Alpha Chi Omega - Starting Conversations

The official blog of Alpha Chi Omega
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Lollipop Moments

April_PfeiferBy April Pfeifer
Alpha Lambda, University of Minnesota
Traveling Consultant

“How many of you guys have a lollipop moment? A moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better?” Drew Dudley asks this question in his 2010 Ted Talk, “Leading with Lollipops.”

When you are a part of a Greek organization, we all have lollipop moments that reassure us of our decision to join. I think this can be said for being a chapter consultant as well. This job is full of highs and lows, but it is those small moments that reaffirm why we do this job.

A couple weeks ago, I was able to visit the women of Delta Lambda. I had spent time with them back in January for recruitment so it was so special to be back with them for their initiation. The week was spent talking about Leo’s Oscar win, crafting for big/little reveal and laughing in the commons over meals. While all of these things filled me with joy, it was the night that I arrived in Wisconsin that stuck out to me.

My flight landed in Milwaukee at 11:15 on a Friday night. The chapter is about an hour and a half away from the airport so it isn’t the shortest drive to come and pick me up. On top of it all, it decided to snow upon my arrival and that area of the state was under a winter weather advisory. Something that collegians don’t always realize is how much we rely on them to get through each day, whether it’s for meals or transportation. I’m not one who likes to ask others to host me, so naturally I began to feel guilty about how my arrival was playing out and how I was inconveniencing the chapter. Yet despite the time, weather and road conditions, the chapter still managed to meet me at the airport with so much energy that it truly made me feel as if I were a sister of Delta Lambda.

Collegians only see the time you spend with them and don’t always know what’s emotionally going on behind the scenes. Because of this, the gestures are genuine and carry more meaning. To the women of Delta Lambda, thank you for giving me my lollipop moment at a time when I needed it most. You reminded me why I continue to do my job when the days get hard. It isn’t because I travel to a new location each week, it is because I am able to foster some of the most beautiful relationships with intelligent, witty and kind-hearted women who understand what sisterhood is.

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Student Trustee Perspectives

Each year, four collegians are selected to serve on the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation Board of Trustees. Student trustees have the opportunity to get involved with Alpha Chi Omega on a national level while serving as the voices for our collegiate membership.

We had the opportunity to sit down with this year’s student trustees to learn more about their experiences.

BOT_student_HollyPyper_web

Holly Pyper
Beta, Albion College

What made you interested in becoming a student trustee?

Holly Pyper: I wanted to become a student trustee because I wanted to get as much as I could out of my time as an undergraduate woman. I saw this position as a way to grow professionally and give back to our organization in a meaningful way. I didn’t realize that in addition to those benefits, I’d build deep friendships with women across the country.

Kelsey Montgomery: I was most interested in sharing the collegiate perspective with the Foundation board and being able to help chapters and officers with Foundation-related questions.

After applying to serve as a student trustee, what was the interview process like?

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Lizzie Kemins
Psi, University of Oklahoma

Lizzie Kemins: The interview process consisted of an application and an interview. I remember being nervous for the interview because I looked up the members of the board of trustees and seeing the prestigious women I would be speaking to, but on the phone it was just like a normal conversation. They made me feel very important and it was so cool to see that these women really cared what I had to say!

As a student trustee, you are the collegiate voice to the leaders of our Fraternity – your voice matters! I’m sure you’re busy with class, applying for jobs and figuring out life after college. What is the time commitment to serving as a student trustee?

Kelly Suntrup: The time commitment is about the same as serving in an executive board position. I previously served on the executive board for three years, so I was really excited to have something new but still related to Alpha Chi Omega to fill my time!

You’ve been doing this for a year; looking back, what have you learned from this experience?

Holly Pyper: Where should I begin? Getting an up-close understanding of how an organization functions is really enlightening. Beyond my new appreciation for Alpha Chi Omega, this understanding will prove helpful in almost any organization. Additionally, practicing communication skills in this unique setting is very helpful. It’s hard to sum up what I’ve learned because my supervisors have been really great at communicating with us, the student trustees, to see what we want to learn. Our projects grow and adapt depending on what we want to explore and learn next.

And looking into the future, what have you learned that will help you after graduation?

Kelsey Montgomery

Kelsey Montgomery
Iota Sigma, Southern Methodist University

Lizzie Kemins: Not everyone gets to say they were a board of trustees member at age 20, but I do. I now have experience seeing how a successful Foundation is run. I’ve gotten to learn the technical parts of a board that I never really thought about. I have also gotten to learn how to engage with people about donations. Most importantly to me, though, I’ve been exposed to alumnae who are successful and used their time as collegiate members to the fullest extent. As a senior in her last semester, that is priceless.

Kelsey Montgomery: One of my favorite memories as a student trustee was when I had the chance to attend the 2014 National Convention in Palm Desert, California. Attending convention in it of itself was amazing, but getting to know members of the Foundation Board of Trustees and the National Council was equally if not more impactful. These women are some of the truest examples of what being an Alpha Chi Omega is all about, and they graciously donate their time to make sure our organization is just as strong 20 years from now as it is today.

Kelly Suntrup Delta Chi, William Woods University

Kelly Suntrup
Delta Chi, William Woods University

Kelly Suntrup: My favorite memory so far was when some of the board of trustees members flew all the way to St. Louis to catch me up on what I missed at the first meeting. I really appreciated how important they made me feel.

With the application deadline approaching for the next group of student trustees, why should someone apply?

Holly: You should apply for this position because it’s an incredibly unique learning opportunity. Simply observing the function of the board of trustees is a great educational experience. However, it’s more than observation—actually participating in discussion and having your own projects makes the position even richer. Also, the connections and friendships you make will last a lifetime and certainly prove helpful in any walk of life. But most importantly, you’ll be doing meaningful work that gives back to your sisters and helps support our philanthropy. I’ve never felt so good about the work I’ve done and gotten so much from an experience before my time as a student trustee.

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Be Her Badge What It May

4-goldbadgeBy: Nancy Vance, Delta Chi Chapter
National Ritual Celebration Week 2016

Nancy Vance is the current Alpha Chi Omega delegate to the Dallas Area Panhellenic Association (DAPA). We asked her to reflect on her involvement with the Panhellenic community as we celebrate National Ritual Celebration Week with the entire Greek community.

“To see and appreciate all that is noble in another, be her badge what it may.

I recently revisited my 1973 membership manual and found in Chapter 5: Fraternity World an explanation of the National Panhellenic Conference. It includes illustrations of the 26 NPC member organizations’ badges, as well as The Panhellenic Creed. At 18 years old, it didn’t mean much because my involvement with Panhellenic didn’t begin until later in my life. Now, having served in the DAPA since 2010, the line from our Symphony above holds true and is my cornerstone.2-greenbadge

I first became involved in DAPA when I started writing recruitment references for my kids’ high school classmates. Greek women who were willing to help potential new members with their recruitment references were regularly called on to write letters for these young women. This led to me joining the local Alpha Chi Omega alumnae chapter and going through a recruitment of my own to serve on the DAPA board.

Today, I am proud to be part of DAPA, an 85-year-old organization of Greek women in the Dallas area  with 21 member sororities. We have mutual respect for each other and our values, and we uphold our objective of engaging in a deeper understanding among member fraternities while promoting community service and education.

As I prepare to assume the presidency of this group, I will continue to represent Alpha Chi Omega with pride as did my predecessors Mrs. Raymond Hawkins (1938-39); Mrs. Martha Hoopingarner (1955-56); Mrs. Marilyn Smith (1977-78); and Mrs. Donna Chereck (1996-97). DAPA upholds a long history of the power and strength of sisterhood that can only be achieved by seeing and appreciating all that is noble in each member, be her badge what it may.

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The Unexpected Gift

web_Ashley_WilliamsBy: Ashley Williams
Delta Zeta, Central Michigan University
Resident Consultant, IUPUI

Last week, after I returned home from a normal day on campus, I began my typical after-work routine: I set my things down, changed into comfortable clothes and started eating the Chipotle I picked up on my way home. Mid-bite I realized I had to make it down to the apartment office before it closed to pick up the packages I was expecting. However, among the usual mile-high stack of packages for apartment 152, was one I wasn’t expecting. I left it for last, after going through boxes of online purchases and the Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend. I hesitantly opened it, not knowing what could be inside. As soon as I saw the little bit of oatmeal colored sweater poking out behind the box flaps, I couldn’t help but become overcome with joy and excitement. It was the “Traveling Oatmeal Sweater” that my best Alpha Chi friends and I had started last semester. (Yes, just like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.) While all together over Halloween weekend last semester, we had the brilliant idea to send around the one sweater everyone borrowed while we were in college: Anna’s oatmeal colored sweater. Going from living together in 701 Main Street to living in three different states, the nine of us wanted something that would keep us connected, and this was the perfect solution!

As soon as I put the sweater on that night, I was overcome with a flood of my best college memories. As I reflected on what this sweater symbolized, I realized that the Alpha Chi Omega experience is like the traveling sweater that my friends and I exchange. Alpha Chi Omega is warm and comforting, it is a place where women can go to feel welcomed, accepted and comforted. Just as the sweater fits each of my friends and me, Alpha Chi Omega is an experience shared by all types of women at different stages of life, and connects friends and strangers alike through shared experiences, values and traditions. Alpha Chi Omega is a shared tradition, one that can be passed between women and span generations, offering unique, but always cherished, memories.

When I joined Alpha Chi Omega four years ago, I had no idea the journey I was about to embark on, and I certainly did not know I would be where I am today as a resident consultant at IUPUI. This experience was unexpected, just like the sweater in my stack of packages, but was exactly what I needed in my life – then and now.  As a consultant, I now have the opportunity to witness over 100 women begin their unexpectedly amazing journey as founding members at IUPUI. They have no idea the women they will become because of this experience, or the enriched lives they will have because of the support, experiences and traditions that Alpha Chi Omega will offer them for the rest of their lives. I hope that these women, too, experience the type of friendships and opportunities that I have been blessed with because of Alpha Chi Omega. I am confident that though this journey may have been unexpected for many of them, Alpha Chi Omega is now, and will always be, exactly what they need.

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Overcoming Obstacles by Serving Others

Katrina_ShakleeBy Katrina Shaklee, Ψ (University of Oklahoma)
2015 Real. Strong. Women. of Distinction Recipient

When I was pursuing my degree at the University of Oklahoma, I considered myself many things—an Alpha Chi Omega, a friend, a daughter, etc. When I turned 24, I had the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) attached to who I was as well. It became a part of me whether or not I wanted it. When I received the diagnosis I had two choices: embrace it and move forward, or be frustrated and afraid. I’m not going to lie—I did have many frustrations and there were times when I was certainly scared, but long-term, I knew I had to move forward and make the most of my new life journey.

I decided to take my passion for sports and combine it with my new diagnosis. Perhaps that may seem like an unlikely merge, but I, along with help from various other people, created a nonprofit to provide sporting opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities. In 2000, we staged the first Endeavor Games for Athletes with Physical Disabilities, and that event has flourished every year since.

Many people seem to be intrigued by my having multiple sclerosis and managing it by blending my love of sports and creating this event. I’ve never been hesitant to share my journey of being diagnosed, but I do struggle when people look at me as having overcome obstacles, or doing something different and amazing.

Why, you might ask? Quite simply, when I watch our athletes competing, they are the ones I see as truly overcoming obstacles. Yes, I have a disease that isn’t going away any time soon. And with MS, the disease is very unpredictable, can change how it affects you and can get worse with time. Right now, I am managing extremely well. So, when I am at our track meet to watch a race and I see a 4-year-old smiling ear to ear while racing his wheelchair, or when I see a 30-year-old with only one limb competing in swimming, I don’t reflect on my obstacles, but instead get to witness some amazing athletes, doing some amazing things. The athletes we serve every year don’t want to be heroes, nor do they want to be your inspiration. They just want to be seen as competitive athlete, and we try our best to give them that opportunity.

I never planned on doing this with my life, serving others through a nonprofit and now through my employment with the University of Central Oklahoma. But it has become a part of who I am. As Steve Jobs once stated, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” This is what the Endeavor Games does for me. I encourage you to find something that will pull you as well.

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Celebrating MacDowell Month & Our Sisters in the Arts, Part Two

By Liz Ragland, Gamma Tau

The second post profiling sisters in the arts features Irish step dancer, Kelsey O’Connor and music teacher, Katie Wonderly.
-Liz


Katie_WonderlySpotlight Member:
Katie Wonderly, Gamma Tau

How are you involved in the arts?
I recently graduated from Oklahoma City University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. I now work as an elementary music teacher in Oklahoma City Public Schools and the El Sistema Oklahoma orchestra program.

How did you first get interested in your art form?
I have spent my whole life loving music! My parents took me to Kindermusik classes as a toddler, and I had several incredible elementary music teachers that were huge influences in my life. I loved getting to sing and play instruments, but even more so, I was always eager to help my music teachers during class! One of my favorite childhood keepsakes is my All About Me page from when I was 6. When asked what I thought I was good at, I answered: “Singing and helping little kids!” (Who did I even consider little kids? Two-year-olds?)  I think I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue music education, and I was lucky enough to have teachers that encouraged me every step of the way.

How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
This quote is by far my favorite part of our Symphony, and one that I’m not sure I truly appreciated until I began teaching. As an elementary music teacher, I have the unique opportunity of getting to see the same children in my class year-after-year. Throughout their time in my class, these students will learn about many things: counting rhythms, playing recorders, musical vocabulary, orchestra families…the list goes on. The most important aspect of my teaching, however, is not creating perfect musicians. My primary goal throughout each year is teaching students how to be happy, joyful, peaceful human beings, and for me, that just happens to be through music! When I look back at all of my favorite educators, I don’t remember individual lessons or the exact words that were said. I remember the overall effect they had on my life and my eventual choice to follow the same career path. I know that not all of my students will wish to be a teacher or have a career in music. Instead, I simply hope to impart to them the happiness, joy, and peace that making music together can bring. I get the opportunity to strike notes of happiness, joy, and peace every day, and I can only hope that my students are learning to do the same.

What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory?
My favorite moment by FAR was the Bid Day when my biological little sister joined Alpha Chi Omega! I had been eyeing her during all of the parties and had talked with her some throughout the recruitment process, but I knew she didn’t have her heart set on a certain house and was trying to keep an open mind through it all. The morning of Bid Day, basically the entire house tried to trick me into thinking she wasn’t on our Bid List, and that she had chosen another house. I didn’t want to believe them, but there was definitely still a bit of doubt in my mind. The moment I saw her running across the quad wearing her first AXO shirt was one of the happiest moments of my life! I ran out to meet her halfway, tears streaming down my face, and gave her the biggest hug ever! My little sister was finally HOME, and I’ve loved getting to spend the last two and a half years watching her thrive in this sisterhood and love it as much as I have!

Kelsey_OConnorSpotlight Member: Kelsey O’Connor, Beta Rho
How are you involved in the arts?
I am involved with the arts with dancing. It is something that means a lot to me and I get to share that passion and interest with other people who are some of my closest friends.

How did you first get interested in your art form?
When I was four years old, my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to take an Irish dance class to learn about my family history and their culture (as I am third generation Irish-American on my father’s side). Ever since then my life has revolved around dance and I would have it no other way.

How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
In relation to dance, I strike the lyre of the universe when I dance. Dancing has the extraordinary ability to make me happy and fill me with joy every time I dance. Even if I go into a class after a bad day, I always leave in a happier mood. Dancing never stops making me feel beautiful and confident. It brings me happiness and that is also why I love it so much.

What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory: Even though I have been a member of Alpha Chi for just a few weeks, my favorite memory has to be bid night. Opening my bid to find it was Alpha Chi and then running across the gym to meet the other girls was an incredible feeling. In general it was a special and unforgettable night because my mom, my recruitment counselor, and some of my friends I met during my first semester became my sisters and it was the best feeling in the world.

 

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Celebrating MacDowell Month & Our Sisters in the Arts

By Liz Ragland,Gamma Tau

MacDowell Month is my favorite time of year! The performance art has a special place in my heart: I grew up dancing, singing, and performing in school plays from age 3 to age 18. Although I am no longer as involved in the arts (does Zumba count?) I still love going to art museums, the opera, or seeing a new play.

I wanted to get to know some of our sisters who are involved in dance, theatre, art, and music so, to celebrate MacDowell Month on the blog this year, I’ll be profiling sisters in the arts. This first post features dancer/singer/actress Sarah Fagan and graphic designer/hand-letterer Gillian Tracey.

-Liz

Spotlight Member: Sarah Fagan, Gamma TauSarah_Fagan

How are you involved in the arts?
I am a professional dancer, singer, and actress in musical theatre. (Sarah is currently in the national tour of 42nd Street!)

How did you first get interested in your art form?
I took dance lessons from a very young age. I have always loved movie musicals and was lucky to see live theatre many times while I was growing up. As a dance major in college I saw even more shows and learned about dance in theatre, and realized I had a passion for musical theatre. I am lucky that I’m able to successfully apply my dance background to the musical theatre business, and that I enjoy singing and acting equally as much as dancing!

How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
I try to be focused, kind, calm, and supportive so I can spread positivity through any cast of performers I am a part of. When a cast is happy, unified, and having fun backstage it shows onstage. In turn when we give an inspired performance we have the chance to change someone for the better. At every performance, it’s exciting to think that I could turn someone’s bad day into a great day, or inspire someone to find and follow their passion.

What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory?
Definitely senior year Bid Day. I was VP recruitment two years in a row, and the feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and relief that washed over me when the new members ran to us that day really sums up my experience in Alpha Chi. There are so many moments I can think back to where my overwhelming feeling was “I have no idea how, but we did it, and did it well!” The exhilarating feeling of triumph runs through a majority of my most memorable Alpha Chi experiences, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. We often worked together to pull off big events that required huge amounts of time, energy, and willpower. The proud feeling I had when I got to watch or participate in the successful results of our hard work was my favorite part of Greek life.

 

Gillian_TraceySpotlight Member: Gillian Tracey, Delta Chi

How are you involved in the arts?
I’m a freelance graphic designer and hand-letterer.

How did you first get interested in your art form?
I’ve always loved art since I was a little kid, but when I started college I wanted to take my passion for creating and learn how to apply it in a practical way, which is how I came to study graphic design! After working for a few years at a magazine, I decided to take the leap into freelancing full-time where I could work one-on-one with small business owners.

How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
This line of the symphony acts like a thermostat for my business. Just as a thermostat maintains a particular temperature, this portion of the symphony helps me maintain the right mindset and approach situations in the best way possible.

While running a business is extremely gratifying and exciting, there’s a lot of unknown factors, major competition, and crippling comparison that can happen every single day. The symphony is an anthem for treating others with respect, encouraging and uplifting fellow creatives, and for reminding me that the hard work is worth the joy found in creating what I’m passionate about.

What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory?
There are so many incredible memories it’s hard to choose just one! While I was a collegiate member of Delta Chi, we all lived in the same house the whole time we were in school. Living across the hall from your best friends for years made for a lot of memories of piling on the sofa to watch rom-coms in pajamas, writing papers together, and getting ready for formals. It’s the simple everyday moments that make up my favorite and fondest memories.

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Galentine’s Day

web_Elizabeth_MartinBy: Elizabeth Martin
Gamma Nu, San Diego State University
Resident Consultant, Loyola Marymount University

If you have ever seen Parks and Recreation, then you know all about Galentine’s Day. If you haven’t, Galentine’s Day is a day where women get together and celebrate how amazing and special their friendships are. It truly is a day for “ladies celebrating ladies.” Plus, there is always an abundance of breakfast food!

As a chapter consultant, I honestly feel as though every day is Galentine’s Day. I have the opportunity to work with truly unbelievable collegian women, alumnae and headquarters staff members. Day-in and day-out, these women remind me why I chose to become an Alpha Chi Omega. They allow me to love my job and this sisterhood more and more every day.

As an Alpha Chi Omega, every day I am in awe over the amazing sisters we have all over the nation. We have sisters who can make a quick call turn into hours of chatting. Our sisters are the first to tell us that we can accomplish anything. Each and every day, they show us what real, strong women look like and I am beyond thankful for each of them.

We have sisters who are dedicated leaders and selfless women. Whether it is a chapter sister or a sister across the country, our members everywhere live our Ritual and push one another to seek the heights. Working with our members truly has made me a better person, sister and Alpha Chi.

Our Alpha Chi sisters are our rocks, our people and our role models. They allow us to be the driven, goofy, strong women we all are. As a chapter consultant, I constantly meet members who truly impress me with their spark, work ethic and dedication to Alpha Chi Omega. Everywhere I go, I meet members who make me proud to call them my sisters.

So this Galentine’s Day, I encourage you to whip up some waffles, grab some sisters and celebrate this incredible bond we all share.AXOnightout_logo_sanslyre

Today, February 11, also happens to be Alpha Chi Omega’s first #AXONightOut! As part of Alpha Chi Omega’s Healthy Relationship Week, celebrate our sisterhood and connect with a sister in person, by phone or on Skype and tell the world about it using the hashtag. Then send your photos to editor@alphachiomega.org to add to our official photo album!

Happy Galentine’s Day and #AXONightOut!

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The Perfect Birthday Present

web_Ellie_PiersallBy: Ellie Piersall
Theta Sigma, University of North Florida
Region 2 Traveling Consultant

On the morning of January 10th, I received not one but multiple text messages from friends with the simple “grandma emoji.”  Apparently turning 24 is symbolic of old age now. Although I don’t believe I’m old by any means, the grandma emoji certainly triggered me to reflect on the past few years. I began thinking of who I am, who I have grown to be, the many things I have accomplished and the many more I hope to accomplish. I spent even more time thinking about my current life, my job and how I would be spending my birthday. This year, I spent my 24th birthday enduring a 10-hour travel day filled with delayed flights, layovers and the wonders of airport food. I did, however, find the time to treat myself to my favorite candy, Sour Patch Kids. Most would say how sad it was for my birthday to be spent traveling and not celebrating. However, very few people knew from where I was coming, where I was heading and what I would be doing in the days following my birthday. I had, in my mind, the perfect birthday present.

The morning of my birthday, I woke up around 6 a.m. and began my 10-hour travel day. I was leaving one school, where I was assisting with formal recruitment, to do the same task at another. I oftentimes have difficulty articulating the multiple aspects of my job as a chapter consultant. The feeling I get when leaving a chapter to begin my journey at a new one is just one indescribable part of my profession. I’m devastated to be leaving one school, where I felt well-acclimated and had bonded with the members, yet simultaneously excited and nervous to meet an entirely new chapter. I temporarily go into a routine two-to-three-day funk of feeling sad, out of place and unimpressionable. Right around the time my funk fades and I start falling in love with the chapter I am visiting, it is typically time to say goodbye and move to the next chapter and campus. Cue the cyclical, but brief emotional rollercoaster.

So, back to my perfect belated birthday present. As I mentioned before, I was sad to leave my previous school, excited to meet my new chapter and nervous to feel welcomed. There is something absolutely beautiful about recruitment time in all chapters. Despite the long hours, strained voices and blistered feet, it is by far one of the most exciting times to be working with a chapter. It is one of the few times every year where the each chapter expands their sisterhood with the addition of new members. Working a recruitment week never fails to give me chills, and I was fortunate to not only work with a recruiting chapter during my birthday week but all throughout my birthday month.

This birthday month of mine has unquestionably been my best month on the road thus far. I have had the amazing opportunity to work with three different chapters across the nation and help with their formal recruitment process. These women, my sisters, quickly washed away all my nervousness and my doubts about working with new chapters. These chapters welcomed me with open arms, and we bonded during late night junk-food-eating sessions and many sleep-deprived bursts of laughter. Alpha Chi Omega and this sisterhood has given me unimaginable opportunities, surrounded me with the most passionate and influential women I know and molded me into the best version of myself as a young woman. I am forever grateful for the women Alpha Chi Omega brings into its sisterhood and the development it provides for its members. I owe a large part of who I am to the sisterhood of Alpha Chi Omega, which is why I am beyond blessed to have spent my birthday month helping to expand our sisterhood. I have had the incredible opportunity to help recruit new members who are just as fabulous as the Alpha Chi Omegas I already know and continue to meet. Having the privilege to expand three chapter sisterhoods in the course of one month has undeniably been the perfect birthday present.

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Starting on Cloud Eight…

web_Catherine_GeanonBy: Catherine Geanon
Alpha Chi, Bulter University
Region One, Traveling Consultant

Imagine this: it is October training back at headquarters for the chapter consultants who travel to established chapters across the country. We have been on the road for 12 weeks, visiting a new chapter every week. After 6-10 weeks of recruitment visits and 2-6 weeks of chapter management visits, we are suddenly reunited with the only people in the world who understand our lifestyle. It is an emotional reunion, one filled with laughter and tears. We reminisce for hours immediately following our reunion, as we share a multitude of stories – weird, funny, sad, infuriating and inspiring.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, part of the storytelling would include a workshop facilitated by our supervisor during which she asked, “When you describe your position to others, how do you describe it? What do you tell family and friends who ask you why you decided to become a chapter consultant?” Long story short, many of us responded in a similar fashion, “It’s more than a dream job. It’s an opportunity to work with real, strong women across the country and to give back to an organization that gave us so much in college. To empower women across the country and help them to become the best version of themselves is a profoundly personal journey, too. Each day we conquer our own fears and challenge ourselves to become the women who we always wanted to be.”

Fast forward to December training. All of the consultants are reunited for the first time – both traveling and resident consultants this time – since we either hit the road or moved to our respective resident locations last. As we sit together in a professional development workshop led by our supervisors, we are asked to find a job description for our dream jobs. As we do this, I realize that the hard and soft skills that we learn and refine as consultants are completely transferable to all of our future careers, whatever they might be. More significantly, though, each of us has gained considerable insight into defining and identifying the potential career paths and opportunities that are unique to our self-fulfillment.

During this workshop, I realized that I could live a life full of wonder, inspiration, passion, service, meaningful relationships, and yes, my fair share of adversity (which hopefully results in resilience and growth). I am a chapter consultant and an aspiring physician’s assistant, and each day I am amazed at how much this position has taught me about finding what I call “my employment feng shui.” I was carefully, and intentionally, placed by Alpha Chi Omega as a travelling consultant for region one. In the future when I look for the right physician’s assistant position, I will similarly seek out my personal employment feng shui – a combination of all of the right workplace factors (i.e. the physician, support staff, patient population and amount of potential positional satisfaction). I appreciate daily the effort and thought that was put into placing me in my current position. I hope to apply a similar level of skill and expertise when I am searching for my best fit as a physician’s assistant.

Looking back on my time thus far as a chapter consultant, I have created a list of the practical and sometimes profoundly personal steps that will help me to once again find the best position for me:

  1. Start with “why”: By learning to start conversations with the “why” as opposed to the “what” or “how,” it is possible to understand the true meaning behind actions and behaviors. Why do I want to be a physician’s assistant? Why do I want one position instead of another? In order for me to start with why, I must ask myself what motivates me? How have I found fulfillment and inspiration in other positions that I’ve had?
  2. Find a mentor: Although this may seem self-evident, it can be a challenge to find the balance of traits needed in a mentor – someone who is knowledgeable, honest and supportive. I must do the proper research: who do I know that is a physician’s assistant? Does s/he possess the qualities and expertise that I seek in a mentor? Can this person both challenge and support me?
  3. Know your love language: At first glance, it may seem odd to use this terminology to reference a career since the original intent behind knowing one’s love language was for amorous purposes. But, let me explain what I mean. During consultant training this past summer, we each determined our love language. I learned that my love language is words of affirmation. Can I find a career and a position in which I can receive words of affirmation as my form of praise? Absolutely! In my current position, my motivation is driven by members and chapters that reveal the impact I have made; if I can guide one officer’s leadership development and a woman tells me that I have done so, then I feel that my efforts were worthwhile and meaningful. In the future, I see these words of affirmation coming from patients who I treat, colleagues with whom I work, and the physician(s) who oversee my work.  I am hopeful that I can find a practice opportunity where my co-workers and I can understand each person’s love language enough to create a supportive and productive work environment.
  4. Focus upon realistic optimism: When searching for the right position, it is important for me to remember to remain realistic and optimistic; rather than focusing upon the positions I don’t want, I need to find the ones I do want. It is so much easier to describe what I don’t want in a position than it is to determine what exactly I do want. Realistic optimism can be achieved in various ways. I have found the journey of a chapter consultant to be both incredibly challenging and rewarding; and thus, I must be able to identify my strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to overcome the latter. I must also be adaptable and appreciate adversity because I cannot be prepared for every situation, person or behavior I will encounter. Paralleling the unknown that is encountered, I must also remember to set realistic goals. For me, a career that is easy is not necessarily fulfilling. I must ask myself, “Are my goals and my ideal position realistic for me to accomplish/attain? Is it realistic for me to work certain hours? Does a position offer the benefits I am seeking?”
  5. Find an opportunity…not a job: I absolutely love that being a chapter consultant is more than a job. It’s an opportunity. Yes, I do get paid to travel to chapters across the nation, meet women I am able to inspire and who inspire me and I have the potential to create change in a chapter and influence lives. But these incredible benefits result from an opportunity, not a job. I choose not to view this position or any position in the future as merely a “job” because there is often a negative connotation associated with that term. I am seeking a lifetime opportunity in which I can positively impact others, create change and encounter experiences that consistently help me to become the best version of myself.
  6. Seek a position that you can “grow with” rather than “grow into”: For me, a dream position is one which I find challenging, stimulating and ultimately, doable. A position for which I have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to understand or accomplish effectively, or one that I consistently feel is not feasible is not the one for me. Since I am interested in family practice, my ideal position is also one in which I can achieve employment longevity.
  7. Start on Cloud 8: Ultimately, my ideal physician’s assistant position is similar to my current position as a chapter consultant. I must find an opportunity that is fulfilling and stimulating as-is; this is cloud eight. I must also find an opportunity that has “Aha!” or ”Wow!” moments, moments that catapult regular feelings of satisfaction to those of euphoria; this is cloud nine. Finding a position or opportunity that is always perfect – one in which I am always on cloud nine – is impossible. What I can find instead is a position that helps me to reach cloud nine as frequently as possible.

I know how to reach my cloud eight. Do you?

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