Visions of AFA Dance in My Head

A few of my holiday decorations.
I’ve almost got my house decorated for the holidays. Each year I put up the ribbons and garland inside and out and I’m reminded that it is a labor of love. I love decorating my home and making it a warm and inviting place for friends and family who will come to share their holidays with us. It makes me happy to think about the fun-filled days, late night conversations and wonderful memories that will be made with some of my favorite people. This is also how I felt as I thought about the people I would see at this year’s Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors (AFA) annual meeting. Certainly I would see my NPC family and my dear Executive Committee friends but the other group of people I love to see each year is the NPC Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Committee members.

This committee was created to provide a warm and welcoming environment for thoughtful conversation (and some laughter) with one of our key constituent groups, our FSAs. This group provides us with great feedback on programs, educational pieces we are developing and general feedback on hot topics affecting their campuses. This information is tremendously beneficial to me as the NPC chairman. I can’t be everywhere and I certainly don’t get back to campus as much as I would like, so knowing that we have subject matter experts available to us is a tremendous blessing.

This year we had the opportunity to have lunch with our FSA Advisory Committee and true to form there was some great conversation and laughter, but above all there was a tremendous respect for the work of the committee and NPC and the collaboration and memories we are creating together.

A Global Conversation for Women

You may have seen this movie or overheard us talking about it.

“Half the Sky,”
a film that debuted on PBS, is based on a book that reviewers have called a “passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.”

With the
Circle of Sisterhood Foundation, we partnered to organize more than 75 viewing parties across the country for the film’s fall premier. The hashtag #sororityview was repeated on Twitter more than 2,000 times as sorority women picked up the thread of conversation and started to share what they were seeing and feeling about the global issues presented to us.

The film also was a multi-part experiment in social media, of which the National Panhellenic Conference decided to take part by engaging our 26 national/international member groups.

Tweets about “Half the Sky” generated 1 billion impressions in early October and the hashtag #halfthesky trended during film viewings.

But NPC groups don’t tackle issues that affect women just once a year. In fact, many of our member groups harness the power of women to change outcomes and attitudes.
  • The Confidence Coalition was imagined and created by Kappa Delta in 2009 to inspire all women to their personal greatness, asking them to pledge online or at in-person events focused around International Girls Day and International Women’s Friendship Month events. The coalition also began awarding grants in 2011 for educational campus events discussing topics ranging from health relationships to body image.
  • In June 2012, Gamma Phi Beta announced its new philanthropic focus, Building Strong Girls. The group’s mission to build strong girls began in the 1920s as Gamma Phi Betas identified a desire to provide underprivileged girls a retreat from their daily circumstances, and a place to learn about themselves and to build character for facing life’s challenges.
  • Fat Talk Free® initiatives, launched by Tri Delta as Fat Talk Free Week in 2008 as an international, body activism campaign, raise awareness about body image issues and the damaging impact of the "thin ideal" on women in society. This innovative undertaking is expanding into the Body Image Manifesto, which will encourage individuals to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.
  • The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation’s “By The Numbers” page also provides an impressive list of contributions and work done on the behalf of young women in 12 countries on four continents.

If you have not read our recently published 2011-2012 annual report, we can also share that 427 College Panhellenics reported donating 639,021 hours to community service efforts and raising more than $2.8 million for various philanthropies.

Our Alumnae Panhellenics also generously raised more than $330,000 for 297 scholarships.

Sorority groups are never at a loss to engage, both in their local campus communities and on the larger scale for global good. We always want to be part of a network that serves women who are helping other women.

So ask yourself this December, a month when we tend to appreciate our friends and families more than ever and pull them ever closer, are you doing all you can to uplift girls and women in your community?

Enjoy your holidays and remember that there’s always more that we can do!

Election Day 2012

On this Election Day, I put a call out to all members of NPC to vote. Here are some of the reasons why I vote:

  • It’s my responsibility, my civic duty to my country. 
  • My “sisters” before me fought for me to have this right. (I direct you to “March On” posted on the Alpha Gamma Delta blog for more information.)
  • My fellow brothers and sisters put their lives on the line serving our country, so I can enjoy the freedom and right to vote as an American.
  • I want my voice to be heard.

I hope that each of you stands up and shouts by voting today.

Mentoring – A Meaningful Way to Spend Your Time

At the National Panhellenic Conference, we have built solid bridges between generations. From one generation to the next, women are finding meaningful ways to provide assistance, support and help. That can translate to direct support through scholarships or networking help when it comes time for a new college graduate to land a job.

In many ways, we find mentors that last a lifetime. Someone we can call in a pinch for a bit of emotional support during trying times or to assist with a long-range strategic plan for a business or charity.

The NPC network is vast and its resources are diverse.

As many of you review our annual report this fall, we also wanted to share with you a conversation we had with Jessica Albert, a production engineer with The Dow Chemical Co. in Texas and an alumnae of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana.

Her focus is STEM – which is a shorthand reference to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them.

Jessica has been featured by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as one of five “New Faces of Engineering.” The honor recognizes young engineers who have demonstrated outstanding technical excellence, and made a significant and positive impact on the engineering profession. SWE also honored Albert with the 2012 southwest regional Emerging Leader-Professional Award for outstanding technical and leadership excellence, and involvement in SWE and community activities. 

Q: How did your sorority experience influence your career path or vice versa?

A: It did not influence my career path, per se, as I already decided to attend an engineering college before joining, but being in a sorority was extremely beneficial considering there were five men to every one woman at Rose-Hulman. Sorority was a place where I could branch out and really discover my strengths and weaknesses in a safe zone of support. The sorority also exposed me to many different types of people that I would never have gotten so close with on my own. It really expanded my views of the world and it was the perfect place to unwind with my sisters after a long week at school. They also supported me in the other activities I did at Rose-Hulman and would show up with signs and banners at my sporting events! I can say that in the male-dominated world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), my sorority was key to providing the balance needed for success at my university.

Q: Do you believe now is a good time for women to get more engaged in STEM careers – or explore STEM careers? If so, why?

A: Of course! Women have such an advantage when it comes to STEM careers. I don’t think people, especially women themselves, realize what wonderful problem solvers we are. That is basically what an engineer is: a glorified problem solver. I know that all of that math and science curriculum can be overwhelming, and the thought of being an engineer might not sound “cool” or “hip” to the junior in high school, but I cannot think of any other career where I get to save the day so much! I am respected for my knowledge and sought out specifically to fix a problem no one else can solve. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment and frankly, I love the power of being in charge of my own life, which not a lot of people can say these days. Engineers, especially women engineers, are ALWAYS needed in the work force, and well paid for it. It is a given that you will do more work in college than other careers, but it is well worth the benefits once you get in the work force. 

Q: We often struggle with negative cultural or media references to sorority women. Did you ever run into such a stereotype after you graduated? And how did you handle it?

A: Yes, I think a lot of people have trouble associating sororities with being “serious” or academically beneficial, but I have told anyone that raised an eyebrow what a benefit it was to have such a support group in my challenging college curriculum. People automatically think of a bunch of girls gathered together to sit around and talk when you mention sorority, but I explained how my sorority and my sisters were the base of my growth as a student and as a person.

 Q: What career advice do you have for women seeking STEM careers?

A: Seek out a mentor in your area. I know that there are members of the Society of Women Engineers in almost every big city. They would love to talk to you about what your options are in not just engineering, but all STEM careers. This would be very beneficial to learn about what all there is to offer!

Thanks Jessica. We know that sorority women provide one of the best professional networks in the country. For young women graduating this fall, don’t forget to stay in touch with the women who blazed trails ahead of you. Their advice could be life changing.

Your Personal Brand – Why It’s Important

All of us sometimes struggle with our personal brand – or what we want the world to see and believe about us as we move forward in life. Branding is just as important to you as a person as it is to a company selling XYZ widgets. Investing in your brand equity is just as important to the National Panhellenic Conference as it is to each of our 26 member groups.

But we sometimes forget that our personal brand can conflict with our sorority brand.

What we say and do as sorority women affects every sorority woman. When you wear your Greek letters on a t-shirt, speak while invoking your sorority name, share on social media with a chapter name and university, you are essentially extending your sorority brand. When you link a sorority name to a personal or business enterprise, you are, perhaps mistakenly, impinging on a larger brand that isn’t yours to own.

The results are not always positive when this occurs.

We cherish our individuality and value what makes us different and resourceful.

We learn through the camaraderie of sisterhood and ingrain those experiences in our lives and businesses.

But we need to be keenly aware of how our actions affect others.

I share this with you not as an explanation of items we see in the headlines or shared on social media.

I share this with you because we all should hold precious our personal brands. We should not use them at the expense of others.We should be mindful of our words and deeds at all times. We should not judge, envy or chastise the women around us who do not hold their personal brands as dear as others.

As college women head back to the 655 colleges and campuses this fall where NPC sororities continue to thrive, we simply need a reminder to all women that what you do – as a sorority woman and in the name of sorority women – affects us widely.

The world is full of people who judge. The world is full of people who hate. The world is full of examples of people who no longer cherish respect, civility and graciousness. We don’t intend to add to that growing circle.

We’re here to say – cherish your brand. It is yours and yours alone.

Doing More than Talking About Hazing

Let’s get serious – and let’s stay serious about hazing. For years hazing has been a topic that was linked mostly to fraternal groups. No longer. From severe bullying incidents that have led to military brutality and the death of a college band member, we have finally started to recognize as a culture that all types of societal hazing will no longer be tolerated.

In a world where our youth is so easily connected through social media, we have seen our words and actions acted out – and acted upon – in global ways. Never before has the adage – think before you speak (or now think before you tweet) – been so important. Words can cause physical hurt and damage. Once put into play in social media, they can easily send a shock wave through a large population or dramatically wound a single heart.

The women of the National Panhellenic Conference, by mentoring and networking through small and large groups of women, know that hazing is often errantly linked to ritual and tradition. Groups are often blamed when only individuals are to blame. Each member group of the NPC family has policies against hazing. Each has disciplinary procedures to follow.

The last week of September is set aside each year to remind us that hazing is “everyone’s problem, everyone’s responsibility.” There are vast online resources for both students, parents and families to set the record straight on behavior that is not acceptable – and you can also report college hazing incidents anonymously to the Anti-Hazing Hotline at 1-888-668-4293, which translated to 1-888-NOT-HAZE. 

If you don’t know, ask.

If you believe someone is at risk, report.

If you wish to engage in the conversation this fall as students return to their campuses, tell us. If you have a program you’d like to share, talk about it – and let us know what progress you’ve made in your college community.

There are plenty of people doing something about hazing and offering free and affordable programming to alter risky behaviors, including NPC’s own “Something of Value” program, courses offered by the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention, and webinars from supported by sororities and fraternities.

Join the conversation and do what’s right.

Hazing Prevention Week is September 24 to September 28.