Now that we're a month removed from Convention, I've had the opportunity to reflect on one of my favorite observations while in Phoenix: the amount of love that was shown and shared among our Theta volunteers.
I was overwhelmed by what I saw: alumnae seeing each other for the first time in months or years and embracing, laughing, crying, or squealing with happiness.
Some of them shared their beautiful stories of friendship with me, and when we returned home, I wanted to hear more. We posted the following on Facebook this week: Have you made any close friends through volunteering for Theta?
The number of comments, reactions, tags, lovey emojis, etc., that we received was incredible. Here are few:
Five years ago, a recent graduate Theta asked for assistance from Theta alums in Massachusetts and I was the lucky one to answer the call. Abbey Shea is now a fabulous friend and inspiration -- thank you Kappa Alpha Theta for bringing us together!
My friendship with all of you has been such a blessing! It's hard to believe we haven't known each other forever. You are all such an important part of my life and I will be forever grateful to Theta and the Alumnae Committee for bringing us all together!"
You all were there through so much and were such dear friends and sisters. And I'll never forget how you were all there for me during some of the toughest parts of my life even after my official Theta volunteer time was over. You're the best!
I would say my friends met volunteering mean as much to me as my close pledge sisters I've now known over half my life.
This just made me tear up a little!! No words describe how thankful I am for Theta and meeting you! Sisterhood is not limited to our individual chapters!
What struck me about these posts was how these women would never have known one another if they hadn't volunteered with Theta. Many of the friends were intergenerational, and most didn't live geographically near one another.
But what struck me even more was the real and undeniable bond that is created among women when they work hard for a cause they love.
I hope you will be heartened, as I was, by this video, which was released on Monday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). It powerfully explains why this attempt by Harvard to foster inclusion actually threatens students' freedom of association while doing nothing to further its proclaimed goal of preventing sexual assault.
Be assured that we are determined to defend our right to organize as a single-gender organization and to promote the value of fraternity membership. We are committed to working collaboratively with not only our sister National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) groups, but also with like-minded professors, campus administrators, and lawmakers.
We need your help in this vital effort! If you have connections to US congressional representatives or senators, Harvard faculty or administrators, or Harvard's governing boards, we ask that you forward their names and any contact information to Laurie McGregor Connor, Theta's director of government relations. We will keep you informed about future developments and how you might assist as we progress.
ThetaConnect is the new mobile app created for Thetas! ThetaConnect allows Thetas to connect with other Thetas in their area based on hobbies, interests, and career fields. Users are able to create and attend events in the area that fit in their schedule and that they are interested in. It is free for all Android and iOS users!
And today is ThetaConnect Day! To celebrate, share your photos and stories to social media using #ThetaConnect and email firstname.lastname@example.org with any special photos or stories to feature on our social media channels. Even if you only have time for a quick phone call to a sister you haven't seen in a while, make the call and share your story!
Some of the app features include:
Meet a Theta appears on your home page and allows you to connect with Thetas in your area with similar hobbies, interests, and career fields. Tap their profiles to see similar connections you have with them. Be sure to then add her to your contacts, to make it easier to invite her to upcoming events.
Theta Events appears on your home page and allows you to see what upcoming events are happening in your area. Tap an event that interests you to learn more about the event and to RSVP. See an event that a Theta sister would be interested in attending? If she doesn't have ThetaConnect, please send her an invite by typing in her email address.
My Events is available by tapping the red button at the top right-hand corner of your screen, called Events. Here you can create a new event, see events in your area, find the events you are going to, as well as the events you're invited to.
Please download the app today and use #ThetaConnect to post photos of your events with sisters!
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.
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