Alpha Chi Omega - Starting Conversations

The official blog of Alpha Chi Omega
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Happy Founders’ Day sisters!

web_Alexa_GatesBy: Alexa Gates
Gamma Mu, Ball State University
Resident Consultant, Western Oregon University

This Founders’ Day marks 130 years that our sisterhood has been growing and thriving. When I take a step back from my day-to-day role as a consultant and really reflect on Alpha Chi Omega’s founding, I realize how truly amazing it is how far we have come, and how far we can go together.

Alpha Chi Omega is from humble beginnings, founded on a simple idea from the hearts and minds of seven young women. And this idea, that became a more than century old national organization, has profoundly impacted my life and the lives of thousands of women who have chosen to wear the lyre badge, both before and after me. Our Founders were trendsetters and, in their own right, trailblazers – creating something new, something exciting, something transformational.

All Alpha Chi Omegas are connected to our Founders; whether it is by our values, our heritage, our traditions or just the simple fact that we had to learn their names to pass the initiation exam. While all Alpha Chi Omegas have this connection, I like to think that the consultants share a special connectedness with our seven Founders. The Founders acted as the original advocates of the Alpha Chi Omega experience, something that the consultants still do, each and every day.  Sometimes consultants are the only staff members collegians meet. They are advocates, educators and motivators, just as the Founders were. Consultants are trailblazers in their own right as well; in new ideas, new processes and, in some cases, new chapters.

On this Founders’ Day, take a moment to reflect on your connection to our founding; and since that crisp fall day in Indiana 130 years ago, how Alpha Chi Omega has become so much more than an idea in the hearts and minds of women all across our country.

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Celebrating 130 Years of Sisterhood

Liz_RaglandBy: Liz Ragland
Gamma Tau, Oklahoma City University

October is a busy month for Alpha Chi Omega. In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, chapters across the country are fundraising for local shelters and the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, in addition to spreading awareness on their campuses. October is also the month in which we celebrate the reason we all share a common bond: Founders’ Day!

Here are some ways collegiate chapters are celebrating our founding this year:

The Beta Omega (University of Toledo), Iota Chi (Middle Tennessee State University) and Zeta Psi (Loyola University) chapters will each do a carnation pass on campus. A carnation pass is when chapter members hand off red carnations to each other as they pass each other in class, in the cafeteria or anywhere on campus. Some chapters use seven carnations to honor our Founders, while other chapters hand out many more! To celebrate with sisters near and far, chapters can also do an online carnation pass by sending an image of a red carnation to sisters through text message, email or social media.

The Zeta Upsilon (Case Western Reserve University) chapter does a carnation pass for their chapter’s founding in September, and then in October, they have dinner at their chapter house with alumnae from the three Cleveland-area alumnae chapters. They also reminisce on their favorite Alpha Chi memories and sing songs. Vice President Ritual and Fraternity Appreciation Emily Ludwig also hopes to include a ritual ceremony in the chapter’s Founders’ Day celebration this year.Carnation_Pass_Loyola

The Beta Pi (Washington College) chapter celebrates with the campus community by handing out hot cider for “Cider with the Chis.” They also release seven balloons to honor our seven Founders.

Gamma Pi chapter members wear badge attire to class and have a special dinner off campus.

Gamma Omicron performs the Rededication of the Bond ceremony. They also celebrate by having a dinner and game night with local alumnae, in addition to performing their Founders’ Day skit.

Alumnae chapters are also celebrating Founders’ Day this month:

Iota Iota in Seattle is having a Founders’ Day celebration with the Rho chapter from the University of Washington. Rho will present its new member class, and Iota Iota will pin members with their milestone membership pins.

Gamma Tau Gamma in Orange County is enjoying the society of their sisters by celebrating with a wine tasting.

Beta Nu Beta in Tucson is having a formal dinner at the Beta Lambda (University of Arizona) house and will perform the Dream Cake ceremony for new members.

Sigma Sigma in St Louis celebrated Founders’ Day earlier in October with a luncheon and honored 50- and 60-year members.

Mu Mu in Kansas City, Missouri, will celebrate with a dinner at a local country club and will perform the 50-year ceremony. They will also assemble “baby bags” for families at the Rose Brook Domestic Violence Center.

Alpha Gamma Alpha in Atlanta is gathering for a lunch and presenting a panel with three current Alpha Chi leaders. Past National President Julie Cain Burkhard will be present and will share artifacts from our Founders.

What will your chapter be doing for Founders’ Day? If you’re celebrating this week or next, let us know in the comments section. Happy Founders’ Day, sisters!

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The Dreams We Share

Elizabeth_web-blogBy: Elizabeth Donaldson
Alpha, DePauw University
Associate Director of Operations, Alpha Chi Omega Foundation

If you had told me as a high school freshman from Dallas, Texas, that I would end up going to college in a tiny town in the middle of Indiana corn fields, and that it would change my life in ways I could never anticipate, I would have thought it unlikely.

And if you had told me I would meet friends who would become not only college roommates, but sisters who would make me laugh like never before and help introduce me to my husband, it would have seemed too good to be true.

But all that happened, and more. The “more” is the part I least anticipated. I never imagined meeting women who would inspire and support me for more than 18 years now. We have shared our dreams with each other and, better yet, are watching those dreams become reality together.

Paula Frederick Hoage and Jenny Breck Kovach have always been special Alpha Chi Omega friends. We enjoyed ridiculous college adventures, were post-college roommates navigating the trials of first jobs and have stood by each other’s sides at our weddings. But over the course of the past year, we have all shared one very important experience. We have all become mothers.

Paula and Jenny were a few months ahead of me in bringing their bundles of joy into the world. And although we may be thousands of miles apart, they have provided such great advice and support through the first year. Whether it be something silly like a teething toy recommendation or a more serious parenting moment, I can count on them for input. They are real, strong women who I am confident are raising real, strong little people.

When I met Paula and Jenny on the Alpha chapter lawn on bid day, I had no idea the years that lay ahead and the dreams we would watch unfold. And it brings me such joy to know that one of those dreams we are sharing together, the journey of motherhood.

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What’s Next?

web_Catherine_KerwinBy: Catherine Kerwin
Sigma, University of Iowa
Region 4 Traveling Consultant

During my first two months as a traveling consultant, I’ve worked with chapters across the country, from Seattle to Nashville. One of my favorite parts of being a traveling consultant is exploring the different coffee shops on the campuses I visit. You may be surprised to learn that the best coffee I’ve had so far during my travels wasn’t in Seattle, but in Manhattan, Kansas. (Shout out to Arrow Coffee Co.!) For an avid coffee drinker such as myself, having good coffee is a must, especially when frequently changing time zones.

From countless cups of coffee to waiting in seemingly endless lines at airport security and navigating my way through new parts of the country, this job keeps me on my toes! Not only am I becoming better at packing, but I’m also learning how to work in new environments. My collegiate experience as an Alpha Chi Omega taught me a lot, but as a consultant I’m continuing to better myself as a leader. Contrary to what I believed as a freshman, you don’t have all the answers once you graduate from college. I’m still growing into the woman I want to be, and once again, Alpha Chi is helping me grow.

As a collegian, I went through recruitment without the faintest idea of how joining a sorority could shape me as an adult. While a part of the Sigma chapter at the University of Iowa, I was an involved member who loved participating in homecoming, Greek week and attending other social events with my sisters.  I was the chapter’s historian for one semester, and I also served as a class representative on CRSB. However, I shied away from running for an executive officer position, and I wish someone would have encouraged me to pursue a role on the executive board. Nonetheless, I am now incredibly blessed to help collegiate women realize their leadership potential as I continue to expand my own horizons.

Getting to know the collegiate women at different chapters has shown me just how far the Alpha Chi sisterhood extends across the country. It makes every place I visit feel like home. I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to do after I’m finished working for Alpha Chi, and being able to travel and explore new places allows me to get a better idea of where I would like to go. Wherever I end up next, I know I’ll be able to reach out to sisters in the surrounding area for support. I’m thankful for the leadership experiences and friendships I’ve gained from being a consultant because I know they will set me up for success in the future.

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As Our Dreams Evolve

Rachel_Haley_webBy: Rachel Haley
Omicron, Baker University
Foundation Coordinator, Alpha Chi Omega Foundation

In August of 2011, I sat on the steps of Mabee Hall after signing my bid card waiting for my friends to finish signing theirs inside. My favorite recruitment counselor was sitting on the steps keeping me company. Throughout the process of recruitment, she encouraged me and made me feel confident in my final selection. Her deeply rooted passion for Greek life made me admire her even more. In a matter of four days on campus, she became a role model for me. Little did I know that in the hours ahead, I would soon be joining the very sisterhood to which she belonged. I will always remember coming home to the Omicron chapter of Alpha Chi Omega that late August night to find her welcoming me as a sister.

From that night forward, Rachel Shuck became a mentor and friend providing me with guidance and support throughout my collegiate years. She encouraged me to take active leadership roles on campus, within the chapter and on a national level with Alpha Chi Omega. She was always searching for ways to help me accomplish my dreams, from early on. In turn, I have been able to watch Rachel accomplish a number of her very own.

Rachel was always open about pursuing her dream of teaching mass media and journalism. She was the editor of the campus newspaper and the VP of public relations and marketing in the chapter. She paved her way to future success. However, in the last semester of her senior year, Rachel’s dreams changed. Her heart was no longer in education; her passion became more aligned with the Fraternity. Following her instincts, she shifted her career path towards Greek life. In the weeks prior to graduation, Rachel was thrilled to announce that she was hired by Pennington & Company as an alumni relations consultant, allowing her to combine her love for Greek organizations and mass media – a happy medium.

In four years’ time, Rachel has made her dreams a reality. She continues to work for Pennington & Company, now as senior alumni relations consultant, where she has spearheaded five capital campaigns and 11 annual campaigns for fraternities and sororities across the country. And today she proudly serves Omicron as a co-chapter advisor, continuing the legacy of real, strong women at our alma mater.

I have learned so much from Rachel throughout our friendship. Most importantly, she has taught me to never let my dreams grow stagnant, but to let my dreams continue to evolve and align with my passions. Supporting each other’s dreams and watching them become realities has been a privilege, for which I gratefully thank Alpha Chi Omega.

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I Knew Her When She Was Dreaming

Caitie_Adams_webBy Catie Adams
Alpha, DePauw University

For me, one of the coolest things about graduating and becoming a young alumna has been reflecting on how my friends grew over their four years at school and how they are now blossoming in the years beyond commencement. We all entered college with dreams, or at least little thoughts about who or what we wanted to be, and it has been so much fun to watch those dreams become reality.

I remember one beautiful night in the fall of my sophomore year at DePauw University when my friend Maritza and I took a blanket out onto Alpha Chi’s front lawn. We looked at the stars and talked about what we wanted to be and what we wanted the rest of our time at DePauw to look like. I was figuring out what major to declare and Maritza was just starting to think about going to grad school. Our futures seemed so far away then. Now look how far we’ve come—to some extent we’ve become the women we talked about being when we were laying in that grass.

Here’s the thing: Maritza and I are both pretty strong women, and we’re capable of doing what we want to do on our own. But I want to tell you a story that I think shows how we’re so much better together.

In the spring of my junior year, I studied abroad in Scotland. On the day I showed up, the sun had gone down by 4:30 p.m. When the cabbie dropped me off in front of my building, it was pitch dark and I realized I needed to go pick up my keys at a different building a couple blocks over. That building was closed too. So I was dragging all my stuff—enough for the entire semester—from one building to the other and back again, and my suitcases were making noise on the cobblestones. It was cold and I was nearly crying because I was in a foreign country and had nowhere to go. Then I remembered that my Alpha Chi sister Mackenzie, who was also studying in Scotland, got there a couple of days early and might be in her flat already. I thought I remembered her flat number, so I rang the number a couple of times and prayed. After a minute of hopeful silence, there came Mack across the foyer—I could see her through the window in the door. I can’t tell you the depth of the relief I felt. Here I was, across an ocean, jet-lagged, lost and cold, and my sister was there to welcome me. Together we got a hold of my keys, moved in my things and went out for Scottish comfort food.

And now I think: what if Mack hadn’t been there? What if we hadn’t lived in the same place? What if she hadn’t been in her flat? I think I probably would have figured it all out on my own. I would have gotten those keys eventually and could have eaten that shepherd’s pie all by myself. I would have been fine. But let me tell you, seeing Mack through that little window, that was more than fine—that was family.

I think that’s what Alpha Chi is really about for me. Our motto is “together let us seek the heights,” and I’ve come to realize that “together” is the most important part. We’re intelligent, strong women—we can and will do the things we’re going to do. But doing them together? That’s something really special. I feel like maybe we can do all that we want to do alone, but we can only be the people we want to be together.

Because when I think about laying on the front lawn with Maritza when she was just starting to think of getting her Ph.D. in sociology, and how now she’s totally killing it in her top-choice Ph.D. program, about how in our room senior year we changed all of each other’s “ifs” to “whens”—I realize I have this wild, unlimited confidence in my sisters. I believe in them. I really do believe that Maritza will do groundbreaking sociological work, just like she dreams. And Mackenzie really will save the planet via environmental geology. She’s already begun. Sophia’s going to start her own business, and, heck, Maddie already owns her own fitness centers. I see the kids Abby is going to teach and the minds Maryclare is going to change. And when all these things come to fruition, I’ll point to these wonderful, successful women and say, “I knew her when she was dreaming.”

And I’ll say this, too: When you have absolute confidence in a friend, you can’t help but know that she has absolute confidence in you. That’s a real friend—not just someone you like and enjoy, but someone who you can believe in, and someone who believes in you. Someone who will lay in the grass with you, and when you say, “Do you think I can do it?” she says, “Absolutely. I can’t wait to watch you.”

This is the kind of friendship I found in Alpha Chi. I found women I believe in, and women who believe in me. It has made all the difference.

And that grass Maritza and I laid in together? It grows in the same ground Alpha Chi Omega’s Founders walked 130 years ago. Around us, the leaves that inspired our scarlet red and olive green had just begun to fall. I wonder if the Founders dreamed of us when they sat in that grass? I think maybe they saw the influence tens of thousands of women loving and supporting one another could have. I think we are the legacy of their dreams come true.

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How to Live Out the Little r in Our Ritual

Corrinne WolfeBy Corinne Wolfe
Zeta Eta, Bradley University

Most people only consider the big R when they hear the word ritual, our initiation ceremony. It’s the “event” that supposedly defines us as Alpha Chi Omegas, and to an extent that is true. Without that beacon, we don’t always know where to point our Alpha Chi compass. It’s what makes us unique, the embodiment of our name, defines our bond, etc.

I, on the other hand, often consider ritual to be mostly made up of the little r; the one that resonates in my day to day life and seeps into my being whether it’s when I am walking out the door into the world, or into chapter on a Tuesday night.

The little r is what defines me to the rest of my world. It’s what my husband and our two boys see; it’s how my friends, colleagues and my community perceive me. Little r is what drives my behaviors. Little r is our shared values of friendship, leadership, learning and service; which continue far past the day you put on a cap and gown. Little r is why I strive to be the best version of myself every day and to learn from the mistakes of yesterday so that I am stronger tomorrow.

The little r is also why I continue to advise my local chapter. Little r is the journey we all take in Alpha Chi Omega. I always marvel each spring as graduation nears. As our seniors prepare to take on the world, I pause to reflect on their first day as members, of bid days come and gone. I remember how unsure some of them were of themselves (and the few who were overly sure). I think of the time between then and now, of the majors changed, the semesters abroad, the loved ones sometimes lost, the bonds that tightened and ones that broke apart. Most importantly though, I think of the women they become. As those girls who entered our chapter each fall prepare to leave four short years later, I am amazed at the real, strong women they become. Women who possess the strength, grace and authenticity of our Founders.

So as another year approaches and I prepare myself for another marathon recruitment season (which at my age requires a lot more Starbucks and under eye concealer with each passing fall), I feel the little r in the air and it’s electric. It’s sisters embracing after a summer away, it’s an executive board with sights set high on a new school year and it’s the excitement of welcoming a new group of women into our sisterhood to share our bond and continue our legacy. Being part of their journey reminds me why I chose Alpha Chi Omega, literally, a century ago. It bridges the little r of our sisterhood to the big R of our Ritual and reminds me of that amazing thing that brings us all together.

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Real World Balance

web_Michelle_WoodardBy Michelle Woodard
Kappa Omicron, High Point University
Resident Consultant, University of North Carolina – Charlotte

“My daughter, Michelle Woodard, is making chicken? On her own?” – my mother’s reaction when she found out her youngest daughter can actually successfully cook a meal without burning the house down.

Being in the real world was always something that scared me. I’ve always had a job growing up, and I went to college 11 hours away from my hometown, so I had always been somewhat independent. However, being a REAL adult always scared me. Living on my own, having to clean my own house, having to buy groceries (and not just ride in the cart and annoy my mom while she shopped) was always a concept I couldn’t quite grasp. Being a consultant for Alpha Chi Omega has not only led me to grow in this organization, but as a woman in the real world.

Not only have I learned how to cook chicken on my own without burning it, but also I’ve had to learn things such as: when garbage day is, and where exactly you roll your garbage out to, how to properly balance a work phone and a personal phone in your hand while also holding a wallet and sunglasses, how to setup cable on a complicated yet simple television, and how to fix a breaker box when the fuse has blown.

On top of all of this, Alpha Chi Omega has always told its consultants to become a part of the community in which we live. We are not just on-site to do a job; we are on-site to start a life in the community where we are placed. By this organization constantly encouraging me to keep a work-life balance, and not only work in this community but to be a part of it, I have found myself calling this place home only after being here for a month. For example, we are expected to set goals over summer training that are non-work related. This can be anything like “get 8 hours of sleep when possible,” or “eat healthy even when you want a milkshake instead.”

My goal was to start attending yoga classes. I have always been a gym-goer, and have always loved to work out, but yoga always intimidated me. People being that flexible… all the time… and being so “zen”… really just felt like there were high expectations that I could not meet. But I set the goal, my supervisor held me to it, and I can proudly say I have attended yoga for the past month! It has not only helped me physically, but emotionally and mentally in this fast paced job as an Alpha Chi Omega consultant.

Every job has its pros and cons, but I truly believe the pros of being a resident consultant 100% outweigh any and all cons associated with this job. Are there going to be many sleepless nights because of formal recruitment that seems to never end? Yes. Are there going to be consecutive weeks when all you can have for lunch is Chipotle because your days are so packed with meetings and it’s the only thing close to campus? Yes. However, there are going to be countless smiles you get from the women with whom you work, the neighbors you have come to know in your new community and the employees at the gym who know you by your first name and know that if you’re not to the gym by 7, you must have had a long day at work.

I truly believe that I would not be as successful in the work place or as happy in my community if I didn’t have the support and push that I get from my co-workers and supervisors. Being an employee for this organization has pushed me to my fullest potential, but never have I had to do so on my own with all of the people surrounding me – even if it’s via text message, Skype, GroupMe or email. The encouragement to keep a healthy balance between work and life is something special to Alpha Chi as an organization, and it’s something that makes this job so special and so unique.

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Building a Home and a Legacy

web_Dakota_HerseyBy: Dakota Hersey
Kappa Pi, University of North Carolina – Wilmington
Resident Consultant – University of Southern Mississippi

It is no secret that membership in Alpha Chi Omega is immensely special to everyone who has the privilege to call themselves a sister.

I have so much admiration for the founders who created this organization that has molded me into the woman I never knew I could be. They had a vision. They dreamed of creating a home on campus where they did not currently have one. One that offered the same lifelong development and friendship that other organizations had, but one that was perfect for them.

As a founding member of the Kappa Pi chapter, this vision resonates with me because I shared the same dream. I did not have an organization to call my own until I ran into the confident, authentic, beautiful Alpha Chi consultant team on campus. They presented an opportunity for my future sisters and me to become a part of this wonderful sisterhood that provides more than we could ever give back. They are the reason that vision came to life. They are also the reason I am who I am today and why I love Alpha Chi Omega as much as I do.

The main reason I was so determined to become a consultant was to see this vision come to life in many other chapters. I was beyond excited to inspire members the way every consultant has inspired me and, in turn, be encouraged by the members’ passion and dedication. After coaching one of the five chapters installed this past year, Kappa Sigma, through their first formal recruitment, I witnessed the same desire and drive to succeed as I saw in my founding class.

I absolutely loved my collegiate and founding experience. Now, as a consultant to a chapter filled with incredibly bright, talented, charismatic founding members and the new members they have recruited, I can’t even express the joy it brings me to work with them and listen to their stories.

The other day, I had the opportunity to ask a few of them what brought them to Alpha Chi. How and why did they choose to join this new chapter? It made my heart happy to hear what sounded like my own story and vision as the basis for the reasons they chose to create history as the founding class of Kappa Sigma. They were searching for something more and (with the help of some awesome consultants!) found it in Alpha Chi. They are willing to work for the sisterhood they have envisioned and they will stop at nothing until their chapter rises “To The Top!” I know that it is members like these women who make up all of the newest chapters of Alpha Chi Omega and I couldn’t be more proud.

If you are considering founding membership in Alpha Chi Omega, my advice to you is absolutely go for it. Being a founder is a once in a lifetime experience. You get to create a home on campus that does not yet exist for not only yourself but also the thousands of women who will come behind you. You have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the original founders of Alpha Chi Omega. It’s hard to believe, but before you know it you’ll be alongside your sisters, rocking your first formal recruitment, mentoring new members just like yourself and taking your unique experience into your future – as a real, strong woman of Alpha Chi Omega.

 

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Be the 9,999

web_Emma_EriksonBy: Emma Eriksen
Sigma, University of Iowa
Region 2 Traveling Consultant

If there is one thing I have learned so far as a chapter consultant, it’s focus on the big picture.

It is truly is possible to fall in love over and over again with Alpha Chi.

One of my favorite new leadership theories that I learned over summer consultant training is to “be the 9,999.” Think of your favorite singer. In the middle of the concert, when the audience of people is cheering, dancing and having a blast, they don’t worry about the 1 person who chose not to come. They focus on the thousands of people who chose to buy tickets and attend.

That’s exactly what I’ve learned to do. “Being the 9,999” while on the road helps me focus on the lives that our team is changing and influencing and how each day makes this experience even more memorable. As a group, we consultants remind each other of our purpose and build each other up so we can all become the best women we can. Even better, while we support each other and serve our sisterhood, we’re also having the time of our lives!

Summer training was one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life. Our consultant team is truly amazing. We learned from each other, found our niche in the group and, most importantly, gained skills to give back to the organization that has given us each so much. There is no greater feeling in the world that sitting in a room full of your Alpha Chi sisters listening to their passions, perspectives and advice. And there is no better environment in which to grow as an individual.

A standout moment of training for me was a session where each of us went around the room and shared why we took this job; the words of my sisters brought the majority of the room to tears. As a few of my sisters shared during that session, “I do this because Alpha Chi is what I’m good at, and after graduation I sure didn’t want to stop.”

Why did I take this job? Alpha Chi Omega is never a past tense. I continue to find amazing opportunities in our sisterhood. Looking back on my collegiate experience, Alpha Chi did not only make me into the woman I wanted to be, but made me into the woman I did not know I could become.

I guess all twenty-somethings get a little nervous hearing the word “new,” whether that’s a new job, new place to live or a new life post-grad. Work toward your goals, make an impact, influence others and be a sorority savant. That’s exactly what I learned to do, and what the 21 other amazing women on the consultant team do for each other daily.

I loved Alpha Chi Omega before I became a chapter consultant, and I didn’t think it was possible for me to love it more. But this sisterhood continues to surprise me, just when I think my soul is full, a new experience, friendship or piece of knowledge adds to my motivation to give back. It truly gives me everything I never knew I needed. And for that I am so thankful.