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Alumnae Blog

Posted On: Monday, February 8, 2016 08:23 AM, by Beverly Bennett Shelton
L-R: Beverly, Betsy Maine, and Betsy MacLennan on board the cruise ship.

In spring 2015, I discovered in the mail a cruise brochure for the Inland Passage of Alaska. What made this leaflet extra special was the fact that it was a Kappa Alpha Theta sponsored trip. I started my research about the voyage, travel agent and destinations. Everything was positive. Thus I signed up my husband Roger and me for a wonderful trip! Participants included two Thetas and their husbands from Indiana and Michigan: Elizabeth (Betsy) MacLennan, Beta/Indiana, and Betsy Ford Maine, Pi/Albion.

We departed from Juneau, Alaska, the state capital to which one can only access via air or sea. We arrived early for a two-night stay. Juneau has quite a bit to offer: a salmon fishery; the state capitol; a tramway going up the nearby mountain with spectacular views; and Douglas Island, a small island across the Gastineau Channel with ski lifts and trails. The town itself had its peak during the gold rush in the 1880s. Today it thrives on tourists. The Tlinglits (native tribe pronounced "Klinkits") operate a few trendy art stores that sell striking paintings and unusual artifacts. We had dinner at a very unique restaurant, the Red Salt, where Alaskan King crab legs and salmon bisque are truly delicacies!

Soon our short stay in Juneau ended and we boarded our lovely ship, the L'Austral, a mega-yacht with 124 cabins, part of the Ponant Cruise Line out of Marseilles. We sailed within the Inland Passage, which is in the southeast part of Alaska bordering Canada. We cruised throughout many islands and important towns that are rich with history and wildlife. It soon became apparent that Alaska has always been meant for the rugged, and aboard a beautiful ship, we Thetas can easily adapt! Fortunately we were there in the summer when daylight is about 22 hours each day. Thank goodness for the blackout drapes in our cabins!

Each morning was a new treat. Typically after a healthy breakfast, we started by going on the water in zodiacs (black rubber rafts). It took me one excursion to acclimate to something that was about 2 feet off very frigid water. Fortunately I gained courage from the two Betsy's and husbands who all thought this was "a hoot." Once I was comfortable that we would not tip over into the icy water, I too conceded that this was great fun!

We also ventured into colorful small villages. My favorite stop was Elfin Cove via yet another zodiac, when we cruised by enormous rocks which were the barren homes for sea lions. The town itself consists of 150 people during the summer when it is teeming with guests whose sport is salmon fishing. During the winter, there are 40 folks at Elfin Cove. This small fishing resort consists of small buildings on stilts to include a post office, bar, restaurant, museum and four fishing lodges. Each is fairly spartan but appreciated by the small and gradually shrinking population. Many of the inhabitants are tribal who love Elfin Cove and keep it running for the summer guests. As we left the island on our zodiac, several sea otters happily followed us barking while they swam to bid farewell.

After seven days and nights of great food, company and rich excursions, the cruise was coming to a close. Each evening we Thetas and hubbies had dinner together in our favorite dining room. We knew we would miss the camaraderie and much laughter! The last night we shared some of our favorite chapters' songs with only the crew to hear us. We had a ball together! It was a wonderful adventure to include great friendships!

Check out the Theta Traveler page for more information on future trips, and join the fun and quality education with your Theta sisters and invited friends and family.

Beverly Bennett Shelton, Phi/Pacific, is treasurer for the San Mateo County Alumnae Chapter.

Posted On: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 08:00 AM, by Laura Kassenbrock Stelsel
Laura Stelsel
Assistant Director of
Alumnae Engagement
It's hard to believe that nine years ago this month, I was headed up to East Lansing, Mich., to begin graduate school at Michigan State University.

I had just graduated from Butler University and was looking forward to my new life up north. But even though I was going back to school in Michigan, I wasn't going back to my undergraduate experience, back to Theta, or back to my old friends. In fact, I knew not a soul in the entire state. While that prospect was exciting to me as an 18-year-old freshman, with an incoming class of eager students in the same boat, it was terrifying to a 22-year-old grad student.

A few weeks before I left for school, I received the summer issue of The Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine at my parents' home*. I opened it up to find a note on the first page about advisor openings at Beta Pi/Michigan State. I seriously felt like fate was stepping in. I responded to the ad, was put in touch with the chapter's advisory board chairman (ABC) right away, and started my position as marketing advisor when I landed on campus.

It was cool to see Theta through the lens of a new chapter and a new campus. I was able to attend area Lansing Alumnae Chapter events, attend Beta Pi's signature philanthropy event, and even participate in the Founders Day ceremony. Everyone—the advisory board, collegians, and alumnae chapter—was so welcoming and eager to get to know me.

That first year of grad school was tough, like any new grad's first year is. Responsibilities are greater and funds are fewer. I felt nervous and uncertain, but when I started to feel alone, it was so comforting to have my new Theta family there to support me.

And, when I graduated two years later, that ABC was my reference when I applied for (and landed) my first job at Kappa Alpha Theta. I still communicate with her, and the other advisors, to this day.

If you are a recent graduate and the back-to-school season has you thinking about how you're not going back to your undergraduate experience, I hope you'll consider staying involved with Theta by joining an alumnae group, volunteering for the Fraternity (to express interest, complete the volunteer interest indicator), or even attending a nearby initiation, Founders Day, or philanthropy event. You can also learn more about being a young alumna and the transition from collegian to alumna on the Fraternity website.

Getting involved with Theta as an alumna has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

*NOTE: If you recently graduated and haven't yet updated your address and contact information with Theta headquarters, please do (login required)! While your parents might enjoy reading about what's new with Theta (my dad always read each issue and my Chi Omega sisters' Eleusis), it's far more relevant to you than it is to them.

Laura Kassenbrock Stelsel, Gamma/Butler, is an assistant director of alumnae engagement at Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity.

Posted On: Monday, May 4, 2015 08:30 AM, by Valerie Holloway Skinner
Charlene Elliott shares her CASA experience.
For 25 years, Thetas in the United States and Canada have dedicated themselves in a variety of ways to supporting CASA, our national philanthropy, as they help children find a safe and loving home. As Theta celebrates this milestone year of commitment to CASA, the Mid-Cities Alumnae Chapter is celebrating its third year of a very special fundraising event we have dubbed "The Ruby Slipper Soirée."

Three years ago, inspired by the tagline "There's no place like home," a handful of Thetas living in the Mid-Cities (a community about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth) decided to create a signature event that would not only raise money but also bring awareness of CASA to our area. Under the creative leadership of Lisa Hernandez, Zeta Phi/Pepperdine, and Susan Sanders, Beta Sigma/SMU, our small committee started thinking big. Stepping out boldly, armed with nothing but a cute idea, we solicited a local shoe store to provide footwear, found a restaurant willing to loan out their rooftop and donate some pizza, convinced my husband to build us a platform, persuaded Gamma Psi/Texas Christian actives to model Stanley Eisenman pumps outside in the relentless Texas heat, and voilá—The Ruby Slipper Soirée was born!

More than 100 women braved the temperatures that day to gander at high heels and learn more about the work of CASA. That first year, we were proud to present a $3,400 check to Tarrant County CASA for our efforts. Each year we have grown the event and encouraged more community leaders to become involved. Our soirée incentivizes all attendees to wear ruby slippers (red shoes) and enjoy libations, hors d'oeuvres, and a fabulous shoe fashion show. This year, our style partner Elaine Turner provided shoes and handbags for 10 TCU Thetas to model. Each Gamma Psi member wore two pairs of fashion-forward footwear down the (air-conditioned!) red carpet, coupled with a stylish purse, and wearing accessories provided by Pauline Meier of Premier Jewelry. Stylist Debbie Quintanilla of 2Q Salon made sure each young woman's hair and make-up were "runway-ready."

The evening also included a first-of-its-kind "Spirit and Sparkle Pull" which rewarded participants with a signature cocktail beverage and a piece of Premier Jewelry. Guests also vied for a fabulous raffle prize of a $350 gift certificate to Elaine Turner and a party for 10 at the new store complete with champagne, light bites, and special discounts. An additional lucky winner went home with the "Rockin' Ruby Slipper Award." Our group was proud to learn we had raised $9,700 that night, bringing our three-year total to nearly $20,000!

Hands down the most memorable part of the evening, however, had nothing to do with fashion or refreshments. It was the privilege of hearing Charlene Elliott share her story.

Charlene had recently moved to our area, and upon seeing a sign for Tarrant County CASA, went into the office and presented a dozen roses to the staff in gratitude for what her CASA had done for her years ago when she was a frightened little girl living in an unacceptable situation. Although she was only seven years old at the time, Charlene distinctly recalled the care and attention she received from "Miss Belle," who eventually helped her find her forever home with her grandparents. Tears flowed freely among the attendees as Charlene described her circumstances and relayed how much her CASA advocate had done to secure a loving environment, one where she and her younger sister could thrive.

As members of Kappa Alpha Theta, we are in a unique position, through our partnership with CASA, to dramatically alter the lives of children who have absolutely no capacity to do so on their own. Children just like Charlene. Working together, with whatever resources are available to us, I fully believe we can secure the future of every child in the foster care system in every town in this country. I hope you will join your sisters during this special 25th year, and find a way to help every abused and neglected child find a place where he or she will know what it means to say, "There's no place like home."

To see more photos from the event, visit the Mid-Cities Alumnae Chapter's website.

Valerie Holloway Skinner, Epsilon Epsilon/Baylor, is the event coordinator for Mid-Cities Alumnae Chapter.

Posted On: Monday, April 27, 2015 08:35 AM, by Lauren Lewis
Congratulations! You've made it through four years of working hard, and it's finally paid off. You've graduated from college and have reached alumnae status.

This can be a scary transition as you make the leap from senior in college to "freshman in the real world," but don't fret! Theta's got you covered with a list of to-do's to make your transition as an alumna that much easier.

  1. Change your email address. Create a new permanent personal email address and update it on the Fraternity website. That college email account isn't going to last very long, and you should start thinking about how you want your email address to reflect your personal and professional brand. You don't want to fall out of touch with Theta just because you forgot to update your email address! And, while you're at it, update your address and other information, too.

  2. Stay connected. Theta doesn't miss a beat when it comes to social media. Make sure to follow Theta on these sites to stay up to date.

  3. Be proactive. Don't wait for your local alumnae chapter to come to you; find a group to join. Reach out to the local contacts and let them know your interest and availability. They will appreciate you taking the time to make the connection, as they are always looking for new members to come on board.

  4. Get involved. Theta has a multitude of ways to be involved as an alumna, so find one that will best fit your post-graduate life. Whether you'd like to apply for a leadership position with an alumnae chapter, become a local college chapter advisor, or find something else, Theta has an opportunity to fit your schedule and needs. Find volunteer opportunities and fill out a volunteer interest indicator.

  5. Blaze your own path. No alumnae chapter or college advisory board in your area? Reach out to the Fraternity to start your own alumnae group! You can find plenty of resources on this website.

  6. Go global. Are you living abroad? Visit the Kappa Alpha Theta Global Facebook group to find Thetas in whatever country you're currently calling home or planning to visit.

  7. Start networking. Theta alumnae are seriously talented and accomplished women, so take the time to get to know those in your area. You'd be surprised at how eager the more mature alumnae are to meet young alumnae like you!

Now that you're equipped with your to-do list, it's time to take a deep breath and jump in!

Zahra Sakkejha, Gamma Epsilon/Western Ontario, Laura Richardson, Beta Tau/Dension, and Kristin Schopac, Eta Iota/San Diego, serve on Theta’s young alumnae board.

Posted On: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 08:00 AM, by Lauren Lewis
Kate Voegele
Gamma Upsilon/
Kate Voegele, Gamma Upsilon/Miami, is a singer, songwriter, and actress who made her musical debut in 2003 with her first album, The Other Side. She gained notoriety with appearances on One Tree Hill in 2007, which helped promote her music. She is releasing her fourth album, Wild Card, this spring, and is currently touring the U.S. and England. As a gift to Thetas everywhere for their support over the years, Kate is offering free songs you can download. Learn more about Kate on her official website.

In this post, Kate shares with Thetas how she launched her career, why she chose Theta, and how her membership has impacted her life and career.

Please start by telling us a little about yourself.
I'm currently living and working in Nashville, Tenn., and loving it! Right now, I'm working on writing and recording a new record and gearing up to go on tour overseas in a few months. When I'm not making or playing music, I love hanging with friends, my husband, trying new foodie restaurants in town, painting, doing ballet barre classes, and traveling to new places.

When and why did you decide that being a musician and actress is what you wanted to do?
I always knew that I wanted to be in a creative field. Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was draw and paint and make things, and once I was old enough to pick up a guitar, I couldn't put it down. I started writing songs my freshman year of high school, and it organically grew from there. I'd play local coffee houses and open for local bands, and soon I started garnering attention from labels online and on MySpace. One day, in my dorm room in Morris Hall, the founder of MySpace wrote me telling me he wanted to sign me to his new label. I flew out to Santa Monica a week later and signed the deal. Although I was really enjoying being an art major at Miami, I knew immediately that if I didn't allow myself to find out where this record deal would take me, I'd always regret it.

After releasing my first album, I went to an audition for One Tree Hill on a whim. It was for a character that was only supposed to last two episodes, but she ended up staying for four seasons! It was almost an accident that I got into acting, but I'm so glad I did because it was a huge loudspeaker for my songs.

What is your favorite song that you've ever sung and why?
It's hard to say because I think all of them have different meanings for me at different times in my life. One of my favorites is a song called "Sweet Silver Lining." I've had a lot of people write to me and tell me that it helped them through a difficult time, and that's a pretty awesome feeling

What drew you to go through the recruitment process at Miami of Ohio?
My parents are "Miami Mergers," and I grew up hearing story after story of the way they met through Greek life. My mom is a Theta and my dad is a Phi Psi, and they actually met while singing together onstage at a Theta/Phi Psi function. I always loved going to visit Miami with them, and I wanted to experience all of the things that they loved so much about their Greek-life college years. When I got to Miami my freshman year, my older friends from high school who had already gone through the process introduced me to a bunch of their friends, and many of them happened to be Thetas. We just clicked. I knew right away that it was where I wanted to be.

What advice would you give collegians today who are considering joining a Panhellenic organization?
I would say absolutely go for it. It was definitely overwhelming to meet so many people and have so many conversations at first, but I think it's totally worth it. You'll meet some amazing people and have experiences you'll remember for the rest of your life.

What is your favorite Theta memory?
My favorite Theta memory is probably when I played Brick Street, opening for Billy Currington, and the entire chapter was there in the front row with homemade T-shirts and huge signs cheering me on. I was nervous because the show was sold out, and Billy Currington is kind of a big deal in the country world. Having the girls there all dressed up and cheering me on was so huge and helped me have an absolute blast onstage that night!

What does Kappa Alpha Theta mean to you now that you are an alumna?
Theta, to me, is all about community and the importance of great friendship. Everything from our funny theme parties to our Cakes for CASA fundraising events taught me how important it is to have a network of awesome women in your life. I think it's easy to forget how important having great girlfriends is, but when you have that and experience the support of other women around you every day you realize how crucial it is. I'm so grateful for the amazing friends I made and the awesome memories I have because of Theta at Miami!

The thing that has really stuck with me from my time in Theta is the sense of support that was so present in our chapter. No matter what was going on, or what difficult class you had stressing you out, everybody was just there for each other—whether you needed to talk or just someone to laugh with. Knowing how to put things in perspective when life throws you curveballs is something that's extremely important in an industry like music, because it's ever-changing and unpredictable. Being around a community of girls that supported each other and backed each other up during crazy times has definitely helped me to continue to keep that perspective in everything I do.

What advice would you share with Thetas who are reaching for their own dreams and aspirations?
My advice is simply that you have to keep going, no matter what gets in your way. I recently heard a friend quote something like, "You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion," and it was exactly what I needed to hear. In life and in whatever career field you choose, there are always going to be people who don't believe in you and try to drag you down. It sounds cheesy, but you truly have to know how to have thick skin and continue believing in yourself and your dreams despite the noise. I'm still working on it, because it isn't easy, but I do know that if you keep going and keep pushing, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish.

Anything else you'd like to share with Thetas?
I just want to say a HUGE thank-you to all of the adorable and lovely Thetas who have come out to my shows and have brought their Theta love to our tour! It is so cool for me to meet fellow sisters after the show, and it will always remind me of the girls at Miami cheering me on at Brick Street. Just know that it means the world to have your support!
Posted On: Monday, April 20, 2015 08:20 AM, by Shelley Sandoval
Shelley Sandoval
Supporting CASA through Psi Chapter fundraisers at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and post-college through the Chicago North Shore Alumnae Chapter, I decided to get more involved and become a court-appointed special advocate. I was nervous and excited as I raised my right hand to be sworn in as an advocate for the Circuit Court of Cook County, Child Protection Division.

Connecting with my kids, learning about their world, building mutual trust, and working to understand each other sometimes led us to sing Katy Perry's "Firework" song at the top of our lungs, or have heart-to-heart talks about the serious issues that brought us together through CASA. Building relationships with those who I now affectionately refer to as "my kids" has proven to be one of the most fulfilling and important parts of my career.

Partially fueled by my CASA experience and interest in the law, I chose to enroll in law school. While I don't plan on a career in family law, I do plan on being a lifelong CASA volunteer, and I am always proud to explain my Theta roots as my inspiration for being part of this opportunity.

The influence of my CASA work enriches and ignites my perspective as a law student. In my first week at law school, a professor posed this question to my class: "What are the characteristics of a good lawyer?" Often returning to this question throughout my first year, I find myself vested in finding the answer as I continually engage with questions of personal character and development.

Assessing my initial top four characteristics—dedicated, pragmatic, reflective and analytical—I realized this was only half of what it really takes to be a good lawyer. "Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love." The familiar words we as Thetas recite and the concepts they enliven are truly what moved me to extend my CASA involvement past my undergraduate years, and serve as the foundation that fosters the bond I have with my CASA kids.

I am not only proud to be a Theta alumna and CASA advocate, but I am humbled by the opportunity to serve these communities of vibrant inspiring individuals who embolden me to uphold these characteristics in my personal and professional life.

Shelley Sandoval, Psi/Wisconsin, is a law student at Northern Illinois University College of Law and a member of the Chicago North Shore Alumnae Chapter.

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