Alpha Chi Omega - Starting Conversations

The official blog of Alpha Chi Omega

The Lyre, Summer 2011 / Risk Management: How Alpha Chi Omega is Changing the Conversation

On Campus

Although the national statistics show that the number of individuals choosing to participate in binge drinking has not changed over the past twenty years, the rate and level of consumption by those individuals has certainly increased (Harvard School of Public Healthy College Alcohol Study 1993, 1997, 1999, 2001). This leads to more high risk behavior and consumption of alcohol and; unfortunately, in some cases, directly impacts individual members of Alpha Chi Omega as well as the overall chapter experience. Researchers continue to explore methods to change behavior, reducing the exposure to high risk environments and reported negative consequences, so when looking at a mechanism to aid in the changing environment of our chapters, we looked to research completed by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The NIAAA has done significant studies on college drinking, behavior surrounding college drinking and ways to approach change. One proven method of changing behavior we’ve engaged is focusing on healthy decisions and making choices that create safe environments over simply enforcing policies or rules. This has led Alpha Chi Omega to refocus risk management programming and education.

Over the past year, Alpha Chi Omega has embarked on a journey to change the risk management conversation; we understand that there is a need for our members to have a healthy and safe environment in order to develop into real, strong women. In order to begin this journey, we needed to understand where we have been as an organization and to see where we needed to move forward. For our primary step, headquarters staff surveyed several volunteers and collegians to gain a better understanding of what individuals thought when they heard the term “risk management.” The feedback was clear that many in Alpha Chi Omega defined risk management as rules enforcement, following the rules and/or interfering with having fun. We also found that some collegiate members were experiencing negative consequences because of the environments their chapters were creating. And finally, we realized that the roles of our vice presidents risk management were primarily focused on filling out paperwork. In fact, of the 15 specific position responsibilities for which a vice president risk management was responsible, seven of them were to fill out or complete paperwork, five were meeting or liaison roles, and only three were related to education or transition.

As a result of our findings, and with a strong desire to educate our members that risk management encompasses much more than just alcohol, but also might include hazing, personal safety, nutrition and more, Alpha Chi Omega has begun to focus on two main “backstops” in order to educate collegians regarding risk management. The backstops we utilize are the foundation for Alpha Chi Omega’s risk management philosophy; however, knowing and being aware of the official risk management policies is still important, as those policies allow a chapter and its members to create safe environments for all members. The backstops are for women to lean on in the event that the member needs further support when remembering the goals of risk management.

BACKSTOP 1:“My choices impact my sisters, so what choices do I have?”

This first backstop encourages collegians to explore healthy decision making frameworks and to consider the choices they have in different situations—making the best choice that will reflect positively on themselves, on their chapter and on the Fraternity as a whole.

BACKSTOP 2: “Where is the dignity in what we are doing?”

This second backstop follows Alpha Chi Omega’s statement on human dignity. It specifically indicates that as members of the organization we will engage in activities and behavior that reflect positively on the organization and fraternity/sorority life as well as promote self worth and choose not to participate in activities that degrade individuals based on gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Since we are always representing Alpha Chi Omega and striving to live the values of our Ritual, we should consider incorporating the backstops into our everyday life, no matter the stage of membership in Alpha Chi Omega. As a lifetime member or collegian, the backstops are a positive way to live and think about our lives, especially if someone chooses to engage in behavior that may expose her to more risky environments or situations.

In order to engage our members in the ever-evolving conversation surrounding risk management, we have initiated new programming and developed new resources to support the change in philosophy and focus. We have started with updating the event planning proposal to serve as a better guide to members as they plan events, rather than just a form to fill out. We have also refocused the role of vice president risk management to be more about education and planning. To kickoff our major programming initiatives, we trained all vice presidents risk management at Leadership Academy in January. The weekend long training focused on learning the policies and backstops, utilization of the planning tool, learning how-to build their support team, and seeing how ritual fits into the landscape of risk management.

Continuing our efforts, starting with the 2011-12 academic year, some of chapters will start to receive the alcohol skills training program (ASTP) on a rotational basis with the intent that, over the next three years, all Alpha Chi Omega chapters will participate in the session. We chose ASTP because of the strong research indicated from the NIAAA college drinking report. The NIAAA identified ASTP as a program and effective strategy in approaching change in behavior surrounding alcohol consumption with a focus on cognitive-behavioral skills training combined with social norms clarification. ASTP has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing alcohol consumption and related consequences. The program uses motivational enhancement strategies in its delivery to elicit personally relevant reasons to change, and focuses on strategies for reducing risks associated with drinking for those who make the choice to drink. While ASTP recognizes the best way to avoid any negative consequences associated with drinking is to abstain, it also acknowledges that any steps toward reduced risks are steps in the right direction.

As we continue to educate our chapters about risk management and the backstops, we hope officers and volunteers will join us in working to empower our collegiate members to make healthy choices—leading members to a more healthy and vibrant collegiate experience. As Alpha Chi Omegas, we must recognize and own the concept that our choices impact our sisters and our overall chapter experience. Our work is certainly not over; this is an ever-evolving conversation. We hope that all Alpha Chi Omegas will join the conversation!

Visit, Resources Center, Collegiate, Leadership Academy for more information. Questions may be directed to

It is important to recognize that there are many topics risk management covers besides alcohol and/or drug abuse. Here are just a few examples of other risk behaviors:

  • Female Bullying:  So vividly displayed in the movie Mean Girls, female bullying is not something normally thought of as a problem when compared to the male jock on male nerd bullying stereotype. However, among all ages—elementary school to high school to college to the work place—women can be just as mean and devastating to others. Bullying consists of spreading rumors, ridicule, hierarchy cliques, slanderous social media posts and more.
  • Eating Disorders:  Many people may see such eating disorders as anorexia and bulimia as small problems, but the disease still accounts for more deaths every year than any other mental illness. Eating disorders are usually the product of an emotional, physical and/or mental trauma.
  • Relationship Violence:  Every year, shelters across the country take in thousands of women and children looking for shelter and support from a dangerous home-life; domestic violence may also be known as relationship violence. As it is associated with all types of relationships—friends, sisters, roommates, spouses—the violence may be in the form of hazing, bullying and more.
  • Respect for Yourself:  Self respect is all-inclusive, defined as respect for oneself, one’s character and one’s conduct. Those embarrassing moments caused by too many drinks; the “walk of shame” that everyone laughs about; holding oneself accountable for one’s actions and making healthy decisions are the first steps to self respect and being respected by others.

Alpha Chi Omega wants you to continue the conversation! Speak with your sisters, daughters, classmates. To learn more about healthy living, utilize such sources as


The Lyre, Summer 2011 / A Little Grill Talk

Lifeby Shelley Johnson, R.D.
(Delta Epsilon, Southeast Missouri State University)

Summertime is a feast for the senses. The sound of crickets at night; the warmth of sunshine on your face; the smell of freshly cut grass and dinner cooking on the grill all remind us that summertime is here. It is a time of year to be footloose and fancy free now that school is out and there are numerous opportunities to see friends and family at backyard barbecues, weddings and graduation parties. It is a time to dust off the grill and get cooking!

Grilling is not only for picnics and parties, and it is definitely not only for the men in your life. You can man the grill like a lady and cook up a summertime feast, because everything tastes better on the grill. A 2011 Weber GrillWatch Survey revealed that in United States households, 61 percent report men as the primary grillers, but only 20 percent report that it is a shared responsibility. Sharing the duty of meal making is definitely a bonus, but why should the guys have all the fun?

The Reason for the Season

Rising temperatures in the summertime are a great excuse to take cooking outside and avoid competing with your air conditioner to keep the house cool. Grilling food during the summer also means less cleanup. Without pots and pans to clean, you have more time to spend with your family and friends! It is healthy too—excess fat drains away from your meat when cooking, leaving behind delicious flavor. Entertain with ease by grilling your entrée; a lot of food can be heated at once on a grill and you can serve it backyard barbecue style with festive colored disposable utensils, plates, cups and napkins.

The Possibilities are Endless

Add flavor without adding fat with marinades and rubs!

Marinades are seasoned liquid mixtures that add flavor to steaks, chops, chicken and fish and may help tenderize too. To make a taste-bud tantalizing, yet simple and tenderizing marinade, use an acidic ingredient like lemon or lime juice, balsamic vinegar or wine, or a natural tenderizing enzyme found in fresh ginger, pineapple and papaya. Many ready-to-use marinades offer a variety of delicious flavors, such as teriyaki, jerk, chipotle and mesquite. Keep cleanup simple by marinating in a food-safe plastic bag that can be discarded when you remove the meat. You’ll need ¼ to ½ cup of marinade for every one to two pounds of meat. Some types of meat, poultry and fish only require a short amount of time (less than two hours) in a marinade because they are already tender, but less tender cuts will need more time. Before you grill, remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel to promote even browning and to prevent steaming.

Rubs are seasoning blends applied to the surface of steaks before cooking. They add flavor, but they do not tenderize. Dry rubs consist of herbs, spices and other dry seasonings. Paste-type rubs contain small amounts of wet ingredients such as oil, crushed garlic, or mustard. Rubs can be applied just before cooking or in advance and refrigerated for several hours. Consider blending your own rub or choose a premade selection or recipe. Making your own is easy! Try combining hot flavors like pepper or chili with sharp flavors such as dry mustard, or sweet flavors like brown sugar or cinnamon. Salt can be added too, but avoid putting salt on too early before cooking; it may draw moisture out of the meat, making the meat drier.

Kabobs are eye-appealing on the grill and the dinner table, and they are easy to prepare ahead of time. Meat for skewering should be cut into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Pieces do not have to be absolutely square—some may have rounded or uneven edges and that is okay. Get the kids involved with threading pieces of meat onto skewers with their favorite vegetables. If you use wooden or bamboo skewers, soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before loading to help prevent them from burning. Store them in a gallon-sized resealable bag of water in the freezer, so they are always soaked and ready to go. Kabobs are a sneaky way to put most of your meal on the grill too—even less kitchen cleanup!

Just about anything can be made into a burger, and a variety of flavors can be combined when layered on a bun with a delicious patty of your choice. When making your own burgers from lean ground beef or lean turkey, handle the meat as little as possible to maximize juiciness. Using a spatula instead of a fork will preserve that juice as you turn them when grilling.

Direct Heat vs. Indirect Heat

Indirect heat is favored by barbecue masters. It uses the heat and smoke of the grill to cook low and slow. This is ideal for larger cuts of meat, such as beef roasts or a whole chicken.

Direct heat is when food is cooked directly over the heat source throughout the entire cooking process. It is good for thin cuts (less than two inches thick) of meat, seafood or vegetables and is perfect for burgers.

So, how hot is hot? For charcoal grilling, when coals are at medium—ash covered (approximately 30 minutes)—spread them in a single layer and check the cooking temperature. To do this, position the cooking grid and cautiously hold the palm of your hand above the coals at cooking height. Count the number of seconds you can hold your hand in that position before the heat forces you to pull it away. 

Four seconds indicates the grill is at a medium temperature. If your grill has a thermometer in the lid, use the following guidelines:

  • High:  450-550°F
  • Medium:  350-450°F
  • Low:  250-350°F

Turn, Turn, Turn

When grilling any food, you will want to turn it occasionally to promote even cooking and browning. Use a spatula to turn burgers and tongs to turn steaks and kabobs. Avoid flattening or pressing down on any meat—flavorful juices will be lost, which can also lead to unwanted flare-ups. Food that is stuck to the grill grates may not be ready to turn; exercise patience!

More than Meat

The star of the grill isn’t always the meat entrée, and with the most recent dietary guidelines for Americans encouraging more vegetables and fruits, make them simple and fun additions to your meal by preparing them on the grill too. Start by choosing vegetables that you like, especially when they are in season. When grilling veggies, cut them so that much of their surface area can be exposed to the grill grates. Lightly brush them with canola oil or vegetable oil to keep them from sticking, and season them to your liking with salt and pepper or other herbs. Vegetables tend to cook best over medium heat, and you will want to watch them closely to prevent them from getting too dark. Corn on the cob is especially nice when grilled with the husk removed. Grilling vegetables intensifies their sweetness and flavor, minimizing the need for added fat and calories—definitely a plus when maximizing the nutrient-richness of a meal.

Fruit on the grill makes an especially tasty and low-calorie dessert choice. Halved nectarines and pears or pineapple wedges require less than 10 minutes over medium heat when grilled. Keep this dessert simple by serving atop vanilla frozen yogurt.

Get the kids involved with a make-your-own pizza night on the patio. This calls for individual pizza dough rounds grilled two to three minutes on each side over medium heat. Brush the grilled dough with a small amount of olive oil. Then, let your family make their own pizzas by adding their favorite toppings. Place the pizzas back on the grill for a few minutes before eating them. Use your favorite pizza dough recipe or you can choose pre-made, store-bought dough for this.

Grilling brings together family, friends and delicious food! With a little courage, practice and creativity you can be a grillin’ goddess, making healthy meals all summer long.

Safety Tips


  • Keep your grill out in the open and away from anything combustible.
  • Avoid leaving the grill unattended for long periods of time, and keep kids and pets away.
  • Use only fire starters that are designed for grill use. Gasoline and kerosene should not be anywhere near an outdoor grill.
  • Dress for success! If you have long hair, tie it up and away, and avoid wearing loose clothing around open flames. Try some classy barbecue mitts to protect yourself too.
  • Use a grill that is in good shape. Make sure any electrical wires or gas-line plumbing are away from hot surfaces and the grease catch pan.
  • If you are using an electric-coil starter or a chimney starter, once the coals are lit, unplug it and place it on a fireproof surface away from anything flammable or anyone who might accidentally touch it.


  • Prevent food borne illness by thawing your food safely; this means thawing frozen food in a refrigerator, not at room temperature.
  • Use clean equipment both indoors and outdoors.
  • Practice good hand washing, especially before and after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood. Use warm water and soap to wash your hands, followed by drying your hands with a clean towel.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using different plates and utensils for raw and cooked food. It is important to discard marinade that was used with raw food. If you plan to use it for basting after you remove the raw meat, bring it to a boil for at least 5 minutes.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer and cook until the food is done. When taking the temperature of a steak or burger, insert the thermometer horizontally from the side, so that it penetrates the thickest part of the center of the steak or burger.

Suggested Cooking Temperatures

  • Medium Rare: internal temperature of 145°F
  • Medium: internal temperature of 160°F
  • Well Done: internal temperature of 170°F
  • Pork, chicken and ground beef must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 160°F
  • Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F

Looking for more inspiration? There are a multitude of cookbooks dedicated to grilling all kinds of food. If you are on-the-go, try downloading the Weber’s On the Grill app for iPhone and iPad or visit on your mobile device.


The Lyre, Summer 2011 / A Love for Her Country

RealStrongWomenGenna is somewhat of a celebrity on the United States veteran “campus.” Not because of her many USO performances overseas; not because of her many televised and public appearances with Achilles International, a nonprofit organization providing athletes with disability a community of support. Genna Griffith, a 1998 initiate of the Beta Rho chapter at American University, is widely known among our nation’s veterans for helping them find their love of life and personal strength amid their own wounds and scars.

Originally from Newington, Connecticut, Genna moved to Washington D.C to attend American University. She was a musical theatre major who kept herself busy with plays and University performances. Immediately following graduation, Genna made her move to New York City with the goal of a Broadway career. Ten days following her move, the events of September 11, 2001 changed her whole reality; she wanted to give back to her country.

Finding a Way to Serve

In 2003, while still pursuing a performance career in New York City, Genna saw a casting call in the newspaper for USO performers. She attended the call and got the part! She and three other singers shipped overseas and began their service through song. The troupe traveled to Korea, Germany, Japan and all over the United States entertaining veterans and those stationed at active bases. The troupe averaged 150 to 200 shows per year.

Genna remembers her first USO show on a U.S. military base, “It was difficult to hold back the tears, seeing all of the soldiers faces the first time. I sang God Bless America.”

The Start of Something Special

During one of her performances state-side, Genna’s USO group sang the national anthem at the Achilles Hope & Possibility Race in Central Park, where she met many wounded veterans—mostly amputees who were running on their prosthetic legs. She was inspired by what she witnessed; wounded veteran men and women were not letting their scars weigh them down. In awe of their bravery and accomplishments, she immediately spoke with the Achilles International organization and became a volunteer.

In 2007, Genna’s tour with the USO came to an end; however, she and the original singers formed their own group, “United We Sing,” and they continue to perform. And due to her great fervor for volunteering, her position at Achilles International transitioned into a full-time career. Currently, she is the director of the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans.

More than Just a Job

Today, Genna coordinates 16 national marathon wellness trips each year for the Achilles Freedom Team. She works closely with many of the military hospitals’ physical therapists, marathon directors, sponsors and volunteers to ensure a successful integration into mainstream athletics. More specifically, Genna, through her work at Achilles International, has aided wounded veterans by giving them the opportunity to set achievable goals on their road to recovery while developing skills and capabilities needed for personal independence and emotional stability. Genna has had the honor of working with such celebrities as Prince Harry of Wales; however, the work she has done with the organization’s more than 500 wounded veterans is what really inspires her.

Genna states, “It is such an honor to be working with these individuals who have just gone through so much to protect our country…and then to see double amputees running the New York marathon, it’s amazing!”

Genna’s choice to be immersed in the veteran community has not only changed her life, but helped her find the love of her life. In 2006, while performing with her USO troupe, Genna met Captain Marc Giammatteo, who was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center at the time. Marc had endured over 30 surgeries to save his right leg, following a rocket-propelled grenade hitting his vehicle while serving in Iraq. The two were married at the United States Military Academy at West Point in September 2010.

The Importance of Giving Back

Being involved with an incredible charity like Achilles International has enhanced and enriched her life in so many ways; she wants other women to understand the importance of giving back, too.

Genna’s advice: “Just find something you are passionate about. Feel that sense of adding value. Get involved with a charity that interests you, as you can make a difference!”

Genna and her husband reside in Manhattan, New York. To learn more about Genna, watch the NBC Nightly News’ “Making a Difference” series entry “Love for Country, and One Another” at, Nightly News, Making a Difference. For more information on Achilles International and/or the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, visit Genna may be reached at


There’s Help for Your Chapter Programming!

porticoby Kassie Kissinger
(Zeta Psi, Loyola University New Orleans)

Tired of the same ole programming?  Bored with your generic presentations? Looking for something fresh, dynamic and creative for your next chapter education program?  Alpha Chi Omega’s Education and Leadership Initiatives Department has the cure for the common curricula…

It’s called Programs with Purpose, and it is our pleasure to introduce to you a group of volunteers, the Chapter Programming Team. This group of Alpha Chi Omega alumnae is working hard and excited to assist YOU, undergraduate chapters, chapter advisors and province collegiate chairs in continuing our commitment to building real, strong women.

To help develop strong collegiate chapters, the Chapter Programming Team is responsible for creating innovative programs. Each program is built on learning objectives that will help facilitate personal and chapter growth. Programs with Purpose will not only focus on our values of wisdom, devotion and achievement, but also help women develop into strong members of Alpha Chi Omega.  And it’s only a click away! Check out the Programs with Purpose on our website that you can use for free!

The Chapter Programming Team specialists:

  • Caitlin Cavanaugh (Alpha, DePauw University)
  • Mabel Crescioni (Theta Tau, Rutgers University)
  • Alison Reuschlein (Delta Xi, Denison University)
  • Penny Zamkov (Lambda, Syracuse University)
  • Christine Haley (Zeta Psi, Loyola University New Orleans)

It is our goal that each educational opportunity of Alpha Chi Omega including: the Four Year Experience, Impact, Leadership Academy and Programs with Purpose will be available to every member and chapter, so that members are continuously challenged and supported.  The Chapter Programming specialists look forward to working with you and your chapter in the future!

The Chapter Programming Team is always looking for alumnae of all backgrounds who can help create educational programs on various topics. If you are an alumna and have considerable knowledge of creating creative programs and would like to join our team, please contact Jenny Pratt, director of education and leadership initiatives, for more information!


The Lyre, Spring 2011 / What Does Alpha Chi Omega Mean to You?


by Marsha King Grady, National President
(Alpha Upsilon, University of Alabama)

All around me I see self-help articles about how to set and keep new year’s resolutions and hear people talking about their new year’s resolutions. While I am a goal-setter, I have never been a big one for setting new year’s resolutions; it has just never seemed right to me. Maybe it’s the fact that most of my life rotates around an academic year rather than the calendar year—my kids are in high school; my husband works for a university; our family, church and other extra-curricular activities follow an academic calendar; even my new job at the local school district foundation focuses on an academic calendar. So January is really mid-year for most of my life planning and the halfway point for most of my goal-setting.

I do find the new year a time to refresh and renew. After the emotional and spiritual grounding of the holiday season, I’m ready to take a deep breath and get moving on the last lap of my academic year life cycle. Part of that renewal is reminding myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why have I set the goals or laid the plan on which I’m spending my time and efforts?

With Alpha Chi Omega, everything I do—and everything our organization does—should be grounded in our values of wisdom, devotion and achievement. Our “corporate” planning process helps ensure that our strategic plan (Vision 2015) and our annual plan of work are tied to our values and vision. Personally, though, there are days when I need to sit back and remember why I do what I do.

Last week, I attended a meeting of the leaders of about 35 fraternities and sororities— a wonderful meeting where we talked about the trends and challenges impacting our organizations. During that meeting, past International President of Pi Kappa Alpha and current Dean of Students at the University of Virginia Allen Groves was one of our guest speakers and said something that touched me profoundly. He mentioned that so many times, Greek leaders try to “defend” our experience by sharing statistics about academic performance, community service hours and dollars raised for charities, when we should actually be talking about the meaningful difference we make in the lives of our members. Wow! Isn’t that true?

None of us do what we do for Alpha Chi Omega because of facts and figures. We do what we do because Alpha Chi Omega had a transformational impact on our lives, and we want to share that experience with other women. Alpha Chi Omega helped me become who I am today—as a person, as a wife, as a mom, as a businesswoman, as a community leader, as a philanthropist. It is hard to share how our Fraternity changed my life, but I can safely say it changed it for the better and in tremendous ways.

This spring, as you begin your journey through 2011, spend some time thinking about the difference Alpha Chi Omega has made in your life. And refresh your commitment to helping ensure that others can have that same experience.


The Lyre, Spring 2011 / Is Graduate School Worth It?

On Campus

by Lisa Young Stiers
(Epsilon Omicron, Indiana State University)

Should I go to graduate school? It’s a question undergraduates face every year. For some, the answer is easy—either they must have advanced training for a chosen career and the answer is yes; or they don’t need more education to get their dream job and the answer is no. For the rest of us, the answer is a resounding maybe.

A graduate degree might lead to a higher salary, but then again, it might not. Lumped together, advanced degrees do average higher earning potential; but individually, the amounts vary.

A graduate degree might give you an advantage in the job hunt—a high incentive as the unemployment rate hovers just under 10 percent—but it might not.

“A common mistake is the assumption that a graduate degree guarantees a job,” says Philip T. Powell, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Business Economics and MBA Program Faculty Chair at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “With 10 percent unemployment, firms can be more choosy. When employers receive a thousand applications, they need an easy way to whittle them down. Now, a graduate degree might only enhance your chances of making a first cut.”

Still, job forecasts weigh heavily on the decision.

“The economy did have an impact on my decision to attend law school,” says Allyson Whitworth, an initiate of the Alpha chapter at DePauw University. “Since I wasn’t sure during my last year of college what I wanted to do the rest of my life and jobs were scarce anyway, it seemed like the perfect time to pursue an advanced degree if I was ever planning to do so.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, more than 10 percent of the population had earned an advanced degree. Should you join them?

How do you know if, or when, graduate school is right? That depends on you.

Do Your Research

Not all graduate degrees are created equal. Some lead to higher pay and career advancement, while others might just lead to cool new knowledge and student loans.

Powell divides graduate studies into three broad categories, each with its own considerations and potential:

  • Medical Programs: For those interested in a medical career, graduate studies are required for the job. You have no choice, but you also have a rosy outlook after achieving your degree. With an aging population and growing health care needs, jobs in the medical fields continue to grow.
  • Professional Programs: Professional degrees—MBA, law, public administration, public education—may help advance a career, but aren’t necessarily required to land an entry-level position. “The popularity of these degrees moves with the economy,” Powell explains. For example, a strong economy means higher demand in business, while a weak economy might lead to growth in public policy and government jobs.
  • Academic Degree Programs: An advanced degree in a particular academic field is often for people who want to teach or for those who have a passion for a subject.

Simply earning an academic degree, which often yields the lowest financial rewards, doesn’t ensure job success. Powell, who holds a Ph.D. in economics, knows from personal experience. He was one of 300 applicants for his current position.

“In general society, earning a Ph.D. earns you some respect,” Powell says. “But just because you have a master’s or Ph.D. in something doesn’t mean you’re going to make more money or have better job security.”

Before committing to a potential field of study, research job opportunities. What will you actually be able to do with this degree?

“Some fields are a no-brainer: law, business and medical schools attract so many applicants because they provide solid promises of careers after graduation,” reports The Princeton Review. “Other fields provide less career certainty: An MFA in fiction writing or a master’s degree in art history promises to be intellectually enriching but may offer limited practical returns.”

Katy Evanco Brown’s love of learning led her to an advanced degree.

“While I don’t think the actual course work I did during graduate school has been very relevant in my current career, I have no doubts that the ‘piece of paper’ has opened doors for me,” says Brown, who earned a Master in Media Arts and Sciences. “I remember when I got my first job, my starting salary was a little higher simply because I had an advanced degree. But I think a few years of experience, that I could have gotten if I had been working instead of being in grad school, may have had the same impact.”

Still, she doesn’t regret her studies. “In hindsight, I don’t know that it had an enormous impact on my career, but it definitely had an impact on me,” says Brown, a Theta Omicron initiate. “I went to grad school because I wanted to pursue a greater knowledge about the subject—to be on the cutting edge of new technologies; and I got that. If it’s only about the money or career potential, I might recommend thinking twice.”

Go Straight Through

While some students jump straight into graduate school because it’s required as the only path to their chosen career, others see an unstable economy, lack of viable jobs, and future uncertainty, so they choose graduate school right after earning their undergrad degree. Many find success.

“I decided to pursue an advanced degree largely because I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself after college,” Whitworth admits. “I graduated with a BA in economics, and there were almost too many possible careers to consider from that field with not that many job openings in 2009.”

Though she considered a position with Teach for America, a scholarship to Washington University, and a desire to return to St. Louis, solidified her decision.

“It just seemed like everything fell into place for me to pursue my JD [Juris Doctor],” Whitworth explains. “As of now, I am planning to become a lawyer, but there are many opportunities that many of my classmates are pursuing that don’t involve becoming a lawyer right away. I am planning to apply to clerk for a judge after law school.”

Whitworth sees advantages to continuing her education right away, including fresh study skills and being accustomed to homework and the enormous amount of required reading. But she admits her returning-student peers also have valuable life skills and bring a unique perspective to the classroom.

“It’s really about your personal situation and whether you feel that you could be successful continuing your education,” she says. “If you’re totally burned out and hate school in college, maybe going straight into a graduate program isn’t for you. I think sometimes the students who have been out in the ‘real world’ for a while appreciate the good things about being in school more than those of us who have been in school continuously. Going straight to law school worked well for me. I still love school.”

Wait and Work

For some, spending a few years in the workforce between undergraduate and graduate studies makes sense. You get real world experience, save some money, and narrow your career aspirations.

Even before Milana Kantorovich, an alumna of the Theta Tau chapter, earned a bachelor’s degree in Planning and Public Policy with a concentration in Community Development from Rutgers University, she knew she wanted to pursue a graduate degree.

“I always knew that I would go on to my master’s at some point,” says Kantorovich, an initiate of Theta Tau chapter. “I knew my master’s would most likely get me higher earning potential if I worked for the government and more opportunities if I went corporate.”

As an immigrant (her family came to the U.S. when she was just one year old), Kantorovich wants to work in the immigration field, a small niche where specialized education would be helpful.

“Approaching the fall of my senior year, I knew two things,” she says. “It would be tough to find career opportunities—I was not just looking for any job that would give me a paycheck, but a real opportunity to begin working somewhere that would establish my career—and I wanted to have choices. In hindsight, wanting choices meant I had no real clue as to what I was doing come May.”

Kantorovich explored many options, including applying to the Master in Public Administration program at American University, as well as the Teach for America program and other jobs and internships. Ultimately, Kantorovich was accepted into the MPA program, but chose to defer for a year.

“The cost was my biggest motivator in deferring,” Kantorovich says of the estimated $80,000 she would have needed for tuition and living expenses. “Also, I was burned out and needed a break from school. Subconsciously, I also wasn’t certain that the MPA program was where I wanted to be. I applied because it was a good step from my BA, I wanted to be in D.C., and the program is a very strong one. But I have a hard time committing to something when I’m not 100 percent certain about it; and I just wasn’t.”

Since graduating last May, and after a frustrating summer job search, Kantorovich earned a temporary position at KPMG, first in campus recruitment and now in human resources, a field she also experienced as a college intern. This job experience has helped her focus her career aspirations.

“I would love to stay within the corporate world,” she says. “I have narrowed my interests down to a few groups under the HR umbrella and am waiting to see where an opportunity comes about.”

Meanwhile, Kantorovich faces a decision on her MPA plans this fall.

“While I have not made a final decision, I think this year has showed me that I will most likely not be partaking in the program and will be reapplying to grad school when I am a bit more settled in my professional life,” she says. “I still know that I will continue on and receive my graduate degree, but I want it to be very directly tied to what I will be doing. I plan to get back to my original aspirations in immigration, but it will be by a slightly different path and hopefully within the corporate world. Many large corporations have an immigration team under their HR umbrella. I believe I could get there through the MPA, but why spend all that money to do something not directly tied to public administration?”

Kantorovich hopes to find a permanent position, gain on-the-job experience and perhaps earn her graduate degree as she works.

“I will most likely be working and going to school part time, but I hope that this will provide a better balance, which is what I want,” she says.

Kantorovich isn’t alone in her plans. A growing number of professionals are earning graduate degrees part-time or even online, a trend being accommodated by many top schools.

“There’s a growing demand by people who’ve been in the workforce for 10 years or so,” Powell says. “As the labor market becomes more and more competitive, there’s more and more value placed on those graduate degrees.”

Follow Your Passion

Ultimately, whether you enter graduate school or the workforce right after graduation is a personal choice. Let your vision for your future be your guide.

If it’s a little fuzzy, slow down and explore options, as Kantorovich did.

“If you’re like me and unsure, take some time and get some experience where you think you want to go,” she advises. “This will pay off twofold because you’ll learn more about actual opportunities that exist and not just have an abstract idea of where you want to go, and potentially you’ll earn some money, which will lend itself to making graduate school costs easier to deal with. And once you do have a graduate degree, you’ll already have some professional experience.”

However, if your vision is laser-sharp, follow it.

“If you really have a fire in your belly, go for it,” says Powell, who went straight for his Ph.D. after earning a bachelor’s in economics from the University of South Carolina. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted a Ph.D., and I wanted it to be in economics… Do it in an area that really stirs your soul.”


The Lyre, Spring 2011 / Prescribing Knowledge: Bone Health and Awareness


by Carol S. Lutz, Ph.D.
(Epsilon Chi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)

One in three women over 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture

Our bones play many roles in our bodies. They provide structure to our skeleton, protect our internal organs and serve as a storage facility for calcium. Because of these important functions, bone health is essential to remaining healthy and strong throughout our lives.

By the age of 20, the average woman has acquired most of her peak bone mass; therefore, it is important that young girls and college-age women achieve as much bone mass as possible. A person with high bone mass as a young adult will be more likely to maintain bone health throughout life.

Keeping Your Bones Healthy and Strong

Bones are living tissue! They constantly change and need to be replenished. Healthy and strong bones require a diet rich in calcium, and many foods are surprisingly high in calcium. Vitamin D is also required for proper calcium absorption in the body. For some individuals, calcium and vitamin D supplements ensure that the daily intake of these nutrients is adequate.

The National Academy of Sciences’ recommended daily amounts of calcium vary by age. In general, teenagers and women older than 51 years require approximately 1200-1300 mg per day, while women 19-50 years of age require approximately 1000-1200 mg per day.

Recently, much has been written about the amazing beneficial effects of vitamin D on bone health as well as playing possible roles in combating cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other disorders. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day for children. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 400-800 IU of vitamin D for adults less than 50 years and 800-1000 IU for adults greater than 50 years.

Since everyone is a little different, consult a physician to better identify the correct amounts of calcium and vitamin D needed for your individual body.

Regular physical activity also helps keep bones strong. Incorporating some form of weight-bearing physical activity in your daily routine ensures that your bones stay healthy. Such activity might include walking, running, jogging, jumping rope, dancing, tennis, soccer, or other sports. Think about what you like to do (or would like to try) and consult your physician before starting a new exercise regimen to find the activities that are right for you.

Bone Disorders

There are many bone disorders, such as osteomalacia and osteopenia—the exact diagnosis of these bone disorders are often difficult as their symptoms are overlapping—but osteoporosis is the most common. In fact, by 2020, the Surgeon General estimates that one in two Americans aged 50 years or older will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis or low bone mass.

Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This disorder is most common in postmenopausal women as there is a delicate balance between estrogen and bone maintenance. There are many possible risk factors that can contribute to the possibility that a person may develop osteoporosis, such as physical inactivity or family history. Although you cannot do much about genetic factors that come from a family predisposition to osteoporosis, you can make sure to eat healthy; exercise; have regular checkups, including bone density tests; and talk to you doctor about how you can stay healthy and strong. If diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are currently several pharmaceutical options on the market that can help reduce further bone loss.

Who is at a Higher Risk for Osteoporosis?

  • women of a Caucasian background
  • women with a family history of osteoporosis
  • post-menopausal women
  • women with a diet low in calcium
  • women who are physically inactive
  • women of a slight build

Good Dietary Sources of Calcium

  • dairy products, such as low fat or non-fat milk, cheese and yogurt
  • calcium-fortified foods, such as juices, bread, cereal and tofu
  • dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, greens and bok choy
  • nuts, such as almonds

Educate Yourself

This May, National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, take the time to speak with your physician regarding your bone health. Speak with your family members regarding their risk of bone disorders. Take the time to research the facts regarding your age in association with healthy living. This is your health, so take control!

As with all medical advice, please consult your doctor for a detailed plan that is right for you. For more information on bone health, please visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation website at and/or the Center for Disease Control’s “Powerful Bones. Powerful Girls.” website at


The Lyre, Spring 2011 / Bridging the Cultural Gap

Real Strong Women

Bridging the Cultural Gap

Amid an international politically charged environment and civil unrest, bridging the cultural gap between the American people and the Arab world is an extraordinary goal that many would not aspire to achieve. Kathryn “Kathy” Fortune Hubbard, a 1971 initiate of the Alpha chapter DePauw University, however, has made it one of her life’s missions to not only provide a two-way cultural awareness, but break down and eradicate the misunderstandings that exist.

Raised in the college town of West Lafayette, Indiana, Kathy and her three siblings were greatly encouraged by their father in regards to international and cultural studies. Rightly then, following a high school interest in the French language, Kathy chose to further her studies when she began her freshman year at DePauw. As her siblings studied abroad in England, Greece and Japan, Kathy chose to spend her junior year oversees, studying at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. While there, she took it upon herself to spend as much time among the Swiss, rather than her American counterparts. Kathy truly wanted to immerse herself in experiencing the language, history and literature. Following her studies abroad, in 1974, Kathy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French.

Kathy’s interest and concentration on foreign affairs increased as she took on her first employment after graduation—a position with the Indiana Department of Commerce, International Trade Division. In this position, she was able to interact with many companies overseas as she encouraged the exporting and importing of their products. Eventually, she was promoted to the position of Assistant Director and was able to travel to Europe to speak with company representatives in regards to their business opportunities in Indiana.

Where It Began

Kathy’s career has been well-rounded, having worked on several political campaigns—Vice President Dan Quayle, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush—and through her work with Hudson Institute where she was engaged in raising funds for their international and domestic policy research. By the early 90s, Kathy and her husband, Deputy Chief of Staff to Dan Quayle and future chairman of the President George W. Bush’s National Economic Council, were living in Washington D.C.

In 2006, while working on a project for the U.S. Department of State that related American and Arab businesswomen, Kathy met Karim Kawar, Jordan’s former ambassador to the US, and his wife, Luma. The couple shared with Kathy that they were well aware of the misunderstandings and curiosities between the American and Arab worlds—a view long since held by Kathy as well. The Kawars and the Hubbards began discussing and meeting in order to address the need for cultural awareness across the two very different worlds. The couples spoke to their political counterparts and this need of awareness was of much interest, particularly among women and those already seeking an understanding. Funds were raised, along with their own contributions, and the Bridges of Understanding Foundation was founded.

International Aid

Today, Bridges of Understand—a non-partisan, non-profit, privately funded 501(c)3 organization—has implemented many projects, including:

  • Sport 4 Peace, a program that brought three Iraqi coaches and 10 girls interested in improving their basketball skills and global knowledge to the U.S. for a two-week trip to Washington D.C. and Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • Youth Talk, a collaboration with Global Nomads Group that facilitates videoconferences between U.S. and Arab high schools. In 2008, three US high schools and three Jordanian high schools participated. In 2009, the number grew to 12.
  • Boston Children’s Chorus, a two-week cultural exchange tour that brought together youth from the U.S. and Jordan who love making music. They performed at local venues in Amman and in many rural towns in the Kingdom.
  • Support for Heal the Rift, a one-day youth rally that recently took place at New York City’s Washington Square Park and generated a solidarity movement among moderate forces from both the U.S. and Arab worlds.
  • Support for the Youth Initiative for Progress in Iraq, a conference designed to provide Iraqi and American youth with a voice and the tools necessary to progress toward a sustainable future between the two countries.

As the organization grows, annual trips to such places as Jordan, Dubai, Egypt and Abu Dhabi for travelers wanting to learn the customs and histories of the area have been organized as well. Through these trips, women of both American and Arab backgrounds have gained friendships, offering the great opportunities to directly learn from one another.

Continuing Projects

Beyond her cofounding of the Bridges of Understanding Foundation, Kathy has continued her work abroad, concentrating on bridging the cultural gaps and promoting the importance of studying abroad. Kathy states that “we have stereotypes, just as they do.” Through her ongoing efforts, she encourages all to develop an open mind and interest in other cultures in order to tear down these misconceptions. Kathy works alongside international dignitaries and supporters of a greater U.S. and Arab relationship.

Stateside, she has stayed very involved by serving on the Board of Trustees at DePauw University and on many other education and arts-related boards. In 2006, Kathy was appointed to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President George W. Bush—the U.S. government’s international educational exchange program. And venturing back into the for-profit world, Kathy and her husband have recently gained the majority shares of Udi’s Gluten Free Foods, based in Denver, Colorado.

Kathy and her husband, Al Hubbard, reside in Indianapolis, Indiana. They have three children: Will, Katie and Sara. For more information on Bridges of Understanding, visit For more information on Udi’s Gluten Free Foods, visit


The Consultant Chronicles: Brain Training

July 29th Photoshoot 047by Darcey Nance
(Omicron, Baker University)

When presented with challenges at a chapter, it is sometimes hard to know where to start? I often think, “How can I help these women in such a short period of time?” or “What is the most pressing issue?”  After months on the road, I have come to the realization that helping a chapter often comes in a series of small wins.  Rome was not built in a day and we can’t expect our chapters to change overnight.  I tend to think big picture and have idealized goals.  And while vision is important, the biggest joy I have found comes in a package of simple understanding.  The biggest joy for me is when a member has an “Ah-Ha” moment and recognizes that asking questions and asking “why” will help her move her chapter forward.

When I was hired for this job, my first assumption was that a large portion of my duties would be to explain “the why” behind Alpha Chi Omega policies and bylaws.  I was prepared for it.  However, I am constantly surprised by chapter members who do not actively seek out these answers.  I have found that many collegians do not generally ask “why” they can or cannot do something; they just assume that the traditional method is the only method. 

Good news though, there is a solution!

With the question of “why” also comes the idea of critical thinking.  Numerous studies have shown that the frontal cortex area of the brain, which controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, is not fully developed until adulthood, or around age 25.  As we know, collegiate members of Alpha Chi Omega generally fall between the ages of 18-22 years; consultants don’t even make the cut since they have an average age of 23.  This lack of brain development is a concern for all of us!  What can we do about it?  As real, strong women, I believe that we have to train our brains to ask questions (including, but not limited to “why”).

I want to encourage everyone, not just members under the age of 25, to begin challenging the status quo within their chapters, advisory boards, or local alumnae groups.  We can start this by remembering the acronym PO-CAP. (Think PO-CAP as you are putting on your positive thinking cap!)

  • What is the PURPOSE of this ____________? (You fill in the blank: is it a social event, new member activity, party, t-shirt, philanthropy, fundraiser…?)
  • What are some other OPTIONS?
  • What are the possible CONSEQUENCES for each option?
  • Who is this decision going to AFFECT?
  • Does this decision reflect my PERSONAL VALUES (and the values of Alpha Chi Omega)?

There are many benefits to utilizing the PO-CAP system:

First, by asking critical questions we can improve communication between groups of people, whether that be the executive board and the general membership or the chapter and the local house corporation board. 

Second, asking “why” can help elevate the chapter to the next level.  It is necessary to consistently evaluate how the collegiate chapter functions in order to ensure the chapter is being productive and efficient with their time, energy and resources. 

Next, asking key questions about the social culture (date parties, exchanges, mixers, one-on-ones, formals, pre-gaming) will help create a safe, healthy and dignified social environment within the chapter and on campus. 

Finally, PO-CAP will help remind an Alpha Chi Omega that every decision she makes directly reflects on her personal character and values, not to mention the over-arching reputation of the organization on her local campus and across the country.

Training your brain to ask these questions (PO-CAP) may not be easy, but I promise if you and other members of your chapter begin to make decisions based on the answers to these questions you will see a marked change in the atmosphere and morale of your chapter.   So often the lack of knowledge surrounding an issue is the underlying problem causing distress or inhibiting progress.  When you begin to train your brain, start small.  If you can only remember one letter from PO-CAP, go with it and build on your resources from that point. 

So the next time you think a tradition in your chapter can’t change, you are helping to plan a social event, or you want to know the purpose behind that housing rule set by the local house corporation board, remember PO-CAP and ask WHY?


The Consultant Chronicles: Honoring Our Commitment

Courtneyby Courtney Schmidt
(Alpha, DePauw University)

Whether a senior or a freshman, a Headquarters staff member or a volunteer, a National Council member or a collegiate member, a chapter advisor or an alumna active in her local chapter, a chapter president or a chapter consultant, each of us Alpha Chi Omegas has the responsibility of considering from time to time the legacy we leave.  Arguably, this is one of the most important aspects of our shared lifetime membership.  

Not until I was an alumna, working for Alpha Chi Omega as a chapter consultant, did I understand the full import—or transformative power—of this responsibility.  Looking back, I can only imagine the frustration I caused as a collegian.  As a freshman new member I resented and complained about my chapter’s Positive Point system, feeling in my own anti-establishmentarian sort of way, that it was too Big Brother (or shall I say, Big Sister?).  As a sophomore I complained about certain decisions the executive board made.  But then, at the end of my sophomore year, something clicked.  I could keep complaining or I could DO something.  …perhaps even DO something radical like propose an alternative! 

In that moment of synaptic alignment I saved myself a lot of dissatisfaction and my roommates a lot of eye rolling; eventually my attitude shift earned me the privilege of serving my college Panhellenic community, and more importantly, helped me discover I had a voice people were interested in listening to because I had become solution-oriented.  When I rounded the bend of graduation, and for the last three years, I have had the honor of working as chapter consultant.  Interacting with all manner of collegians and alumnae all across the country, I’ve learned that some of Alpha Chi Omega’s biggest innovations and successes have come from someone taking the time to examine our fraternity, and then, rather than mire our sisterhood in complaint, offer a different perspective, a new way of thinking, or an uncommon solution.      

Wisdom.  Devotion.  Achievement.   It takes true self-awareness to stop for a minute, take a step back from the inanities of daily living, and contemplate the impact our words and actions have upon each other and our shared organization.  By accepting our invitations to lifetime membership in Alpha Chi Omega we are—whether we realize it or not, whether we consistently embrace the role or not—implicitly agreeing to be Alpha Chi Omegas every single day, not just when it is convenient, fun, or agreeable.  It is time we all start acknowledging this commitment, honoring that commitment through deep and meaningful introspection; and by so doing, ensuring the individual and collective success of Alpha Chi Omegas everywhere.