March 24, 2011

“Smaller Scale, Same Heart:" A Day in the Life of a Theta Psi

Just like any member of Alpha Phi, the sisters in the Theta Psi chapter at SUNY Plattsburgh in upstate New York share the same values, motivations, drive and love for their organization as their fellow sisters at much larger chapters.  The biggest difference is the scale on which this is done.

Plattsburgh State is a relatively small public university situated approximately thirty minutes from the Canadian border; so understandably, our chapter is relatively small in comparison to its larger counterparts.  After recruitment this semester, and before our continuous open bids are given out, we have fifty-nine sisters in our chapter—equivalent to new member classes at some larger universities.  For this reason, there is an undeniable strength in the individual bonds grown between our sisters, and we make every attempt to complete the work of hundreds of women with half of the numbers.  

As Alpha Phis, we love to make a difference.  That difference comes in various forms, but the reflection of our personal, organizational and interpersonal integrity is always defined by the actions we take both as individuals and as a sorority.  One way we do this is through the women that we recruit for our chapter.

Melissa Smith, Social Chair, says that joining Alpha Phi was the best decision of her life.  Smith says, “I got involved on campus and within the community.  I learned how to manage my time, and being busy is much more fun than you think.  I’ve met some of the most amazing people whether it is in my organization or in others, and my life has been brightened since I became a sister.  All of Alpha Phi and all of its sisters in our chapter have made me a better person, and it’s still helping me make positive decisions in my life.

i think that joining alpha phi was the best decision i ever made. i got involved on campus and within the community, i learned how to manage my time and being busy is funner than you think! ive met some of the most amazing people whether it be in my organization or in others and my life has been brightened since i became a sister. its hard to explain it though because i guess people cant undertsand the love and fun we have if they arent apart of us. but overall, all alpha phi and all its sisters in our chapter have made me a better person and its still helping me make positive decisions in my life. i just love alpha phi!
There are unique challenges that face every woman interested in embarking on a life-long journey of sisterhood, and for this reason, it isn’t a decision that comes lightly in both offering and accepting membership into our chapter.  The Plattsburgh campus does not participate in a formal recruitment process, so all of our events are held in a slightly different fashion, spanning the first few weeks of a semester up until bids are given out.  A lot of hard work and dedication goes into the preparation of our recruitment events by Ashley Lybert, Vice President of Member Recruitment, and her committee, which I am a part of.  Some of the events that we held this semester included a craft night, game night, Valentine’s brunch, an open house event and a Zumbathon.  These events allowed us the opportunity to get to know each of the women individually over an extended period of time, which is essential in determining if a woman possesses the integral qualities of an Alpha Phi. 

Sisters celebrate Greek Week.

Currently, we are in the overwhelmingly emotional and hectic stage of organizing potential big sisters with their future little sisters.  This results in endless nights of crafting and ordering merchandise from Alpha Phi vendors, praying it gets here in time for the various ceremonies. There is an infinite desire to produce craft projects into the late hours of the night, but luckily it is something that we enjoy together.  These projects range from utilizing our calligraphically inclined puffy paint skills to sewing letters from our favorite fabrics. 

Having a smaller chapter allows us to bond and even hold sisterhood events to produce crafts on occasions.  Melanie Swartz, Sisterhood Chair and member since Spring 2010, says that one of the benefits of Fraternity and Sorority life at Plattsburgh is the fact that we are a smaller campus, since “it not only gives us a chance to know all of the members of our organization very well, but a chance to get to know and work with other members of Greek organizations.” 

Fostering positive Greek relations is something that every sister works hard on every day.  Not only do our actions affect the reputation of Alpha Phi, but it has an impact on the perception of Fraternity and Sorority life as a whole on our campus. There is a constant need to improve how we are perceived by the community to oppose the societal stereotypes created by renditions of Greeks in popular culture. 

Our daily life goes beyond recruitment, though we are always looking for wonderful, new additions to our organization, and it even goes beyond fostering friendships within our own and other Greek organizations.  Our primary function is service.  Beyond the social aspects of being part of Alpha Phi, we aim for the highest ideals of an individual, which are born from service to our university, our organization, our community and ourselves. We are sure to represent our values within ourselves and outwardly to the public.  In fact, one of our recruitment events, the Zumbathon, was also a fundraising event for women’s heart health that allowed our potential new members to see us actively working toward a healthy lifestyle, fundraising and getting to share our values with the community.  We also participated in a wellness fair held by our campus with other Greek organizations to promote the benefits of exercise and eating healthy.

Another fundraising event that is being planned by our chapter this semester is an event called “Dance Your Heart Out.”  Unfortunately, the size of our campus doesn’t lend itself to host a Red Dress Gala, although we would love to, so we opted for an alternative.  This event, which has been in the works since last semester, is going to be a dancing competition.  The winning team in the competition will receive a donation to the charity of their choice.  This is the Theta Psi take on a unique event to help promote our philanthropy and the unity of the diverse organizations on our campus. 

Sisters unite with other Greeks on campus for a philanthropy event.

Being involved isn’t easy.  It is frantic and exciting; causing every sister to achieve a balance they never thought was possible.  The primary reason our sisters come to college is academics, but adding Alpha Phi into the mix creates a juggling act between this, social interactions, community service, organizational involvement, leadership development, friendships and other extracurricular activities.  There is hardly time to think, yet we all do it gracefully with a smile on our faces.  This is because we love Alpha Phi.  There is no other way to explain why we do the things we do. 

As a chapter, we maintain the highest GPA of all sororities on our campus.  Our sisters range from pre-med majors, to education, to hotel management, all the way to art. Maria Trumbull, New Member Educator, says the following about her membership: “Life as an Alpha Phi isn’t normal.  It’s hectic. It’s busy, insane, and just plain crazy.  It requires a lot of attention and demands much of you.  It’s not perfect, but it’s all those imperfections, all these demands, all the crazy, hectic, insane things that it throws into our lives, that make Alpha Phi so special.  It’s why I love Alpha Phi so very much.  It’s the moments of bliss that create unforgettable memories.  It’s the times with your sisters that make it so hard to leave.  It’s the crazy weekends and busy weeks that make life as an Alpha Phi so extraordinary.  The bond that is created through these wonderful and chaotic years is what makes our sisterhood so unique, so unified and so amazing.  Alpha Phi may not be perfect, but it’s the women that are in it that make it so wonderful, so ideal.  So I say, yes, Alpha Phi may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

As a sister since Fall 2010, time management is something that has become a scary reality for me.  I am a triple major in Art History, English Literature and Anthropology, along with holding the alumnae relations chair position, serving on various committees, holding positions outside of my sorority and working a part-time job.  There is hardly time to rest, but when I do, it is almost always with late-night dinner trips with my sisters, gym sessions, crafting and listening to my entire chapter talk about Jersey Shore, which I ignorantly thought was an anthropological study of culture in the greater New Jersey area—turns out, I was wrong.  Although I may not be in tune with popular culture, my sisters help keep me in check, since it’s easy for me to become enveloped in academia with little to no escape. 

Since our chapter is in small, we face challenges that may be less prominent at larger chapters.  Every sister’s GPA counts, so long hours studying in the library are a must.  Our Executive Council even offers prizes for the sisters that log the most study hours and earn the most “A’s” on their papers.  Many of our sisters are involved and active in various facets of both our university and our community, including sports teams, school publications, clubs, honor societies and alternative spring breaks.

Though we may spend a lot of time studying and volunteering, Alpha Phi goes way beyond that.  We wear our letters everywhere we go, whether physically or metaphorically.  We may not always be doing Alpha Phi related activities, but we are always proudly bearing the symbol of the forget me not, our Silver and Bordeaux crest, our loyalty to our precious Teddy and our love for every sister of our chapter, old and new. 

The 2011 New Member class.

Being in a smaller chapter provides the perspective of a sorority through a magnifying glass.  Since there are so few of us on campus, every action that we perform is Alpha Phi and every action is magnified.  This is why we strive to uphold our values on a day-to-day basis and proudly share our love for Alpha Phi.

There isn’t a better way to describe my life as an Alpha Phi than to say it is crazy, at its best.  A day doesn’t go by that I am not frantically calling a sister to help coax me through the complexity of everything that I am trying to deal with at once.  I’m busy, I’m stressed, I’m donating what little time I have to help a greater cause, and I’m almost always thinking about ways to solve a problem that may not even exist yet—but the greatest part?  I’m never alone.  I have fifty-eight other women with me every step of the way.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The friendships that I have formed in my chapter will never leave me.  I have had the opportunity to create bonds with alumnae from the beginning of our chapter, and I could easily express at least one interesting fact about each of our current members.  I don’t think I would have had this opportunity in a larger chapter.

So sure, we don’t have a Greek Row.  We also may not have the capacity to host a Red Dress Gala, or have a designated Alpha Phi house, or have existed for over a hundred years, but that doesn’t falter our commitment to our organization and each of the sisters who are members.  We may go about things a little differently, on a bit of a smaller scale. We may not have the numbers of larger chapters, but we work with what we have and represent Alpha Phi in everything that we do, which gives a little Theta Psi touch to our university, and a little pride in ourselves for all that we strive to accomplish.

Chelle Haynes is a senior at SUNY Plattsburgh (Theta Psi).

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