Here's an incredible stat for you: More than 4,500 Thetas will be graduating across North America this spring.
If you are among these women, congratulations! That diploma represents years of hard work, grit, and determination, and we are so, so proud of you. Some of you may be graduating with a job in tow. Others might be taking a year to explore or volunteer. And more might be on the hunt for a first job.
This time of year is always rife with new-grad employment articles, and I read one in Fast Company this week that said, "Hiring managers found soft skills such as communication, leadership, ownership, and teamwork were missing in this new crop of workers."
No doubt, your experience in Theta—whether as a chapter officer or committee member, or participation in a homecoming event, leadership development program, or intramurals—helped you develop these skills and put you ahead of the pack. But if you're looking for a way to sharpen these skills and show tangible evidence on your resume, try volunteering for Theta!
There are positions on standing committees, college chapter advisory boards, and alumnae chapter boards. There is a role for you, no matter your time commitment, geography or interests, but if you don't see a role that interests you, email me at email@example.com and tell me how you'd like to serve the Fraternity. We are always looking for short-term and ad-hoc volunteers to help us with programming.
Beyond building your skills, you'll also open yourself up to a network of leading women, whether in your local community or across the country.
So, what are you waiting for? Complete a Volunteer Interest Indicator (login required) today! And again, congratulations on completing a huge milestone in your life—college graduation!
A point of pride for me—and, I suspect, for many other Thetas—is the role that our founders played in proving that female students could not only survive but also thrive in higher education. Although Bettie, Alice, Hannah, and Bettie studied with distinction and graduated with honors, their early college years were not easy. At best, they were ignored and excluded by male students, professors, and administrators; at worst, they met with more active disapproval.
In response to their hostile environment, Theta's founders sought to create a welcoming, supportive, empowering community for themselves and the women who would follow them into college. And so—on January 27, 1870—Kappa Alpha Theta was born. As Bettie Locke once said, "[w]e realized somehow that we weren't going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us, if we could just win out." I know these leading women would be proud to know that women now outperform men in obtaining degrees from American colleges and universities by a factor of nearly 50 percent.
In the century and a half since our founders first walked into the chapel at Indiana Asbury to the protests of stomping feet, we and our sister fraternities and sororities have proven our worth time and time again. On college campuses that can be impersonal and stressful, we provide powerful spaces of support. We offer women opportunities to experience leadership, friendship, mentorship, and community service. (On average, each Theta alumna and collegian devoted 92 hours of service last year.) Our alumnae have excelled in all fields of endeavor, from athletics to aerospace, from law to literature, from music to medicine. In many cases, their endeavors were supported by the $600,000-plus we award in scholarships each year.
That is why I—and, I suspect, many other Thetas—were stunned by breaking news from Harvard University last weekend. The university administration's decision to sanction members of single-gender organizations is touted as a response to the recommendations of a report on sexual assault prevention. Instead, as outlined in a response co-authored by the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the plan to penalize young women for their involvement in a sorority actually denies them access to member-driven education and support systems shown to be effective in battling sexual assault, as well as alcohol abuse, mental health issues, and the everyday challenges of college life.
Nearly 150 years after Theta's founding, it is disheartening to learn that some in higher education still do not regard female students as intelligent, independent adults with the ability to make their own decisions. It is even more discouraging to learn that the first female president of Harvard seems to have forgotten the women of Harvard. And it is distressing that, adding insult to injury, this assault was launched on the day final exams began, when students are perhaps their most vulnerable. One wonders where or if Harvard will draw the line in dictating the extracurricular activities of its students.
Along with our colleagues in NPC, the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO), and the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA), we will continue to urge Harvard to reconsider this policy and we will support the members of our Zeta Xi Chapter as they advocate for their freedom to choose their associations.
If you would like to share your personal experience of finding sisterhood and support within Theta—whether as a collegian or an alumna—please send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will seek permission before publishing or posting online.
Back in the days of balloon arches, ice sculptures, and matching dresses, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) began to discuss the idea of having a more genuine process to find the newest members of our organizations - one less focused on excess and frills. The goal was to identify ways to make our recruiting process focus on authentic connections with potential new members (PNMs), rather than decorations, clothing, and entertainment. Would you believe that this conversation first began within NPC in 1989?
Over the past 27 years, NPC and its 26 member organizations have attempted to shift the culture of "rush" to a process rooted in the values of our organizations. The idea of "No Frills" recruitment made an impact on many campuses and led to chapters across the country eliminating the "excess" from the recruitment process, but there is still work to be done. In 2015, NPC renewed its commitment to the idea of more genuine recruiting and strengthened the previous No Frills Recruitment Policy by replacing it with the Values-Based Recruitment Policy. You can read this policy in full on the NPC website.
Kappa Alpha Theta's mission is rooted in our core values. When we spend our time recruiting members using bubbles, glitter, and elaborate decorations, PNMs join our organization looking for the stereotypical sorority experience that is often portrayed in the media. We claim to be an organization that is rooted in our values, but our recruitment tactics have not always reflected our commitment to our mission. The focus on values-based recruiting allows us to sell Theta for what we really are: a collective group of women actively engaged in each other's lives and within the community.
Data collected by NPC suggests that more membership resignations stem from PNMs not clearly understanding the obligations and expectations of membership. By incorporating Theta's values into the recruitment process, our chapters can focus on executing recruitment events that accurately portray both the benefits and obligations of membership, as well as focus on genuine conversations with PNMs. This allows PNMs to get a realistic sense of what membership in Kappa Alpha Theta means during the college experience and beyond. In turn, our members are able to better identify the PNMs who exemplify Theta's values and are most qualified to carry on our tradition of being leading women. Values-based recruitment results in members who join our organization and stay in our organization due to genuine, authentic connections.
So how does this actually affect recruitment for our chapters?
• Skits will no longer be included in the recruitment process.
• Chapter members will spend more time discussing the membership obligations, experiences, and true benefits of membership.
• Panhellenic councils and chapter officers will discuss how to effectively and efficiently reduce chapter recruitment budgets in order to make member dues more affordable.
All 26 NPC member organizations are expected to adhere to this policy as member groups of the NPC.
Kappa Alpha Theta's recruitment committee is dedicated to developing resources to assist our chapters in adapting to these changes. The most frequent concerns that we hear regarding this legislation are: Can we still have fun, and how do we show PNMs our personality? Values-based recruiting does not mean that we are robotic in our delivery and are only permitted to discuss our Fraternity's values. It just means that we will eliminate the excess and pare down our recruitment practices to focus on meaningful connections with PNMs. Individual members have the ability to demonstrate what makes their chapter unique by sharing their Theta story.
While many of us alumnae participated as collegians in a recruitment process that was characterized by entertaining the PNMs and impressing them with our decor, we are now at a time in which we need to support our chapters and the NPC legislation. Our chapter officers are working hard to support the policy, and it is our responsibility as alumnae and leading women to support our college members in adapting to today's recruitment process.
Kudos to the Kappa Alpha Theta members at Columbia for making it to the pages of the Sunday (April 10) issue of The New York Times. The title of the article was "When a Feminist Pledges a Sorority" as if that was a new concept. In fact, there is a strong foundation of feminists creating and joining sororities. I would argue that women's empowerment and sororities is nothing new. Throughout the history of sororities* one can find women who have been trailblazers and pioneers in their fields. Of course, for one who does not wish to believe this no amount of proof will be sufficient.
Sisterhood has really never gone out of style and it has been a cornerstone of National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations since the beginning.
I offer ten women whom most anti-sorority people would never believe belonged to a sorority. (*I know all too well that although the organizations are colloquially called sororities, the majority of the 26 National Panhellenic Conference groups are officially women's fraternities or fraternities for women). These ten women were from a "top of my head" list. There are scores of others who belong on this list.
Special thanks to Fran for sharing her blog with us! Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.
April 10-16 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. My job at Theta headquarters is focused primarily on volunteer recruitment, retention and recognition, so this week has a special place in my heart.
Something new we've created for this year's celebration is a Volunteer Impact Report, which shares high-level statistics and fun facts about the Theta volunteer experience. I hope you'll take a moment to check it out.
The numbers are certainly impressive, but something they can't possibly illustrate are the amazing, sometimes jaw-dropping, stories and anecdotes I hear from our staff members about volunteers on a daily basis.
Like one volunteer who took her vacation time from work and travelled halfway across the country to help chapters prepare for recruitment. There's a volunteer who lives in Hong Kong but would still make every conference call, even when the times were likely completely inconvenient for her. And one committee member who would be on conference calls in the car pool line at her child's school.
I've heard about advisors approving forms from the hospital when they've fallen ill, and one who has purchased more than 20 Life Loyal gifts for other members. I communicate daily with district directors who I could swear spend more time responding to Theta email in a day than I do.
These examples might seem extreme, but one thing I've encountered with nearly every volunteer with whom I work is a complete selflessness and dedication to the wider good of the Fraternity.
We have more than 2,700 volunteers serving Theta at this very moment. It's no secret that without volunteers, the Fraternity simply could not exist. To these women, and to those volunteers past and future, I want to say thank you on behalf of EVERY Theta. Your dedication and love brings tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart more times than you can possibly imagine.
"So there is no happiness without responsibility, no receiving without also giving...It is ours through these channels of intimacy to lead others to truer life by your example."
When I was a collegian at Butler University in the mid 2000s, I remember it being difficult to find a mentor (studies show that women have a harder time finding a mentor than their male counterparts). I looked to professors and managers at my internship positions, which were useful, but these relationships seemed one-sided at times. I ended up finding a mentor in a place I didn't expect: Theta.
As vice president of external relations (now chief marketing officer), my advisor was Lisa Thibault. Lisa was always there to answer questions and support as I navigated my earliest years in a leadership position. She was eager to write me letters of recommendation when I needed them, even helping me land a Theta Foundation scholarship, which assisted me in paying for my education. This relationship did not seem one sided at all, because we were—and are—sisters.
According to Tiffany Dufu at Levo, "Successful mentorship relationships are reciprocal and involve elements like sharing common interests, staying in touch, enhancing networks, and learning more about yourself." Could fellow Thetas fit that description any more?
Fast-forward 10 years, and Lisa is now my co-worker at Fraternity headquarters. In my early years, she helped me navigate the intricacies of a new workplace. She supported my ideas when I was not confident in them. She's encouraged my personal and professional growth. She's told me things that she knew might be difficult for me to hear. She celebrated my successes.
During this Advisor Appreciation Month, I wanted to say thank you, Lisa, for being a supportive advisor (even after all these years!), a great mentor, and most importantly, a trusted friend and sister.
How about you? Does our relationship sound familiar? Do you have a current or former Theta advisor who serves as a mentor in your life?
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