Within the first semester of my freshman year, I knew Alpha Phi would change my life in many ways. I made a commitment to invest myself in the experiences and opportunities it provided, and I looked forward to giving back to my chapter when I had the chance. As I watched my sisters take leadership roles, I also decided that I was going to serve on the executive council one day, because it seemed as though that’s what it took to make a huge difference; those nine (or more, depending on your chapter) women were "doers" and that’s what I wanted to be.
Fast forward to my junior year, and I actually don’t hold an executive council position; in fact, I don’t hold a position at all. However, 2014 has been a complete year of growth for me, and my love for Alpha Phi has deepened in a way that it never had before, even when I was “in office.” This year has proven to me that regardless of position, or lack thereof, every single sister in every single chapter has a voice, the ability to make positive changes and the opportunity to be a true leader.
You have a voice—a strong, loud and intelligent voice. Use it! The executive council officers in every chapter are there to serve as resources, support and structure, but they are not there to limit the chapter. Like any governing system, it’s their goal to listen to the rest of the chapter members and attempt to implement what is best for everyone. Those of us without positions have a responsibility to help those that do; instead of sitting back and watching while they work, we should be encouraging them to look into the issues and areas that are important to the rest of the chapter. If you have an opinion on the changing bylaws or you think the chapter should volunteer at a nursing home instead of at the soup kitchen, chances are someone else probably agrees. Speaking up and having the courage to use your voice comes with great reward. It allows people to think in ways they may not have originally, creates healthy discussion on important chapter topics and leads to people valuing your ideas and opinions.
That voice has the ability to lead to positive changes for your chapter. In a chapter of 100 women, the 30 or so with positions are not the majority. Chapters need the women who aren’t in those roles to serve as committee members, constructive critics and valued support. Although there is something to be said about the women who take leadership roles, there is also a lot to be said about the women who choose not to, and instead act as listeners, cheerleaders or shoulders to cry on when our leaders hit rough spots, struggle with time management or succeed immensely. That is sisterhood; that is Alpha Phi.
For me, something I struggled with was not being in a leadership role this year. I didn’t ever want to be considered a bystander or follower, because that’s just not my personality. I was surprised, however, when my leadership skills expanded greatly this year in ways that I had never imagined. I was introduced to a new kind of leadership that comes in the form of humility and good listening skills, traits that are sometimes hard to develop when there’s a title behind your name. Because I wasn’t always talking, planning or doing big things for my chapter through a position, I was able to notice the more sensitive, smaller and overlooked things that needed to be addressed. Sometimes, that was in the form of a sister who I finally noticed was dealing with personal issues, or sometimes it was the realization that a little new member class bonding goes a long way for chapter morale. It takes a leader to approach those situations and make a positive impact on your sisters’ days.
I want you to know that by simply being an Alpha Phi, you are important and valued. I urge those of you without positions to speak up, be creative and remain leaders. Everyone needs a support system; you are the foundation your chapter needs to stand firm and strong. You matter, you make your chapter better and Alpha Phi is so lucky to have you as a sister.
Cheltzie Miller-Bailey is a collegiate member at Northern Iowa (Epsilon Theta). Learn more about Cheltzie by clicking here.