As part of an ice-breaking exercise the other day, I was asked to develop a personal tag line, and the first one that popped into my head was pretty frivolous: "You can't have too many shoes." I love shoes, but, yes, I can see that it might be possible to have too many. One can only wear one pair at a time, after all.
Self-indulgently, there are many things, in addition to shoes, that I enjoy having in large quantities. One of those is magazines.
There isn't much that makes me happier than a tall stack of unread magazines. Who knows what treasures are waiting on their pages? As with wrapped birthday presents, the anticipation is half the fun.
If you haven't already received the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of the Theta magazine, it should arrive in your mailbox in just a few days. So as not to spoil any sense of surprise, I won't describe any of the contents and will let you decide which articles are treasures that need to be read right now and which can wait a bit. While we all have multiple demands on our attention, I hope that seeing the large "Theta" banner across the top of the front cover, as well as the three smiling faces below it, will stir up a bit of excitement for you.
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.
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