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Olivia Fryml Epps, Delta Phi/Clemson, is a member of the Young Alumnae Board. She previously served as advisory board chairman and finance and Panhellenic advisors for Beta Omega/Colorado College; facility corporation board treasurer for Beta Omega/Colorado College; and president and events coordinator for the Colorado Springs Alumnae Chapter, for which she was also the Grand Convention delegate in 2012.
Undergraduate officer positions held: I didn't hold any official titles as an undergraduate member, but I did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for the chapter. I tried to fill in where I could with new member education, event planning, philanthropy execution and donations, etc. My true passion came as an alumna.
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? When I graduated from Clemson, I moved to Colorado to be a nanny for my nephew. Not knowing anyone there other than family, I immediately sought out Theta. I searched the website to find someone in the area and contacted Kim Matthews, Alpha/DePauw, a longtime Theta volunteer in the area. She welcomed me with open arms and provided wonderful information about volunteering and getting involved as an alumna. The website showed me information about volunteering, but it was really Kim who shared the opportunity to become a volunteer.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? Kim was really a huge catalyst for my volunteering. Additionally, the desire to make friends with similar experiences was a big motivator. Theta was such a big part of my life in college, I don't think I was ready to give it up as an alumna.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? Eight years.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? I don't think she knows it, but I've always considered Maggie McKenny Harris, Gamma/Butler, a Theta mentor. As a new advisor for Beta Omega Chapter, I was able to work directly with her and found her spirit and love of Theta inspiring. Any time I had a question or needed support, she was there. She has continuously empowered me as a volunteer, Theta, and career woman.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? Honestly, Theta fills my bucket. I love giving back to the Fraternity in any way I can. It has been a rewarding experience thus far, and I'm so thankful to continue to have opportunities to volunteer, even overseas.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? There have been so many, but I recall feeling overwhelmed with joy and passion for Theta at Grand Convention 2012. I was the Colorado Springs Alumnae Chapter delegate, which in itself was an amazingly wonderful experience. While I was there, I connected with volunteers who encouraged me to revamp our Beta Omega Facility Corporation and advisory board.
Do you have a special Theta moment? A special Theta moment of mine was as a collegian experiencing our annual Fall Band Party for the first time. I went with 125 of my Delta Phi sisters to Pumpkintown, SC (it's true!) and danced the night away in the middle of the woods on an outdoor stage. We brought sandwiches, sodas and friends, and danced to a live band for hours. I felt so close and at home with these women and their friends, and it was the first time I really felt part of something so much bigger than myself.
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I have both! As a civilian contracting officer for the U.S. Army, I have a passion for customer service, providing solutions to my customers while being a good steward of taxpayers' dollars. My personal passion, other than Theta, has been disaster response. I've volunteered with a veteran-focused organization called Team Rubicon, and provided administration and financial management for both domestic and international emergency response operations, including several in Colorado and one in the Philippines. It's been an invaluable, humbling experience to help those during a time of devastation and trauma (for instance, after a flood or tsunami), while also providing purpose to veterans who just want to continue serving others.
Melina Beeston, Beta Chi/Alberta, is advisory board chairman (ABC) for Beta Chi/Alberta. She has previously served as facility corporation board (FCB) vice-president, recruitment advisor, and finance advisor for the chapter.
Undergraduate officer positions held: Social chairman (now event director), facility manager (now facility management director), and vice-president membership (now chief recruiting officer), chief information officer (now chief education officer).
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? I always had an excellent relationship with my advisors and other volunteers while I was an undergraduate member. At Beta Chi, becoming a Theta volunteer is very common with women who have previously held officer positions once they have transitioned to alumnae status. I was asked to join both FCB and advisory board in the years following university.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? I joined the FCB in the winter of 2011, and the advisory board the following winter in 2012.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? I've had the very special honor of working with Ruth Wong-Miller since I was an undergraduate member. She was my recruitment advisor when I was vice-president membership, and later the ABC when I was recruitment advisor and finance advisor. Ruth is now the college district director (CDD) in College District XIII and has been a wonderful resource to me as ABC, as well as our own CDD, Kateri Broussard.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer, and why do you stay involved with Theta? The shortest answer is because I "promised" to. Being a volunteer has everything to do with the principles our Fraternity is based upon. We call upon all our members to carry forward our organization's spirit in their daily lives, and to me, that includes doing whatever I can to exercise the widest influence for good, especially when it comes to a group that has helped to shape the person I am today. There is no receiving without also giving back. It certainly doesn't come without both joy and pain at times, but there is a very special quiet pride in seeing the pictures of our women on Bid Day or dressed up for their winter formal, remembering that time for myself and my sisters. Nobody will get to feel the way that we felt (or that they feel now, in that moment) without the support of Theta volunteers.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? As the recruitment advisor, I had always enjoyed sitting on executive recruitment board (ERB) and getting to know the women who were also on that committee. This next fall will be the first time in six years that I won't be present for recruitment, and I will certainly miss the laughter, snacks, and infectious energy through the house after a recruitment party.
Do you have a special Theta moment? One of the greatest things Theta has given me is an opportunity to connect with my mother in a way we'd never quite been able to before. She was initiated in the winter of 1989—a mere nine months before I was born—and because both of my parents were busy undergraduates, I spent my share of time as an infant at our chapter facility. I'm told stories by other local alumnae who remember holding me at meetings or during chapter dinners. I'm not quite sure how it came about (because I didn't ask her), but she was asked to come speak at Parent's Tea one year, as she could touch on both the parent side and the alumnae side for most apprehensive parents of new members joining our chapter. Like most over-achievers, there were always other tasks to be quietly taking care of in the background while guests listened to the speakers, but the first time she came to speak, I could hear her from the next room over as she told the story of how I had taken my first steps as a child in the very spot she was standing in at that moment. She said that she believed this was also the house I had taken my true first steps in as an adult (I'd tend to agree).
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I am a passionate advocate for supporting local businesses whenever possible. I live in a city filled with so many courageous, talented people who want to share their creativity and passion with their community and I absolutely love that. I currently work in a role in which I can help local business owners in a particular industry develop and grow. I also co-run a volunteer-led not-for-profit called What the Truck?! that organizes pop-up events for local food truck owners here in Edmonton.
Sara Lytle, Alpha Phi/Tulane, is advisory board chairman (ABC) for Zeta Upsilon/UT Dallas, Dallas Alumnae Chapter website coordinator, and permanent alumnae secretary (PAS) for Alpha Phi/Tulane. She has previously served as development advisor, Zeta Chi/Johns Hopkins; recruitment and Panhellenic advisor, Alpha Nu/Montana; Missoula Alumnae Chapter president; marketing and community involvement advisors, Zeta Upsilon/UT Dallas; and Dallas Alumnae Chapter membership communications coordinator.
Undergraduate officer positions held: Assistant membership chairman (now recruitment director).
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? Soon after graduating from Tulane, I moved to Baltimore and stayed with my Theta big sister Kelly Drake Torres until I found a permanent place to live. I tagged along with her to an advisory board meeting for Zeta Chi/Johns Hopkins, led by fellow Alpha Phi/Tulane Claire Breedlove Smith, who was ABC at the time. I signed on as development advisor the next semester, and the rest is history.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? I did not have the availability as a collegian to be as active a leader in my chapter as I wanted, so I made the decision as an alumna to be as involved as possible.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? 9 years
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? This has been the hardest question to answer. I have had so many Theta mentors over the past decade and I can see more being added to the list as I continue my Theta journey. Most recently I became the ABC for Zeta Upsilon/UT Dallas, which has been a challenging and very rewarding experience. As a new ABC, I relied heavily on my past mentorship from Suzanne Peterson, long-standing ABC for Alpha Nu/Montana, and contacted her frequently during the first year of my term. Most of all, what I take from Suzanne is her patience. She was very patient with me in a pivotal time in my life and helped me through some stressful situations. The patience she has with the collegians and her ABC duties is admirable and a testament of a true leader.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? It's the best way to stay updated with the Fraternity. It's truly amazing to see how our organization grows and changes over the course of time, and I've only been a member for 13 years. Secondly, I learn more about myself and leadership through Theta than anything else I've been a part of. Plus, the collegians are incredible. Watching them succeed is the best part of volunteering.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? Recruitment will always be my first love. As recruitment advisor for seven years at Alpha Nu/Montana, we experienced a large leap in enrollment for recruitment one year. As we were setting up for preference round, we realized that we were severely lacking in seating for the next day. We knew the Fraternity across the street would have tables and chairs that we could borrow, but because of Panhellenic rules, neither of us could be on one another's property. In the wee hours of the morning, the men dropped off furniture in between our properties, and Theta women ran out to retrieve it. It's one funny recruitment "emergency" I will never forget!
Do you have a special Theta moment? As a Tulane student in New Orleans, you become well acquainted with hurricane season. A hurricane usually passes by the area right before the first round of exams every year. My sophomore year, a dozen or so Thetas piled into cars and ventured off to northern Louisiana to invade a member's childhood home. It was one giant girly slumber party for a week. The next year, our hurricane break would last an entire semester and change our beloved crescent city forever. It was my junior year, and the force from Hurricane Katrina blasted through the levees of New Orleans. I watched from afar as the city I'd grown to love was drowning under the deluge. Because these hurricane breaks weren't uncommon, I had thrown a small bag of possessions together and didn't give it a second thought as I headed out the door the day before Katrina landed. This single bag ended up being the only things I owned for the rest of that semester. When we learned we would not be returning to Tulane, I decided to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder. I reached out to the facility director of Beta Iota Chapter to see if they had room for me that semester. She said yes of course and warmly welcomed me into the facility a few days later. Come to find out, they did not have an actual vacancy when I arrived, but they made room for me. It was the only Theta facility I ever lived in and is still some of the best food I've ever eaten. It was like a semester abroad complete with new Theta sisters. Beta Iota didn't have to accept me, didn't have to include me, and didn't have to make room for me. But they did it anyway. Whether it's moving, needing a place to stay, or help in a tight situation, Theta has been the only one there for me every. single. time.
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I have a passion for learning. I seek certifications, advanced degrees, leadership courses, and frequently read personal development books. As I advise for the college chapters, I'm always tempted by the new graduate programs the schools offer. Similarly, I find foreign culture extremely fascinating. I studied French and Arabic, dabbled in Spanish, and have Russian on my to-do list. I travel abroad as much as I can to immerse myself in the various cultures and greatly appreciate the unique qualities of each place. I am a dreamer who loves to explore and I honestly believe that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
Do you know a Theta who's made a difference in her local Theta chapter? Let us know!