April 29, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: There’s No Place Like Home

Often times living in a sorority house is portrayed as this somewhat dreamlike experience set aside from reality. The house is some sort of magical place where friends are all hanging out in a beautiful living room, huge groups are crammed over their textbooks in the dining room and people are helping each other curl their hair for functions in a perfumed bathroom. If I've learned anything from living in our sorority house for the past three years, it’s that this is absolutely true.

When it comes to college living, I’m beginning to realize I have been spoiled rotten. Living in a Greek house is an experience limited to few and the fact that I have gotten to do so for three years has been an absolute blessing. Living in a chapter house is a beautiful delay from the real world. Yes, there are still several responsibilities, it’s not like you aren't paying rent or don’t have to do chores or respect the space of others, but when it comes to a couple of key things, living in gives you a little reprieve from some of the lesser desirable aspects of adulthood.

I’m the type of person who will plan their vacation around the food. We all know these types of people. Eating is an important part of my day. It is so nice to sit down to a dinner of delicious chicken Parmesan with grilled veggies after a long day of class; the best part being, I didn't have to make it. I have been absolutely pampered in having a fabulous chef who knows my likes and dislikes and keeps a fully stocked fridge, which I did not have to grocery shop for. Because let’s be honest, who actually likes to grocery shop? Unless it’s at Costco… free samples.

The joys of living in are not strictly limited to sustenance. When something goes wrong in our house, we have our house director, or “house mom,” to help us out. Our House Corporation Board oversees all the changes and renovations made to the house, and every year I get to come back to some new surprise beautifying the home. Bathroom remodeling, new carpet, new dining room furniture, fresh paint and new patio sets. Everything is consistently maintained and pristine. The plush vacuumed carpet, the furniture that wasn't found on the side of the road and spacious bathrooms with nice smelling soaps. Living with these amenities as a poor college student, makes you feel like you’re living in the Waldorf Astoria.

This next perk has perhaps been the nicest aspect of living in that I have come to find. Your sorority house is not just a house; it’s a home. Moving away and immersing yourself into the world of college is overwhelming to say the least. Having a consistent place to return to has been an absolute blessing in these crazy four years. With all the changes I've undergone, I have been able to count on the fact I can walk through the same threshold and into the same living room and call it my home. I can comfortably run through the halls or sit on our porch in the sun. This concept has provided an immense amount of comfort and Alpha Phi will always be my first home away from home.

And the best part about living in a Greek house? The company. I live in a house with 30 of my best friends. Any time you need some words of wisdom, help finding the perfect shoes for a date, someone to braid your hair or someone to run to the grocery store with for a late night study snack, you just have to walk down the hall. How many other times in your life can you say you have that opportunity?

The best nights I have had in the sorority have been when people all congregate to someone’s room and there are people on the beds, chairs and sitting on the ground and talking about everything and nothing. I have loved sitting in the living room thinking about taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon only to be picked up by a group of sisters on their way to a movie. I won’t ever forget walking by our living room to see everyone crammed in their sleeping bags for an impromptu sleepover. You've got an automatic party for every award show, sporting event, political debate and reality show you could imagine. I've learned you don’t mess with Bachelor nights; the basement TV claim is irrefutable.

I have found so much joy in the simple ease associated with the friendships formed from living in a Greek house. Understanding that if you want to go to bed at ten, you have to start preparing at eight, because you’ll end up chatting in the bathroom while brushing your teeth for an hour then get stopped for another hour on the way back to your room is something I've come to love. Being able to have so many people close to share your accomplishments and delight in theirs has been a more extraordinary gift than I could have ever foreseen.

So come next month when I graduate and have to leave the comfort of my little slice of heaven, it will be a tearful departure. The walls of a sorority house know a lot of laughs and a lot of tears. They hold in them more stories and beautiful memories than one can fully comprehend. The walls are strong, and they need to be; they have to hold a lot of love.

Taylor Skansi is a collegiate member at Montana (Chi). Learn more about Taylor by clicking here.

April 24, 2015

Featured Product Friday: Tassel Charm by Navika Girl

Graduation is right around the corner! While your time as a collegian may be ending, one thing is for sure: Alpha Phi will always stay with you. Carry our sisterhood through your transition from collegian to alumna with an Alpha Phi charm for your graduation tassel! Choose either our letters or the ivy leaf in silver, rose or yellow gold to celebrate our sisterhood on your big day.

$9.95 each.

April 23, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Get Crafty!

Being in a large chapter certainly has its perks. With 100+ new sisters that means 100+ new friends, study buddies, role models, wardrobes and maybe even a few of your future bridesmaids. However, with 100+ new sisters it can be challenging to meet everyone, resulting in the Big/Little Sister reveal, aka one of the best days of your Alpha Phi experience! What’s more exciting than getting a special big and little sister to call your very own?

Now we all love to make our big and little sisters feel welcome, so what better way than to craft them something special from the heart? One of the best parts about homemade crafts is they are easy to customize, so you can make each as unique as the sister you are giving it too.

Speaking as someone who is not very crafty, I like to keep my gifts simple, but still fun. Some ideas to consider may be decorating a Mason jar or painting cute puzzle pieces that connect with your names on them. With summer right around the corner it is the perfect time to make your sister a simple frame with your favorite picture together in it, or perhaps decorate some fun letters that she can take with her home or to a summer internship. Something thoughtful and simple to remind her near or far, you’re always family.

Remember, you do not always need a special occasion to remind your little or big sister how special they are to you; sometimes it’s the little surprises when they least expect it that really make a difference. Maybe your big sister has graduated and you want to mail her a reminder of how much she still means to you – there is always an excuse to craft something unique to remind your sisters how much you care.

Pictured are some easy and fun ideas and inspiration for gifts you can make for those in your Phi Family! Have fun and happy crafting; I hope these inspire you to make a few summer farewell gifts of your own!

Jamie Chamberlain is a collegiate member at Iowa State (Zeta Delta). Learn more about Jamie by clicking here.

April 17, 2015

Alumnae Volunteer Perspective: What Do I Say but THANKS!

Through volunteering for Alpha Phi, I have made many close friends of all ages; more than I can count. For that, I cannot say thank you enough.

I would not have felt the warmth from the smiles of Judy Kay Mead and Patty Hendrickson.

I would not have known the elegant, genuine friendship of Darcel Weller and Val Lawlor.

I would not have experienced the free spirits and truly fun personalities of Amy Tvrdik, Shana Smith, Michelle Thompson and Sheila Bright.

I would not have witnessed and experienced the recruitment expertise of Laura Malley Schmitt, Courtney Schultz, Stacey Daniel, Linda Schnetzer and Renee Zainer. Masters of making Alpha Phi great!

I would not have met and experienced the dedication of such outstanding women like Phyllis Sims Selig, Sally Grant, Crista Vasina, Ann Carstensen, Linda Boland, Susan McNeice and Deana Gage.

I would not have had the privilege to work with Jandy Thompson, Betty Jo Fuller, Tanya Herndon, Jen Larson, Stefania Rudd, Megan Bouche, Jennifer Frobish, Kary Huffman, Denise Reens and J.D. Louk.

I would not have met ELC greats Mindi Grewell, Katie Bergin and Susan DuMont.

I would not have shared being a military mom with Linda Boland and Rosemary Mach.

I would not have experienced the growth from collegiate member to dedicated volunteer of Emilee Snow, Debbie Davis Richner, Jenny Rabas, Dawn Kreisel Bauer, Beth Little, Erin Morrison, Brenna Seger, Jessica Teson or Christine Keating.

I would not have met and became friends with fellow Greek community partners…Josh Welch from Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Vicki Bird from Sigma Sigma Sigma and Dr. Sandy Hutchinson with Delta Zeta.

I would not have had the pleasure of advising so many wonderful, outstanding collegiate women from 1991 to the present.

I would not have seen a glimpse of our heritage through the eyes of Phyllis Sims Selig if I had not volunteered.

I would not have experienced the phi-nominal growth of Alpha Phi over the last 10 years if I had not volunteered.

Therefore you see Alpha Phi is truly for a life time, if you want it to be!

I will never be able to repay Alpha Phi for the friendships I have made, the joys I have experienced and the love I have been given since I decided to volunteer and follow in the footsteps of a dear Alpha Phi sister and chapter advisor, Katherine Ann Bradshaw. As a collegiate, I thought she was Alpha Phi by the way she showed her love to the members of the Gamma Gamma chapter at Drury. I hope I have made her proud.

Sherry Wilcher (Gamma Gamma-Drury) is a long-time Alpha Phi volunteer, serving for over 20 years. She has held a number of positions and currently serves as a collegiate chapter administrator, chapter advisor, and member of the extension committee. Alpha Phi thanks Sherry for her service and for her willingness to share her thoughts.

April 15, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: From Founding President to Graduate

Three years ago I made the best decision of my life: I took a chance, listened to my instincts and became a founding member of the Iota Sigma colony at Carnegie Mellon. Within the week I was a Greek Sing chair, on the recruitment committee and on my way to being well entrenched in Alpha Phi. When it came time for elections I very much wanted to be the Chapter President. It took all of five weeks for me to fall in love with Alpha Phi and want to lead the chapter, to want to help shape it and make it grow.

Being the founding Chapter President was simultaneously amazing and terrifying. There were times I had no idea what I was doing and times I was positive I was doing everything wrong. There were times I knew I had gotten it right and knew that I made a great decision for the chapter. Without my sisters and the incredible women of the extension and advisory boards I would have never made it through. During my year as Chapter President I thought a lot about legacy and about what I would leave behind when my term ended.  I learned how to make decisions bigger than me, to think of 60 other women, to think five years out. Being the Chapter President changed my entire perspective in ways that I feel every day.

The chapter looks very different today than it did when we first started. I see my fingerprints on less and less of the chapter everyday, which has been hard at moments but mostly it's wonderful. The chapter is thirty people larger than when I was Chapter President and we've won awards, reached campus total and strengthened a truly beautiful sisterhood.

Now, I am five weeks from graduation, and I am back to thinking about legacy and not at all ready to leave my chapter behind. Alpha Phi is and will always be a huge part of my life. I am invested in the future of the Iota Sigma chapter and invested in its members.

Three years ago my life changed forever. I had an amazing year leading my chapter. I learned more in that year than any other time in my life. Alpha Phi shaped me, and I hope I helped shape Iota Sigma. There are a lot of send-off and commemoration events in the coming weeks, many things are coming to a close. None of them will be as emotional or bittersweet to me as my Alpha Phi Senior Send-Off. Alpha Phi will always be with me, but it’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye to my collegiate years with my chapter.

Rachel Pustejovsky is a collegiate member at Carnegie Mellow (Iota Sigma). Learn more about Rachel by clicking here.

April 10, 2015

Featured Product Friday: Running Shorts by Greek Gear

You can lounge around or work out in these comfortable Alpha Phi running shorts! Featuring breathable mesh side panels, adjustable drawcord, an interior pocket and moisture wicking properties, these shorts are perfect for a Phi on the go! Five designs options available.

Price is $22.95. Click here for details.

April 9, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: The Power of Networking

Alpha Phi is an organization that offers its members countless incredible opportunities. You can take on a leadership position within your chapter, become a chapter advisor as an alumna, attend leadership conferences, or even attend the biennial Convention. You can and will learn about yourself, and blossom as an individual. You’ll come to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, which will ultimately prepare you for various opportunities life has to offer.

What has been especially significant for me as a collegian, and now as a recent alumna, has been the ability to build connections and networks! Ever since I joined Alpha Phi, I have been the type of member to take on any and all opportunities that were available, which has significantly enhanced my time within this organization. Initially, my Alpha Phi network began to expand after I attended the Emerging Leaders Institute, having met sisters from as far as Santa Barbara and Florida. My network grew even more after I was accepted into the Leadership Fellows Program last summer.

These connections are more than just sisterly bonds; many of these women I consider to be mentors. I not only found good company and women with similar interests, but I also learned skills I can use in my professional life – like the appropriate way to present yourself, or simply being confident in my own skin. The more you put yourself out there during your collegiate years, the more you will get out of your experience. I am so thankful for taking advantage of these experiences, because it has led me to meet and learn valuable lessons from inspiring individuals.

As I've recently become an alumna of Alpha Phi, I intend on continuing to embrace my network and maintain the relationships I've developed. I know that as I take on postgraduate studies and the development of my career, those who I've met along the way will continue to motivate and push me to shoot for my goals and to do what makes me happy.

Cassie Caranci is a collegiate member at Western University (Theta Eta). Learn more about Cassie by clicking here.

April 2, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Giving Back

Take a moment to think of the progress American women have made over the past 150+ years. Education. Basic rights. Independence. Leadership. It’s overwhelming, not to mention humbling. During the month of March in particular, Alpha Phis everywhere remember the efforts made on behalf of women and look for opportunities to continue moving forward by giving back, following in the footsteps of one of our most influential members—and first alumnae initiate—Frances E. Willard.

Service isn’t about fulfilling a specific number of hours or showing up to a service event because it’s mandatory and you might “lose points” if you don’t. In its purest form, service is recognizing a need and doing your utmost to meet it, while encouraging others to do the same. Some of these needs are clear, while others are less so, requiring you to step outside the realm of your own experiences in order to arrive at a deeper level of understanding and compassion.

This past March, in honor of Frances E. Willard Day of Service and Women’s History Month, the Theta Psi chapter at SUNY/Plattsburgh gathered together in support of STOP Domestic Violence, a regional organization offering shelter, counseling, crisis intervention and education on abusive relationships and family environments. Setting up tables in the campus center, we were able to raise awareness for this organization. Through support of our campus and sisters we delivered much needed toiletry items and a donation to a local shelter. STOP Domestic Violence presented a clear need in our community, which, in some small tangible way, we were able to help meet.

But in our chapter, service goes beyond donating time, money or items. “Giving back” means being brave enough to entrust a piece of ourselves to something we believe in. Sometimes communities are most impacted by individuals uniting for change—aligning for a cause—especially when it’s challenging or controversial, as Frances herself demonstrated through an unwavering dedication to the suffrage and temperance movements.

This month, the Theta Psi chapter proudly stood by a movement to end bullying—not just in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, but on college campuses as well. SUNY/Plattsburgh student Kasaydia Carter-Martinez, a TV/Video Production major, founded an anti-bullying campaign called “No More Empty Beds,” a public service video which includes more than 30 SUNY/Plattsburgh clubs and organizations demanding an end to this problem. She aims for the video to be distributed as a tool for change in public schools throughout the North Country.

Support, comfort and alleviating suffering—in whatever form it might take—are key elements of service. We have all encountered a need for these elements in our own lives, and can understand their power on a personal level. Our Vice President of Campus Affairs, Maria Peerenboom, summarizes service as the following: “We are helping to better the community we live in, but we are also bettering ourselves. You never know what kind of impact you are making in others’ lives and in the community when you give back—and no task is too small to make a difference.” 

Service means taking steps to show someone she is not alone—that where there is compassion there is unity, and where there is unity there is hope. And hope is essential to progress.

Alina Walentowicz is a collegiate member at SUNY/Plattsburgh (Theta Psi). Learn more about Alina by clicking here.