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Have you ever stopped to think about how much time, energy and love Theta advisors invest in collegians?
My college chapter officer experience in Theta developed me as a leader probably more so than any other experience in my life*. I say that because, before that experience, I really didn't consider myself a leader at all. Knowing that my fellow chapter members, and most importantly, my advisor, believed in me, invested in me, and held me accountable, entirely changed the way I perceived and conducted myself. It also made me want to give back to Theta, so that I could empower women to discover this strength in themselves.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear some similar stories from an amazing group of young Thetas: our ELCs.
Each summer, ELCs come to Fraternity headquarters to participate in training with Fraternity staff and volunteers. When the alumnae engagement department met with the ELCs, the first thing we asked them was, "What Theta has most influenced or impacted your Theta experience?"
The responses were touching - from Grand Council members and advisory board chairmen to big (Theta) sisters and big (biological) sisters. Many of our ELCs couldn't pick just one!
One response did strike a chord. ELC Meghan Finke, Gamma deuteron/Ohio Wesleyan, who had been the chief executive officer and chief recruiting officer at her chapter, said that her ABC, Bev Epps, had influenced her the most. She said:
"I have always looked up to her so much; she makes each member feel welcome and valued. What I love most about Bev is that anyone who works with her can see how much she cares about Gamma deuteron and each of our members. Her warm and sunny presence lights up the house."
Ironically enough, I had been in touch with Bev just that day, and when I got back to my desk, I had to share Meghan's glowing remarks. Bev replied right back to me:
"Meghan is an amazing young woman. Theta is blessed to have her as a sister and ELC and I am blessed to have had her in my chapter, to know her and to call her not only my sister but my friend. I receive far more from the relationships I have with the collegians than I give. It is truly an honor for me to serve them and to know my service is appreciated means more than you know!"
As I sat with Meghan and the rest of the ELCs, I began to wonder if, without the Thetas who guided and supported them, they would be sitting in front of me at all.
So often when we ask advisors why they do what they do, we get two answers: to mentor collegians and to repay the Fraternity for what it has done for them. Chances are, Bev too had a Theta invest in her. And I know that throughout her life, Meghan will pay it forward in the same way.
How about you? Did you have an advisor or mentor who inspired you to give back to Theta in a special way? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
*You certainly don't have to be a college chapter officer to be a chapter leader!
Today, December 1, is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. For Theta Foundation, #GivingTuesday will see Thetas coming together worldwide to invest in Give to Lead, Give to Learn, a milestone campaign working to endow two of Theta's most-pressing human capital needs: the need-based scholarship and Educational Leadership Consultant (ELC) programs. To reach our $5 million Campaign goal, we aim to raise $100,000 (or more!) in 24 hours to support these two programs. The best part? Donations made on #GivingTuesday will double—meaning Theta Foundation has the potential to raise $200,000—because of a $100,000 matching gift from a very special leading woman, Sara Scholes Morgan, Alpha Mu/Missouri.
Like many of Theta's loyal alumnae, Sara believes strongly in the importance of giving back to Theta Foundation. Doing so, she says, "insures our traditions of sisterhood and service continue for many years to come." When asked why she wanted to make such a significant impact for Give to Lead, Give to Learn specifically, Sara said, " The importance of this initiative was made clear by a wonderful, tireless, (and persistent!) Theta volunteer here in Houston." That volunteer is Dinah Hampton McClymonds, Alpha Omicron/Oklahoma, a Theta Foundation trustee and chairman of the Campaign Steering Committee.
We asked Dinah what it was about Sara that makes her a leading woman for Theta. Dinah shared that Sara is known nationally for her advocacy of the arts. Sara has taken the lead in creating opportunities for artists of all kinds, notably those who are talented but not widely known. She thinks big, and if something is needed, she will find a way to create it. Sara always makes sure her philanthropic contributions will provide momentum and encouragement for others, hence her $100,000 matching gift to Give to Lead, Give to Learn. "It was an honor to work with Sara, and one of the highlights of this Campaign for me," says Dinah.
Sara reflected on her gift to Theta Foundation, and shared that her Theta membership holds a deep personal meaning and many memories. For Sara, Theta represents family, friendship, and service.
On family, Sara shares, "I come from a family with many Theta members. My mother, her cousin, my sister, two of our cousins, and one of their daughters are all Alpha Mu members at the University of Missouri. My sister's daughter is a Theta at the University of Michigan." Family ties, both blood and Theta, clearly play a large role in Sara's family!
"The friendships I made while at Mizzou were a very important part of my college experience; some of my best friends to this day are Alpha Mu members, which has greatly enriched my life," said Sara. "Coming from a very small high school, it was important to me to be able to have a place where I felt comfortable and welcomed at such a large university. It was also valuable to form relationships with women from urban areas as well as other states."
Regarding service, Sara shares she was brought up in a small Missouri town "believing that one's responsibility is to family and community. The idea of service to the community was reinforced by my years at Kappa Alpha Theta." Service and philanthropy are strong values within Theta, and Sara clearly embodies these traits of both service and philanthropy to our Fraternity!
Sara is not only a leading woman for Kappa Alpha Theta, but a leader wherever she calls home. Throughout eight moves among seven cities, Sara has and continues to be involved in her local community. Her proudest volunteer achievement is founding the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, a not-for-profit organization showcasing museum quality craft and housing artists whose studios are open to the public. In addition to her tenure as chapter president for Alpha Mu, Sara's proudest personal achievements include her 50-year marriage, three children (including a daughter-in-law who is a Theta!), and three grandchildren. When we asked Sara her advice for the aspiring leading women of Kappa Alpha Theta, she said, "Believe in yourself while always being open to new ideas and people; find your passion; choose wisely; then go for it!"
When Sara agreed to making an impact at the Champion level for Give to Lead, Give to Learn, it was with one stipulation: that her gift be used to encourage other women to give, too. With less than $450,000 needed to reach our $5 million goal, every gift matters. Your gift on #GivingTuesday makes Sara's $100,000 matching gift possible and puts our Campaign goal within reach. To take advantage of Sara's generosity and to help us raise $100,000 (or more!) in just 24 hours on #GivingTuesday, please make a gift on December 1, at www.GivetoTheta.org/Give.
Part of my job working in higher education involves advising and mentoring undergraduate students. Juniors and seniors want to talk about how I began to create a fulfilling, interesting, and challenging career path. They are so overwhelmed with the feeling that they have to decide right now what they are going to do for the rest of their lives, and they want advice from as many trusted individuals as are willing to share.
When I am asked about how I started my career, I without hesitation proudly share that I was blessed with the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. and Canada as an educational leadership consultant for Kappa Alpha Theta. Not everyone understands what that means, but they always ask to hear more about my experience.
Being an ELC during the 2005-2006 school year was one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs I have ever had, and likely will ever have. Not many people have the chance to work for an organization that they actually care about, but even fewer have the chance to do it while meeting intelligent, caring, and inspiring people from all over North America.
So, here's what I want to share with you:
- Being an ELC means being an advocate and educator, challenging young women to be the best versions of themselves and supporting them in campus environments that send mixed messages about what it means to be successful. ELCs have an incredible opportunity to be role models, teachers, friends, confidants, and mentors to our college members. In the process, ELCs are enhancing their own critical thinking, empathic listening, and strategic planning skills. There is a higher level of maturity, professionalism, self-efficacy, and grace that ELCs develop during their time working for the Fraternity.
- Being an ELC means doing good, engaging, challenging work.Don't be fooled by people who question whether or not traveling for your "sorority" is a "real job." Think those other jobs graduating seniors apply for are tough? Try winning over a group of 100 of your peers the first day you meet them, and then helping them change the culture of their organization by the time you leave on day five. Try being responsible for starting an organization from scratch and mentoring others to take it over in six months to a year. Being an ELC means making organization-wide decisions, building educational curriculum, leading workshops for audiences of all sizes, writing and implementing strategic plans, motivating teams, bringing together diverse people and perspectives, working with top-level administrators, and more—all in your FIRST year out of school. Most people have to wait 10 years and three promotions before being trusted to do that. But if you are ready for that now, Theta will give you that opportunity as an ELC.
- Being an ELC means developing a network of rich friendships and professional connections.Whether it's facilitating a leadership workshop for fraternity and sorority members in Boston, attending an international conference of higher education professionals in Dallas, or meeting up with a group of traveling consultants from other organizations in Los Angeles, ELCs get the chance to develop relationships with a wide variety of interesting and engaging people. One of the best types of relationships they develop is the connections with their fellow ELCs. I am certain you have read in other ELC blogs about the friendships they develop with their fellow travelers, and I echo their sentiments. My fellow ELCs have seen me through some of worst and best times of my life. They also have resumes and life histories full of accomplishments and interesting stories.
- I would not be the woman I am today with out my experience as an ELC. I mean that. I am forever indebted to the people and places planted into my life that year. I continue to grow into a better version of myself because of the learning and love they provided back then that will stay with me always.
For someone smart, talented, and eager like you, the "normal jobs" will always be there. If you are good enough to get into graduate school now, you will be an even better candidate in a year or two. Right now, you have the chance to do something different. Something that will push you, mold you, and shape you in ways you cannot imagine. Something that will most certainly be a game-changer. Apply now for the Kappa Alpha Theta ELC program, and begin what could be the journey of a lifetime.
A member's ability to contribute a distinctive perspective comes from the diverse nature of information, knowledge, and experience that she has acquired over her lifetime. Living by Theta's values on a daily basis only enhances the ideals and understanding of each member's own background.
Throughout my collegiate years and my alumnae experience, I have been able to extend my familiarity past the conventional subjects of diversity, to understand diversity in the interests of individuals that can contribute to a group of friends or a classroom conversation. While traveling for Theta, I have been afforded the opportunity to continue to learn from and interact with students from many experiential perspectives, while contributing my own broad and unique insight. Each day, I am excited to interact with college women who are with me on this quest to learn from each other with innovative and forward thinking. It is my hope that all members of Theta utilize their membership experience to always remain curious about the "Portrait of Theta."
I am proud to be a member, legacy, and employee of an amazing organization that is committed to developing today's college women into today's leaders. That is exactly what makes Kappa Alpha Theta a masterpiece: our make-up of women from every walk of life, all brought together because of one thing—the belief in sisterhood and support.
As I celebrate Black History Month this February and reflect on my own perspective, I also reflect on my membership experience, and I celebrate the history and individual uniqueness of our organization, chapters, and members.
Last week we had the opportunity to attend Risk Management on the Road (RMOTR), a conference held in Indianapolis for all traveling sorority consultants. This conference, started years ago by Kappa Alpha Theta, covered topics such as mental health, hazing, insurance claims, and other relevant risk management issues that we might encounter in our college chapters. This opportunity for networking and learning was invaluable, one we will surely reference throughout our year. All the women in attendance had the great opportunity to learn from Pete Smithhisler from the National Interfraternity Conference and Ginny Carroll, both incredible Greek role models—what fun to hear their perspective on the Greek movement!
We are enjoying our networking opportunities here in Indianapolis—we have made great friends in the other fraternity and sorority consultants in the area (and across the country). We are truly looking forward to reconnecting with all on our travels!
For more information on our adventures, "like" Kappa Alpha Theta ELCs on Facebook and follow @ThetaELCs on Twitter!