Sunday, August 14, 2016

Susan Lee Shares her First Blog Post as National President

Coming home from Convention, sisters are filled with excitement and renewed commitment to the Fraternity. You can see it all over social media with lots of posts, interactions and new friend requests. Sisters are filling out the volunteer interest form on the website and Grand Council members are busy learning their new roles, filling their teams with returning and new volunteers and getting ready for our first meeting at the end of August. Collegians are winding down summer jobs, heading back to campus and preparing for fall recruitment. September is a time of new beginnings. It’s a good time to get involved.

Many sisters have asked me to publish my campaign speech I gave at Convention when I ran for National President. As I began preparing for this new role in transition calls with Laura Foley and Shane McGoey, as well as many other sisters back in January, I thought about our biggest needs as a Fraternity. As the months wore on and Convention got closer, I began to focus on three key areas. Here is my speech:
My name is Susan Lee and I was initiated into Sigma Chapter in 1981. Theta Phi Alpha has made me who I am today and this is why I am running for National President. 
As a Fraternity we have come a long way from what our 10 Founders started over 100 years ago. As president, I intend to continue to foster that growth while focusing on three key areas: Connections, Communication and Clarity.  
Connections are our number one priority. We are a member-based, volunteer organization, and connections with sisters is why we are all here. Sisterhood is our most important asset. Without it, we are nothing.  
Our communication to members needs to be clear, correct and consistent. Using a variety of methods from social media, to the good old fashioned phone call or letter will reach sisters of all ages. Our new website will be very helpful in keeping many sisters informed. 
Clarity—by this I mean clarity of purpose and direction as well as clarity of roles, responsibilities and duties for volunteers and National Office staff. The Grand Council has always set the direction of the Fraternity and this will continue to be our role. As we transition to having more staff available to take on the day-to-day tasks of managing a continuously growing organization, defining and clarifying those roles is more important than ever. This growth is necessary and beneficial for Theta Phi Alpha - we must continue to move forward. 
We are a diverse group of women with a large variety of life experiences and backgrounds. We won’t always agree with each other, but by treating each other with respect and love there is no end to what we can accomplish. I can’t promise that I know everything I need to know or that I have all the answers. I’m not afraid to ask questions or learn new things. The most important asset I have is all of you, my sisters. I can’t do this alone-my success is your success, our success. I can promise that I will do my best, lead where it may, cost what it may.
The speeches were given in reverse order, so I was last. As I listened to all the other candidates giving their speeches, I was pleased to see that we were all thinking along the same lines and have the same goals for this biennium. One of the most common themes was more communication and more transparency. We will continue to work on this area and you can help us with that. Go to the website and make sure your contact info is correct. Read these blogs and like our Theta Phi Alpha social media pages. Read your email, visit the website and look for any new information. Participate in surveys and stay connected with other sisters. Each of those actions will keep you connected and informed. If you want to know something, reach out to a sister or to National Office. Member engagement is essential to our success and I’m looking forward to connecting with you soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July News & Notes

As I reflect over the biennium and I prepare for the State of the Fraternity, I am reminded of all the changes that have occurred. Changes can be difficult, but they can also be good. When change occurs it means something familiar is exchanged for something new and unfamiliar. But not moving forward is sometimes just not an option.

I have had some changes in my life this biennium as well. Saying goodbye forever to my mother was hard, but it is the circle of life and we must go on. My daughter getting married means a change too. The little girl has grown up. Yes, I will always be her mother, but it will be different. We have feelings of sadness and joy as we add a new member to our family. Change had to happen to make room for this new addition.

I find it interesting and comforting that with all these changes there is something constant. It is Ritual. The ritual of a memorial service, the ritual of a wedding. Some rituals are few and far between, some are daily, but these rituals are there to help us weather change.

This week Theta Phis will be attending the ritual of Convention in St. Louis, Missouri. This ritual occurs every two years and concludes with the ritual of Installation of the new leadership. I hope the ritual does its magic once again, bringing comfort to the change that a new biennium brings.

It has been an honor to serve my sisters these last eight years. I am a better person for serving. My sisters and my #FriendsAcrossBadges have taught me so much. 

Thank you, I could not have done it without you by my side.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Transgender Membership, Title IX, and Single-Sex Organizations

This month's guest blogger is Nikki Conroy, National Vice President-Extension.

Transgender issues, Title IX, and single-sex organizations are generating significant national, state, and campus-wide conversations, and they all impact us as sorority women.  Here’s an introductory snapshot to these issues for members that want to learn more, with key terms hyperlinked to additional educational resources, as well as our position on honoring the lifelong membership of all Theta Phi Alphas.

What is Title IX?
In short, Title IX was passed in 1972 and prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance, and now prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and/or gender expression.  Some social groups, including fraternities and sororities, are exempt from this legislation with regard to membership practices, and Title IX is primarily applicable to the regulation of educational institutions.

Why should we care about Title IX?
Our members are protected from discrimination based on their sex, gender identity, and gender expression under Title IX, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, and timely action by the institution should rights be violated.  (To learn more about your rights and violence prevention resources, visit our Educational Resource page.)The rights of transgender students are also protected under Title IX, and the concept of transgender membership has muddied the waters for what the inclusion of transgender members means for social fraternities’ and sororities’ to remain single-sex organizations.  Some feared that inclusion would jeopardize the single-sex status, while others (e.g., Delta Gamma), explicitly invited transgender women to membership.

What does transgender membership mean for single-sex organizations?
Fraternal Law Partners say the decision to admit transgender members is at the discretion of individual organizations, although they acknowledge that constitutionally, discrimination against transgender members may cause trouble.  They’ve offered guidelines on clarifying policies and identified the risks of trans inclusion and exclusion and the risks of doing nothing. 

What does this mean for us?
The federal government recently confirmed that the admission of transgender students to membership does not jeopardize the single-sex status of social organizations exempt from Title IX.  Nonetheless, the decision to do so (or not) remains at the discretion of individual organizations.

In line with suggestions from Fraternal Law Partners, Theta Phi Alpha reaffirms that all initiated women, collegians and alumnae, are afforded lifelong membership regardless of transitions in gender identity thereafter. 

As conversations about transgender membership continue, let us remember that promoting inclusion is not entirely new territory for Theta Phi Alpha.  What was once an organization for Catholic women is now an organization open to all women.  Our current membership includes women with a broad range of gender expression as well as a broad range of sexual orientations.  We are already challenging the idea that there is only one way to be a “woman” in a women’s organization.

Theta Phi Alpha should be proud of its longstanding history of justice to each fellow man and providing opportunities for a diverse group of women to come together over a shared commitment to advancing women’s personal, academic, social, and professional development.  To continue dialogue on how to best meet the needs of women today while preserving the values inherent to Theta Phi Alpha, we encourage you to reach out to the Grand Council, write to National Office, or simply engage in casual conversation with members in your area.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April News & Notes

Theta Phi Alpha FoundersIt is Spring time and the weather is changing. For many of us it is a welcome change. Fresh grass, flowers popping up and longer days. It is also a time for change as our New Members are initiated and as our Alumnae Associations welcome new graduates.

Change is exciting but it can also be uncomfortable. Looking forward to new adventures and opportunities is exhilarating, but can be overwhelming at times, as well. It is always good to think about those things that remain constant and provide the comfort of familiarity to keep us grounded as we face change. This can be applied to Theta Phi Alpha as well.

There have been many changes, most noticeably in our National Office, over the biennium. But many things have remained constant. We are still and will always be a member organization. We do not exist if not for our membership. Only members can recruit members. Theta Phi Alpha stresses values-based recruitment and our values have been constants for over 100 years. These values are what ground us and provide the True North for which our compass points. 

We will always need and depend on our loyal alumnae to provide the volunteer efforts that connect our membership. For we will need the older and wiser sisters to help our newer members learn the traditions and Rituals of our Fraternity. Local, regional and national volunteers are always needed and their efforts are forever appreciated. We are each a single rose which when joined together creates a bouquet that is stronger and more beautiful.

Our Ritual has not changed. It remains a time for us as members to stop and reflect on the true meaning of our values. There is comfort in Rituals, just as we find comfort in the rituals of our daily lives. Sometimes as an alumna I find myself craving the Ritual of Initiation. To attend initiation as an alumna always brings me back to those years in college and the friendships that live on.

There have been changes in our leadership with the recent resignation of two Grand Council members. Although it is difficult to lose members of our leadership team, the remaining members, volunteers and staff are working to cover their responsibilities and fill these positions. There will also be more changes as we welcome a new Grand Council this summer. We are working hard to make sure our new set of leaders are prepared and ready to take on the challenges that our future holds. I look forward to working with them as they are excited for the future and ready to accept the challenges ahead.

As we celebrate Founders’ Day this weekend, I think about the 10 women that were excited to create something new. I’m sure they were a bit uncomfortable as they forged those changes, but they knew what our Patroness knew, that ‘Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring’!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

February/March News & Notes

This post comes to you from Tracy Sexton our National Ritual Chairman.

March is an exciting month for Ritual. The month starts off with National Ritual Celebration Week (NRCW) from March 6-12th. NRCW was created by Phi Mu in 2011 to encourage reflection on Ritual for their collegian and alumnae members. Since its conception, other national fraternities and sororities have collaborated with Phi Mu on NRCW to inspire Ritual discernment, share Ritual programming and nationally unite Greek men and women in celebration of their organization’s unique values. For the first time, Theta Phi Alpha is excited to participate in NRCW. Please refer to our website to learn about ways you can celebrate Ritual with your chapter or alumnae association

Spring is also an eventful time for initiations and with Founders' Day around the corner, we will now reflect on an aspect of Theta Phi Alpha’s rich history to address both Initiation and our Founders. A big question this year has been what to wear (or not wear) to Initiation. Nationally, we encourage women in all phases of membership to follow the instructions outlined in the Ritual book. Ritual is conducted with the utmost respect and dignity. Items that can detract from the solemnity of the ceremony should be removed. Historically our would wake New Members in the middle of the night and take them to Initiation as they were. That’s right; no makeup, no jewelry, and likely no stylish hair. As we no longer support or allow the idea of waking new members in the middle of the night for Initiation, we do still encourage members of all phases to attend Initiation in their natural appearance.

Finally, this busy Ritual season concludes with graduation. This could involve sisters going from the collegiate to alumna stage or an alumna furthering her education. As I myself am about to graduate, I have thought long and hard about this phase. I’m torn as to where I want to work or what I want to do after graduation. At times, I find myself distracted by opportunities for reasons that should not matter such as a higher, unnecessary salary. As the daily struggle to figure out ‘what I want be when I grow up’ is real, I read the creed. The line “Honor valued over wealth” immediately pointed my needle to the North. I realized that about half of the jobs I considered applying for were not what I really wanted to do, but the salaries were quite enticing. As many sisters are unsure of the path ahead, I encourage you ladies to use the creed as a guide in every stage of life.

Theta Phi Alpha’s Ritual is a beautiful legacy rooted from the lessons learned by our founders. During this busy Ritual season, I encourage you to celebrate our values by participating in NRCW and to discern what our Ritual means to you. You can do this by reading the Ritual Book, reflecting on the Creed, or participating in one of the activities listed on the website. As we enter this spring season, now is the time to refresh the lifelong commitment we made to our Ritual and allow it to guide us through new beginnings.

Tracy Sexton, GN, National Ritual Chairman

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January News & Notes

Welcome 2016! As we start a New Year it is time to look to the future. 2016 is a convention year and with convention comes the election of our Fraternity leadership. Theta Phi Alpha is made up of countless women who are full of ambition and untapped potential to lead and make a difference within our growing organization. We need you to help us identify these leaders and encourage them to run for election this summer. Even better, maybe you are the leader we’re looking for to make a difference within our sisterhood.

Elected officers include the Grand Council and Board of Trustees (BOT). If you, or someone you know, is interested in running for a position read below to see if you qualify to run.

Board of Trustees Qualifications 
The role and qualifications of the BOT is found in our National Constitution and Bylaws Article VI: The Board of Trustees shall receive the recommendations of the Grand Council and shall meet with that body as necessary. Its duties shall be to advise the Grand Council on fraternal, scholastic, and financial policies; to determine and present the National Awards; and to nominate the elected national officers.

The BOT has the power to establish as well as determine awards. This includes the Senior Service, Guard of Honor, and Siena Medal along with a host of Chapter and Association awards. They are also responsible for ensuring there are candidates nominated to run for election by the convention body for both the Grand Council and the Board of Trustees positions.

Members shall have been alumnae for at least five years and be in good financial standing. At least three of the Trustees shall be past national officers or past or present national chairmen.

The members of the BOT are elected by the Convention body, just as the members of Grand Council are. The BOT bears no legal responsibility for the day to day operations of the Fraternity, as the members of Grand Council do.

Grand Council Qualifications 
The duties of the Grand Council can be found in Bylaw II, the Grand Council shall perform all duties ordinarily the responsibility of the directors of a corporation, shall communicate with one another at least once a month, and shall meet at least annually. Qualifications for Grand Council members can be found in Article V, each member of the Grand Council shall be an alumna member in good financial standing who previously has held a national office or chairmanship. Each member of the Grand Council shall have earned a bachelor’s degree at least five years before election. The National Treasurer shall have a degree with a concentration in accounting or two years experience in accounting-related work.

It is a large responsibility to serve the Fraternity, but it is also a rewarding experience. I hope you will consider volunteering your time, talent and leadership! In the words of Emma Watson, “if not me who, if not now when?”