Thursday, October 1, 2015

From Taylor's Suitcase: Changing Nevada, Changing Me

Taylor Donahue
Kappa Kappa Chapter/Ball State U
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

It felt like just another day of ELC training at Headquarters, but secretly we all believed that was not the case. The sisters on this year's team and I sat patiently as Kaya Miller, our fearless and wonderful leader, entered the training room with a giant stack of papers in her hands. We all knew exactly what it was - our fall semester schedules. This was the day we had been waiting for since March, when we found out we would be serving on the ELC team. 
I don't remember exactly what I was thinking in that moment when Kaya walked into the room, but over the past few days I had ingrained in my mind that no matter what my schedule said, I would be happy. Happy because I would be traveling to new places, making new memories, and most importantly forming new friendships with so many AOII sisters. Seriously, who wouldn't be happy about that? 

Kaya was almost putting herself in danger holding our schedules in her hands because we wanted them so badly. I'm honestly surprised someone (me) didn't bombard her to try and get a glance at one of them. She said a few words to the group before quickly tossing half of the stack to the left side of the table, and then to the right. Myself and the other ELC sisters grabbed at them and devoured their content like they were slices of free pizza. Each of us sat there flipping through our copy of the schedule and then awkwardly realized there was a problem - we didn't know how to read them. I stared intently at mine trying to make sense of the thing. It was definitely a calendar, but there were twelve sets of different Greek letters listed on each day of the semester. As we were all looking at it, Kaya pointed out a box at the top of the first page with each of our initials displayed in a table just like the ones listed on each day of the semester. 

She then explained that the place where our initials were in this box corresponded with the diagram on each day of the semester. Every second box made up my schedule. 

I looked back to the packet of paper in front of me. For about 10 minutes, questions were flying around the room. All of us would look at a week and then ask Kaya which school each chapter was located. I was finally started to piece it together. On the first week of my schedule for August was the letter "O" - Omicron (U of Tennessee, Knoxville), and the second week  ΩY - Omega Upsilon (Ohio U), two schools that were close to home. Places I was familiar with and had visited before. The last week of August had the letters  ΔΝ - Delta Nu displayed in my box on the diagram. I flipped to the second page of my schedule, the month of September, and saw that those same letters were repeated on every day of the month. I was going to be a Resident Consultant for Delta Nu I realized, but I didn't know where that was exactly. "Kaya, where is the Delta Nu Chapter?" 

She smiled her sweet gentle smile and responded without hesitation "Nevada", and confirmed that I would be a Resident Consultant for their chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno. She filled me in on some other small details, too, like how they were colonized in the spring, which is why they were receiving a Resident Consultant and that I would be assisting the chapter with their very first recruitment. 

The biggest smile then started to appear on my face as Kaya told me this. I truly was so happy to be assigned to Delta Nu, but beneath that smile I was also a little terrified. I had considered the weekly visits and the possibility of helping establish a colony, but being a Resident Consultant hadn't really crossed my mind, and Nevada definitely hadn't either. Immediately I started wondering what my experience would be like with the chapter. Nevada is a desert climate, right? So it would be warm all the time - that's good, I like warm weather. First recruitment? I love recruitment. I can handle that. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Wow, I'm a huge dork. Are people dorky like me in Nevada? Oh my gosh, what if they don't like pugs? These and other ridiculous questions are what filled my thoughts as I continued to stare at the month of September and those repeated Greek letters ΔΝ

Time has a funny way of sneaking up on us, though. Before you even realize it, you go from sitting by your fellow ELCs in a training room at HQ simply imagining the experience to actually taking your first steps off the connecting flight from LAX into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and beginning it. Then even faster... comes a day like today. 

It feels like just another Monday of meetings at Starbucks with Delta Nu's officers, but instead of meetings I'm writing this AOII Suitcase Diaries blog reflecting on my time with this amazing chapter and trying to comprehend how it could already be almost the last day of September, how it could already almost be my last day with Delta Nu as a Resident Consultant. 

When I was interviewing to be an Educational Leadership Consultant, I knew one thing for certain - I knew that as a member of the team, I would be guiding sisters across the United States and Canada to make positive changes for themselves and their collegiate chapters, but ultimately at the end of this year, at the end of this amazing experience, the person who would change the most is me. 

It has only been a month, but I have learned so much and have changed for the better because of the wonderful chapter members here at Delta Nu. I had never considered before how different an AOII collegiate experience can be as a colony member of a new chapter. The collegiate chapter I joined already had its foundation. The traditions were set in place, elder sisters had knowledge and experience to help support younger sisters during their first recruitment, which had been planned almost in its entirety before the VP of Recruitment was even elected, and chapter officers had sisters before them who could help them understand and excel in their role. 

Delta Nu colonized in the spring semester of 2015, and was officially installed later that semester in May. The first AOII chapter in the state of Nevada, forever changing it. The officers had very little time to understand their positions before summer break and the chapter as a whole had only a couple of weeks to learn this complex thing we all do called recruitment. In those weeks, there was some doubt among the chapter. They were really nervous about how recruitment would go and honestly, I was, too. I didn't know how recruitment normally went for chapters their first time around, but I was hopeful. 

After two days of sisterhood rounds, a philanthropy and preference night, I went with several of the Delta Nu advisers to the UNR Greek Life Office to pick up the most important document of the week - the chapter's bid list. My heart was racing. I wanted good news more than anything. The Greek Life advisor walked from his office to the waiting area where we all were with a small pile of papers in his hand. He shared that quota was 77 before passing the appropriate bid list to the chapter representative. When I saw the list I immediately started crying. There were 77 names on the list. They did it! Despite all the factors against them, the doubts and the nerves, they did it! They made quota!

The happiness I felt on that day is very close in comparison to the happiness I felt on my own Bid Day. The chapter had 77 Delta Nu Bids on the Block. We had the time of our life. The leadership I have witnessed in this chapter alone has already made my ELC experience worthwhile. Take for instance Lindsey Forbes, the first Chapter President of Delta Nu, who was elected into her position in the spring and attended AOII Convention in Los Angeles shortly after during the summer, who has the best sense of humor, lives ritual every day of her life and will be missed dearly by the chapter when she becomes an AOII alumna at the end of this semester. 

Another beautiful example of leadership, the Vice President of Membership Recruitment Sarah Almaraz, who, if it were possible, would have the Delta Nu women wearing pink during every single round of recruitment. I admire Sarah so much for her commitment to her office. The first recruitment wasn't an easy task, but she was up to the challenge and made so many people in AOII proud to call her a sister. 

And the adorable and wonderful Kenzie Chelemedos, who will be the New Member Educator for this first new member class and has a heart so kind that she is willing to foster kittens while also educating 77 women on what it means to be a sister in AOII. She also planned the most perfect Big/Little reveal for the Delta Nu Chapter. 

These three women are just a few of the many sisters at Delta Nu who are leading the chapter through their first experiences with patience and grace. The leadership doesn't stop there, though. Every woman in this amazing Delta Nu Chapter demonstrates leadership because they took a chance on something that was completely new to UNR's campus. If I could mention every woman's name in this blog post I absolutely would. I am so thankful for every member of this chapter because together they have provided me with a new understanding of what it means to be a collegiate member of AOII. What it means to light a spark of this sisterhood from the very beginning. 
Thank you dearest Delta Nu sisters for forever changing Nevada and forever changing me.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

From Allie's Suitcase: Feels Like Home

Allie Jivraj
Iota Chi Chapter/The U of Western Ontario
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

My ELC adventure began on July 19th when my overweight suitcases and I headed to the airport and were Nashville-bound for training. I couldn't wait to be reunited with my fabulous teammates and spend a few weeks in the city I had been dreaming of moving to for years. Nashville was everything I wanted it to be and more, and being with 11 wonderful sisters was definitely the cherry on top. From our road trip to Indianapolis, to late night walks exploring the gorgeous Vanderbilt campus, Chick-Fil-A runs, and Sunday brunches, there was never a dull moment for Cycle 6. I can't begin to understand how our team bonded so fast, but I am so grateful that we did and couldn't have asked for a better team of women to share this journey with. 

Spending time in sunny California!

It didn't take long for me to realize that Nashville was the next place I wanted to plant my roots in, but by the end of training I was overwhelmingly excited for my adventures on the road to begin. My first stop was at Lambda Beta Chapter/California State U Long Beach, and I definitely didn't mind getting to visit Southern California for the second time in one summer. My 12-day trip was a blast - I got to spend a day at Disneyland and visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, but without a doubt the sisters of Lambda Beta were the highlight of my trip. As we spent countless hours preparing for recruitment, I had so much fun getting to know them and was so grateful for their love and hospitality. One of the members even took me to her family home in Palo Verdes and let me spend a morning riding one of her horses. I rounded out my trip to California by meeting up with my dear friend Zoe Gertner. She took me to an adorable little brunch spot in LA and we spent the morning updating each other on the events that had occurred in our lives since the last meal we had together in February 2015 when she visited my chapter of initiation as an ELC. After the half day I spent with Zoe, I was refreshed and ready to head to my next chapter. 

Bid Day with Alpha Gamma at Washington State U.
After flying Alaska Airlines for the first time, and the possibility of having my flight diverted to Idaho due to the magnitude of smoke from all of the fires burning in the Pacific Northwest, I finally landed in Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State University (GO COUGS!). From my time with the rest of my ELC team, I had already experienced how quickly AOII sisterhood can bring our members together regardless of their chapter of initiation, but boy oh boy did Alpha Gamma Chapter feel like home. Within 24 hours of being there, I felt like I was a part of their family and not just a guest passing through - shout out to PC 12 for treating me like one of their own! I had the best time celebrating Bid Day with them, and loved watching them welcome 53 new members home. Though my days were filled with officer meetings, my week in Pullman hardly felt like work; I felt like I was just hanging out with the sisters I had been friends with for years. The sisterhood I found on the road didn't end at the end of my visit; it has been a month since I left and Snapchats are still sent back and forth almost daily. I would have never guessed that a small town in Washington would bring me so much joy, and I can't wait to reunite with my Alpha Gamma sisters someday soon!

As someone who has been an avid traveller and adventure seeker her whole life, getting homesick on the road was the last of my worries. But by the end of my visit I was caught off guard with hard feelings of being thousands of miles away as all my sisters and friends from my alma mater headed back to my university town. It was the first time in five years that I wasn't heading back to London, Ontario, and I suddenly felt very alone as I walked through the Chicago O'Hare airport to catch my connecting flight to Ohio. I started to doubt myself and felt anxious that being homesick would distract me during my time in Bowling Green, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to put my game face on and give Alpha Psi my best during their formal recruitment. In the half hour it took to drive from the airport in Toledo to Bowling Green State University, all of those feelings of doubt and anxiety had vanished. I spent the majority of the ride with the two sisters who picked me up laughing as we got to know each other, and the laughter continued all week long. The sisters of Alpha Psi Chapter welcomed me with open arms and I felt so appreciated. Recruitment and Bid Day with these women was more fun than I had ever experienced, and working with the MS team made even the latest nights of voting enjoyable. Sisterhood on the road saved me yet again, the feeling of being so warmly welcomed into an AOII family is indescribable. My only wish is that I could bottle up that feeling and carry a stash of it with me wherever I go. My time at Alpha Psi flew by and before I knew it, I was heading to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for my next adventure. 

I squealed with excitement and happiness when fellow ELC Caroline Listoe picked me up from the airport - it was so good to be reunited after a month on the road. We had been entrusted with the task of helping to colonize a brand new AOII chapter at Gettysburg College, and though we were a little nervous, we were ready for the challenge. I quickly fell in love with Gettysburg, the town is so charming and the campus is absolutely beautiful. Everyone in town is so friendly, and the fraternity and sorority community on campus has been so wonderful and welcoming. Since arriving we have been busy tabling, hosting information sessions, sending countless emails and of course taking daily trips to McDonald's to get her a sweet tea and me a Diet Coke. All of our hard week is about to pay off, as Colonization Weekend is happening RIGHT NOW! We cannot wait to meet our Gettyburg College new members on Sunday. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to help form the foundation of what I know will be a great legacy for AOII here at Gettysburg College, and I can't wait to watch this chapter's future unfold. 

Since July 19th I have been on 10 planes, in three time zones, and have had the pleasure of working with countless unforgettable sisters. In true AOII fashion, this experience has already exceeded my expectations, and I can't wait for what the rest of the year has in store. ALAM, Allie  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From Mary Faith's Suitcase: My Wish for a New Colony

Mary Faith Erwin
Beta Zeta Chapter/Kennesaw State U
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

Is it really almost the end of September? I could have sworn it was just last week when I stepped off the plane in Nashville, 150 pounds of glittery luggage in hand, ready to begin the journey of a lifetime with 11 of the most incredible women I have ever met, my ELC sisters. I am almost certain that it was just yesterday that I was given my travel schedule, and was overflowing with happiness as I saw all of the universities that I would be visiting to assist with recruitment. I imagined the adventures that I would have: Bid Day celebrations, sappy memories of preference ceremonies, opportunities to share my AOII story with the collegians that I would visit, and moments that maybe, just maybe, I would get to have an impact on someone the way that previous ELCs have impacted me.

But I must admit that the most exciting part of that schedule was what came AFTER those first visits: I learned that I would be one of the resident consultants for AOII's colonization at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and I couldn't have been more thrilled! Having assisted with two AOII colonizations in Georgia during my collegiate years (Phi Gamma/Georgia College and State U, and Lambda Delta/Dalton State College), I knew what an incredibly exciting experience this would be. My mind immediately started racing, imagining all of the wonderful things that this new group would accomplish. I began daydreaming of Pinterest-perfect sisterhood events, a flawless AOII Homecoming float, and all of the things that I hoped this new colony would get to experience.

But then, I began my travels, and ideas for the Tarleton State colony were saved for another day. As I visited my first four chapters - Alpha Pi/Florida State U, Iota Sigma/Iowa State U, Lambda Tau/U of Louisiana at Monroe, and Kappa Chi/Northwestern State U - each one quickly earned a place in my heart. Although it is easy to focus on what can be improved, the things that stood out to me were the things that they did well. I saw so much good during that first month of visits, and although I may not have been actively thinking of it, I saw so much that I hoped would become a reality for this new colony.

And now, I am in Stephenville, realizing that the dream of a new colony will soon become a reality. My heart is filled with so much joy and expectation for all that this new group will be, and I am once again overflowing with daydreams of the things they will accomplish. But these dreams are very different than those I had back before my travels. Now that I have visited all of these other chapters, I realize that no one chapter has it all; that each chapter has something unique. Something wonderful. Something that should be shared with everyone, because it would make us all better. So now, my dreams are not so Pinterest-perfect ideas of what an ideal sorority should be, but instead little pieces of magic from each chapter I have visited. I hope our new colonies (AOII will also join Illinois State University and Gettysburg College this semester!) have a little bit of each of these chapters, and then some. I hope that they are able to learn from those who came before them, but also make their experience their own, with their own memories, their own goals, and their own sisterhood.

With that being said, here is my wish for our newest chapters:

Recruitment practice with Alpha Pi.
I hope that they have Alpha Pi's fun-loving spirit. From the moment I stepped into their gorgeous new house, I knew that I was going to have a blast with Alpha Pi! This chapter is full of women who truly enjoy each others company, and I loved experiencing their sisterhood for the short time that I was there. Whether it was a simple movie night at the house, a fro-yo party after a long day of recruitment practice, or a creative workshop (MAC makeup presentation, anyone!?), everyone was always having fun! They weren't afraid to be silly, and why should they be? They are surrounded by sisters who love and support them.
Door stacks with Iota Sigma.

I hope that they have Iota Sigma's confidence. My visit to Iota Sigma at Iowa State was the first time I have ever been to the Midwest, and while I may have attempted to order sweet tea on the first day (oops!), I was excited to experience sorority life outside of the South! I quickly learned that this is a very strong-willed chapter, filled with women who are confident, independent, and willing to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. Although everyone was so kind and welcoming to me, they were also not afraid to challenge me, which I loved. They would ask me "Why?" when I offered suggestions, or offer a different approach to counter mine. I appreciated that they wanted to make sure that everything they were doing was for the best of the group.

The one and only Grace Houston at Lambda Tau Bid Day!
I hope that they have Lambda Tau's genuine sisterhood. My visit to Lambda Tau had me wishing that I could join AOII all over again! These ladies truly exceeded my expectations of hospitality, kindness, and sisterhood. Traveling to a different state every week can be scary, and I am always a little worried that the chapter won't like me or connect with me during my visit. Lambda Tau immediately eased my fears, welcoming me with open arms (and ALL of my favorite foods!). They had this incredible way of making you feel like you were one of them from the moment you arrived. You could just feel the sisterhood in the room, wrapping each sister in the warmth and comfort of the place she calls home. It was such a beautiful thing to witness, and I left that chapter inspired to make every sister I come into contact with feel as welcome and loved as they made me feel.  
Hanging out with Kappa Chi AOIIs before a football game.

I hope that they have Kappa Chi's unconditional love. Kappa Chi is such a unique chapter, something that I loved about them from day one. Each sister has something special to contribute to the group, and no two are quite the same. Their bond is one of the strongest I have seen, despite the differences among them. They're so loving and accepting of one another - during my visit, it dawned on me: wouldn't the world be such a better place if we all had Kappa Chi's mindset? What if we all embraced each other and celebrated our differences, instead of trying to mold someone into something they are not? 

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my first few months as an ELC! It has been such a blessing to learn and grow through the sisters I have met, and I have no doubt that being a part of colonization at Tarleton State, and hearing the news of our other upcoming colonizations, will only deepen my love for AOII. Here's to hoping I get my wish! Roses, Mary Faith 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

From Kate D's Suitcase: Sisterhood and Southern Hospitality

Kate Donahue
Chi Epsilon Chapter/The Ohio State U
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

As a Virginia-born but Ohio-raised woman, I could be considered a "Northerner" in all regards. Throughout my time during training, however, I began to identify with my Southern teammates so one can imagine my delight when I was presented with my fall semester schedule and the opportunity to spend my first several visit serving chapters below the Mason-Dixon line! As I begin my fifth chapter visit working with the Gamma Sigma Chapter at Georgia State University, I reflect on my experiences thus far and the relationship between the idea of "Southern hospitality" and sisterhood. 
Phi Gamma on Bid Day!
Pi Alpha rocking their Skit Night.
I spent my first visit with the lovely ladies of Phi Gamma at Georgia College & State University during their week of Formal Recruitment. The chapter's Vice President of Administration, Hollie Schwanebeck, not only made me extremely comfortable as a guest in her room in the gorgeous chapter home, but she also made sure that I had all of my favorite breakfast essentials, including chocolate milk. In addition, chapter member and Keeper of the Ritual Emily Zilleox graciously spent an afternoon showing me around the quaint town of Milledgeville and even helped me mail home some of my excess belongings! 

Omega Sigma's amazing Chapter Adviser Julie.
I then moved on to Pi Alpha at the University of Louisville for another week of Formal Recruitment. Once again, chapter members warmly welcomed me into their home for the duration of my visit. The chapter leaders, including Vice President of Administration Riley Cantrall and Vice President of Membership Recruitment Emily Adams did an exceptional job at making sure I was comfortable and well-fed at all times. The chapter's dedication to learning from my experiences and appreciation of my advice warmed my heart each and every day. The genuine sisterhood within this chapter is showcased in all they do, from bonding together after the tragic loss of a chapter sister, to the kindness that each member displayed as they all made an effort to make me feel right at home with the chapter. 

My third visit took me all the way to Oklahoma to spend time with Omega Sigma Chapter at the "other" OSU, Oklahoma State University. Not only did I have my very own suite in the chapter house, but these wonderful women also took special care to introduce me to numerous local attractions, including treating me to my first county fair! Chapter members Lindsey Evans (Property Manager) and Kerry Stark (VPMR) even helped me run personal errands and did not hesitate to mail me a few garments when we accidentally missed our window of opportunity to pick them up from the dry cleaner. 

Lambda Delta at Dalton State having an AWESOME recruitment.
On my fourth visit, I was blessed with the opportunity to head back to Georgia to work with the Lambda Delta Chapter at Dalton State College. Vice President of Administration Carolina Gomez prepared a perfectly organized binder of information for my visit as well as a beautiful welcome basket filled with goodies. Once again, a chapter member (Natalie Espinoza-Hensley, Social Chair) offered up her room for me to stay in, even though she had to wake up early each morning for cross country practice! An assortment of chapter officers and general members spent their minimal free time throughout the week introducing me to the wonders of Dalton and even included me in their Sunday worship practices. 

Not only did the collegiate women make me feel right at home at all of the chapters I have visited, but I also experienced the love, sisterhood and hospitality of AOII alumnae along my journey. I spent my first weekend off exploring Lexington with Megan Cherry, Chi Epsilon/OSU alumna and past advisor, who is now serving as an advisor with Kappa Omega Chapter at University of Kentucky. While in Dalton, Melanie Faith Erwin, alumna of Lambda Chi Chapter at LaGrange College and mother of my beautiful teammate Mary Faith, treated me as if I were her own daughter as we enjoyed an afternoon of lunch, ice cream, and shopping. Finally, I had the opportunity to spend the Labor Day holiday with Ashley Calhoun, Gamma Sigma/Georgia State University alumna and her wonderful family who made me feel right at home. Kelly Angelo, alumna of Gamma Omicron/U of Florida and Financial Advisor for Lambda Delta, helped to make my weekend off even more special by providing Ashley and me with tickets to the World of Coca-Cola, where we spent an afternoon learning the history of the company and trying every variation of soda imaginable! 

All in all, I have felt blessed from the moment I was offered the position to be an ELC earlier this year, and not a day goes by that I do not feel thankful for the opportunity to work with so many fantastic chapters. Though I was nervous when I set out for my first visit, I can truly say that each chapter I have visited thus far has made me feel like part of their "chapter family" from Day One. Sisterhood and Southern hospitality have gone hand-in-hand as these chapters have planned and executed exceptional chapter visits. Though I am a loud and proud Buckeye from Ohio, the spirit of kindness and love I have experienced throughout my time in the South has truly stolen my heart!

I hope to see y'all soon! Roses, Kate Donahue 

Friday, September 4, 2015

From Darcy's Suitcase - That Crazy Concept of Sisterhood

Darcy Kaul
Gamma Delta Chapter/U of South Alabama
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

We all talk about that special "AOII bond" that holds us together, but do we really understand what it is? Is it a secret meaning? Is it just a line that we use during recruitment to try to make PNMs understand that crazy concept of sisterhood? I always tried to explain it, but I was at a loss for words every time because an invisible feeling that connects us together is not exactly easily understandable. Let me tell you what I believe it is. 
Ready to get to know the women of Delta Sigma!
On the first day of my travels as an ELC, I flew from Tennessee to San Jose, California. After being in airports and on planes for 11 hours (the time change makes a difference, trust me), I was exhausted and nervous to start work week with Delta Sigma Chapter at San Jose State University. I have to admit that the night before day one of work week, I could not sleep because I was questioning myself and if I could even do this job, and actually help the chapter like I was supposed to. Also, the question "what if they don't like me?" kept flashing like a bright light in my head. I am just a 22-year-old Disney-obsessed girl from Alabama - how could they relate to me? 

Delta Sigma Chapter having a blast duringwork week.
I learned the answer to that question very quickly. Although I was not a part of their chapter, I was still their sister. That "AOII bond" that mysteriously exists guided me to love each and every girl at Delta Sigma as if they were from my own chapter. These women took care of me and actually wanted to get to know me. They were my sisters, and they wanted the best for me as much as I wanted what was best for them. I had such a great first visit with these women. Yes, the experiences of San Francisco and dancing/making a music video with them were incredibly fun, but I was able to see the sisterhood in this chapter during the stressful work week. I saw friendships and love for AOII, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of this job. 

To me, that bond is what we all believe as our core values because we are members of Alpha Omicron Pi. We are from all over the U.S. and Canada, but those values that we hold are the same everywhere you go. That special bond is the reason we all chose AOII, and why we are loyal forever. It is even why you have to run up to a woman in Disney World with an AOII t-shirt on just to say "I'm an AOII, too!" It is more unique and wonderful than any feeling I know, even though you can't exactly see it. 
Sister trip to San Fran!

I am so excited to be traveling as an ELC this year, and I will hopefully be at your chapter soon! Alpha Love! -Darcy

Friday, August 28, 2015

From Lauren's Suitcase - The First Visit

Lauren Votaw
Xi Chapter/U of Oklahoma
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

As I was stepping off the plane in Tallahassee, FL where Alpha Pi/Florida State U is located, I had so many thoughts come racing through my mind. After three weeks of training, I thought I was prepared to handle anything that was thrown my way, but I never expected to be so nervous. Past ELCs reassured me that the first visit is the hardest, but it gets easier. So as I walked in, I was mildly unsure of myself, but right away I could tell that the women of Alpha Pi were unlike any other group I had ever experienced. 
August 2015 - Alpha Pi moves into their beautiful new AOII home!

With this visit came a lot of firsts. The first time they were able to live in AOII housing together, a first time house mother, and let's not forget my very first chapter visit! Everyone was eager to learn, including myself. The women of Alpha Pi have this drive inside them to succeed in all they do. After their first year following recolonization at FSU, they won FSU's Greek Week Challenge. Their officers give their all to the organization, and the members respect their officers' decisions. 
FSU AOII House Director, Miss Vickie.

I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in Tallahassee to help the Alpha Pi women through their pre-recruitment week of planning (Polish Week), and all of formal recruitment. I was there when they welcomed 92 beautiful new members to the AOII family! Throughout the week, I saw the AOII sisterhood thrive in every facet possible, but I got to experience it first-hand on Bid Day. 

After taking a pretty nasty fall, skinning up my knee and suffering a mild concussion, the Alpha Pi ladies sprang into action to take care of their clumsy ELC. I laid on the couch as they welcome
d their 92 new members home, with an ice pack on my head and my leg bandaged. Even with the excitement of welcoming new members, the women were still worried about my needs and taking care of my well-being. I wasn't initiated at Alpha Pi, but they treated me like I belonged there. 

Alpha Pi Bid Day 2015!
I could not have asked for a better first visit, and I know that I will meet so many more remarkable women and chapters! For now, I'm off to Theta Omega/Northern Arizona U. Until next time! -Lauren

Thursday, May 21, 2015

From Haley & Rebecca's Suitcases: The Life of AOII's Newest Chapter

Team AOII at Wright State University.
Haley Mruz, Tau Chapter/U of Minnesota
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant

When I became an ELC, I imagined myself traveling all over the country. At training in July, we were told that we would have at least six new colonies to work with, and half of us would be resident consultants. I convinced myself that did not apply to me, as I had never experienced extension or colonization before.
I was beyond surprised (and nervous) when I received my first semester schedule - the Kappa Delta Chapter reinstallation at Wright State University. Excited (but still nervous), Katie Clark and I went to Dayton, Ohio and recruited for three weeks. When Katie left, I was terrified, as I realized I was now supposed to live in a city I was not familiar with, teach women about AOII and how to function as a new group, without the traditions and knowledge I had leaned on as a collegian at Tau Chapter, which turns 103 this year. Looking back, I have no idea why I was nervous, as the women exceeded the expectations, and embraced everything I threw at them with open arms. Kappa Delta became my close friends and family, and with a chapter size around 50, I learned just how close bonds of AOII can be.
Haley & Emily at Delta Nu's first sisterhood retreat.
I went home for break, and looked forward to a semester of full-time flying. AOII had different plans - I learned I would again be a resident consultant, but this time for the University of Nevada colony with Emily Murray in Reno, Nevada. I was excited to get to experience resident life for a second time, but again was terrified of moving to a new city in a state I had never been to before. And when I saw that we were able to recruit almost two hundred women, I definitely had a moment of panic – How can we create the same bonds with this many women? From the beginning of our time, it became very apparent that Nevada had the qualities AOII looked for - engaged women who were leaders, had a strong sense of pride in their campus, and were looking for others who wanted to have a positive impact on the community. Greek life and the campus community welcomed us with open arms, and I knew that although it would not be the same as my experience before, it would be just as fun. The colony members were already incredibly involved with many serving as presidents and officers in other campus groups, student senate, and in their jobs, but still found ways to give any extra time to AOII. The first event we were able to participate in - a grilled cheese fundraiser for Up ‘Til Dawn - opened their sign-ups, and AOII filled every time slot within 15 minutes. Throughout the semester, the women worked to make a strong and positive impact not only on campus, but in their friendships with each other. Any time that someone needed a study buddy, or someone to join on a trip to Tahoe, there were always five women volunteering to help. The women were incredible friends to Em and myself – whenever I was stressed, I could always find a ride to the closest Target (my happy place), or they would include us as their own sisters and take us out for dinner when their parents were in town. The same love and care went into the legacy they wanted to create - when selecting the chapter name of Delta Nu, the women focused on not what just described their current group, but a name that would embody the future members of Delta Nu with the same meaning and love. The women had incredible foresight in how they wanted the group to grow, while still keeping their values of light and compassion at their core.
At initiation and installation, I did shed a few tears, but not only because I was proud of how far the women had come - I cried because I know that they will go much farther than I ever can imagine. They had somehow managed to make a large group of 160 women feel like a group of 50. When I joined the consultant team, I thought I would constantly travel and meet chapters in each state while seeing the country. Now, I am so happy to have spent my year as a resident consultant, and I would never trade my experiences with Kappa Delta and Delta Nu. I learned that with a history of 103 years or 3 months, the same love and support exists, thanks to the ideals and values of Alpha Omicron Pi. Working with these two chapters have made me beyond thankful for my experience with Tau, and I cannot wait to go to both Kappa Delta and Delta Nu’s 50 year celebrations and experience the same feelings of friendship, sisterhood, and sense of home.

Rebecca Herman, Chi Lambda Chapter/U of Evansville
AOII Executive Board Vice President 

Words to live by for AOII's UNR team!
I was excited to head to the airport to return to Reno, Nevada for the Installation of AOII’s 206th chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno. Allison Allgier, International President, would be installing the 27th chapter during her tenure as IP and this would be the fourth consecutive year that we had been together for this purpose the first weekend of May.
This particular journey began back in September 2014 when we presented for the opportunity to colonize. There is something a bit magical about walking on a college campus for the first time. Perhaps it is the energy of college students, the hope of the future to be realized, the idea of the knowledge that has been exchanged over the decades, or just the beauty and the culture of each university. Presentation day is a whirlwind of meetings with campus officials and Panhellenic representatives. The day culminates with a formal presentation by AOII to Panhellenic women, specifically their extension team, and often other members of the Greek system, student body, faculty, alumnae, and anyone wishing to learn more. We were thrilled to have many members of the Reno-Tahoe Alumnae Chapter present to show their support and desire to have a chapter on this campus.
For most campuses, the extension process includes inviting two or three NPC organizations to the campus for presentations. For this particular situation, there would be three consecutive days of meetings and presentations by NPC organizations and we would need to wait 1-3 weeks before a formal vote and decision was rendered. On October 14, 2015, we received official word that AOII had been invited to colonize in the spring of 2015!
Scenes from Colonization Bid Day at UNR.
Planning and extensive work is done behind the scenes between notification of selection and colonization.  Our on-site Educational Leadership Consultants (ELCs) get situated, start making connections, learning the campus culture, and meeting potential new members. Haley Mruz and Emily Murray were an outstanding ELC team from start to finish. At the same time, Sarah Blank, Network Specialist of Development, and Hillary Stewart, Assistant Director of New Chapter Development had the honor of interviewing, selecting, and training the amazing Alumnae Advisory Committee for our soon-to-be colony. Our extension team of Heather Hays and Mary Kate Sweeney worked to prepare every detail of the colonization process and secure collegiate teams as well.
Time flew by and it was “Go Pack” time in Reno! The team arrived February 26, 2015 to begin preparations for personal appointments and recruitment events that would conclude in Bid Day at the end of the weekend. We had a great team. Joining me to conduct appointments were Debbie Tam, Network Director; Liz Pietsch, alumna; Sarah Blank, Network Specialist of Development; and Troy LeForge, Executive Director. We were provided staff support beyond measure by Heather Hays, Mary Kate Sweeney, Whitney Frazier, Emily Murray, and Haley Mruz. A huge thank you to Amy Saunders, collegian from Sonoma State, Xi Rho Chapter, who was my note-taker and amazing partner for the entire weekend! We couldn’t have had successful recruitment parties without the terrific collegiate support from Delta Sigma, Sigma, Xi Rho, and Zeta Theta chapters.
For anyone who has ever participated in recruitment, you understand the long days, excitement of meeting potential new members, joy of sharing what AOII means to us and heart-felt discussions to find those women who will receive invitations into our sisterhood. Bid Day had finally arrived and we were thrilled to welcome 147 women into AOII at the University of Nevada, Reno!!
Later that same day, March 1, 2015, I had the honor of leading the Colonization Ceremony to a packed ballroom full of family, friends, Greek students, and campus officials. It was awe-inspiring to watch the women enter the room and circle around all their well-wishers. Guests’ mouths literally gaped open as they just kept coming and coming and coming. A goose bump moment of the evening was when each new colony member was asked to state their full name. Each one (147) proudly and loudly announced their name around the circle and the guests erupted in applause when they finished. Dennis Campbell, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life was incredibly supportive throughout the process. He provided some very kind words and remarks at the ceremony regarding the process and what a great fit AOII is for Nevada. A successful colonization in no small feat and the support of the university, our Reno-Tahoe Alumnae Chapter, the collegiate recruitment teams, the AOII staff, and our colonization team all came together in a synergistic way to create the start of something truly wonderful at the University of Nevada, Reno!
Officially installed as Delta Nu Chapter of AOII!
Two short months later, we arrived back in Reno, Nevada for the Installation weekend. Friday night was the Transition Ceremony and we had the opportunity to hear each colony member share a favorite moment from their experience in AOII thus far. We knew right then that they had developed their bonds of sisterhood while growing in knowledge and love for AOII. Saturday, May 2, 2015, we were grateful for the large room provided at the convention center as we would be initiating 155 members. Allison Allgier prepped everyone for the day as only someone doing this for the 27th time could! Once again, the alumnae support was incredible. It was a beautiful Ritual that combined initiation, chapter installation, and chapter officer installation.
We had a brief break where we were able to take the AAC to lunch and congratulate them on their leadership of the colony. Back at the convention center, friends and family started arriving early in anticipation of the Rose Reception honoring our newest AOII chapter – Delta Nu!  Sarah Blank served as a warm and engaging toastmistress. There were remarks and recognition provided. A highlight was the presentation of the Charter Members where they signed the roll book and the Charter. Allison Allgier provided an inspirational keynote address and presented Lindsey Forbes, Delta Nu’s first Chapter President, with the President’s gavel and ring. There was a presentation of additional gifts from the Fraternity, the AOII Foundation, and the Reno-Tahoe Alumnae Chapter. The festivities concluded with the singing of the Epsilon Chapter Song.
AOII's dedicated UNR team.
After an incredible day, we packed and prepped many (understatement) boxes needing to be shipped to AOII Headquarters. Our team joined together one more time for dinner and final thoughts on this amazing experience. We believe a fantastic foundation has been laid for the Delta Nu Chapter. With the continued support of the university, our AOII volunteers and staff, we are confident that AOII has a long and distinguished future at the University of Nevada, Reno.