There is a lot of discussion these days about the ways in which college experiences prepare an individual for a successful career or even for jobs that don't yet exist. Like many Thetas, I've been fortunate enough to have an exciting career that has afforded me many opportunities and rewards. However, the best job I ever had was one that did not offer benefits or even a paycheck. The best job my college experience prepared me for was serving on Grand Council.
What prepares you to be a member of Grand Council? What skills and experiences do you need? Candidates should possess vision, leadership, commitment, and a desire to serve Kappa Alpha Theta. The skills needed for council service are developed through myriad life experiences including college and alumnae Theta activities, professional careers, personal development, volunteer roles, and community engagement.
Members of Grand Council provide vision and leadership, direct the implementation of programs, and set policies for Fraternity activities and members. Grand Council members must uphold the core values of Kappa Alpha Theta that were articulated in the 19th century while ensuring the Theta experience remains meaningful in the 21st century—and beyond.
Board service requires a commitment of time, talent, and treasure. Council duties include travel to council meetings, Fraternity meetings such as Grand Convention, and college and alumnae chapter events as needed. Members of Grand Council participate in regular conference calls, and may also participate on Theta Foundation board of trustees or the Fraternity Housing Corporation board. Sometimes these obligations require time away from friends, family, community, and work, but the time away from other endeavors is certainly time well spent for the benefit of more than 200,000 college and alumnae members of Kappa Alpha Theta.
A unique blend of talents and a variety of perspectives are needed to make Grand Council the effective governing board that it is. Each woman is different and brings her unique experiences to the table. Council members have been members of large alumnae chapters as well as small. Some lived in a chapter facility during their college years, and others did not. Some members of Grand Council were initiated into our oldest chapters, while others' college chapters have been disestablished. Council members use skills and knowledge from a variety of experiences to execute their duties. Women from all backgrounds and professions including health, law, education, business, etc. apply their professional expertise, knowledge gained from involvement with Kappa Alpha Theta, and skills developed through participating in countless other community organizations to their Council duties.
This year, the nominating committee will not only prepare the Grand Council slate, but it will also prepare a slate for the board of directors for the Fraternity Housing Corporation (FHC). The FHC determines the college chapter housing strategy and establishes funding standards to support FHC facilities and programs.
I encourage you to participate in the nominating processes of Grand Council and/or the FHC board of directors. I encourage you to read the job descriptions for both boards and to engage in the nomination process by completing a nomination form yourself or nominating a well-qualified Theta before April 8. The Nominations page has details on the entire process. Although these positions don't offer remuneration, Kappa Alpha Theta board service is one of the best jobs you can ever have!
Our guest blogger is Ellen Urbani, author of "When I Was Elena." We are discussing her book at tonight's Reading Women book club.
The summer of 2015 marked nearly 25 years since I'd last gathered en masse with my Theta sisters. We'd been members of Delta Omicron at the University of Alabama in the late '80s, back when hair was bigger and pearls were de rigueur, before tornadoes wiped out the east side of campus, before New Orleans sank beneath hurricane waters, and before babies and husbands and careers monopolized our days. It would never again be like it had once been.
Until it was. Until it was ... better.
In the late summer of 2015, I embarked on a national book tour with my latest book, Landfall, a work of contemporary historical fiction set Alabama and Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I took my 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son with me on a trek that started at the eastern seaboard and wended its way toward Texas, hoping to introduce them to the South I always loved but have long-since left; the South I adore for its hospitality and graciousness and warmth of spirit. I wanted them to meet the ghost of the girl I had once been.
Instead, they met my family.
In state after state, in bookstore after bookstore, my sisters turned out to welcome me home. Not just my immediate sisters, mind you: meaning not just Delta Omicrons, though they turned out in droves, showing up with friends and family at every single stop on my 20-city national tour. (Heck: one fellow sister who couldn't make it sent her mother in her stead; another sent her husband and his work colleagues; yet another crossed three state lines to hug me in person.) But sisters I never knew I had showed up too, spurred by a handwritten note I'd sent to Theta alumnae groups in cities throughout the South - cities where I didn't know a soul and had nightmares about taking the stage before a roomful of empty chairs. Alumnae groups in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas - as well as parts of Alabama I'd never called home - turned out to fill those seats, cheer me on, and make sure that at not one single place in all of my travels did I ever feel either lonely or unsupported.
It was a gift of sisterhood unlike anything I had ever witnessed, and the truest demonstration of the motto "Theta for a lifetime" that one could conceive.
I have always thought that joining Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity was one of the smartest choices I made in college. You all have now convinced me that it is one of the smartest choices I have made in my life. Thank you, everyone. Your love makes my heart swell anew, a quarter-century later.
Most of us recognize 1 Corinthians 13 as the "love chapter," often read at weddings, funerals and other life events. It also has a place in Theta ritual. I'm sometimes asked why we haven't changed it to adapt to the more diverse membership of the present. After all, many Thetas today do not subscribe to the New Testament. My response is that even though our membership is beautifully diverse, this particular piece of literature is universal. To understand why this passage is part of (and remains in) our services, one must first contextualize its place in our history and understand its meaning beyond the literary home.
Our founders were Christians; Bettie Locke's father was a Methodist minister. So, it's safe to say she was familiar with the content of the New Testament. But, she was not founding a religious order. So, why would she put a passage from the Bible in our ritual?
She was founding a values-based organization and was looking for a way to express those values. Bettie was a student in post Civil War America, when books were expensive and treasured. Given her family background and her lack of other resources, the Bible was probably her first stop. And, when she found 1 Corinthians 13, she did not need to look further.
Why 1 Corinthians 13? Most biblical scholars agree that this passage does not refer to a romantic love nor, despite its context in a collection of religious writings, does it have anything to do with any prophet or religious belief. Instead it was probably chosen because the love represented in the passage refers to:
- A regard, respect, and caring concern for another person that does not depend on the worthiness or "lovableness" of that person
- An act of the will which places the welfare of others above the interests of oneself
(Short Bible Studies, purifiedbyfaith.com)
Bettie and her friends had a need for support during what was probably the most difficult time of their young lives. They turned to each other and took vows that are the same as what we say today. Did they know that nearly 150 years later, these sentiments would still mean so much to so many? Our values have stood the test of time, and continue to remain relevant.
There have been millions of pieces of literature written about love since 1870. We haven't changed our ritual because to do so would be to lose that connection we have to that snowy day in Greencastle. To think we could do better than the women who experienced the beginnings of this organization would be disrespectful to the valor and devotion of our Founders.
Did you know that since 2011, the National Panhellenic Conference has designated February as the Month of the Scholar in order to increase the commitment of women's fraternities to academic achievement and excellence? Here are some non-traditional ways you can help celebrate the Month of the Scholar within your chapter:
1. Highlight a scholar of the week: The women recognized could be high scholastic achievers, but don't forget those who should be recognized too for scholastic improvement. Is there a sister who has made significant strides to improve her study habits? Is there a sister who has made a conscious effort to establish rapport with her professors or schedule time to attend study skills workshops tailored to her needs at the academic success center on campus? Did a sister meet her GPA goal she set for the fall 2015 term? Depending upon how they like to receive feedback, you could recognize these women in a chapter meeting or by a simple note or small treat in their mailbox. (Keep in mind that not everyone likes to be recognized publicly.)
2. Think about scholarship as it relates to a broader context: Intellectual curiosity involves more than just doing well in school. It is about broadening your understanding and appreciation for the world around you. Plan a trip with your chapter to a cultural attraction or event on your campus or in your city. This could include a local museum or historical society; an outing to a theater production, musical, ballet, concert, or orchestra performance (bonus points if a sister is performing!); hosting faculty to the chapter facility for informal conversations on their research focus areas; or going to see a hosted speaker or lecture on campus. These opportunities are plentiful and can enrich your appreciation for things outside of the norm.
3. Host a relaxation event: Let's face it. College can be stressful. It's important that as we encourage high scholastic achievement, we also encourage self-care. Whether it's hosting a sundae or cookie night during midterms, a spa day in the middle of the month, or a yoga class on a Saturday morning, encouraging sisters to take time for themselves is just as important as encouraging them to study.
4. Invite your favorite faculty member to coffee or tea: Remember that celebrating scholarship and academic achievement doesn't have to be labor-intensive. Building relationships with faculty is something at which Theta excels, and it doesn't take much to begin to form partnerships. You never know when you're going to need a professor's recommendation, and coffee is a good place to start!
5. Celebrate internships and other learning opportunities: Are there members in the chapter who have an internship, are student-teaching, studying abroad, or doing undergraduate research? Consider giving them a platform (if they're comfortable, of course) during a chapter meeting to briefly discuss their experience so far (you can Skype in the abroad members if it's feasible). Because these women have a number of commitments outside of the chapter, giving them an opportunity to talk about their outside-the-classroom experiences not only makes them feel valued, but also allows other women to learn from them.
What are you doing to celebrate Month of the Scholar? Be sure to add a comment below or use the hashtag #NPCscholar to let us know what you're doing to promote the highest scholarship and intellectual curiosity!
On January 27, I invite you to join me in a celebration. Of course, it is a celebration of Founders Day, but it is a Founders Day celebration like no other. It is the beginning of something very special.
In just four short years, Kappa Alpha Theta will be 150 years old. Not many organizations can say that! Yet our Fraternity has not only survived but thrived for a century and a half. That is definitely cause for celebration!
There are many reasons behind the enduring power of Theta sisterhood. Four reasons are our founders: Bettie Locke Hamilton, Alice Allen Brant, Hannah Fitch Shaw, and Bettie Tipton Lindsey. They had the inspiration to form the first Greek-letter Fraternity known among women, and they also had the perseverance, courage, and faith to make their vision a reality.
As we plan for our 150th anniversary in 2020, we will dedicate one year of the next four to each of our founders, beginning with Bettie Tipton Lindsey. Bettie was known for her generous spirit and her care for children who were orphaned or otherwise neglected.
So this Founders Day—January 27—we will begin 150 Days of Celebrating Service. For this special campaign, Thetas everywhere will honor Bettie Tipton Lindsey and advocate for, volunteer for, and donate to a variety of important causes, as well as recognize individual Thetas for being true philanthropists.
Here's how you can join me in this celebration!
- Visit 150ThetaDays.org to choose the activities you can participate in to make a difference for important causes. (150ThetaDays.org also offers fascinating insights into Bettie's life as well as a video interview with her great-niece, a Theta from Gamma Pi/Iowa State.)
- Use the hashtag #Theta150 on social media to view and share posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Share your service stories on facebook.com/KappaAlphaTheta.
As we look forward to our 150th anniversary, let's follow Bettie Tipton Lindsey's example by seeking ways to incorporate service in our lives, by being of service to others, and by recognizing Thetas who have been of great service.
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