My high school experience was far from what you see in the movies. There was a severe lack of school spirit and community. Western University, on the other hand, is known for its student life and the community it has fostered over the years. I knew I needed a sense of community within the greater Western community.
At the beginning of my experience at Western, I truly did not think I would find that sense of community within a sorority. My view of sororities and Greek life had been tainted by mainstream media. And so I would think to myself, “Oh I would never be in a sorority, I’m not a sorority girl.”
After a long freshman year of being exposed to Greek events and the sorority life, I made the decision to sign up for primary recruitment. The summer going into my sophomore year, I went from driving past the Theta house to looking at the Theta Instagram every day and thinking wow those women are so cool! The group was so diverse, they were all leaders in their own way, and had so many accomplishments.
Out of all the houses I visited, it was the Thetas who were so interested in my goals and aspirations, my philosophy for life, and what sisterhood truly would mean to me. It was in that moment that I knew I could be in a sorority and that I had the gut feeling that Theta was home.
As a new member, I did my best to get to know each member on a sisterly level, apply for every committee I could, and show up to every Theta event and Greek-wide philanthropy event.
With all that love and effort, I was able to form strong female friendships, the kind where you would wake up in the middle of the night to help a sister if something was going wrong. I was able to develop confidence in my professional and social life. The women that I would be inspired by on the Theta Instagram were not only women I looked up to - they were my sisters. My Theta journey had been everything I dreamed of, having the perfect balance of social, sisterhood, scholarship, and philanthropy.
But two years later, all of that had changed. After a Thursday night of poor decisions, distasteful “traditions,” and a lack of risk prevention, the chapter was placed on Charter Review. This meant no more socials, no more philanthropy, and the possibility of losing a chapter that 90 members called home. At that time, Theta did not feel like home.
The chapter chief executive officer (CEO) and I (as chief learning officer [CLO]) would work every day to come closer to a solution for the conflict, but it felt like, every day, the light at the end of the tunnel would go dimmer and dimmer. In the height of all the tension, I witnessed friendships fall out and members feel more distant. I felt isolated from my sisters, but I knew that this would not be the end to our Theta journey.
In November 2021, the investigation came to an end. Gamma Epsilon Chapter was ready to take the steps towards change and we were graciously offered the chance to show that we were capable of that change. Loyalty Service that fall was the first time our chapter had been back together since being placed on Charter Review.
Hearing everyone sing Theta songs, feeling the vibrations in the room, and reciting the Loyalty Service as CLO to the new members felt magical. I could see my sisters at the back of the room tearing up from the words of the service. I could see the wide, excited, and eager eyes of the new members. The executive committee was empowered and united again. It felt like everything was going to be okay. It was our ritual that made Theta feel like home again.
Later that evening, our college district director (CDD) and Theta’s director of collegiate services pulled me aside to give me some feedback. In my head I was like, “Uh oh, feedback. Did I mess up ritual?” Instead, they offered me the position of chapter president. I had felt such a rush of emotions in that moment, and I couldn’t believe the moment was real. All the thoughts of, “Oh, I could never be in sorority,” to “I don’t know if I would be able to handle a position,” to “We might be losing our charter,” all washed away and what mattered was the faith and the trust the chapter had.
I am happy to say that Gamma Epsilon Chapter is actively working towards our action plan for a better and brighter future. This couldn’t have been done without the courage, optimism, and leadership of each chapter member and the faith and guidance offered by Theta.
As a freshman, you might have had this picture-perfect image of what your Theta journey would look like. You may have thought of being the best big/little duo, finding your future bridesmaids, or your twin star. For me, maybe my big and I were not the best big/little duo, maybe I haven’t found my bridesmaids, and maybe I am still searching for my twin star. But Theta has challenged me as a leader. It has given me the ability to develop leadership and professional skills that are transferable to my day-to-day and professional life. Theta has taught me the importance of female friendships and how to hold your closest friends accountable. Theta has also given me the opportunity to meet with the Western University president to discuss how to make the campus safer and healthier. Developing these skills, learning these lessons, and getting these opportunities wouldn’t have been possible without every experience throughout this dynamic Theta journey.
Know that there is no perfect Theta journey. Your Theta journey is forever changing, and one year may be drastically different from the next. But our Theta journeys are lifelong journeys. This isn’t the end of my story; it is just the beginning.
*This piece has been adapted from a speech given at Grand Convention 2022. Some minor things have been changed to better suit this format.
*While some terms used in telling members’ stories and personal experiences are not currently in use, they were accurate at the time of these members’ college experiences.