Friday, June 30, 2017

Part 1 of 2: Where is the Fraternity going and how do we get there?

I’m going to take you on a journey through our history over the next two months to answer the question: Where is the Fraternity going and how do we get there? Theta Phi Alpha last held a long-range strategic planning meeting in 2007. This meeting of 28 sisters and friends was coordinated by Kristin Henkenius, Alpha Pi, and facilitated by Ginny Carroll of InGinuity. The plan that came from this meeting was to be a 20-year-plan. This group identified six areas of focus:  collegiate chapter growth and retention; education and training; infrastructure; financial stability and capability; lifetime involvement; and, marketing and communication. We are now halfway through the 20 years, so I started by looking at the updates and changes that have been made as well as the progress. 

Since 2007, we have experienced significant growth and make great progress towards these goals. We have chartered or reinstated 25 chapters and 10 alumnae associations. Think about that -- that’s nearly half of our chapters! In that respect, we are a very young sorority. How does an organization deal with that amount of growth over such a short period of time? Technology has played a large role, as well as changes in our volunteer structure and additions to our staff. Out of necessity to serve an increasing number of chapters, our staff began to take on more responsibility, still under the direction of Grand Council. In the last few years, Grand Council introduced the concept of governance and hired an Executive Director with significant experience in the fraternal world. 

While sisters understand the need for growth and change, some have expressed fear that we are losing our identity, or that non-members are making decisions for the Fraternity. The concept of governance is not new. One definition of governance is, “set the strategic vision and direction and formulate high-level goals and policies.” This is what Grand Council has always done and still does. There is a difference between governance and management. In the early years, Grand Council did both, although there are references to a paid staff member as early as the 1940s. A letter from Acting Grand President Irene Devlin in 1927 mentions the establishment of a central office. Today, governance still refers to the role of the Grand Council, and management refers to the role of National Office staff. The chart below illustrates the difference in duties between the Grand Council and the National Office staff (credit: unesco.org.).

Governance (Grand Council)                        
Management (National Office staff)
*Sets norms, strategic vision and direction, and formulate high-level policies.                                                          
*Run the organization in line with the broad goals and direction set by the governing goals and body.                   
*Oversee management and organizational performance to ensure that the organization is working in the best interests of the public, and more specifically the stakeholders who are served by the organization’s mission.
*Implement the decisions within the context of the mission and strategic vision.
 
*Direct and oversee the management to ensure that the organization is achieving the desired outcomes and to ensure that the organization is acting prudently, ethically and legally.
*Make operational decisions and policies, keep the governance bodies informed and educated.

* Be responsive to requests for additional information.

Back to the question: Where are we going? I searched the archives for information about our earliest years and any reference I could find to the goals our Founders had in mind for Theta Phi Alpha. In our archives, we have a letter from Mildred Connely detailing our early history. She writes that Amelia “believed that Theta Phi Alpha would never “arrive” on the University campus until it enjoyed Panhellenic recognition.” She worked diligently to achieve that recognition. Some of our early expansion was driven by the National President writing letters to bishops asking for their support in establishing a chapter at a local university. A 1927 letter from Acting Grand President Irene Devlin confirms that Theta Phi Alpha was starting to petition for membership in National PanHellenic Congress (what is now the National Panhellenic Conference). While talking with Karen Rubican, AS, National Historian, on this topic, she described our growth since 1912 as periods of “feast or famine.” We have alternated between great progress and huge setbacks.

Bishop Kelly and Amelia had founded Theta Phi Alpha after the failure of a previous group called Omega Upsilon. Both were initially intended to provide support for Catholic girls to practice their faith while attending a public university. But I don’t think that’s all Amelia intended for us to be. If that were the only goal, then why was Panhellenic recognition so important to her? Why extend to other universities? 

Clearly Amelia had big dreams for us. Throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Theta Phi Alpha applied for membership in what was by then the National Panhellenic Conference. We were finally granted full membership in 1952, so unfortunately Amelia did not live to see this achievement. We struggled through the late 1980s to maintain enough chapters to keep that membership. At one point, we were moved to associate member status and given a deadline to increase the number of chapters. It was during those years (the 1980s) that serious discussions were held regarding our existence. At the 1982 National Convention, the Grand Council was given the authority to decide our future. The Board of Trustees was charged with conducting research on our options of dissolution, merging, consolidating or forming a new sorority and were to report back by the next Convention. I am so glad that Grand Council chose to continue Amelia’s dream. By 1992, we had 36 collegiate chapters, which represented nearly 300% growth in 10 years! 

We have continued this rapid growth pattern until the present, alternating between periods of growth and periods of holding steady to develop the infrastructure to maintain chapters. In 1994, we rented office space in Bay Village and moved our “National Office” out of the National Executive Secretary’s home! (Make sure you are receiving The Compass magazine, because there will be an article in the Fall 2017 issue detailing the history of our National Office.) All of this happened because of the efforts of a large number of volunteers who sacrificed personal time, and sometimes their career, for the advancement of Theta Phi Alpha. Their efforts made it possible for us to be where we are today. Another factor in our success has been the investment in technology. A digital database and the use of email were two of the earliest tools we began to use. The growth of the internet soon brought us more opportunities to increase the frequency and ease of communications.

Throughout most of our history, members of Grand Council and other volunteers also managed the day to day work of the Fraternity. We are now on the cusp of transitioning, as Liz Eberhart, AG, National Treasurer, always says, “We went from a mom and pop company to a mid-size business in a short period of time.” Liz has volunteered at the national level with Theta Phi Alpha in a variety of areas from Editor of The Compass to Board of Trustees to Theta Phi Alpha Foundation Director, and now as our National Treasurer. As treasurer, she deals with the nuts and bolts of the business side of the Fraternity. As a loyal sister with over 30 years of volunteer service, she understands the member aspect of our organization as well as the business side. For the majority of our history, we were a small mom and pop company. We could handle the “business” of running the Fraternity solely with volunteers.

Sororities exist by competing for members on university campuses during recruitment and by competing with each other at extension opportunities. Even though we are all not-for-profit organizations, we succeed by excelling at sales and marketing. Our “competitors” in this “business” are the other 25 NPC groups. We need to deliver the same professional level of materials, programming, and service to our members in order to exist in this arena. There are many opportunities competing for the time and attention of a college woman today and sororities are just one of them. Our alumnae members are busy women who deserve to have a variety of opportunities for engagement with Theta Phi Alpha throughout their lives. Governance is simply another step in this direction as we seek to improve the quality and consistency of information, programming, and the entire member experience.  As we continue to grow as an organization we will be able to offer more services to our members. Next month’s blog will continue this discussion with some of the goals we have in place for the rest of this biennium.







Part two of this blog post will be published on July 30th. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

You graduated... now what?!

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! Theta Phi Alpha is so proud of you and all your accomplishments. We know that you have achieved many scholastic and personal accomplishments in the past four years. Whether you were initiated as a freshman or a senior, you have been a part of our collegian population and now move onto the wonderful world of being an alumna!

So... what exactly does this mean? You enjoyed Senior Farewell and then graduated, and now you're an alumna. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in the business of our chapter, and forget that the basis of our sorority is sisterhood. Now is the best time to celebrate our sisterhood!

Transitioning to the alumnae phase is one of the best parts of Theta Phi Alpha. The alumnae phase is the longest phase of membership, so you have the most years to enjoy it! The Fraternity has many ways for alumnae to stay involved in Theta Phi Alpha and enjoy the many benefits that come with our sisterhood. Below are just a few of the many things you can do to stay involved.
  1. Join your local alumnae association or club. Don’t know where to locate the association or club or any women in the association? Fill out the Alumnae Association Interest Form. Don’t have an alumnae association or club in your area? Email Sue Check, Director of Alumnae Services, and request information on starting an alumnae association or club. Fill out the Member Contact Request Form and find other alumnae in your area to start an association or a club.
  2. Pay your Alumnae Dues. Paying your Alumnae Dues allows you to be a member in good standing, and receive all Fraternity communications and publications, including The Compass. Dues are a minimum of $50 per year and the annual Alumnae Dues Appeals launches every September.  
  3. Join us during the even years for National Convention! This is one of my favorite alumnae activities! We encourage all our sisters to attend National Convention if you are able. For the past few Conventions, we have been able to offer an alumnae outing prior to the start of Convention. We will offer that and other alumnae activities in Pittsburgh next summer. We hope to have some alumnae programming as well. You’ll meet so many wonderful sisters and learn so many new things if you come to Convention. Join us July 11-15, 2018 in Pittsburgh!
  4. Follow the Fraternity! Check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and our website. Stay connected to all things Theta Phi Alpha and see what is going in around the country and in your area!
  5. Volunteer to serve as a National Officer. There are many volunteer jobs within the Fraternity. Fill out the National Officer application and when a position becomes available that you might be matched with, someone from our staff will contact you. We are always looking for women to serve on our Chapter Advisory Boards, so if there are chapters in your area (even if it’s not your own), please indicate that on the form. 
  6. Donate to the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation. The Foundation supports so many wonderful things in Theta Phi Alpha, and it’s important to make sure that we give back to the Foundation. Scholarship is one of the most important aspects of our Fraternity, and the Foundation prioritizes it and awards many scholarships each year. You can apply for a Foundation Scholarship if you are a graduate student as well! Donations to the Foundation can be directed to many different funds, from specific scholarship funds to educational funds and the general fund as well.
  7. Volunteer for an event in your area. Theta Phi Days are usually held in the fall throughout many regions of the country. Each region has a Coordinator and Lead Facilitator, with other sisters assisting in the facilitation of the curriculum. Watch for the announcement for Theta Phi Days coming this fall. 
  8. Register for our new membership portal, my.thetaphialpha.org. You can see your donations to the Foundation, your service records, find other sisters, add mentoring information, and pay your Alumnae Dues. Our membership portal assists us in connecting our sisterhood, so encourage others to sign up! (The portal requires a separate login from the login that you use for the Theta Phi Alpha website.)
  9. Update your contact information with the National Office and encourage your other sisters to do the same. This is a very important if you want to stay informed, engaged, and involved! Theta Phi Alpha needs the most updated contact information in order to make sure we can send you newsletters and other important news. You are able to update your contact information in the membership portal, my.thetaphialpha.org. (Follow #8 to register and update your information!)
  10. Find alumnae in your area and become friends! We are already sisters, so the connection is already there. One of the best things I’ve done in Theta Phi Alpha is make so many wonderful alumnae connections and gain so many wonderful friends. One of my best Theta Phi Alpha friends lives in Nebraska and I live in New Jersey. Many others will tell you the same thing!

Being an alumna is such a wonderful part of Theta Phi Alpha and I encourage each new alumna to connect with other alumnae and find your favorite part about being an alumna. 

I hope to see you at National Convention in Pittsburgh!

Yours in the Bonds of Sisterhood,
Lauren Svec Gallo
National Vice President-Alumnae

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Celebrating 105 Years!

Being a member of a sorority is about connecting with others. Founders' Day is a time for us to reflect on our founding and to honor the women who connected with each other at the University of Michigan. They were looking for a way to support and encourage each other and so Theta Phi Alpha was born. 

Very early in our history, our Founders envisioned a national organization. As you celebrate Founders' Day today, whether you are able to attend a celebration or not; take some time to remember why you joined Theta Phi Alpha. If you are graduating soon and about to become an alumna, the best years of your life in Theta Phi Alpha are just starting. There are many ways to stay connected! 

I was in Washington, D.C. recently for a conference and I was able to have dinner with two sisters I didn't know very well. We were from three different chapters, and they were much younger than me but the connection was there. As you read the proclamation again, think about what you can do to keep the connection with sisters going.

As I wrote in the proclamation, "It is our responsibility to continue passing on the light from the Founders'. Each one of us can make a difference individually and collectively we can do even more."

2017 Founders' Day Proclamation:

As I thought about what I wanted to say in my first Founders’ Day Proclamation, I knew my focus would be on reaching out and connecting with sisters. In the Akron Alumnae Association we used Founders’ Day as an opportunity to encourage members to reach out to a sister they hadn’t seen for a while and to help us find “lost lambs” i.e., sisters with whom we had lost contact. Since Founders’ Day is such an important event for Theta Phi Alpha, women are often willing to attend even if they have not been involved for many years-especially if they are personally invited. The laughter and joy in the room as sisters reconnect is amazing. Many comment that they don’t know why they stayed away and vow to return the next year. And many of them do. 

I decided to look at past proclamations to see what kinds of messages other National President’s shared, especially in the early years. The Founders’ Day ritual was approved at the 1937 Convention and the first proclamation I found was given in 1941. Prior to then, the National President often shared a message in The Compass and I found one that stood out to me: 
“Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have attended previous conventions of Theta Phi Alpha know better than the rest of us ever can the value of such meetings. The contact with others who are part of the same big plan and who have standards, ideas, and aims identical with our own brings home to us the seriousness and dignity of the work we are endeavoring to accomplish.” 
These words were written nearly 100 years ago by Ellen Miller, National President in 1923, yet they still ring true today. Our shared ritual creates a bond which unites us across chapters, generations, and time. Founders’ Day is a time to gather to honor the 10 women who set forth the standards and ideals we follow today. The values our Founders chose to include in our creed; justice, wisdom, loyalty, faith, truth, and honor; are values we share today. Ellen Miller became National President immediately after Mildred Connely, who wrote our creed in 1933, at the request of the Convention body, to inspire and to encourage our members. From her message, it’s clear the light had been passed on from the Founders. Ellen understood the importance of friendship with sisters. She understood the value of these relationships. I am very grateful for the women who founded this organization and for all those who have carried on that light since then. 

Theta Phi Alpha has grown far beyond the initial circle of friends at the University of Michigan in 1912. As we celebrate the 105th anniversary of our founding, I encourage each one of you to use this as an opportunity to reconnect with a sister you haven’t seen for a while. If each alumna connected to just one sister, imagine how many connections we could re-establish. Alumnae and collegians should connect with each other. It is our responsibility to continue passing on that light. Each one of us can make a difference individually and collectively we can do even more. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Celebrating our Founders

Founders’ Day is one of the most special days of Theta Phi Alpha’s year, as we connect with one another across the miles and celebrate the ties that bind us through our shared sisterhood. As I wrote this year’s proclamation I began by reading previous proclamations. I also began to reflect on the Founders’ Day celebrations that I have shared with my sisters from my Sigma Chapter and the Akron Alumnae Association since I was a new member over 35 years ago.

In Akron, we use Founders’ Day as an opportunity to encourage our alumnae sisters to reach out and contact a sister we haven’t seen for awhile. The laughter and joy we experience as sisters reconnect is amazing. Throughout the year we share the names of sisters celebrating milestone anniversaries at the next Founders’ Day and encourage sisters to reach out to someone they know and invite them.  For many years, our celebrations were only attended by Sigma sisters and alumnae initiates.  But recently, we have enjoyed meeting new sisters from other chapters who live in our area and some collegiate sisters from Delta Delta chapter in Ashland, which is about an hour from Akron.  Having these sisters join us has only enriched our membership and adds so much to the lifelong bonds of friendship we share. We choose a toastmistress each year, usually from an anniversary class and she shares some personal reflections of her collegiate days before reading the Founders’ Day Proclamation. A few years ago, we had two sisters share the duties and they had us all singing songs with them that they remembered from their college days in the 1960’s! In addition to sharing the time with one another, we also proudly support the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation generously during the roll call included in the Founders’ Day Ceremony.

My wish is that sisters have the opportunity to connect with their chapters or associations as joyfully as we do in Akron. I asked a few sisters who participate around the country to weigh in with some of their favorite parts of their Founders’ Day Celebrations that may spur ideas for other groups to build a lasting tradition of reuniting and celebration.

          Kristin Henkenius, Alpha Pi, is a member of the Board of Trustees and wearer of the Guard of Honor. Her chapter holds a joint celebration annually with the Northeastern Nebraska Alumnae Association, as they recognize the importance of having as many collegians as possible participate. The alumnae hold an Association meeting during the weekend. Given the location in Wayne, NE, the chapter holds its White Rose Formal and the Founders’ Day Ceremony incorporated into one event. They set an annual goal to raise at least $500, so that they can partially sponsor a scholarship through Theta Phi Alpha Foundation. They also award a Theta Phi Alpha scholarship through Wayne State College. The alumnae appreciate the opportunity to see the collegians receive chapter awards and the Senior Service Award.

          Kristin has the unique position of also attending the Mu chapter and Lincoln Area Alumnae Association celebrations as a Theta Phi Mom of her daughter (and sister) Liz. Kristin said, “It was very special to experience this with my legacy and my family, who was invited to the Founders’ Day at Mu.” Although Liz recently graduated, Kristin and Liz are still attending.

          Cathy Billoni, Beta Nu and member of the Board of Trustees, is especially looking forward to this year’s Founders’ Day Weekend, as her chapter is celebrating its 25th anniversary of its installation at Florida Atlantic University. The Beta Nu and South Florida Alumnae Association celebration have a family-friendly weekend of events scheduled ranging from a bounce house and carnival games, a picnic, social hours, and the grand finale Founders’ Day Brunch. In honor of their 25th anniversary, a challenge to create a sponsored scholarship through the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation has been issued by Erika Lefkowitz, a founding sister. Cathy said, “I was the 61st initiate of Beta Nu out of 722, which is amazing to me!!  To even imagine we’ve made it this long and come so far and achieved so much gives me great hope for the future, not only for Beta Nu but for our Fraternity.”

          Cathy also participates with the Greater Tampa and Central Florida Area Alumnae Associations.

          Stephanie Galendez, Alpha Beta, is a wearer of the Guard of Honor and a legacy. Her mom, Carolyn Bosworth Galendez, is a charter member of Alpha Beta.  They have a long-standing tradition of participation in the joint celebration held by Alpha Beta and the New Orleans Area Alumnae Association. Given their location, they enjoy a nice brunch in the historic French Quarter. “It was always great to see how my Mom interacted with the collegians, not only asking them the basics like their major and where they are from, but also what brought them to New Orleans?” She adds, “Founders’ Day is a great way to reconnect and spend time with sisters.”

          Stephanie also frequently joins 6 to 8 alumnae sisters and “crosses the lake (Pontchartrain)” to attend the joint celebration of Beta Epsilon and the Northshore Louisiana Alumnae Association.  Both celebrations have chapter awards and are followed by an alumnae association meeting. Additionally, parents join the Alpha Beta celebrations.

          Cristin Miller Brown, Alpha Psi, serves as National Assistant Treasurer. Living far from her Dayton, Ohio chapter, Cristin joined the New York City Alumnae Association and the Delta Beta Chapter Advisory Board to reconnect with sisters in her new city. She looks forward to celebrating Founders’ Day this year with the newly-formed Long Island Alumnae Association and bringing with her the traditions and experiences from her connections along the way. Cristin said, “What I’m most excited for as we host our first Founders’ Day celebration is connecting the many alumnae in the region to our local chapters, Beta Alpha and Delta Beta, as well as our new members from Farmingdale State College.  I hope that the Long Island Alumnae Association can bring together the many sisters in this region so that we can continue to grow as an organization and have an impact both locally and nationally.  I think that joining together and remembering our Founders will be a great foundation as we begin this journey.”

          Kathy Sullivan, Alpha Gamma, Theta Phi Alpha Foundation Director, and Guard of Honor wearer, hosts the Chicago Area Alumnae Association celebration brunch at a local restaurant for just the alumnae of the area, as no chapters have been in Illinois for over two decades. “We have built a fun tradition to connect alumnae from over a dozen chapters. We focus each year on the women celebrating a special anniversary, such as their 25th, 50th or 75th anniversary of initiation. I have had the great honor and privilege of recognizing two very special Diamond Circle sisters: Jean Cusack, a Guard of Honor wearer from Beta chapter and Geraldine Cady O’Laughlin of Alpha chapter. I’m so appreciative each year when I see how generous my sisters are to Theta Phi Alpha Foundation in our roll call."

Through my connections, I learned that some Founders’ Day celebrations hold silent auctions or raffles of gift baskets to raise funds for Theta Phi Alpha Foundation. Others hold philanthropy drives, collecting items ranging from swimsuits for Camp Friendship to toiletries for local organizations under The House that Theta Phi Alpha Built banner. It’s great to see our sisters generously contributing while supporting Theta Phi Alpha.

I strongly encourage you all to attend at least one Founders’ Day celebration this year.  These are just a few examples of how chapters and associations hosting events put their own special touches on the celebration. The main purpose shines through, however.  Founders’ Day is a day to honor our Founders, celebrate our sisterhood, and remember our lifelong commitment to Theta Phi Alpha with a donation to the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation representing each year of our membership. I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of all the celebrations as we share on social media using the hashtag #ΘΦΑFoundersDay.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wear Your Badge and Spark a Conversation

I was having a difficult time coming up with a topic for this month’s blog so I reached out to several sisters for help. As usual, a sister always has your back. In this case it was Kathy Sullivan who wrote part of this one and provided inspiration for several others! This blog will be published just a few days before International Badge Day which is celebrated by all National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) sisters on the first Monday of March. Kathy wrote that this event was started by Nora Ten Broeck, a past National President of Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority and a friend of hers. Here is an excerpt of what Kathy wrote for me:
Nora wrote an article on her experience wearing her badge to work one day titled “A Simple Solution - Wear Your Membership Badge Today” that was featured in her sorority’s magazine, The Phoenix. This celebration of sisterhood has grown since 1997, with campuses and chapters around the globe now participating with women from all sororities celebrating their sisterhood. A few men now even join in with pride in their brotherhood. This year’s 20th anniversary is a true milestone in unity.
Personally, I enjoy wearing my badge and answering questions about it. A senior co-worker always boosted my spirits asking for me to explain about the badge, the guards, and even each dangle. Each year, I attend a city council meeting on NPC International Badge Day and speak during public comment about joining my sisters across the country and around the world in wearing our badges.
For the last several years I have worked at Curves on Mondays so I couldn’t wear badge attire. I chose to honor the spirit of the day by wearing my letters to work. This sparked many conversations with members as I discovered how many of us were Panhellenic sisters. This year I will proudly wear my Theta Phi Alpha badge on Monday, March 6 and I hope all of you will join me. Let’s celebrate with Panhellenic Pride. Theta Phi Alpha will join the other 25 NPC groups in promoting this event on social media and we want you to share as well! Post a picture of yourself wearing your badge, share a story of meeting another Panhellenic sister, or a conversation with someone where you were able to share some of the values we represent.

NPC International Badge Day Resources


International Badge Day is also the start of National Ritual Celebration Week, sponsored by Phi Mu. You can find more information on this celebration at PhiMu.org.



Monday, January 30, 2017

New Year, New Beginnings


January is a time of new beginnings. Maybe this stems from my time as a teacher, but after the holidays, I am ready to get back into a routine, eat better, get back to the gym, etc. With the start of the new year, I am ready to recommit to working hard at my job (National President) and on my hobby (music).

Grand Council kicked off the year by spending the first weekend in January in Tampa, Florida. For our quarterly in-person meeting. We met on Thursday (a day earlier than usual) and spent the afternoon working through our agenda on basic business items. Thursday evening was reserved for some sisterhood time together. We all know the value in time spent together. This is the essence of who we are. We designated one of the hotel rooms as the “hang-out room”, changed into our comfy clothes, and ordered in pizza for dinner. We exchanged Christmas gifts and spent the evening sharing stories and songs, getting to know each other, discussing Theta Phi Alpha, and generally solving the world’s problems. The seven women who are on Grand Council are a team who are committed to working together to serve our Fraternity. This bonding time helped build our trust in our ability to work effectively together.

On Friday, thanks to Katie Owsianiecki, National Vice President-Collegians, and her facilitation on StrengthsFinder for Grand Council, we learned how all our strengths work together. For the rest of the day we dove into the main purpose for our meeting:  our goals for the biennium. We did a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the Fraternity as it is right now. We talked about what keeps us awake at night about Theta Phi Alpha. As we looked at all of these things which we had written on big charts and posted all over the room, we began to see a path to what we felt we most need to accomplish this biennium. 

The biggest area of need and therefore our highest priority is developing and serving our members. As alumnae, our responsibilities are to be loyal, life members of Theta Phi Alpha, adhering to our Creed in our daily lives and offering our time, talents and treasure to the Fraternity as we are able throughout the various stages of our lives. We are here to support our collegiate members, helping them develop into the future leaders of this Fraternity. To our collegiate members, your responsibility is to maintain high scholastic and moral standards by adhering to our Creed in your daily lives and to support your chapter sisters in working together to create the best chapter experience possible.

This is what we have expected from our members since 1912 and will continue to do so.  We have grown tremendously in the number of chapters and associations and now need to make sure we are serving the needs of those individuals by providing support and consistent communication. Easier said than done, though. Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring, remember?  Our goals for the biennium center around member development that will benefit our alumnae volunteers individually as well as our chapters-both large and small, well-established, and younger.

This is a business, and we have to spend our money wisely, in ways that will bring the greatest benefit (or return on that investment) to the Fraternity. If we are supporting our chapters as well as serving the needs of our individual members, we will grow. Without that growth, we will die. We, as Grand Council, are working to clarify roles and responsibilities of National office staff and volunteers from Grand Council on down. Our goal is to streamline and strengthen procedures that enable our Fraternity to function well and serve our members. Part of this involves improving the teamwork between staff and volunteers. We are committed to providing and improving training and support for our volunteers.

We also need to strengthen the infrastructure and prepare for the future financially. We can’t stay in our current National office space forever. The physical building is not very conducive to our needs, but we have made it work. However, we have been talking in our strategic planning about finding a better office space for more than 10 years. That move will become a necessity rather than a wish in the near future so we have started preparing financially. There is no guarantee that the next time we sign a lease it will be offered without an increase in cost. The issue is not if the cost will increase but when.

We have to run the Fraternity like a business, but remember at the heart of it all we are in the business of relationships. Nurturing those relationships is the number one priority.  Spending time with my sisters this past weekend at Officer Leadership Training was a refreshing break from the “business” side of the Fraternity. Listening to our collegiate women work together to define leadership (based on our values) was inspiring. These young women get it. Their responses were well thought out and they gave several real life examples of how they have lived our values. Working with my fellow “facilisisters” and Caitlin Parker, our Director of Collegiate Services (who is a fellow Panhellenic sister) was also inspiring. These women get it as well. The promises we all make to serve the Fraternity are alive and well.

Do we have improvements to make? Without a doubt! 

Is Grand Council committed to taking steps immediately to address these issues? Absolutely! 

What can you do to help?  If you are a collegian, serve your chapter to the best of your ability. If you are an alumna and you serve as a National Officer or a volunteer, work in your position to the best of your ability. If you aren’t sure what you should be doing contact the Grand Council member you report to. If you cannot fulfill your obligation, please let Grand Council know so we can work together to find the best person or solution. If you would like to volunteer, fill out the interest form on the website at, http://thetaphialpha.celect.org/national-volunteer-form so we can have a pool of available sisters as positions open. If you are not able to or interested in serving nationally, stay connected locally or virtually. 

Finally, remember another quote from St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  Our sisterhood and support for each other is alive and well. I am truly proud to be a Theta Phi Alpha and I’m excited for our future.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Reflections

As 2016 draws to a close and we begin a new year, many people make resolutions. Whether you usually make resolutions or not, the end of a year is a good time to reflect on that year. What did you learn? What did you do well? What would you like to do better in the future? Are you particularly thankful for something?  

For me, the last half of 2016 was full of changes. In July I was elected National President, a huge responsibility and honor that I take very seriously. Two weeks later my father passed away somewhat unexpectedly and three weeks after that I closed out a business I had owned for five years. It was more than a business to me, though. I had been a member of this Curves for nine years when I purchased the franchise and I then owned it for five. Many of the 200 plus members, as well as the staff, had become my friends over the years. We shared pictures of our families and our pets, celebrated birthdays, and attended calling hours. When it closed, I felt very much the same as when Sigma chapter closed. 

I knew months in advance that the business was going to close so I focused on keeping members informed, creating ways for them to stay connected, facilitating their transfer to another exercise facility and holding a celebration of the time we had together. I fulfilled my obligations to Curves, to the landlord, and to my members. Many of them thanked me for closing in such a way. I have run into many of my members around town in the last few months and we always greet each other with a hug and spend a few minutes chatting and catching up. 

Change is inevitable, the question is how do we deal with it? Many of my members stayed with Curves right up until the end even though they could have quit and gone elsewhere.  They felt a connection with the people there and wanted to keep their membership until the end. They fulfilled their obligation to the club as well. I could not have fulfilled my obligations financially without their continued support. That relationship worked both ways.

It is the same with Theta Phi Alpha. Without members, we would cease to exist. We rely on our collegiate women to recruit excellent new members, to educate them in our traditions and values and to instill in them a lifelong commitment to Theta Phi Alpha. We rely on our alumnae volunteers to support these chapters, to manage local alumnae associations and to support our organization nationally as well. We rely on each one of our members to fulfill her obligations, to take seriously the promises we all make at initiation. 

One of the most powerful moments we share is found at the end of our Founders’ Day ceremony where we join in a circle and sing White Rose. Whether it’s a small gathering of a few sisters or the whole Convention body at the end of Fraternity Night Banquet, that event always brings me to tears. I’m usually just mouthing the words to the song because I’m trying not to cry. Don’t judge 😊. Looking around the room at our circle of sisterhood never ceases to amaze me. 

So, as you reflect on the end of 2016 and think ahead to 2017, ask yourself: How can I serve Theta Phi Alpha? Am I fulfilling my responsibilities as a member and as a volunteer to the best of my abilities? Can I make it a point to reach out and connect with a sister this year? Remember that you were chosen for membership in Theta Phi Alpha for a reason. Your sisters saw something in you. I know I am thankful for each and every one of you and look forward to serving you to the best of my abilities in the coming year.