History, Organizational Pride and Measurement – How NPC Thrives

As hundreds of women head into the National Panhellenic Conference’s annual meeting in Los Angeles this month, it’s time to pass the gavel. The next member sorority will rotate into the Conference’s top leadership position as chairman.

First, let me share my thanks for being part of that historic journey and joining my predecessors as a member of Alpha Xi Delta. Second, it’s just as important to note the milestones that we’ve reached in my two years as chairman and illustrate how those will efforts push us progressively forward to meet member needs.
NPC’s Board of Directors invigorated the 111-year-old Conference this year by approving a strategic plan. Data-driven decision-making is a core foundation for the NPC, and critical information is collected annually from our 26 member groups to keep us on track.
NPC’s advocacy efforts extended to the NASPA Greek Summit, the White House event on Girls in Leadership, a continuing participation in the Coalition of Higher Education Associations for Substance Abuse Prevention and a new initiative this year with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Through NAMI, we’re bringing a new educational resource to students and advisors this year for mental health awareness – which is a centerpiece of this year’s annual report.
More than 130 women spent time on Capitol Hill this spring to advocate for measures that improve the lives of college students everywhere. Panhellenic women have been advocating for better laws during Hill trips for the past 11 years. Many college members give up the traditional spring break trips to mingle with their federal lawmakers, including the historic number of women who were elected to the U.S. Senate.
About 30,000 women participated on Facebook in NPC’s celebration of International Badge Day on March 4 this year, pledging to wear their sorority pins. At the same time, dozens of collegiate women from Columbia University and New York University and alumnae members from the area traveled to Rockefeller Plaza for a live broadcast of “The Today Show” to celebrate with their badges and signs.
Last year’s annual report was recognized by the Hoosier Chapter Public Relations Society of America with a Pinnacle award and a new crisis communications handbook won “Best of Show,” which is now a resource for members and our partners. NPC also received a “Critic’s Choice” award from the Fraternal Communications Association for its updated logo and brand.
We also welcomed a new training and curriculum design coordinator to NPC staff this year and elevated the National Panhellenic Conference Foundation with additional support from our executive director.
Along the way, and just in time for this year’s meeting, we’re recognizing outstanding advisors, Alumnae Panhellenics and College Panhellenics who are always “on” and provide the best of what sorority women have to offer.
We never stop working. We never stop planning. We never stop raising the bar for ourselves and others. It’s been a big year full of bold moves, and we could not have done it without you. Thank you for answering our challenge — and seeing the potential for the National Panhellenic Conference.

Feeling Proud

The last NPC Executive Committee retreat.

Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one's own or another's choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.

As I sat around the table last week at my last NPC Executive Committee retreat, I couldn’t help but be overcome with a sense of pride. I’m proud of the Executive Committee, the NPC Board of Directors and all of the amazing women who volunteer for NPC. We have achieved so much in the past two years, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the current state of the organization. Is it perfect? Is everything on the wish list marked off? No, but we have a great strategic plan, a great team and a vision for leaving this organization better than we found it, which is something I’m proud to say.

Experiencing the Meaning of Sisterhood

Smiles, laughter, traditions, tears…What an incredible experience we who have the privilege to be members of Greek-letter organizations share when we attend our inter/national conventions. I feel incredibly blessed because I had the opportunity to be a part of THREE conventions this summer! I shared the incredible work of the National Panhellenic Conference with my Sigma Sigma Sigma Panhellenic sisters as they gathered in Orlando and shared in their fun at the ‘Mad Hatter’ Panhellenic luncheon!  I just returned from New York City where our Phi Sigma Sigma Panhellenic sisters were celebrating their Centennial!  Dinner at the Boathouse in Central Park; ‘Walk, Run, Dance’ in Roosevelt Park in memory of our dear Josette Kaufman; sharing NPC’s successes at the Panhellenic luncheon held at Hunter College where they were founded 100 years ago; and a final night celebration that included pictures from each decade since they were founded in 1913 with members in period costumes reliving their history.  AMAZING!
Sigma Sigma Sigma's convention in Orlando, Florida.
Of special meaning to me was attending my own Alpha Xi Delta convention in San Francisco.  Reconnecting with sisters, meeting new sisters and listening with pride to all the accomplishments we have achieved in the last two years reminded me how fortunate I am to be a member of Alpha Xi Delta. I was humbled by the love, support and belief in me to apply those values and ideals I learned as a member of Alpha Xi Delta to my term as chairman of the National Panhellenic Conference.

Alpha Xi Delta's National Convention in San Francisco, California.
Three amazing and memorable experiences!

My Visit to the White House

I knew when I accepted the opportunity to serve the National Panhellenic Conference as the chairman from 2011-2013 I would meet a lot of great people and have the chance to influence change. I never imagined this would lead me to the White House for a conversation about mental health. While this was an exciting opportunity for me personally, it also reaffirmed what I already knew about the National Panhellenic Conference – our organization is powerful and in a great position to make an impact.

Through our work within the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition, the National Panhellenic Conference was approached by Vice President Biden’s office to collaborate with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to facilitate conversation on campus and within the sorority network on mental health. The dialogue is critical as colleges are coping with the needs of students who are coping with a variety of issues – depression, substance abuse, ADHD and more.

Educational materials were posted during Mental Health Awareness Month and will be shared with as many women as we can reach or time allows.

NPC was approached because of its wide-reaching network and because with our member groups are civic-minded organizations who tout our role in educating and training civic-minded members. Conversations like the one on mental health are important for members personally but also our community holistically.

As I sat in the audience at the White House listening to the President talk about the call to action for individuals and organizations, I couldn’t help but feel proud that the Vice President’s Office called on NPC to serve.

Reach Out To Students In Crisis Before It's Too Late

When we move our children to college, we often worry about their eating habits, sleep deprivation and studying time. But mental health is just as important as physical health. We live in a world where 73 percent of students have experienced a mental health crisis while in college.

The key word here is “crisis.”

As a result, the National Panhellenic Conference is now working with the Office of the President and attended the White House conference Monday on mental health issues. Because of our reach and our commitment as an advocate for college women, we’ve committed to working with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) to facilitate conversations on campus and within the sorority network.

The dialogue is critical as colleges are coping with the needs of students who are dealing with a variety of mental health issues – depression, substance abuse, ADHD and more.

NAMI’s educational materials are posted here and will be shared this fall with as many women as we can reach or as time allows. We’re also spreading the news during sorority conventions this summer.

Why are we so concerned about our collegiate members? NAMI’s survey of 765 students, representing a diverse geographical area and a racially diverse population, tells us why this is pressing.

·         An overwhelming majority of survey respondents who said they are no longer in college are not attending because of mental health-related reasons (64 percent).

·         At least 50 percent of those who dropped out did not access mental health service or support.

·         Students were also equally divided on whether they chose to disclose their mental health condition to their colleges, with half responding that stigmas are still attached to people who are open about their mental health issues.

·         A majority of students, or 79 percent, stressed the importance of offering mental health training for faculty and staff. Forty-two percent of respondents said peer support is critical to success in college.

·         Another 64 percent said “no” or “don’t know” when asked whether their college websites included information about mental health; another 40 percent said their college websites were “somewhat helpful.”

Clearly, more can be done. Just one college student who feels lost is one college student too many.

In a breakout session of about 15 people during the White House conference, it was clear how passionate many of us feel about our most vulnerable population. From clergy to sportscasters, from senators to authors, there was agreement that the time is now to make this more than just a discussion.

If the stigma of mental health illness is a barrier to discussion, then discussions should occur in large audiences with multiple and diverse voices – just as it happened at the White House this week. Often hearing what peers and mentors have to say can encourage a student to make a connection.

Learning more about mental health can also encourage a friend to reach out and ask: “What’s wrong? I am worried about you.”

NPC is rising to the challenge with NAMI, one of the largest grassroots mental health organizations in the country. If you believe in student access to services, treatment, support and research, then join the conversation about mental health.

We hope you make room for the topic this fall to listen, engage and refer.