November 25, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: The Importance of Service

All over the United States and Canada, Alpha Phis continue to raise money and awareness for our beloved philanthropic partner, Alpha Phi Foundation. We are so passionate about giving women educational and leadership opportunities, as well as encouraging heart-healthy lifestyles. As collegiate women and sisters of Alpha Phi, we are fortunate to have the ability to further our educations and share such a strong sisterhood. 

The core values of our fraternity are sisterhood, scholarship, leadership, loyalty, character development, and my personal favorite: service. While it is important to raise money and awareness for Alpha Phi Foundation, it is also the duty of an Alpha Phi to give back to the community. Service is one small way to make a big difference. 

Before I joined Alpha Phi, I hardly participated in community service. But Greek life gave me a passion and a calling for serving others. Through Greek life, I have the opportunity to give back to the community that has supported me throughout my collegiate career. From participating in the 9/11 Day of Service, helping clean up a community garden with our alumnae or collecting canned goods for Food for Others during Greek Week, I have found true happiness in giving back to both my University and neighbors in Fairfax. Planning and having community service events within my chapter, and George Mason at large, has been the most rewarding experience in my college career. 

Service activities are also a great way to bond with sisters. Through participating in service with my chapter, our alumnae and the Mason community, I have gotten to know my sisters better and seen them act as leaders, committed to enacting positive change in the community and in each other.  

Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on all the joy in our lives and giving thanks to all of those who make it joyful. While we are expressing our gratitude this season, it is important to remember that there are always those that are in need of more joy in our communities. So my challenge to you, my sisters, is to go out and make a difference in someone’s life this holiday season.

Caroline Whitlock is a collegiate member at George Mason (Eta Lambda). Learn more about Caroline by clicking here.

Alumnae Volunteer Perspective: Alpha Phi Isn't Just Four Years

I’ve often said that one of the best decisions I made in my life happened at the age of 19. At 19, I said yes to Alpha Phi. I think of where my life would be had I not experienced Alpha Phi as a collegiate member, I realize how many friendships and opportunities I would have missed.  But then I think of the thousands of Alpha Phis who didn’t have a collegiate experience, but instead, came to our sisterhood as alumna initiates, and that serves to remind me that some of the best years of my Alpha Phi experience have all happened long after my college days.

Nancy Morris Courtney Bosworth is an alumna initiate whose story resonates with me about what it means to be a lifelong member, regardless of when that lifetime begins.

Nancy attended college in 1956 at Sacramento State, where there was no Greek life on campus, just “locals” associated with the campus. When several friends started a “local,” Nancy joined but missed out on the full experience when she had to leave school due to family circumstances. During the next five years she worked, got married, had two children, was widowed and stayed involved with the local alumnae.

As Nancy tells it, “my Alpha Phi story began in 1967 after I remarried and moved to Minneapolis. Six months into my new life, I received a letter from Alpha Phi International asking if I would like to be an Alpha Phi because my ‘local’ at Sacramento State was being colonized by the Fraternity. I made the trip back to California and was initiated along with the newest members of Epsilon Gamma-Sacramento State.

Alpha Phi alumnae have always had a strong presence in the Minneapolis area. At the time I was initiated, the Minneapolis Alumnae Chapter was 916 strong! Can you imagine that large of an alumnae chapter? Eventually it was broken into more manageable area chapters around the city, and I helped charter a new chapter in the Minnetonka-Deephaven area.

When I moved to Washington state in 1975, I joined the Spokane APhi Alumnae Chapter because it was a perfect way to meet people, or ready-made sisters, as I call them. The alumnae chapter gave me Alpha Phi opportunities, such as serving as the treasurer and 1980 convention delegate. More importantly, they became my support network and close friends and saw me through the tragic loss of my daughter. Without their love and support, quietly lending strength when it was most needed, I wouldn’t have gotten through that time.

My outstanding alumnae chapter experience eventually transformed into a volunteer role as a District Alumnae Chairman (DAC). I provided support to alumnae chapters throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Hawaii. I supported these chapters for six years, meeting and corresponding with so many wonderful women, but learning and growing along the way. The self-confidence I gained is immeasurable. Little did I know that this growth would lead me to one of Alpha Phi’s highest honors, a director on the Alpha Phi Foundation Board. For six more years, I learned and grew, stretching my abilities way beyond what I could have imagined, while enjoying a wonderful, eye-opening experience.

Being an alumnae initiate has been an experience I could not have imagined. I do not have ‘collegiate chapter memories,’ but I think that is okay, as I have met some of the grandest women that I count as sisters and long-lasting friends across the U.S. and Canada all because of one letter asking if I would like to become an Alpha Phi.”

Alpha Phi isn’t just four years. For some those four years don’t even happen, but the lifetime they give to Alpha Phi creates lasting memories and friendships that replace anything they possibly could have experienced as a collegiate member.

Nancy Bosworth (Epsilon Gamma-Sacramento State)

With introduction and closing statements by Jennifer Frobish

November 16, 2015

Watchcare: Active Listening

Active listening is a technique most used in counseling to assist the practitioner in gathering authentic and accurate information from a patient. It requires the practitioner to exhibit core interpersonal qualities and basic interpersonal skills. Active listening is also an excellent tool for sisters of Alpha Phi to better support and care for their sisters. You can use these qualities and skills to:

Listen to a sister in need
Understand someone’s decision making process 
Mediate a conflict between two people

The core interpersonal qualities of an active listener are:

1. Warmth and Genuineness: Being warm towards a sister means showing kindness, acceptance, and love. In contrast, think of someone whom you would describe as “cold.” This person probably didn’t show any interest in your concern and you may have been less likely to open up to this person again. Showing warmth means verbally showing interest, smiling or matching the sisters facial expressions, asking about how someone is doing, or by the tone of your voice or body language. Genuineness requires the listener to be able to be honest with themselves and the sister about their own biases and strengths. Being authentic with a sister will allow them to be more authentic, open and honest with you.

2. Empathy: We often think of showing sympathy to those who have experienced a loss or a misfortunate situation. Unlike sympathy-which means to show pity on someone-empathy is showing understanding of one’s situation. Those who are empathetic are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes to understand how they are feeling. We may never be able to fully understand someone’s situation if we have not lived it ourselves, but being empathetic allows others to feel safe in our company.

3. Respect: Showing respect for a sister is as simple as noticing the good in others, even if they have made a poor decision. Respectful listeners acknowledge how the person is feeling, without condoning behavior. Respectful listeners also can acknowledge their own abilities, strengths, and mistakes if they interpret a person’s communication incorrectly.

Here are some tips on the basic interpersonal skills to be an active listener:

 Overserving and Attending: Active listeners take mental note of the person’s body language, tone of voice, and non-verbal communication. In order to do this, remove all distractions from the conversation. Meet in a neutral quiet location and put phones away. Give yourself a set amount of time so that you aren’t constantly worried about what is coming up next on your schedule. As you’re able, sit squarely across from the person, keeping your arms uncrossed, and your posture open to your sister.

• Listening: This may seem an obvious skill for active listening, but listening carefully is quite difficult for people to do. Have you ever been in an argument and while the other person was talking, you were preparing your next comeback line? That’s what we want to avoid when we actively listen to others. When we listen, we want to seek the meaning behind the words, not just hear the person.

• Express Understanding: The best way to know if you understood someone correctly is to ask. You might ask in the form of a question: What I hear you saying is…, is that correct? Or it might be a reflection of the feelings that they are displaying or communicating: It sounds like you feel sad about what happened last night; OR I can see tears coming to your eyes. Are you sad about what happened? If the sister says something vague and you need more information to form an understanding, you can simply say Tell me more about that, and the sister may give you additional information. If at any point your sister explains that you’ve understood her incorrectly, remember to be respectful and warm, accept the correction, acknowledge your new understanding, and continue the conversation.

Part of being a great sister is acknowledging that we are not experts or professional counselors. As much as we want to be able to fix all of our sister’s problems and make everything ok, we can’t. Knowing when and how to refer someone to a professional, is an excellent skill to have. If your sister exhibits any of the following, it’s time to refer:

A loss of a loved one, grieving
Alcohol or drug dependency
Suicidal thoughts

Making a referral can feel scary and sometimes like it’s not our business. But your sisters mental and physical wellbeing IS your business and is the business of Watchcare. If you notice that you need to make a referral, be honest with your sister. Thank her for sharing and talking with you, but that it might be best if she talk with a counselor. Tell here that there is a counseling center on/near campus that is available for her and that you’d be happy to walk her to the office to make an appointment. If she doesn’t want to physically go there, you can offer to call on her behalf so she can speak with the office or counselor. It is important to know your campus’ counseling center phone number or campus safety number. Sometimes just sharing a pamphlet or contact information will work for a sister. Follow up with her later to see how she’s doing.
If a sister is exhibiting suicidal thoughts or attempts to commit suicide, call your campus safety or 911 right away. They will be able to assist you in assessing the sister’s current state and determine if she needs immediate attention. 
Active listening takes a lot of energy, so it is important that you also take care of yourself before and after having this kind of conversation. It might be appropriate for you to visit with a counselor as well as someone’s story may impact you emotionally.

Alumnae Author: Katherine Lesperance (Delta Kappa, Wisconsin La Crosse)

Chang, V. N., Scott, S.T., & Decker, C.L. (2009). Developing Helping Skills: A Step-by-Step Approach (with DVD) 1st Edition. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole CENGAGE Learning

On the Road: Oh…The Places You’ll Go

As an educational leadership consultant the places you’ll go are places you never thought you would.  You’re off to a place far from home and the only sure thing is an Alpha Phi chapter awaits your arrival.

The smiles that greet you are some I will never forget and the experiences I have had are irreplaceable. From long recruitment nights to numerous airline flights, the one thing that remains constant is the group of twenty one girls around North America that have quickly become your best friends. It’s much like a small Alpha Phi chapter that travels and shares one common bond, the road. A bond only few share and one that is never forgotten. Although our time on the road is short, our friendships will last a lifetime.

Whether you are an educational leadership consultant, volunteer or a collegiate member, Alpha Phi will take you many places. Whether that be to the Emerging Leaders Institute, Leadership Conferences or even Convention, there are countless places your Alpha Phi chapter will take you. Those places, the people around you and the memories you share with Alpha Phi will remain with you.

As many initiations are happening around North America, I am grateful to travel and share the bond that Alpha Phi has given me with so many sisters around the country. Your Alpha Phi experience may take you down so many different roads, however, those roads may lead you to the unexpected. I never expected to meet so many amazing people or travel to so many places and I am grateful for Alpha Phi. What road will you take with Alpha Phi?

Katie Dunn (Beta Psi-San Jose State) is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Courtney by clicking here.

November 11, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Phis Overseas, The Dos and Don’ts

Throughout my collegiate career, I have had beautiful opportunities to travel during our one month January Term. My experiences abroad (and with my sisters!)  became some of the most memorable and meaningful in my life. I have learned so much about the world and my place in it, and I have grown in ways that I believe, while I love this place, would have been impossible to do on a college campus.

I distinctly remember the day we visited The Great Wall of China in 2014. Since we were traveling in a group, our professor had all of the tickets necessary for the excursion and held onto them throughout the day. After a couple of hours of excitement and exhaustion, we decided to take the Toboggan down, not realizing until the bottom that it took us off and away from The Wall. We had no tickets, no Chinese language experience and no way to contact anyone in our group. Since we were far enough outside of Beijing, it was difficult to find anyone that could understand or help us. Yes, we were officially lost in China.

I must say that day was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and also one of the most exciting. It put into perspective the true barriers between cultures and the challenges of interpersonal communication. We were as far outside of our comfort zones as it gets, for not being able to understand anyone or anything can be a little terrifying. We had to be innovative and communicate without language, using pictures and hand gestures to make our long journey back. If you asked me if I would have made that mistake again – I absolutely would.

Each day abroad is a challenge, a gift and a larger part of an amazing journey that is education, no matter how old you are. Here are some dos and don’ts for taking that journey: 

DO: GET LOST IN A BEAUTIFUL CITY – Follow your heart. Get on a different train. Visit somewhere outside of what you find in the travel books. Of course, go with a friend, but don’t be afraid of the unknown. Sometimes, it’s the most beautiful.

DON’T: GET SICK – Most often, you can’t avoid it, but medical care abroad can be difficult to navigate. The medications differ, and it can also be tremendously difficult to communicate with your doctor. I’ve ended up in a clinic in both Kenya and Vietnam… take my word on this one. Make taking care of your health a top priority.

DO: HAVE A “WHY NOT” ATTITUDE – If you do things safely and responsibly, all you have to lose while you are abroad is time. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, particularly the unexpected ones. The things you do spontaneously and on the fly make for the best stories.

DON’T: PACK TOO MUCH – There’s only so many sweaters you can bring! Narrow it down to your absolute favorites, and call it a day. Pick outfits you can mix and match. Save room for the essentials and anything you may be bringing home! Particularly if you are going to be traveling a lot while abroad, you don’t want to haul around the things you just don’t need.

DO: ENGAGE WITH THE LOCALS – Those will be some of the best experiences. Ask them questions about their lifestyle and culture. Take suggestions on places to eat and visit. Often times the “touristy” restaurants are too Americanized. Go for the authentic experience and learn from the people who know the country best!

DON’T: BE AFRIAD TO TRY NEW THINGS – Chances are your trip won’t exceed more  than a few months, so don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new! You can start with baby steps, like a new cuisine. Use this as an opportunity to grow as a person, while learning about new cultures. Experience and take in every moment. I have far too many regrets of things I wish I had tried while abroad!

DO: KEEP A JOURNAL – Every day will be packed with new adventures, acquaintances, and challenges and you’ll want to remember them. Even if it’s just a paragraph a day, keep track of these moments and the experiences that have impacted you most. It’s something you can share and will have forever.

Grace Quinn is a collegiate member at DePauw (Gamma). Learn more about Grace by clicking here.

A few additional traveling resources and options:

November 4, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Balancing Being a Leader and Friend

With elections right around the corner for most chapters, we’re approaching the time of the year where a new executive board is stepping in. While we try our best to make transitions run smoothly, it’s hard to perfect these adjustments. One of the most difficult things to balance when holding a leadership role in your chapter is how to remain not only a good and dependent friend, but a strong leader as well. 

I’ve learned just from my experience with my chapter that the decisions you are required to make are not always easy ones. In the professional world or other organizations on campus, people are able to more easily put aside their differences and work together toward a common goal since their relationship didn’t originate from a friendship. Leading your sisters can be a different experience; as you step into your new role, they may forget that ‘friend’ is not the only role you play for them. 

So how do you do it then? 

The answer is that there is no right or wrong way to find the perfect balance. Everyone has a different perspective of how to do it successfully. Here is what some of the leaders of the Omicron chapter at Missouri had to say about it:

“I’ve had to make decisions that I didn’t want to make. But sometimes that’s what my job entails. At times you wonder if people are going to be upset with you as a result of them, but you know that every choice you make is in the best interest of the chapter.” –Ragin Dillon, Chapter President 

“I’ve learned that it helps to talk to my friends about the fact that  there is no exception to the rules right off the bat, that way they understand the impact of their actions… They should support me in what I’m doing.” – Gina Fasolo, VP of Campus Affairs 

“Your tone has a lot to do with it; you can be serious without being rude. The way you approach a situation is what makes the difference.”- Ashtyn Scruggs

If you catch yourself in a conflicted place while making a tough decision, all you have to do is the best you can, and learn how to balance your personal relationships with the responsibilities of your position. Remember to confide in your team when you’re struggling to find that balance. Sometimes all you need is the support of others while you are making the most of your leadership position.

Katelyn Pulio is a collegiate member at Missouri (Omicron). Learn more about Katelyn by clicking here.