March 12, 2013

FEW Inspirational Women Series: Allison Cink Rickels

For Allison Cink Rickels (Epsilon Theta – Northern Iowa), career and service have come together through her position as Executive Director/CEO of the FarmHouse Foundation. She has now been with the Foundation for twelve years, and credits Alpha Phi with fostering her passion for service. We caught up with Allison to kick off the Frances E. Willard Day of Service this March.

What is your current/past career? 
I am currently the Executive Director/CEO of the FarmHouse Foundation. The FarmHouse Foundation supports the educational and leadership programs of the FarmHouse International Fraternity as well as provides scholarships to individual members for academic achievement. FarmHouse International Fraternity is a men’s international agriculturally-related fraternity founded in 1905 that seeks to build men intellectually, spiritually, socially, morally and physically. FarmHouse, an NIC fraternity, is located on 35 campuses throughout the United States and Canada, with 1,600 undergraduates and 22,000 living alumni.

FarmHouse was my first job after graduation, starting in the summer of 2001, as the Director of Annual Fund & Communications. Little did I know at the time how incredible of an opportunity I would embark on as a fresh-faced college graduate. In 2007, I became the Foundation’s Executive Director, and I am the second person to fill the position on a full-time basis in our Foundation’s 47-year history and the first woman to serve as CEO of a men’s fraternity educational foundation. 

How have you incorporated service into your life? 
I find my purpose and passion in making a difference in others people’s lives. Whether it’s
professionally, as a volunteer or as a mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend, I like to help
and get involved. Professionally, I encourage and foster philanthropy for the better of
young people. I fundraise for and serve FarmHouse because I believe in it. I witness every
day the difference we make in young men’s lives. Seeing a budding college freshman
who’s naïve and unpolished, mature throughout college and then graduate as an all-star
leader and student, is inspiring. Then to watch his career path evolve, see him became a
husband and a father, and help him give back to a cause that’s near and dear to his heart,
is beyond incredible. I want young men to become gentlemen, devoted husbands/partners,
amazing fathers and find success in their careers. We need this in our world. And I believe
FarmHouse, and all fraternities and sororities done right, makes it happen. The causes I’m
passionate about all revolve around this belief – making a difference to better tomorrow.
To explain how service is incorporated into my life is difficult to articulate because it’s
just me.                                                        

How did Alpha Phi prepare you for a life of service?
As a collegiate member, Alpha Phi (Epsilon Theta Chapter) was my launching pad to get involved at my university. As a first-semester freshman, I volunteered to help with a service project for an organization for my major and I was turned down – they said they had enough people. At the same time, I raised my hand to volunteer in a leadership role with my Alpha Phi chapter and was elected. I was elated. Both were eye-opening and humbling, influential experiences for me. While I was told “no” by one group, I was given a chance by my sisters to get involved. Alpha Phi empowered me - gave me the confidence, opportunities and leadership skills I needed, and I never looked back. I caught the bug and volunteered as much as I could. In turn, when I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, I was a named a Lux Recipient, my university’s highest honor given to 5 undergraduates each year for their service to the university and community. This honor is one I am most proud of, not because of what I did, but because of my Alpha Phi sisters. They afforded me this incredible honor – they inspired, challenged, empowered and believed in me, especially when I was that first-semester freshman raising my hand. Alpha Phi gave me a chance.

Today, I live, eat, sleep and breathe Greek life with my work with the FarmHouse
Foundation. None of it would be possible without Alpha Phi. I wouldn’t have been hired
without my Greek affiliation. With the FarmHouse men I work with, I can always say I
understand their fraternity experience because of my own personal Alpha Phi experience.
When I joined Alpha Phi and was told it was a lifetime commitment, I believed it. I still
do.  For me, this has translated into continuing to volunteer my time, talent and treasure
for Alpha Phi when I can and serving other non-profit organizations through professional
and interfraternal organizations, and in my community. 

What advice do you have for young women looking to use their talents for service? 
Raise your hand – you never know what new passion you’ll find. Get involved – you never know who you will meet. Offer to be a leader – you never know where the opportunity will take you. Take advantage of the opportunities offered to you, especially when you’re in college. Make time to serve and volunteer. I believe everyone should volunteer for a cause they care about regardless of their professional path. Your talents will develop, your personal experiences will be enriched and your resume will build. I believe if you work with others and use your talents for a greater good, you will be fulfilled. My new, favorite quote is an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Fundraising has been the most rewarding, challenging and fulfilling career, and beyond my wildest expectations. My skills and abilities in philanthropy continue to develop each day. I’m constantly learning and growing. Who knows where my journey will take me, but I am blessed Alpha Phi has been instrumental in shaping who I am to lead me to where I am today and going tomorrow.

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