March 1-7 is National Ritual Celebration Week, and Alpha Chi Omegas everywhere are encouraged to spend a little time each day for the next 7 days reflecting on the Ritual of Alpha Chi Omega and those values that make each of us the real, strong women that we are.
Our NPC friends at Phi Mu orginally organized this week long celebration of Ritual. These ceremonies and beliefs differentiate our Fraternity from a club or typical organization. They speak to the heart of who we are and why we exist. They are powerful ideals made stronger when members choose to honor them and to use them as guiding principles every day.
In our 24/7 world filled with round-the-clock TV, Twitter, Facebook, texting, blogs and more, it’s easy to forget that 125 years ago 7 women came together to create something much larger than themselves – and organized their activities without text bombs or even telephones. They sought a connection they could find nowhere else and to serve each other – and their communities – in a way no one else could.
You have the same gift and have chosen a similar path. As you reflect on Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual this week, here are some suggestions of things you could do to outwardly celebrate:
- Take time today – Hera Day – to be of service of others, even if you don’t have a formal service project organized give of yourself to something/someone today.
- Perform the Rededication of the Bond ceremony at your chapter meeting. Invite area alumnae to your meeting and perform the ceremony for both collegians and alumnae. If you don’t live near a collegiate chapter, don’t have an alumnae chapter near you or don’t have a meeting scheduled that week, take a minute to reflect on your Initiation ceremony. Where were you? What did you wear? How did you feel? More importantly … are you living the life you pledged to live that day? If so, how else could you show that every day? If not, there is no time like the present to start!
- Reconnect with a sister you haven’t spoken to for awhile. Go to lunch. Have a phone date. Send a card. Write a text. Make time one day this week to reach out to someone and tell her why you’re glad she’s your sister. (Even better, pick a person to connect with every day.) If you have regular conversations with sisters, take time this week to talk about the common bond you share with your closest Alpha Chi Omega friends.
- Reflect on the meaning of The Symphony of Alpha Chi Omega. Re-read “The Symphony” at least one time during the week. How does it relate to where you are in life right now? What is your favorite part of the passage? Why?
- On Facebook? Join your sisters in changing your profile picture to the National Ritual Celebration Week logo. Consider posting your reflections and other Alpha Chi Omega stories and thoughts as your status updates and on the Alpha Chi Omega Facebook page this week. On Twitter? Tweet your celebration ideas and reflections during the week – tag your tweets with #AXORitualWeek and follow that tag throughout the week to see what others are saying on Twitter.
- Reflect on how you personify Alpha Chi Omega’s values of Wisdom, Devotion and Achievement. You might consider a conversation about one of these ideals with a non-member and tell him/her why you value your Alpha Chi Omega experience so much.
- Participate in National Panhellenic Conference’s International Badge Day on March 7. Proudly wear your lyre badge to work, on campus and to your community gatherings. Doing so not only honors Alpha Chi Omega, but gives you a chance to connect with other sorority women in your area and celebrate the history of women’s fraternities.
It’s a great time to celebrate … there are so many good things happening in Alpha Chi Omega and across the fraternity and sorority landscape. Plus, kicking the week off with Hera Day is a perfect tribute to Hera, the guardian of women. The service you are doing today and the reflection you will do this week make your organization stronger. More importantly, they will make you an even more real, strong woman.
by Melissa A. Norrbom
(Epsilon Psi, University of California at Irvine)
There’s a first time for everything.
First day of school.
First time up to bat.
First chapter management visit?
Okay, so maybe not everyone has experienced that last one, but as a consultant, we definitely have our share of “firsts.” The first look at our fancy business cards, our first time being in four time zones at once, and of course…our first lost luggage. The past seven months have flown by and it seems like only yesterday I was getting on the plane for my very first visit…
I will always remember my first visit. I had spent the last month and a half training alongside my consultant sisters, absorbing an encyclopedia worth of Alpha Chi Omega knowledge and I walked off the plane armed and ready. Bring on the chaos. Bring on the emotion. Bring on the sisterhood! Though I was prepared for the worst, I could never have been prepared for the inspiration and compassion I felt during that first week. Recruitment was so much fun and in the madness of it all, I grew closer to the chapter. In my own chapter, I felt comfortable in our friendship, but in this new chapter, I felt connected in our bond. I will forever cherish my first visit.
With that first visit in my pocket, I looked forward to meeting every new chapter thereafter…
Each chapter holds a special place in my journey as a consultant. Sometimes I could teach a sister something new and watch her eyes light up as the possibilities became endless. But most of the time, I was the one learning. Sometimes I could share a story with a sister that inspired her to seek new heights. But again, the stories of my sisters have inspired me far more. Hopefully, I helped create a few small changes for each chapter to add to their strong foundation. Undoubtedly, each chapter has shaped an experience that has changed my life.
I know all of you are going through your own first times in your chapters: your first time speaking in front of the room, moving into the house, making a tough decision or learning our Ritual. You can do your best to prepare, but these “firsts” transform your membership into a relationship. And then eventually, you are consistently giving announcements at meeting, encouraging others to live in the house, upholding a standard and appreciating our Ritual. Your first time = a lifetime!
Albert Einstein said, “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” It might be time for your chapter to take its first step in the right direction and you might be the person to lead the way. And inevitably, for every 3 steps forward, you might take a step back, but keep moving and others will follow. At Leadership Academy, we learned that “small wins” are priceless. Celebrate the progress your chapter has made and take pride in your accomplishments. Use that momentum to propel you even further and watch your “small wins” bring your chapter to the next level. Dive in and don’t be afraid! Be brave!
There’s a first time for everything. Alpha Chi Omega was created real and strong from that first idea 125 years ago…and look where we are today.
by Jennifer Crotty
(Delta Mu, University of Massachusetts)
Tis the season – Spring Recruitment! This time of year tends to stir up memories, thoughts, even a sense of renewal. Recently, probably because it’s recruitment season, I got to thinking about legacies. In Alpha Chi Omega, when we hear the word “legacy,” we think of a woman whose sister, mother, grandmother or great-grandmother is an Alpha Chi Omega member. But we don’t all have that kind of legacy. Think about it. Me, I’ve got two teenage brothers and it’s entirely possible I may not have a daughter, or a granddaughter for that matter, who could be my Alpha Chi Omega legacy. If I don’t have a sister or a daughter to join Alpha Chi Omega, what is my legacy to the Fraternity?
When I began my service to Alpha Chi Omega eleven years ago as a volunteer, leaving a legacy wasn’t on my mind; I simply wanted to give back to the Fraternity that had given so much to me. But, a few weekends ago, at Leadership Academy, I discovered that I, like many of us, am leaving a different kind of legacy to Alpha Chi Omega. During that weekend, I spent a lot of time with two of my former advisees, Mariah Hoover (Theta Omicron, MIT) and Abby Ryan (Alpha Tau, University of New Hampshire), whom are both now chapter advisors themselves. Sometime during our endless conversations about working with collegians, wedding planning (Mariah’s recently engaged!) and the rodeo that was also taking place in our hotel, Abby mentioned to me that after she’s served as a chapter advisor, she’d like to serve as a province collegiate chair. When I asked her why, she responded, “Because you did.”
Wow! One simple, humbling and touching sentence and it resonated. I can’t even pinpoint exactly why or how I became this person to her. During my own recruitment and during all recruitments of which I have been a part, I have been constantly reminded being a member of Alpha Chi Omega is more than just four years. It is a lifetime commitment, and that resonates with me. I have taken this to heart for any number of reasons: because I’m passionate about developing today’s collegians into real, strong women; because the alumnae I have the blessing to work with, both on staff and as follow volunteers, inspire me every day; because I believe in the power in Alpha Chi Omega to change women, change campuses, change communities, and maybe, just maybe, change the world. These are my reasons for why I am still involved in Alpha Chi Omega. That has been, and will be, my lifetime commitment.
“Because you did,” Abby said. At that moment, it occurred to me these women, my former advisees – whether it is Abby, Mariah and others who are currently serving as advisors, those who joined alumnae chapters after graduation, or those who go back to their own chapter to help during recruitment – are my legacies. Whether it be that I modeled the behavior or my answer when they asked “Why are you still involved in Alpha Chi Omega,” I, in some measurable way, had instilled in these women that Alpha Chi Omega was not just for their undergraduate years, but for their lifetimes.
As alumnae, that is something we can all do. Not all of us have time to commit to serving as a volunteer, but we can still set the example of staying involved and connected to Alpha Chi Omega, whether it be by staying in touch with our collegiate chapter, joining a local alumnae chapter or in any number of other ways. If we, as alumnae, demonstrate the lifetime commitment that is Alpha Chi Omega, today’s collegians will follow. Even if biology does, or never, grants me something different, that’s my legacy to Alpha Chi Omega – what’s yours?
by Liza Pugliese
(Alpha Omega, Birmingham Southern College)
As true sorority women, we hear terms like ‘fraternity’ and ‘sorority’ and we know about philanthropy events, sisterhood retreats, and leadership opportunities. Unfortunately, as the general public hears these terms, they think about hazing, parties with scandalous costumes and inordinate amounts of drinking, and eating disorders. These stereotypes are further supported by absurd shows like Greek and Glory Daze and websites like JuicyCampus.com and CollegeACB.com. Books like I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, by Tucker Max, depict women as nothing more than sexual objects.
Greek and Glory Daze are shows that feature fraternity men who haze, treat women like trash, and stay in college for several years beyond any normal collegiate experience. Women on these shows are shallow, stupid, and easy to get into bed. One of the websites listed above display comments from men calling women ‘slam-pieces’ and talking about how easy it is to get a woman into bed. Another one provides open forums for online conversations. Some are titled, ‘Which sorority has the sluttiest pledges?’ and anyone can provide slanderous comments. The comments promote bitter feelings between sorority women and do nothing to strengthen the Greek community. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell sordidly details horrid stories of sexual experiences with random women. As true sorority women and fraternity men, we understand that these portrayals are untrue. But, for men and women who did not have experiences in Greek communities, these false stereotypes are truth.
My plea to Alpha Chi Omega women across the country is to take a stand against the media outlets that depict women as trash. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing to combat the stereotypes that are promoted by the media?’ I challenge our chapter advisors to start this conversation with their chapters and I challenge the chapter women to continue the conversation and make real efforts to take a stand. Alpha Chi Omega supports real, strong women, and as an organization, we should be supporting them. Encourage other sororities on campus to stop participating in mixers/swaps with men who want to make the theme ‘Pimps and Ho’s’ or any obscene title that demeans women. Take a stand against these websites that display nasty (anonymous, of course) comments about other sorority women by not participating in them. Don’t act like the women in any of Tucker Max’s books and don’t spread gossip about women who sadly choose to. Avoid hanging out with guys who talk like those on the above websites, shows, or books. Don’t laugh when men or women talk about their random, numerous sexual experiences; rather, feel sorry for them because they are likely to have contracted some sick STD, and that’s just never funny or cute.
My professional experiences with Alpha Chi Omega have brought me around the country, where I have had the opportunity to meet fantastic women. I have been so impressed by their dedication to seeking the heights and it is so disheartening to see their efforts trampled by negative media outlets such as the ones listed above. My personal experiences with Alpha Chi Omega have been so dear to my heart and I am ecstatic to include five Alpha Chi Omegas as my bridesmaids in my upcoming wedding. Of the 5, two are incredibly successful lawyers, one is currently in her first year of medical school, one has earned a Master’s Degree in social work, and the last has been an unbelievable supporter of a West Point graduate who spent a year of their marriage fighting for our country in Afghanistan. These are examples of the true women of Alpha Chi Omega and they exemplify what it means to be a real, strong Alpha Chi Omega.
I have truly loved my experience as a sorority woman, and I hope that the things I have learned about myself and my self-worth are a part of the experience of every sorority woman across the country.
by Malena Lott
(Psi, University of Oklahoma)
As a kid, we get used to asking for things. As a mother, we’re used to being asked for things. But as individuals, somewhere along the way, we get so busy answering the calls of others that we forget to ask ourselves what we really want. And if we do, we quickly shoo it away. You don’t have time for that! That’s selfish! The PTA/the husband/the kids/the dog/your parents need you. You can’t be doing something you love when you should be doing something that needs to be done.
The only problem with that is we end up somewhere along the journey, stuck, and we’re so tired from the trek that we aren’t sure how to get unstuck. We’ve depleted our energy and feel lost. We have literally given ourselves over to others, said yes so many times we should’ve said no that we aren’t even sure who we are anymore.
But there’s hope. It’s never too late in our journey to stand in our power and take action. If you’re a list girl like I am, pencil in time for you to discover what you really want or remember the things you used to love that you might enjoy doing again. Is it an artistic endeavor? Traveling? A new career? A marathon? Give yourself permission to pursue your passion. If you do, everyone in your life will benefit. You’ll relieve stress, be happier and have more energy to spread around.
Lose the guilt and gain the wisdom to realize this life is too precious to not pursue what makes your soul sing. It may require sticking some earplugs in to block out the naysayers who won’t like that you’re going after your dream. Communicate from your highest self. The ego – both yours and theirs – will try to keep you stuck. Forge on.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, but I am still to this day filled with self-doubts that says I should be doing something else. It’s a mental battle that you can’t give in to. If I had, I wouldn’t be writing novels, I wouldn’t have started an ad agency when I was 28 and I wouldn’t ask for half the things I have in life.
In Fixer Upper, my third novel, my protagonist Macy has been the quintessential good girl, supporting her husband whose political career is on the rise, and submitting to a life she thought she wanted when she was in her twenties, but at thirty-five feels completely unfulfilled. I love Macy because she takes a lot of risks and puts her heart – and her posh life – on the line to give herself permission to discover what she really wants. It doesn’t always hit us in one a-ha moment.
I hope you’ll give yourself that chance, too.
Malena Lott is an award-winning writer and the author of three novels. Her latest release, FIXER UPPER, is available in the Kindle store and other digital formats. She’s blogging about how to “verbinize” your life all year long on her author blog at www.malenalott.com. She resides in Oklahoma with her husband, three kids, and dog. She is thankful for the support of her Alpha Chi Omega sisterhood, then and now. Lott was a member of the Psi chapter at the University of Oklahoma.
by Audra Sinclair
(Delta, Allegheny College)
Through my years in Alpha Chi at Allegheny College, we had some pretty catchy bid day shirts. My freshman year, the lifetime members shirts read, “Take one look and suddenly you’ll know why…,” and the new members shirts read, “…Baby, I was born to be an Alpha Chi.” My junior year, we had baseball t-shirts that said “Alpha Chi Omega” across the front and on the back there was the silhouette of a baseball player diving for the ball. Underneath the silhouette it read, “The perfect catch.” My senior year, we had long sleeved t-shirts that had block letters on the front and the back said, “One Love,” and the “V” was the lyre from our new logo. You may wonder why I skipped our sophomore year? Did we have a lame slogan year? Not at all. I was just saving the best for last.
Sophomore year, the front of our shirts had a red car silhouette and etched out of the car it read, “Alpha Chi” shaped like the famous logo from the famous classic Grease. On the back of the new members’ shirts it said, “You’re the One that I Want,” and the lifetime members shirts said, “Hopelessly Devoted.”
Maybe I’m biased because Grease is my favorite movie of all time, but I absolutely loved these shirts. They spoke volumes to me about the meaning of Alpha Chi Omega and what our new members should be feeling versus what our lifetime members should be feeling. As lifetime members, we should be “Hopelessly Devoted” to this organization and everything it stands for. As new members, Alpha Chi Omega should be “The One That [They] Want” because of how hopelessly devoted our members are to the organization. For the three and a half years that I was a collegiate member of Alpha Chi Omega, I truly was hopelessly devoted. You could easily argue I still am. Back then, I was devoted to both our organization and the Panhellenic Community at Allegheny College. As an alumna, I’m devoted to the betterment of this organization as whole, every chapter, every girl.
Being a chapter consultant has brought so many new people and experiences into my life. It is not easy to be in a new city every four to five days, live out of a suitcase, be away from your friends and family constantly and work seven days a week. People I meet in airports or on college campuses ask me how it is even bearable. But meeting new people and getting the opportunity to shape lives every few days is worth every minute of every delayed flight. And what others might not understand, while I may be away from biological family, I’m constantly surrounded by my sisters. Lucky for me, we’re hopelessly devoted to each other. And they call this work? My favorite t-shirts came into my life halfway through my collegiate experience, and I’m writing this to you halfway through my days as a consultant. What I didn’t know then is it only gets better. My time as a chapter consultant isn’t half over, I still have half to go.
I have realized along the way that a new side to sisterhood comes from the alumna perspective. I have never given so much and received so much loyalty in my life, other than within my family. What I have found during my travels is that everyone has their own way of showing their devotion to Alpha Chi Omega. You don’t have to be president of your chapter, the most active alumna, work for headquarters, give the biggest donation or volunteer the most amount of your time to be devoted to Alpha Chi Omega. These women I have encountered who have changed my life and this organization are finding ways to give their time, love, effort and loyalty in their own ways. They are the women that are making this organization great. However, I believe that what makes Alpha Chi Omega the best is our unique ways of expressing our devotion. And for me, for life, mine just might be hopeless. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
by Cherí O’Neill, Executive Director
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)
When I tell people my favorite season is winter, they often look at me cross-eyed or draw imaginary circles around one ear with an index finger, as if to call me crazy. Here in the Hoosierland, you see, winter can get cold and slippery. Most folks prefer their seasons warmer, dryer and surer under foot, but I love cold, snowy, grey days. I love wearing turtleneck sweaters (I have one in almost every shade), and my allergies love the break from nose-running, tear inducing pollen.
But here’s why I really love winter: It’s the time when everything gets stripped away (at least for those of us living in northern climates). The vibrant colors are gone. The land stretches bare and open. There’s nothing to block the view or limit the vision. There’s a new, blank canvas, an empty notebook awaiting new stories. All that was is no more. All that will be has yet to be created.
And so, for me, winter is a time to reflect and recharge—to give thanks and begin anew.
Even if you don’t share my December-to-March madness, I hope you have the time and space in your life to look inward; to take stock of who you are; to share gratitude; to know that with each choice, decision, or thought something new is possible; to understand that dreams, hopes and goals are always ripe for refreshing.
Too often, I get caught up in the demands of the moment, the crisis du jour, the never-ending list of tasks screaming “must-be-done now!” In perpetual-motion mode, I forget to breathe. I lose the space between moments. I miss my winter, my empty canvas, my place for possibilities.
Perhaps I spent too many years living in the country where my closest neighbors were farm fields and trees. But out on that plain, I learned that the land needs time to rest so it can produce once again. I learned that after the harvest is taken from the field—after the last leaves have fallen from the trees—nature takes a break. From above, my eyes told me the land was dormant. But I came to feel from within that the trees, the grass, the flowers, the crops were gearing up for another awakening, another burst of color, another brilliant crescendo.
We humans need not be so different from nature.
And so, on the blank canvas of winter, I reflect on dreams realized and share gratitude. I look to seasons ahead and imagine what might be. And like those reliant upon New Year’s resolutions, I accept that while dreams do, indeed, come true, they often manifest in forms never imagined.
This winter, I’m grateful for dreams realized—my family, the man I love, my colleagues at work, and the opportunity to serve you, my sisters.
This winter, I’ll do a little dreaming of all that might be.
This winter, I’ll clear the clutter of seasons past, and make room for “whatever” to develop.
This winter, I hope you’ll find the same joy of possibility.
An Experience for a Lifetime
“Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.” ~Marianne Williamson, creator of “The Miracle Matrix.”
These words from author and lecturer Marianne Williamson are at the heart of a program currently being field tested by 12 chapters across the country. This pilot program is in preparation for the implementation within every chapter across the organization. This (yet-to-be-officially-named) program, currently being referred to as the Four-Year Experience, is designed to provide relevant, timely and life-skill-based education for collegians at every level. Creating a transformational experience for every member is just one of the lofty goals behind this experience.
How the Program Works
After recruitment, new members will complete the seven week Dedication program. This Alpha Chi Omega specific education prepares all members for the initiation exam, with new members learning about Alpha Chi Omega’s history, founders, structure and more.
Dedication makes new member education a universal experience across all of Alpha Chi Omega. Women joining in Florida will have the same education as women joining in Washington. If a woman transfers from a chapter in Massachusetts to a chapter in Southern California, she will have experienced the same fundamental education as the members in her new chapter.
But It Doesn’t End There!
Alpha Chi Omega will be providing every chapter research-based, student-development focused curriculum created for each year of our members’ college journeys.
- How to make laugh out loud, know my deepest darkest secret and most embarrassing moment kind of friends.
- Dreaming for the future. Setting goals for today.
- Last hired. First fired.
- Help me, help you. The role of a mentor.
- Yes, I do have an opinion.
- Real. Strong. Women. know their values.
- Here comes the real ‘real world’ – preparing for post-graduation finances
All programs are categorized based on Alpha Chi Omega’s shared values—wisdom, devotion and achievement—with each class having the choice of which programs they complete. Leaders within every chapter (not advisors or campus staff) will be trained peer-facilitators offering all of the programs.
This is an unprecedented program giving collegians the opportunity to create their own Alpha Chi Omega story that extends far beyond four years on campus and into whatever every woman’s future holds.
Why Now? How Did We Get Here?
In 2008, Alpha Chi Omega partnered with leadership consultants from The Leadership Institute – Women With Purpose to help Alpha Chi Omega conduct research across the entire organization to identify strengths and areas for improvement within the member experience. More than 1,500 collegians, alumnae, volunteers, staff and resigned members responded to surveys and focus group questions.
The data from that research is very clear. Alpha Chi Omega collegians asked for a change. Your National Council listened and the Four-Year Experience has been designed to (among other things):
- Intentionally connect Alpha Chi Omega’s core values to each member’s everyday life.
- Help juniors and seniors feel a greater sense of connectedness, value and purpose to their chapter.
- Promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle far beyond each member’s college experience.
- Encourage self-reflection to show how the Alpha Chi Omega experience helps every member personally and professionally.
These programs are also designed to be fun, informative and worth the time it takes to participate (usually less than an hour).
Who’s Field Testing the Four-Year Experience?
To help guarantee this is the transformational experience it is intended to be, 12 chapters are serving as pilot chapters and truly give the curriculum a real test drive. Each chapter’s feedback, along with feedback from alumnae, volunteers and staff, will be used to make necessary adjustments before implementation across Alpha Chi Omega. The program is currently being “test driven” at the following chapters:
- Eta, Bucknell University
- Lambda, Syracuse University
- Omicron, Baker College
- Alpha Beta, Purdue University
- Beta Eta, Florida State University
- Delta Kappa, Sam Houston State University
- Delta Tau, Minnesota State University-Mankato
- Epsilon Chi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
- Epsilon Omega, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
- Iota Nu, University of California-San Diego
- Iota Sigma, Southern Methodist University
- Iota Phi, Quinnipiac University
These chapters are currently testing the dedication, freshmen and junior programs. In the fall of 2011, each chapter will add sophomore and senior programming to the testing experience.
Assuming field testing is as successful as anticipated (all feedback from pilots has been incredibly positive so far) fraternity wide implementation will begin in fall 2012.
How Can My Chapter Participate?
If your chapter has deferred recruitment, you can begin using Dedication as early as this spring for your New Member Education program. Plus, all chapters across the organization can opt to use the dedication, freshmen and junior curriculum as early as fall 2011.
Before opting in you will receive information about the cost to participate and how to participate in facilitator training.
What About a Name?
This program cannot be called the Four-Year Experience forever. It has to have a ‘real’ name with ‘real’ Alpha Chi Omega significance. Some ideas that have been suggested so far include Project Alpha Chi, Symphony Institute and Pearl College.
What do you think? Do you have a great idea on how to capture all this program brings in one simple name? If so, we would love to hear it! Who knows, your suggestion could go down in Alpha Chi Omega history!
For more information, contact Education and Leadership Initiatives at Alpha Chi Omega Headquarters by calling 317.579.5050. Information may also be found at alphachiomega.org.
by Lisa Young Stiers
(Εpsilon Omicron, Indiana State University)
While media stereotypes of the Greek community may portray members as party focused academic slackers, real women in Greek organizations across the nation strive daily to smash these stereotypes and improve public perception. Alpha Chi Omega is not alone in valuing scholarship. Today, Greek communities on campuses large and small have a zeal for helping all members reach their academic potential— turning Greek membership from an academic con to a pro.
“For me personally, being Greek gives me the advantage of many resources, study files, support and sisters who can help
me study,” says Krista Yaktine, president of Omicron chapter at Baker University. Campuses across the country tout statistics that grade point averages (GPA) for Greek members meet or beat those of nonaffiliated students.
While the averages vary from campus to campus, a national survey, conducted this fall in partnership by the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity at Indiana University and the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, compared member versus non-member GPA. Based on information from the nearly 160 responding institutions, the GPA of Greek members—fraternities and sororities combined—was equal to those of non-members (2.999 vs. 2.997). However, across 130 reporting institutions, sorority member average GPAs are higher than the general female population (3.14 vs. 3.10).
Study respondents also indicate that campuses are maintaining or increasing academic support to Greek members. Alpha Chi Omega continues that trend, offering a wide variety of academic support programs to meet the needs of a diverse membership.
“Being a member of Alpha Chi Omega has drastically affected my academic career for the better,” says Kelly Parcher, president of Iota Lambda chapter at Texas Christian University (TCU). “It gave me help with ‘study buddies,’ forced me to study at least six hours in the library on top of homework time, and provided me with leadership opportunities that will help me to excel in group projects and after college.” Shannon Sumerlin, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at TCU, has seen a general focus shift by the general Greek community from simply promoting its academic stars to offering valuable assistance to students across the academic spectrum.
“I think fraternity and sorority life on many campuses has always promoted the high GPAs and the leaders,” Sumerlin says. “But I think the focus of providing opportunities to those who don’t fall into those groups is really growing.”
The TCU Student Affairs Office, which oversees Fraternity and Sorority Life, works closely with Academic Services to monitor student progress and provide services to students in need. Unsatisfactory grade reports from professors at mid semester alert staff and chapter leadership to students who are struggling and may need extra academic support.
All TCU Greek chapters also have an academic coach, a faculty member who has been trained to understand the unique qualities of a fraternal organization and offer programs and supports to its members.
“We go over the basics of what is a fraternity and sorority organization because many faculty were not members,” Sumerlin explains.
As a community, Greek members offer support to each other. Examples, which are often duplicated on campuses nationwide, include:
- TCU Panhellenic offers a variety of academic programming—from a banquet honoring 4.0 recipients to Month of the Scholar in October.
- Florida State University (FSU) Panhellenic Vice President of Academic Affairs hosts monthly meetings for chapter scholarship officers to share information and support each other. The group focuses not only on top achievers at an annual scholarship banquet but also honors those who have made the biggest academic improvement.
Alpha Chi Omega chapters coordinate a plethora of intellectual development programs— from simple, time-tested programs to innovative offerings—to encourage and enhance members’ academic experiences.
For example, Iota Lambda chapter at TCU rewards academic perfection with jewelry. Each member earning a semester 4.0 receives a diamond in her pin. At Baker University’s Omicron chapter—which has been first in campus grades for 27 semesters—members hold each other accountable for semester academic goals.
“At the beginning of the semester, we write personal academic goals on apples that are placed in our study room to make a goal tree,” Yaktine says. “This is to encourage each member to reach the heights and keep pushing through.”
Networking with other members led Beta Eta chapter president Jaclyn Moore to a potential career. She entered FSU without a declared major, but soon learned about sports management from a sister.
Networking has continued to identify desirable classes and top-notch professors. “It’s definitely helped me,” Moore says. “It’s a great resource.”
Despite the benefits, Greek life and academics don’t always amicably co-exist. One of the biggest and most common academic challenges for Greek members is programming. What makes a Greek experience unique—Homecoming, Greek Week, sporting events, socials, philanthropy events, chapter meetings—can sometimes become the biggest detriment to a successful academic career.
“Sometimes it’s more fun to do these things than study,” says Robyn Brock, Assistant Dean and Director of Greek Life at FSU.
Demands don’t come just from your chapter—requests for time and philanthropical support come from through-out the Greek community and campus at large. The Greek Life office at FSU receives an average of two requests each week from campus groups who want support for an event or project from the Greek community.
“It’s a compliment to these women, and they do want to support these groups,” Brock says, “but they have to remember to support themselves as well.”
FSU has 60 Greek organizations on campus, and, like many large schools, with strength comes good-natured rivalry.
“With that competitiveness, I think, comes a con,” says Britain Dwyre, a Beta Eta initiate and current chapter advisor. “To win awards on campus, they have to participate in so many events. There are so many competing priorities. Sometimes I wonder when they study.”
FSU’s Moore has felt the pressure.
“Every day there’s something going on. It’s really hard to balance, but you just have to find the time,” she explains. “You have to pick and choose what you want to do.”
By reviewing campus calendars and offering new members guidance, many Greek Life offices are trying to ease the programming burden.
“We try to give options,” says TCU’s Sumerlin. “We never require complete chapter attendance at a single event. For example, we might offer a required alcohol program three different nights so students can plan.”
Sometimes, chapters must adapt tradition to benefit academics. TCU’s Iota Lambda chapter moved formal chapter to Sunday nights so that it didn’t conflict with night classes, Parcher says.
Another challenge is fall recruitment, particularly for freshmen who are still adjusting to college and now must add another group of commitments.
“There are so many competing priorities,” Dwyre says. “I remind members, ‘You came to school for academics.’”
Knowledge is power—and also the key to overcoming academic stereotypes.
Many Alpha Chi Omega chapters host faculty members at desserts or scholarship dinners to introduce them to Greek organizations, thank them for their dedication and illustrate the connection between Greek life and academics.
“Apple Pie with Alpha Chi,” hosted by the Beta Eta chapter at FSU, has become a much-anticipated event by faculty.
“It’s a great way to show them that we are not all about stereotypical partying,” Moore says.
By educating faculty members through academic coach training and promoting the achievements of Greek members, TCU’s Sumerlin hopes to combat negative perception.
“That stereotype is always there, but we do what we can,” she says. “For example, each semester we run an ad in the paper listing the names of all members who earn a 4.0. That list is just so long.”
While academics have always been a foundation, recently the Greek community has focused more attention on academic achievements, a key to combating stereotypes.
“I think our students are getting more recognition for what they’re doing,” says FSU’s Brock.
Beta Eta actively promotes prominent women—both on campus and off—who are Greek.
“Stereotypically, people think Greeks are just interested in partying,” Dwyre says, “but in the groups I’ve worked with, stereotypically, Greeks are the most driven.”
For Parcher, being a member of a Greek organization is a classroom benefit.
“I believe some of my student groups have wanted to work with me because they know I am in a sorority, therefore I must be a dedicated, hard worker,” she says. “The Greek system is looked up to at TCU, and most professors expect more from Greek students.”
Based on the innovative programs and support offered by Alpha Chi Omega chapters and other Greek organizations, this new perception of Greek scholars is well-deserved. Through the hard work of today’s students, advisors and alumnae, the Greek community is earning a new stereotype—one that honors academic achievement.