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Collegians Blog

Posted On: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 08:32 AM, by Clare Russell
Clare Russell
This past June, I was fortunate enough to attend Kappa Alpha Theta's Emerging Leaders Institute. The experience was amazing, and something I would recommend to any Theta who is even thinking about applying. Before I began my journey to DePauw University in Greencastle. Ind. (the site of the institute), I was asked to take a survey that would tell me my top five leadership qualities. Of course, mine were like an apple that didn't fall far from the tree! These were qualities I have known I possessed since elementary school, particularly "individualistic," and this strength in particular has proven itself a challenge when trying to be a leader in high school and now in college. Sometimes, I could even view it as a weakness, but at the institute, I learned to embrace it in order to work with others so that my chapter's overall leadership could be effective. This is what I will have to do at my chapter, and this is what our four founders had to do for each other.

Bettie, Alice, Hannah, and Bettie created this fraternity through times of trials and tribulations. As I was sitting in Meharry Hall learning about what our founders had to go through, I was struck with awe. DePauw was lucky at that time to have such powerful women in its midst, and "powerful" is a word that can still be used to describe all women who share our special bond. Leading women have to know how to choose between what is easy, and what is right. Leading women have to be courageous like Theta's founding members were. Being a courageous leader is to confront reality, encourage feedback, lead change, and have constructive conversations. Being courageous is to show genuine appreciation, give credit to others, make decisions, and move forward. Most importantly, it is holding not only others but also yourself accountable, even in the hardest of times. It is important to be courageous in leadership because one will gain respect for others, from others, and for oneself.

Being a leader is more than an individualistic effort. It is knowing how to ask for help, and having others complement and build on your strengths. Kappa Alpha Theta's Emerging Leaders Institute helped me to understand this concept. During the three-day experience, I learned more than simply how to become a better leader; I also learned how to become a better sister. I was surrounded by at least 50 other leading women, who are all amazing individuals in their own way. Most importantly, I got to know eight other women personally through their experiences—not only through Theta, but through life. We shared our experiences whether the experience was great, or whether it was a struggle, so that we could learn from one another. We received input on how to draw on different leadership styles in order to complement each other in different situations. It was wonderful being able to share and learn from these women, who truly inspire me. Being a leader is knowing how to be strong so that one may help another become even stronger.

Clare Russell, Pi/Albion, is a junior majoring in vocal music and communication studies, and serves her chapter as its chief administrative officer.

Posted On: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 08:20 AM, by Cassey Pennington
Alpha Lambda/ Washington members with the grand prize donation to Family Law CASA
On May 1, Alpha Lambda/Washington participated in glassbaby's "Light the Bridge" event. More than 1,200 glassybaby supporters carried White Light glassybabys across the I-90 bridge in celebration of its newest philanthropic endeavor, the glassybaby white light fund. With more than 30 charities represented at the inaugural event, Family Law CASA via Alpha Lambda Chapter brought the most volunteers, and won the $30,000 grand prize!

Here's a little background on glassybaby: It's a native Seattle business that sells unique, hand-blown candle holders. The company is centered around giving 10% from each sale directly to the glassybaby white light fund, that in turn provides financial and emotional assistance to those in need. Since 2001, glassybaby has donated more than $3 million to organizations dedicated to helping people, animals, and the environment heal.

Because the event took place at 4 a.m., we offered incentives to members who committed to volunteer. We gave each Theta attendee a "Kappa Alpha Theta Light the Bridge" long-sleeve t-shirt and free breakfast upon her return home. We also bought each member an electric tealight for her new glassybaby holder (members are not allowed to have candles in the Alpha Lambda facility). Each of these gifts was a small thank-you for their time and a morale-booster for the chapter as a whole.

It is hard to simply answer the question, "Why it's important for us to help Family Law CASA?" because each member has her own connection and own reason why. Our chapter learned that there are so many opportunities out there to help CASA and our community in general. This event has allowed us to break free of our usual routine and strive to do more. We have already planned several more events for the upcoming school year, and we plan to keep this momentum going. Alpha Lambda has now seen what it's capable of, and we plan to break all the barriers!

Cassey Pennington, Alpha Lambda/Washington, is the chapter's chief marketing officer.

Posted On: Monday, August 3, 2015 08:30 AM, by Pia Holtmeier
Pia, second on right, meeting Theta sisters.
I am a Theta at Epsilon Lambda/Dickinson, and moved to New York City for the summer for an internship. Because I didn't know anyone in the city, I decided to write a small post in the Kappa Alpha Theta LinkedIn group to see if any sisters from other chapters would like to meet up.

I received a lot of responses, and many sisters from chapters all over the country were excited to meet up! About a week after my original post, two fellow sisters and I met for dinner at a Thai restaurant, and another three weeks later, seven of us met for some shaved ice cream.

Since then, we have started our own Facebook group, have celebrated birthdays together, and gone to concerts in Central Park. I have been running with one in the morning and shopping with another one after work.

When I originally wrote the post on LinkedIn, I never thought that something like this was going to happen. I have met incredible sisters from all over the country, Europe, and Asia, and am reminded every time we meet or plan to go to movies that while we are from different chapters, we are all Thetas.

How have you made Theta connections? Share your comments below!

Pia Holtmeier, Epsilon Lambda/Dickinson, will be a senior this fall, and is majoring in international business and management.

Posted On: Monday, July 27, 2015 08:20 AM, by Sami Zoss
Samantha Zoss
Alpha Rho/
South Dakota
Leading women - that is what Thetas are across the board, and the members of Alpha Rho/South Dakota are no exception, as you'll soon learn.

My Theta journey is different than most. After two years of being non-affiliated, I finally decided that Kappa Alpha Theta was where my heart belonged.

My passion has always been in public service. Naturally, when I came to USD, the first organization I sought out was Student Government Association. After being elected to the senate as a representative of my respective school within my first year, I noticed Greek life was much more prominent in SGA (and in other organizations) than I had originally thought: not just Greek life, but Thetas in particular. The year I joined SGA, the business manager was a Theta, and the year before, Theta held the presidency spot. The more I looked into the history of the relationship between Theta and SGA, the closer the bond between the two came.

So when I began my climb to the executive team, I also decided to pledge Kappa Alpha Theta. In March of that year, I was selected to serve as the first external communications manager on the SGA executive team. I could not have been more thrilled to take on a leadership role in SGA with a house full of supportive sisters behind me. Fast-forward to January 2015, when I decided to test the idea of "Leading Women" and run for president. The amount of support I received from my Theta sisters was overwhelming.

After months of hard work, late-night crisis management sessions, and lots of coffee breaks (more coffee than breaks), I am proud to say the students of USD elected me as their 2015-2016 president. I am so humbled and honored to show the world what being a leading woman really is. The legacy that has been left by Thetas before me is one that will be hard to live up to, but I'm always up for the challenge.

Samantha Zoss, Alpha Rho/South Dakota, will be a senior in the fall. She is the university's Student Government Association president.

Posted On: Monday, May 18, 2015 08:30 AM, by Emily Sterk
Epsilon Omega members bagging produce for Produce to People.
As Thetas, spreading the widest influence for good is one of our highest priorities. We schedule and plan volunteer activities and service events weeks in advance in order to ensure successful outcomes. Although we look forward to these annual events, sometimes the most rewarding service experiences are ones that are unplanned and on short notice. When members of the Greek community on Washington & Jefferson's campus were presented with an opportunity to help with a few local organizations in need, Epsilon Omega Chapter stepped up to answer the call in an effort to expand our influence as much as we could.

Here in Washington County, a variety of programs are offered to help those community members in need. Produce to People, an organization developed just this past fall, provides fresh produce to families that have difficulty paying their grocery bill each week. This produce distribution program serves as an additional resource to the local food bank, and people are encouraged to come to as many distributions as needed, all while attending the food bank as well. Each family receives up to 50 pounds of fresh produce and non-perishables, and those who utilize Produce to People have noted the large impact it has had on their lives. Parents are able to provide their children with not only basic essentials but also healthy foods, which is sometimes not conceivable on a tight budget. Sisters who helped with the Produce to People distributions bagged groceries alongside other members of the community, including W&J students, professors, and staff members. By simply bagging foods that the majority of us know is always accessible to us in our kitchen or dining hall, we were able to see the sheer value of nutrients and the importance of helping families in need.

Another program that we have volunteered for and have gotten much more out of then we intended was a Washington-based agency that runs an annual program entitled "A Grateful Heart." This program provides meals for local community members participating in substance treatment programs during the holiday season. Our experience with "A Grateful Heart" was especially enlightening because it opened our eyes to the issue of addiction in our community. We became aware that addiction does not discriminate, and that it can be easy to fall into the category of an addict. Those lining up for meals ranged from young to old, single to married, Caucasian to African-American, men to women. We were overwhelmed by the support the entire community has and the devotion they all share for getting each other into recovery.

During our time volunteering for these organizations, we were able to meet a number of people who empowered us to keep spreading good, and because of our positive learning experiences with the participants, we have continued to work with these programs. Exercising the widest influence for good requires one to be willing to assist anyone in need, to be selfless and to put others before oneself, and to be committed to the growth of people and the community. With school, work, sports, and other involvements, it is easy to get caught up in our schedules, but these programs have reminded us how meaningful and insightful volunteerism can truly be.

Emily Sterk, Epsilon Omega/Washington & Jefferson, is the chapter's scholarship director.

Posted On: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 08:00 AM, by Stephanie Manley
L-R: Taylor Reynolds, Jordyn Cohen from One Love Foundation, and Abby Huth
What I find most frightening about love is its basic lack of uniformity. It doesn't look the same for anyone, and it feels different for everyone.

Epsilon Psi Chapter at the University of Richmond received a heavy dose of love, in all its darkness and lightness, this past February when the One Love Foundation visited campus. The organization was created in honor of Yeardley Love, a Theta at the University of Virginia, who lost her life to relationship violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2010.

"We immediately jumped at the opportunity to help spread awareness regarding relationship violence," said Abby Huth, Epsilon Psi's chief executive officer, regarding the foundation's visit. "I felt strongly connected to the organization mostly because Yeardly was a Theta but also because I felt that my fellow chapter members would relate to her, too."

During the visit with Richmond's Thetas, One Love representatives shared a film meant to illustrate an abusive relationship. The 40-minute documentary, titled "Escalation," fully captured the multifaceted nature of relationship violence—emotional, psychological and physical abuse—by depicting, from start to end, the relationship of two college students.

Meant to educate young adults on the various realities of relationship abuse, the film sparked intense conversation among the Theta attendees. Tears were shed, inevitably, due to shattering realizations, while thoughts were shared during the debriefing session.

"Relationship violence is often overlooked and overshadowed by sexual violence, especially on college campuses," said Huth. "So, I think it's really important that we educated our chapter on this issue."

"It definitely broadened the scope of how I will think about relationship violence moving forward," added senior Caroline Maugeri. "After such an intense video, the conversation was good way to reiterate the signs and commonalities we all were struck by in the video."

The One Love Foundation has grown significantly over the years, raising awareness about the warning signs of relationship abuse and seeking to prevent future tragedies such as Yeardly's. With the organization's growth comes the unfortunate truth that many women don't realize they are in unhealthy relationships, and simultaneously, bystanders don't recognize the signs.

I was shaken by the film.

Many sisters, myself included, concluded that we knew very little about what relationship violence looks like. It can be subtle, virtually invisible. It can disguise itself as infatuation, love at first sight. It can look like a drunken mistake, when in actuality it is none of the above.

Prior to the showing, as well as afterwards, members were asked to fill out a survey in which several questions were asked involving perceptions of and experiences with relationship violence. My answers were vastly different from the pre-viewing to the post-viewing.

What made me feel safe in a time of vulnerability was being surrounded by Thetas and knowing, with full confidence, that this was a supportive network readily accessible to me.

Relationship violence impacts 1 in 3 women. It's more common than one may think, as it doesn't always appear outwardly obvious. At the end of the film, the characters playing the friends of the featured couple were asked if they had seen warning signs, if they felt they could have prevented the death of the young woman. Overwhelmingly, they responded with "maybes" and "in hindsight," but truly these bystanders were not capable of reading the signs, like many college students today.

There was a large group consensus that it would be beneficial for all Richmond students to watch the film, to learn about what goes on behind closed doors, as it may not be so private after all.

"Whether they know it or not, this can really affect people," said Maugeri.

I have to agree.

Learn more about the One Love Foundation at

Stephanie Manley, Epsilon Psi/Richmond, is graduating this spring.

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