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Fraternity Blog

Posted On: Wednesday, March 4, 2015 08:00 AM, by Amy Hayner Kates
Amy Hayner Kates
Fraternity Ritualist
Since I graduated from college, I have been given the great gift of perspective that I did not have as a young person. The layers of life add color and beauty to each experience and moment.

As a former Fraternity president and current Fraternity ritualist, I have had the privilege of speaking the words in our ritual services quite a few times. With each experience, I feel the meaning of our ritual more deeply, adding more substance to these layers of my life. Now that I'm older and have spoken to countless Thetas, I have found others who feel the same way.

But what about our ritual is relevant beyond the memories we've made in a ritual setting? How does our ritual cross that barrier from words to actions that further develop us as members of Kappa Alpha Theta?

  1. Train your mind and soul. I realized that through our ritual, Theta gave me the courage to be the leading woman I emulated. An all-women's environment can provide a supportive place to learn, experiment, succeed, and sometimes fail. Theta gave me that opportunity, and trained me to be a leader, giving me skills that I use every day at work and at home.

    I challenge you to connect what you learn to who you are as a person. Be worthy of someone's emulation: "If life brings you in contact with all sorts of people, rejoice rather than repine, for if you have in you the elements of leadership and true nobility of character, they will shine forth and lead you to the performance of something worthy, the trained mind and soul." (Kate Stevens, Psi/Wisconsin, 1901).

  2. Earnestly and actively seek ways to serve. What if every Theta made our ritual such a part of her life that she "cultivated [this] power of giving [by] encouraging the honest performance of duty, and not just because of the high demands of Theta or our institutions?" (as suggested by Kate Stevens). What if her service not only benefited her chapter, but each person with whom she comes in contact?

    I have witnessed the power of our organization and the difference we make. I am proud of and motivated by my Theta sisters to be a community servant. Theta brought me to the amazing work of CASA, which I support financially through Theta Foundation and with my time. It is a reward that has made my everyday life more fulfilling.

  3. Establish your truth. My integrity became more solid when I made my vows to Theta. I was fortunate that my parents helped instill values during my childhood. But it was the group sharing of ideals that reinforced the foundation and made me more self-assured in my own personal ethics. Seeing the impact that individuals have on those who surround them has made me more caring and compassionate. Theta helped shape my ability to confront and support individuals and groups based on these values. Theta put her belief in my integrity, and I in hers. Do you believe in you? Theta does.

  4. Demonstrate the inspiration attained by being a member of our diverse organization. I aspire to do more because I am a Theta. Big or small, nothing gives me greater joy than to feel like I've made a positive impact in the life of another person. Theta ritual has taught me that I can turn any situation into a better one by being that inspiration. When I started to look at life through the lens of aspiration, things began to bloom like never before.

    Every day we make decisions, and, as recent Ohio Wesleyan graduate Rachel Vinciguerra, Gamma deuteron, says, "Our ritual acknowledges that things are not always easy. Step back and realize that all we need is faith in one another and in ourselves, hope that we're doing something positive, and the love it takes to be there for one another through this journey." Ask yourself: What would the outcome be if I made each decision based on the woman I aspire to be?

  5. Further a spirit of unity within a group. Friendship takes on new meaning once you see the values described in our ritual, supported by those closest to you. As an organization, our first goal is friendship, which is an awesome standard. What if every organization started with friendship, and every action was rooted in that principle? Wouldn't the world be a better place? My Theta sisters know what true friendship means: peaks and valleys, celebrations and funerals. Throughout my life, Theta love has and will continue to enfold me.

I invite you to support each other in remaining loyal to the commitments we've made. Review our ritual, attend a service, and/or communicate with local college and alumnae chapters in your area for other opportunities. Do this not just during National Ritual Celebration Week, but whenever you need guidance. Come back to the ritual, for her sisterly hand will always be waiting to clasp yours.

Amy Hayner Kates, Alpha Phi/Tulane, is the ritualist for Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity, and is a former Fraternity president. She is a member of the New Orleans Alumnae Chapter.

Posted On: Thursday, February 19, 2015 07:30 AM, by Gaylena Merritt
It's that time of the year when Thetas are busy making plans for the summer and preparing for the upcoming academic year. Theta Foundation recognizes February as NPC's Month of the Scholar, and is proud to support Thetas in their scholastic pursuits and promotion of the widest influence for good through our grants and scholarships. To ensure you submit a successful application, learn more about upcoming application deadlines on our Apply Now page and check out the tips below to help you prepare.

  1. Read instructions. The grant and scholarship applications and their companion application guides outline all instructions required to successfully complete the application process. In the scholarship application form, look for blue question marks near certain questions for supplemental instructions. You can also click on the green "Help" button on the right side of the application for Frequently Asked Questions and answers.

  2. Stay informed. Be sure to regularly check your email and Theta Foundation's social media pages for messages and information related to the grant and scholarship application opportunities by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

  3. File your FAFSA ASAP! Even if you aren't interested in applying for Theta Foundation's need-based scholarships, it is important to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you intend to enroll in any degree-granting program next year. If you are a collegian member applying for Theta Foundation's need-based scholarships, be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible so you can successfully complete your scholarship application. I also recommend downloading Filing the FAFSA: The Edvisors Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a free e-book with step-by-step instructions for submitting a complete and accurate FAFSA.

  4. Proofread, proofread, proofread. When entering information into your Theta Foundation grant and/or scholarship application, particularly the narrative components, remember that the application is your only chance to make a good impression with evaluators. Theta Foundation's programs are competitive, and we have high standards. Make sure your essays are well-written and free of errors; poorly written essays will negatively affect your application score, and incorrect or incomplete answers may result in disqualification.

  5. Get help. As noted above, narrative responses—though short in length—make up a significant part of Theta Foundation's applications and evaluation standards. A number of resources can help you write strong responses as part of a strong and competitive application submission for Theta Foundation grant and scholarship funding. My recommendations include, but are not limited to, Purdue OWL (the Purdue Online Writing Lab) and your campus writing center.

We're also happy to help you with your grant and scholarship applications. If you have any questions, please contact me at Don't forget, the deadline for scholarship applications is Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and the upcoming deadline for grant applications for summer programs is Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Gaylena Merritt is Theta Foundation’s director of programs.

Posted On: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 09:00 AM, by Lynne McCaul Miller
You are likely hearing a lot these days about "mindfulness" and what it can do for your mood and health. What is "mindfulness," and how can it help you manage stress and anxiety?

Mindfulness is a practice in which you focus on the physical feelings of what you are doing, and maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness. For example, walking mindfully is a practice in which when you walk, you focus on what you are feeling and seeing. You focus on the feeling of your feet touching the ground, the air on your face, and the sights in front of you. It's pretty different than walking around your neighborhood thinking about how you're going to get everything done, isn't it?

It's important to focus on all this without judging the experience as good or bad. Some people find mindfulness easier than other forms of meditation because it does not require that you "clear" the mind. Instead, you do have something to focus on and that focus can take you out of feelings of anxiety and put you in a calmer state.

Of course, simply practicing mindfulness will not address everyone's anxiety. Another step in addressing any mental health symptoms is taking a free and anonymous screening, which can be found on the Sisters Supporting Sisters page.

Have you tried mindfulness? Share in the comments how it has worked for you.

Screening for Mental Health, Inc., Theta's wellness partner, contributed material for this blog post.

Posted On: Friday, February 13, 2015 12:40 PM, by Laura Ware Doerre
Laura Doerre
Fraternity President
According to the April 2014 White House report Not Alone, sexual assault on college campuses is a growing problem. Most often, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows "and also most often, she does not report what happened. Many survivors are left feeling isolated, ashamed or to blame. Although it happens less often, men, too, are victims of these crimes."

Awareness of sexual misconduct on college campuses is gaining rapidly due to the 2013 passing of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or Campus SaVE Act, an amendment
to the federal Clery Act and a complement to Title IX that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex, including sexual violence and harassment. According to, "SaVE requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs (covering virtually every campus in the United States) to increase transparency about the scope of sexual violence on campus, guarantee victims enhanced rights, provide for standards in institutional conduct proceedings, and provide campus communitywide prevention educational programming."

Recent media coverage has brought a great deal of attention to the issue of campus sexual misconduct. It has also highlighted the complexity of the issues that surround this important topic. Demands placed upon campus administrators under the Clery Act sometimes create a tension with individual rights and freedoms. Protecting victims while providing due process to the accused can also be a delicate balancing act. And, as we have seen on a number of college campuses, the Greek system can sometimes be an easy target for decisive action on a high-profile issue.

So where does Kappa Alpha Theta fit into all of this? First, the safety of our members is paramount. In fact, our risk management policies include practices designed to protect all aspects of personal safety, including sexual assault issues. We have found that these policies are more comprehensive than the safety measures in place on many college campuses. We will continue to set the bar high when it comes to the safety of our members and others, and we are committed to supporting our collegians as they promote our policies and drive positive cultural change in their respective communities.

Second, Kappa Alpha Theta will defend the rights of our members to freedom of association, and our rights as an organization. At the same time, we are keenly interested in working together with campus administrators to address the topic of sexual misconduct. We want to take actions that are bold and meaningful, that denounce victim blaming, and that encourage bystander intervention and reporting. We are mindful that many campuses are providing exceptional training and programming on this topic, and we do not want to duplicate or even potentially contradict their efforts. We are committed, however, to joining with our peers in the Greek community to lead the charge on our host campuses in addressing this critical problem.

Kappa Alpha Theta is a member of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), a 26-member organization that serves as the national voice on contemporary issues of sorority life. Late last autumn, NPC commissioned a Student Safety and Sexual Assault Awareness Task Force that is charged with researching resources and brain storming avenues for training and prevention. In a statement published in the Washington Post in December, NPC said: "It is absolutely a priority of the sorority community to ensure our campuses are safe for women.... This is an all-student safety issue, not just a Greek-community issue, which will continue to be addressed on local and national levels.... NPC encourages our sorority women to support and care for one another. We will not turn our heads on this important issue, but rather speak up so our voices will be heard and our actions will be noticed." The NPC task force, composed of subject matter experts, is working diligently to compile a comprehensive action plan and submit it for endorsement by NPC within the next few months.

In turn, NPC is a member of the IX for All Coalition, a recently formed group of men's and women's fraternities whose purpose is to ensure the preservation of our single-sex organization exemption under Title IX and the protection of our members and organizations in Title IX- related matters, including those involving campus sexual misconduct issues. The group will pursue a legislative agenda aimed at these topics and will seek strategic partnerships with similarly aligned organizations. The NPC task force plans to partner with the coalition to explore other avenues for influencing the discussion surrounding sexual misconduct.

One of the four aspirations in our strategic plan is to align resources to best execute the mission of Kappa Alpha Theta. We pay dues to NPC, and we provide several volunteers to help execute the work of the Conference. In addressing issues of widespread importance that transcend the boundaries of NPC-member organizations, we believe that leveraging the collective voice of NPC is both the most efficient and the most effective approach. Through NPC, we are committed to being Leading Women in addressing the problem of campus sexual misconduct.

Laura Doerre, Delta Xi/North Carolina, is the president of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity.

Posted On: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 08:30 AM, by Lauren Lewis
February is NPC's Month of the Scholar, and we asked some of our staff members and volunteers to share their favorite and most influential books. Many of the titles selected were important to them because of their coming-of-age theme, inspirational messages, or simply just exciting and fun!

Mary Jane Beach added Pride and Prejudice because "women were rarely published and some wrote under a pseudonym. How brave Jane was much like our founders. Stepping out to publish such a fine example of what daily life was like for women with no rights to own property, little freedom to marry for love and how society was so rigid." Erica Ochs loved The Secret History because "it accurately captures the intense friendships and the need to fit in that characterizes the college experience of so many." Maggie Harris recommends Perseverance, and not just because any Theta would be attracted to the title! She gives this book to friends who need a little inspiration, guidance and support.

Are any of your personal favorites on this list? What titles would you recommend to members? Let us know in the comments area below.

Katharine Murphy, assistant director of chapter services:

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

  • Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

Mindy Marshall, director of administration:

  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

  • My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme

Mary Jane Beach, NPC delegate:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

  • The Firm by John Grisham

  • John Adams by David McCullough

Noraleen Young, staff archivist:

  • The Dollmaker by Hariette Arnow

  • The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Erica Ochs, college compliance committee chairman:

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

  • Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by John Krakauer

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Cindy Thoennes, Theta Foundation manager of operations:

  • Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Leah Logan, alumnae district director:

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Lauren Palmer, FHC property manager:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

  • Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

  • My Antonia by Willa Cather

Maggie Harris, college district director:

  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

  • Perseverance by Margaret J. Wheatley

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Remember too to join our Reading Women online book club! Upcoming book selections are listed on the Reading Women web page. Several books in the list below have been featured as Reading Women book selections!

Lauren Lewis, Delta/Illinois, is an assistant director of alumnae engagement at Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity headquarters.

Posted On: Monday, January 19, 2015 08:00 AM, by Valerie Holloway Skinner
Valerie Skinner
Epsilon Epsilon/
In June 2014, Valerie spoke at the CASA Breakfast at Grand Convention in Orlando, Fla. Many Thetas were inspired by Valerie's story and in the few short hours following the breakfast, attendees raised nearly $14,000 with the help of a matching gift from her family foundation.

My name is Valerie Skinner and I am honored to have been asked to share with you my personal, as well as my family's, financial commitment to CASA over the years. I'd like to paint a picture for you of why our family has chosen to support CASA through Theta Foundation since 1999.

As a couple, my parents agreed that the most important role they had was to make sure the physical, emotional, social, educational, and spiritual needs of their children were being met to the best of their abilities. They made many sacrifices over the years to make sure we had nutritious food to eat, new shoes to wear, and good schools to attend. They helped us with our homework, monitored our chores, attended our sporting events, took us to church, and drove us back and forth to all of our volunteer activities.

Was my life perfect growing up? No. But was I completely secure every single day of my formative years that my parents wanted me, loved me, and would provide for me until I was old enough to provide for myself? YES. And because I had that strong, safe, supportive foundation, I have been able to repeat that cycle with my own family. Clearly, I won the parent lottery, and I bet many of you did, too. If you're a child in the foster care system, however, your life looks much different.

As Thetas, we are in a unique position of being in a partnership with an exceptional agency that knows how to show children that someone cares about them. And that this caring person can be trusted to help find them a safe, permanent home where they can thrive and become all they were meant to be.

My dad used to tell me a story about when he was in the first or second grade. His teacher had instructed each child to bring a dime to class to buy a War Bond to support the efforts of the soldiers fighting in World War II. My dad's mother died when he was 3, and because his family was so poor, his stepmother told him they couldn't spare a dime, and so he felt deeply hurt and embarrassed to be the only child who didn't have anything to give. He never forgot that feeling, telling me many times, "Valerie, don't ever be a person who doesn't have a dime to give away." Possibly the most important lesson my father ever taught me was to always be the person who chooses to give. And since he led by such clear example, it was an easy lesson to embrace and understand.

At this stage in my life, I am not going to be able to serve as a judge in a family court. I am not likely to become a CPS worker or even a foster or adoptive parent. Because of other commitments in my life, I currently am not in a position to serve as a CASA advocate. But I do have a dime to give away. And I bet you do, too.

You may already be involved in a fundraiser in your community for your local CASA organization, which is great, but today I am asking you to consider supporting the work of the national organization, because your local chapter relies on them to provide training curriculum, technical support, quality assurance, volunteer recruitment and public awareness. We also rely on our national organization to distribute federal grants and secure private and corporate dollars. The dollars you are raising locally are more efficiently and effectively utilized because of the oversight of our national organization.

As we celebrate our 25th year with CASA, nothing would make me a prouder Theta than to see your dimes and my dimes working together to secure the future of children who are counting on us to care.

Valerie Holloway Skinner, Epsilon Epsilon/Baylor, is a member of the Mid-Cities Alumnae Chapter and is a charter Life Loyal Theta.

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