March 28, 2016

Alumnae Perspective: How Attending ELI and the Fellows Program Changed My Life in More Ways than One

I often hear the question, “What is your favorite part about being a sister in Alpha Phi?” Followed by answers, like “I feel at home when I am with my sisters” or “I know I am cared for and I will always have a genuine friend to lean on.” I relate closely to these two answers, but more often than not, when I am asked the same question I will always answer with:

Alpha Phi has given me more than I could have ever imagined (cliché, but true). On top of navigating college with the support of my Delta Nu chapter sisters and having the opportunity to hold several positions within my chapter, I was also accepted to attend a session of the Emerging Leadership Institute (ELI) and the Fellows Program while I was an undergrad. I like to think of these Alpha Phi leadership programs as the stepping stones or the “ladder” I climbed to becoming the woman I am today. ELI was the perfect guide to learning how to become a leader, within my chapter, undergraduate classes and the other organizations I joined as a collegian; while the Fellows Program helped me shape my leadership skills for life post-graduation. These opportunities inspired me to reach for higher professional goals and gave me the skill sets to do so. If it weren’t for the Fellows Program, I truly don’t think I would be where I am professionally and I would have missed out on the lasting Alpha Phi connections I have made.

Top 5 ways I benefited from attending ELI and Fellows Program:

  • I strengthened my communication and interviewing skills tremendously. I learned how to rattle off a 30 second elevator speech, which highlights all of my professional and leadership skills.
  • I was introduced to a network of sisters who have supported me from all over North America. Some of my best friends are Alpha Phis I met through these programs and even though we live states apart I keep in contact with these women on a daily basis and visit them as often as possible.
  • Due to the generous financial support of Alpha Phi Foundation, I was able to participate in both of these life-changing opportunities. The programs pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me the opportunity to travel on my own to cities I had never visited before (Indianapolis, Evanston, and Chicago).
  • I built confidence in myself and strengthened the leadership skills I knew I had, but also identified other skills that needed some work. I wasn’t ashamed to admit my weaknesses in these environments because I knew I had a team of women going through the same experience and willing to support me along the way. Imagine being in a room full of top Alpha Phi leaders from across North America, it was both motivating and inspiring.
  • I learned the true definition of what it meant to be a leader and how I could stand up for myself, strive for my goals and most importantly not be intimidated by male leaders in the work force. 
If I could give any single piece of advice to a collegiate member in Alpha Phi, it is to take advantage of these leadership programs. Or, if you’re an alumna and would like to volunteer some of your time, apply to be a facilitator (I also keep in contact with the facilitators from these programs and I can’t thank them enough for all they taught me).

The lessons I learned as a participant of these programs, still ring true in my current everyday life. Following my college graduation from the University of Maine in May 2015, I began working at Alpha Phi International’s Executive Office as a Program Coordinator. While working in this position I also manage a media production company, which I co-found as a senior in college. Working and living in one state, while running a company in another location is not the easiest thing to do as 22 year old, but the Alpha Phi Leadership Programs gave me the skill sets and confidence to meet my goals and become the young professional I am today. I am confident that the experiences I had in both the ELI and Fellows Programs helped to build a solid foundation that I build upon each day. I know that no matter where I go or what I do, the skills that I have gained will serve me well as a leader and as an Alpha Phi.

Kristen Douglass (Delta Nu-Maine)

March 23, 2016

Collegiate Perspective: Homecoming: Why it is important to remember

As according to the Oxford English Dictionary, homecoming is “the action or an act of returning to one's home, household, or native land; an arrival at home”. In a U.S. context, it is “an annual event for former (and current) students at a high school, college or university”. As collegians, many of us already hold a personal understanding of homecoming. It is the football or basketball game. It is the tailgate. It is wearing our school colors and singing our fight songs and chants in unison. It is spending time with friends, family and of course, sisters.

And for me, it is also that one time it rained and I showed up drenched but, didn’t mind because my sisters were all drenched and happy regardless. Or that one time it snowed and many of the roads were still closed so we hiked through the many feet of snow, claiming such a trip as our workout for the week. And, when I won a free gift card from the flying blimp (excellent marketing by the way. Wegmans has been my go-to ever since.)

These are my examples of my personal perception of homecoming. However, just as we as individuals change, our understandings change. This is especially exemplified through homecoming as homecoming is tied to the creation and re-visitation of memories.

The definition of the word itself is indicative as such through the word “returning”. Homecoming is the act of returning. Returning to school. Returning to friends, family and sisters. It is returning to memories. To remember is to keep in mind and never forget. It permits the act of moving forward while simultaneously shaping our future selves by referencing the past.

For current students, in simplest terms, remembrance is bringing your jacket this year because you forgot one last year. For alumna, it is sitting away from the student section, but still wearing your class ring. It is appreciating the old and welcoming the new.

Homecoming is one of three times a year where school pride as well as Alpha Phi pride is at a high which is visible for all to see (the other two times being formal recruitment season and Greek Week). It is the time of year in which the past meets the present and enjoyment and memories are shared amongst all. With the past, present and future, there’s no better way to spend such a special time of year than with sisters held near.

 Christina Castle is a collegiate member at George Mason University (Eta Lambda). To learn more about Christina, click here.

March 9, 2016

Collegiate Perspective: The Role of Social Media in Confidence and Empowerment

With the prevalence and popularity of social networking, the world is interconnected now more than ever. We’ve all heard parents and the media tout the downsides of being focused on technology – social media can lead to cyber bullying or provides conditions for teenagers to compare themselves to the Instagram photos of edited models. Yet, I have found that social media provides many outlets for millennials to get inspired, express themselves and in turn, feel confident.

I have a love-hate relationship with my Instagram account. It’s true that sometimes I look at edited photos of celebrities and wish I looked the same. But the beauty of social media is that you can choose what you see. Once I embraced the fact that I could use social media my own way, I was exposed to a whole new world of possibilities and in fact, friendship.

Through Instagram, I have connected with dozens of Alpha Phis from all over the country ranging to schools back home in California to all the way on the east coast. Each day I am able to see a variety of philanthropy events, a diverse selection of Alpha Phi merchandise (shout out to ASU’s chapter for the wonderful bid-day shirt idea) and sisters doing wonderful things. These opportunities showcase the power of social media to help an organization express the many personalities of its members and empower their ideas.

Social networking encourages self-expression through its accessibility. We have the option to publish our own thoughts or to republish posts that resonate with us. We have the power to filter what we see and what we create. In expressing ourselves creatively, we are utilizing a part of our brain that’s not used in every day conversation. In developing our online footprint, we are more fully developing ourselves.

Social media is not only used for chatting with friends or posting great photos of the breakfast you had that morning – it can be used to propel academics, studies and careers as well. Quite a few female entrepreneurs have positively influenced the sphere of social media. For example, Mari Smith is a social media trailblazer specializing in relationship marketing and is a pioneer for female leadership in small businesses. Another female leader is Ann Tran who uses social media platforms to study social behavior in order to understand the power of online influence. These women have used networking platforms in ways that not only empower themselves but help empower others.

As students, we have a plethora of opportunities to explore and experiment with social networking, not only to develop our social connections, but also our ideas, perspectives and identities.  As social media only becomes more popular in the future, it’s up to us to decide what online legacy to leave.