experiences and job descriptions easier.
Extracurricular experiences provide stories and examples of how you can add value to an organization. Maybe you prepared and managed a budget as treasurer of a professional organization or planned a drive to collect books for a local shelter. Maybe you provided new member education for your chapter or trained new employees at your summer job.
Each of these tasks shows jobs skills in demand: leadership, initiative and the maturity to see a project through to completion.
“Employers get really excited when they see students are self-starters and will get really involved in their first position,” Scutchfield explains. “Extracurricular activities are actually just as valuable as past work experience. Don’t devalue leadership roles you’ve taken on campus.”
While academics may be the foundation of your collegiate years, extracurricular activities often provide the most cherished memories. But, career experts say, they also can provide crucial job skills that can launch your future.
So give yourself permission to explore new interests, have fun with friends and get involved with campus activities. Find a few organizations that feed your passion and commit to leadership roles. These extracurricular options are more than just fun—they can be the gateway to the job, and future, of your dreams.
by Joy Lotz Mahoney
(Alpha, DePauw University)
Like many people with diabetes, Janelle Williams Demaree, an alumna of the Gamma Mu chapter at Ball State University, never saw it coming.
Janelle knew she was at a higher risk for diabetes; the disease was prevalent in her family. Her grandmothers, mother and two uncles all had some form of the disease. A petite, athletic 28-year-old, Janelle was doing all she could to stay healthy and delay or prevent type 2 diabetes in her own life.
So, when Janelle received her diagnosis in 2005, even her doctor was surprised. Initially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, she was later reclassified with type 1 as her pancreas slowly ended its production of insulin. With her diagnoses, Janelle’s life, as it is with all sufferers of diabetes, has changed forever.
The Silent Killer
Like many Americans, young and old, Janelle knew others who had suffered the devastating impact of diabetes. Yet she did not believe it would happen to her. Not at her age. Not with her lifestyle.
Often called the “silent killer,” diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States today. Nearly 26 million people have some form of the disease, and one in four of them is not yet diagnosed. At least 79 million more are at risk for type 2 diabetes, including one in three adults. One in three children born in the year 2000 or later faces a future with diabetes.
Perhaps most staggering is the fact that diabetes annually kills more people in the United States than AIDS and breast cancer combined.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease with no cure that develops when the body can no longer make or efficiently use insulin—a hormone necessary to convert the food we eat into the energy we need for daily life.
When a person eats, her food converts in the bloodstream to a form of sugar called glucose. Certain foods, such as carbohydrates, break down into more glucose than others. To process blood glucose, the pancreas releases insulin, which acts like a key to unlock the body’s cells so that glucose can enter. The cells then convert glucose to energy, and that energy is what we use for the activities of everyday life.
In a person with diabetes, the body either does not make or use insulin efficiently. When this happens, glucose levels build up in the bloodstream. When the glucose levels get high enough, they act like a toxin—damaging blood vessels and nerves and leading to complications like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputations. Diabetes also can be related to other problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression and erectile dysfunction.
Know the Types
There are at least five types of diabetes, and each one is different. The most common forms of the disease are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether—a condition that can quickly be fatal. Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that develops suddenly in children and adolescents, but it can also develop in adults. The causes of type 1 are nebulous, but genetics and environment both play a role. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5 percent of all people in the United States with diabetes. It cannot be prevented, and those who have it require artificial insulin to survive.
Type 2 diabetes—by far the most prevalent—affects approximately 95 percent of people with diabetes. In this form of the disease, the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not use insulin efficiently. As a result, blood glucose levels can build up slowly and silently. Often, people with type 2 do not know they have the disease until they develop complications due to glucose levels that remain elevated over time.
Type 2 diabetes is sometimes preventable because it often develops due to lifestyle factors, such as being overweight and under-active. But not all people who are overweight will develop type 2 diabetes; as with all forms of diabetes, genetics plays an important role. Other risk factors include family history of type 2 diabetes; high blood pressure; having a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth; and being African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American or a Pacific Islander. Being over the age of 45 is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, although this form of the disease is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents. As a result, the term “adult-onset diabetes” has become virtually obsolete.
Approximately 79 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition that develops before type 2 in which blood glucose levels are high but have not yet crossed the diabetes threshold. People with prediabetes can often prevent or delay the onset of type 2 with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, along with regular monitoring of blood glucose levels. Studies show that people with prediabetes who lose 5 percent to 10 percent of their body weight can reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes by more than 50 percent.
A third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which involves elevated blood glucose levels during pregnancy. A woman with gestational diabetes did not have diabetes before pregnancy and may not have it after. She must be monitored closely to preserve both her health and that of her developing baby. While the cause is not fully understood, a woman can develop gestational diabetes if her body cannot make and use all the insulin she needs for pregnancy. After pregnancy, gestational diabetes disappears but places a woman at greater risk for type 2 later in life. About 4 percent of all pregnant women develop gestational diabetes in the United States.
Additional types of diabetes include latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA)—sometimes called type 1.5—and maturity-onset diabetes in the young (MODY). In LADA, the pancreas stops producing insulin over time, which can sometimes lead to an inaccurate diagnosis of type 2 early in the disease. In people with MODY, a form of type 2 diabetes develops because of a defect in a single gene. MODY is often misdiagnosed as types 1 or 2 and accounts for 1 percent to 5 percent of all diabetes cases. As with other types of diabetes, both LADA and MODY require careful management of blood glucose levels.
In any form, diabetes is a disease with serious complications and can double a person’s risk for death. But with proper management, people with diabetes can live long, productive, fulfilling lives.
Even though she knew she was at risk for diabetes, Janelle’s symptoms caught her by surprise. She had a diligent fitness routine, working out five days a week, and she was still young.
“I never thought it would happen to me; diabetes was not on my radar,” she says.
Yet Janelle had begun drinking excessive amounts of water to quench a persistent thirst—three or four bottles of water every night, which she attributed to her vigorous exercise schedule. She was going to the bathroom frequently, and she found herself eating a lot, gaining weight, and developing blurry vision. In addition, she had developed swelling in her legs, a condition that took a few doctor’s appointments to diagnose.
A blood test revealed that Janelle had a non-fasting blood glucose level of 288 milligrams per deciliter–a high number for anyone with or without diabetes.
“Diabetes never once occurred to me until I got the phone call saying my blood glucose was 288,” Janelle says.
To confirm the results, her doctor administered a fasting blood glucose test.
“The day before I did my fasting test, I went online and started reading all the symptoms, which I should have known, given how prevalent it was in my family,” Janelle says. “I suddenly realized that I had several symptoms that I didn’t know.”
Janelle’s research and her mother’s counsel prepared her for her doctor’s diagnosis of diabetes.
“I was scared. I cried a lot in the beginning,” she says. “It’s a life sentence. There’s not a cure for it.”
But Janelle had a good support system, including a strong network of Alpha Chi Omega friends, and she was willing to adapt to the changes the disease would require. She began watching her intake of carbohydrates and sugar; using medication; and, later, insulin to manage her blood glucose levels.
Not everyone who develops diabetes experiences symptoms. In people with type 1 diabetes, symptoms can be swift and profound. It is important to know the symptoms of diabetes and seek treatment right away if there is a concern.
Adapting to Life with Diabetes
Life with diabetes can be overwhelming because the disease demands constant attention from those who have it.
In addition to bearing multiple finger pricks a day to test one’s blood, a person with diabetes must learn to use a blood glucose meter and insulin or other medication. She must learn to count carbohydrates in everything she eats and plan accordingly to manage spikes or dips in blood glucose levels. Stress and illness can make blood glucose levels swing out of control, and sleep can pose a risk because blood glucose levels can drop dangerously low. Often, people with diabetes must awaken to test their blood glucose in the middle of the night and, if levels are too low, consume a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as orange juice, to boost their levels to a safe range. In short, diabetes is a 24/7 disease.
“A lot of people think it can’t happen to them,” Janelle says. “Maybe they don’t realize how big a deal diabetes is. Your whole lifestyle changes.”
For many people with diabetes, social gatherings can be challenging since it may be difficult to determine the carbohydrate content in food. When Janelle meets with family, friends and colleagues, her diabetes is always part of the meal.
“People make things special for me—low carb, sugar free,” she says. “Quantity is a huge factor. It’s not like I can never have chocolate again, but not a whole piece of cake. My portion sizes have changed.”
Management Is Key
Before Janelle married in 2006, she had a year to establish her diabetes management routine. After marriage, it wasn’t long before she and her husband, Craig, happily found themselves expecting their first child. Janelle began seeing an endocrinologist who specialized in pregnancy in order to more closely manage her diabetes.
Her insulin requirements dramatically escalated during the middle of her second trimester. Soon after, Janelle went into premature labor, a high-risk situation for both her and her baby. She was admitted to the hospital at 32 weeks, where tests revealed she also had developed preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Her medical team tried to calm her contractions, but the baby was ready to come. After a breathtaking delivery, Janelle and Craig met their baby boy, Parker, for the first time. Then, in a tragic turn of events, they learned that Parker had likely been born with a metabolic disease. Within a short time after his birth, their precious son Parker passed away.
Just beginning to heal from the heartbreak of losing Parker, Janelle and Craig soon discovered they were expecting again. This time, they welcomed a healthy second son, Grant, who was proactively treated for a metabolic disease upon birth. Their heartbreak from Parker’s death helped them prepare for Grant’s safe delivery. Today, Grant is a thriving 2-year-old.
Janelle’s diabetes may have played a role in Parker’s passing, although her medical team does not know for sure. But thanks to experience, her own diabetes management and the vigilance of her medical team, Janelle and Craig welcomed their third child in July—a baby sister for Grant.
Today, Janelle and her family face a hopeful future and the opportunity for a long and healthy life together.
Hope in Heartbreak
A diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes can be difficult news, but hope lies in knowing your numbers and managing your risk for complications or, when applicable, type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, it is important to work closely with your medical team to develop a personalized plan for diet; exercise; and, if necessary, insulin or other medication. A healthy diet and regular exercise can go a long way toward managing blood glucose levels in people with diabetes, as well as those specifically at risk for type 2. Today, a simple blood test known as the A1C can confirm whether you have diabetes or are at risk for type 2.
After Grant’s birth, Janelle says she was tired of checking her glucose levels, of dealing with diabetes; she had burned out. Exhausted, she spent a few months simply not checking her blood glucose—and she was honest with her endocrinologist.
“She understood completely, and she urged me to start checking,” Janelle says of her doctor. “She was very gentle, but she reminded me of the importance of my health for my family and my son. I needed to hear someone else tell me that outside of my family and friends.”
From her personal experience, Janelle, now 34, offers hope to others weary of the toll of diabetes in their own lives.
“Don’t ever stop checking your blood glucose,” Janelle says. “Go back through diabetes education; do it every couple of years. What we’re learning about diabetes changes quickly. Be open and honest with your physician. If you’re overwhelmed or tired, let your physician know that. Talk about it. A lot of people deal with it on their own. Diabetes does get tiring; it’s your life.”
Today, Janelle supports two organizations that have helped her along her journey with diabetes. A former employee of March of Dimes, she and Craig have walked and raised funds to support the organization’s research for premature birth and infant mortality. And through her work as an executive assistant at St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis, Janelle helped lead the American Diabetes Association’s Red Strider movement last year for its Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes™ in Indianapolis.
Join the Movement
Diabetes is one of the most serious medical threats to our future today, but by working together as sisters, as families, as cities and communities, we can change the future of this disease. Start by talking with your doctor about diabetes. Then, join the movement to Stop Diabetes by sharing your story at stopdiabetes.com, or act by visiting diabetes.org/stepout to get involved in your local Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes.
Together, we can take steps to stop diabetes once and for all.
To learn more about, volunteer with and/or give to the American Diabetes Association’s research, education and advocacy, visit diabetes.org.