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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!
As I read through the 39 names, I realized that I've worked directly with so many of these women—college district directors, permanent alumnae secretaries, former and current Grand Council members—and it made me proud to see how far they've come in their Theta volunteering journey.
For example, Fraternity President Laura Doerre is celebrating 10 years of service this year, but she certainly didn't start there. Her volunteer tenure began as an officer with her Houston NW Alumnae Chapter. And each year, she climbed the Theta ladder to the highest volunteer position.
As I thought about her trajectory, and those of the other women on the list, I began to think about our future. About your future. Have you ever thought about giving back to the Fraternity? What skills and talents could you share with us?
It doesn't take any time to get started, so complete a Volunteer Interest Indicator today (login required). And maybe in 10 years, we too will ask, "How did she get her start?"
International and district officers, committee chairmen, and PASes are eligible for volunteer charms.
This year, I was encouraged to blog about our Fraternity's accomplishments in 2012. It's particularly appropriate because we have just completed year one of our Plan of Aspirations, and I am very proud of the momentum that has developed toward achieving our lofty goals.
One goal is to invest new energy and focus in our alumnae program so that it better meets the needs of our members. We have invested tremendous resources and developed an ambitious plan to double the number of alumnae actively engaged by 2015. To that end, we have launched the links program, which connects alumnae via social media to their college chapters, and expanded the circles program, for towns and cities in which an alumnae chapter isn't feasible but the relevance of Theta for a lifetime has not been lost.
We have also seen greater participation by alumnae in our extension efforts. Our new chapter at Boston University was installed with a full advisory board of alumnae. Our Zeta Omicron and Alpha Beta chapters at Wake Forest and Swarthmore will be re-established this year. It is so exciting to bring back disestablished chapters and watch them soar to success, as we did at Alpha Xi/Oregon in 2012. It is a privilege to watch our Fraternity chapters grow in quantity as well as quality!
Speaking of quality, Theta has always strived for excellence in scholarship. In our Plan of Aspirations, we place a renewed emphasis on scholarship. Highest scholarship does not mean "average"; it means HIGHEST. The results of this new emphasis are staggering: 33 chapters ranked number one on their campus for grades, and 80 percent of our chapters above the all-sorority average on their campuses.
Academic excellence is not achieved in a vacuum. This was the first year for our Top Ten Faculty program, in which every college chapter voluntarily nominated a faculty member to be recognized by our Fraternity. The reaction and recognition this program received is overwhelming, and it has been very rewarding to see our college women build these crucial relationships and personify Theta pride to their professors.
Theta pride was overflowing at the annual meeting of the Association of Fraternity Advisors. It was there that our Sisters Supporting Sisters mental health initiative received the Excellence in Educational Programming Award. We are so excited to continue to build this ground-breaking program.
2012 was the fourth year of our International Day of Service when Thetas unite on Bettie Locke's birthday to serve their campus or community. College and alumnae chapters organize events for their members, but individual Thetas also spread the widest influence for good by giving time to help those in need.
These are the big accomplishments that I wanted you to know about, the ones I think about when I think about being your president. I also think about many, many Thetas who are telling me their stories of their lifetime of Theta experiences. The stories of small gestures like wearing your badge on Founders Day and amazing accomplishments like a chapter that raised more than $10,000 for CASA make my job so rewarding. I would like to thank every Theta for her loyalty to the Fraternity and to encourage each of you to tell your story. You never know who you might inspire.
In the Summer 2011 issue of the Magazine, I had the pleasure of introducing you to the Fraternity's Plan of Aspirations. Adopted this spring, the Plan supports our mission—yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Kappa Alpha Theta exists to nurture each member throughout her college and alumnae experience and to offer a lifelong opportunity for social, intellectual, and moral growth as she meets the higher and broader demands of mature life—as well as our true promise—loyalty to cultured womanhood. It is designed as a blueprint for the next five years ... and beyond.
As the first Greek-letter fraternity for women, Theta has historically been a leader and an innovator. We could not have flourished for nearly 150 years without anticipating trends and responding to the needs of a changing society. As we strive to best serve our members, we must acknowledge when our resources are being stretched to their limits and be ready to evolve and to transform our operations.
At its August meeting, Grand Council developed a framework designed to address and meet the current needs of the Fraternity. On September 13, Council adopted this plan, to be substantially completed by January 1, 2012. It is with high hopes for our future that I share the key components with you now.
• Kappa Alpha Theta will continue to be organized by districts.
• Programming titles for Fraternity vice-presidents will be eliminated. The elected Council will be composed of a president and six vice-presidents.
• All Fraternity officers will be appointed by Grand Council.
• Each appointed officer is the chairman of a committee. Other committees (such as NPC and government relations) will comprise specialist volunteers.
• Adequate staff will be hired to support success. Fraternity officers will report to staff and to Grand Council through the executive director.
We recognize that these are bold changes! Yet current research about efficient organization of women's groups reveals that success is based more on horizontal/flat structures than on a top-heavy hierarchy. In addition to keeping the welfare of our Fraternity as our primary objective, it was also important that we offer meaningful opportunities for wide and wise human service within our volunteer structure. By adopting this plan, we believe we can best serve our members and fulfill Kappa Alpha Theta's promise to foster social, intellectual, and moral growth.
Amy Hayner Kates, Alpha Phi/Tulane, is president of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity.