Friday, April 10, 2015

From Katie Clark's Suitcase: Finding Bonds Across the Table

Katie Clark, Rho Omicron Chapter/Middle Tennessee State University
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant

Sharing Chicago-style pizza with Delta Rho/DePaul U!
As my time as an ELC winds down, I've been reflecting on some of my favorite moments with chapter members. Time and time again I come up with an especially fun meal we've shared. I question how it wasn't clear all along that eating bonds people together. For as long as I can remember, meals have brought me closer to my family, new friends, and now my sisters. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I love any and all food. 
The 15 chapters I visited had me eat in every setting you can imagine. Sisters invite me into their homes to eat and sometimes let me play with their pets. I've been taken to campus cafeterias where I can see first-hand how close knit smaller schools can be. One chapter introduced me to Chicago-style pizza, while others have introduced me to local concoctions that even I get nervous to try. Many chapters introduced me to some restaurants that I already miss. Sometimes I even get to laugh over a meal at one of my favorite fast food joints. No matter where we share our meal, I seem to forget about missing home or the report I have to write. I just get to hang out and enjoy the best part of this job - getting to know my sisters. 

Thank you Delta Pi/U of Central Missouri for the warm welcome!
When you sit for a meal with people, they open up. I get to learn about our sisters outside of their AOII lives. I've met study abroad students from almost anywhere you can imagine, a sister studying to be a pilot, an internationally ranked Irish dancer, women who love theater and science, student athletes, and sometimes I meet someone who knows a person from my home town. Sometimes I don't understand their passions, but I get to learn about it. I get to learn what makes them so passionate. They get to be themselves and I in turn get to share who I am. We get to find common interests, whether that be a particular Netflix show, store we shop at, or our family pets. It helps me realize that we may be different, but AOIIs everywhere have little things in common. Those little things just reassure me that we do have two big things in common across the states and Canada - we all love AOII and we all love one another.

Friday, March 27, 2015

From Katie's Suitcase: Full Circle

Katie Mullins, Zeta Psi Chapter/East Carolina University
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant 

Gamma Phi Chapter Colonization Ceremony
Last semester, I had the pleasure of being the Resident Consultant for AOII's colony at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. Now installed as Gamma Phi Chapter, these sisters have come so far in their short time as AOIIs!
They started out as 73 colony members learning about each other, Greek life, and AOII. I enjoyed teaching them what it means to be an AOII and see them take that to heart. As I got to know each sister better, I saw them grow into strong leaders and even stronger sisters. When the colony was installed as Gamma Phi Chapter on November 8, 2014, I could not have been more proud! 

Having a blast at a pumpkin picking sisterhood!
Other consultants have said that they cried and cried on the day of installation because it was their last time with the members, but I knew I would be seeing Gamma Phi again soon. In January, I returned to Gamma Phi for three weeks to help them through their first-ever formal recruitment. These newly initiated sisters worked so hard to prepare for recruitment and it paid off - on February 1, they welcomed 37 new members into the chapter!

Recently, I returned to Gamma Phi to assist in preparations for initiation. It was their first big ritual performed since installation, and everyone was a little nervous. We spent some time during the week focusing on sisterhood and ritual workshops. Due to some unexpected weather (that I suspect was sent by Stella herself!), my travel plans were delayed and I was actually able to participate in initiation. I couldn't help reflecting on installation, and how far this chapter has come since I have known them. Most consultants don't get the opportunity to be with their colony through all the big milestones, and I feel
Initiation of Gamma Phi's first formal new member class.
very lucky. 

I can't wait to return to Gamma Phi in April to check in with my 108 favorite girls in New Jersey!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

From Zoe's Suitcase: Proof that "age" doesn't matter!

Zoe Gertner, Beta Upsilon Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant 

Throughout my year on the road, I've had the incredible opportunity to visit chapters of all different sizes and "ages"! Most recently I have spent time with Tau Chapter at University of Minnesota and
Phi Delta Chapter at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Tau Chapter '80s-themed sisterhood!
Tau Chapter was founded in 1912 and has the submotto Teme meaning "honor", and Phi Delta Chapter was recently re-installed in December 2014 with the submotto Friendship - Dignity. While the women I spent time with at these two chapters have had different chapter experiences, the one thing that rings true to both groups is a strong love and passion for our fraternity.
Throughout my visit in Minneapolis, I was able to experience my first Big 10 basketball game, my first trip to Mall of America, and my first time going to Sky Zone trampoline park! It was a week full of firsts. We had a blast and in just a few short days, I could tell just how much the women of Tau Chapter love spending time with each other.

My visit in Milwaukee revolved around three extremely important things: food, coffee, and movies. I got to try a lot of the local restaurants including Cafe Hollander and Screaming Tuna. Also, I went to Collectivo (literally every day) and had the best coffee of my life. Over the weekend Jes, Rebecca, Emily and I went to the movies to see The Duff during which we laughed until we cried and smiled until our cheeks hurt. I felt right at home with Phi Delta Chapter and had so much fun getting to know their sisterhood!

Phi Delta Chapter
These Phi Delta women have their first-ever formal recruitment as a chapter starting this week. Their recruitment events (planned by VPMR Mackenzie) are travel-themed and super cute! I am positive that their strong love for AOII will shine through and bring them an exceptional group of new members!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Celebrating 75 Years of Sisterhood at Kappa Phi!

Chapter anniversaries are an exciting and special occasion. Executive Board Vice President Amber Countis shares her experience celebrating 75 years of sisterhood with Kappa Phi Chapter at McGill University! 

Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal to be with our Kappa Phi and Montreal Alumnae Chapter sisters as they celebrated 75 years of AOII at McGill University! I was excited about this trip for several reasons. First, it was drivable and didn’t require an early flight cross country (even though I did have to cross the border!). Second, since moving to Vermont my husband and I had made several trips to Montreal so I was a little familiar with the area but could finally explore the "AOII side" of the city. Third, I had worked with both Kappa Phi and the Montreal AC in my previous role as a Network Director, but this would be my first time to officially visit! Finally, I also got to share the experience with Foundation Board Treasurer Koren Phillips who drove up from Boston. I was also looking forward to meeting new sisters and seeing several women who I had volunteered with over the years including PIP Joan Maccallum, NSL Jingchan Hu, CA Siobhan O’Brien, and former NSL and adviser Leslie Seagram. I knew this would be a fun weekend!
Kappa Phi and the Montreal alumnae, including Katarina Daniels (Montreal AP and 75th celebration chair), had put together a great schedule. Koren and I joined two collegians, current CP Mariam Ascan and senior Jing Song, on Saturday afternoon for a fun tour of the McGill campus. These sisters were great guides who were excited to get to know us. They pointed out many places of interest on campus, including buildings that had been used in films as well as the tree and AOII bench that were donated in honor of AOII’s centennial in 1997. Our tour culminated at the Kappa Phi house a few blocks away where several sisters had gathered with refreshments and we were able to see the house and visit with collegians and alumnae. 

Everyone was excited about the 75th Anniversary banquet that took place Saturday evening. The committee put together a great event at the Atwater Club. Sisters and guests gathered for a fun night that included lots of reminiscing, photo taking, and memory making. I shared greetings from the Executive Board and Headquarters staff and announced the chapter’s gift from the Fraternity. This event was also serving as their Founders’ Day, so the Ruby Fund and Founders’ Day messages were also shared. The guest speaker was an inspiring young woman, Simone Cavanaugh, who talked about her experience with arthritis as well as efforts of the Canadian Arthritis Society to bring awareness. The evening concluded with the Epsilon Chapter song.
On Sunday morning, we reconvened at the Atwater Club where we participated in Formal Ritual (preceded by a walk-through with PIP Joan Maccallum) conducted by former Kappa Phi CP Juliana Prah. We shared a wonderful brunch and were treated to additional remarks from PIP Joan who shared, among other things, the exciting news about the progress of the forming AOII Foundation Canada (   

It was a wonderful weekend of sisterhood and celebration with my Montreal and Kappa Phi sisters! I cannot wait to go back and visit this wonderful city that is home to so many fabulous AOIIs. Best wishes to Kappa Phi for another amazing 75 years to come!

Friday, February 20, 2015

From Kelli's Suitcase: From the “Burgh” to the “Gate” - Belle Edition

Kelli Gatti, Kappa Tau Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant

Last semester, I was the Resident Consultant for AOII's Duquesne University Colony, now installed as Alpha Mu Chapter, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. First off, I could not be more proud of those women, but secondly they have absolutely captivated my heart. I learned so much about myself, but more importantly watching 68 new sisters' AOII journey start was even more rewarding.

In January, after being off the road for Christmas break, I packed up my bags and left Louisiana once again for second round travels. Fortunately, I was able to go back to the Burgh, but this time I got to bring my fellow Belle with me, ELC Rebecca Easterling. We helped Alpha Mu prepare for their first formal recruitment and watch them welcome in the first new member class of Alpha Mu. It was such an amazing experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there! I got to go to my first hockey game and see snow for the first time! I even got to make my very first snow angel!

While my time at Duquesne came to a close, I prepared myself for my next adventure: The Gate. Wingate, North Carolina to be exact. Alpha Epsilon Chapter at Wingate University was installed January 25, 2015, just a few days before I arrived - and as Rebecca would say, “Oh, Bless!”, we started our second adventure together! Rebecca was Alpha Epsilon's Resident Consultant last semester and I was so happy to be reunited with her once again before she went on to her next visit! Our first stop you may ask? Taco Bell! It was much needed :) & definitely got us geared up for our week together! Alpha Epsilon is now preparing for spring COB and we are so excited to add many more sisters to our sisterhood!


Though I was sad to see Rebecca go, I realized that when I first started this job, I knew I would travel, meet countless amount of sisters, and fall even more in love with AOII than I thought. But what I never knew was how many friendships would come along with it. I have been so blessed to work with 11 other sisters on the 2014-2015 ELC team and I honestly don’t know how I went four collegiate years without them!

Friday, February 13, 2015

From Rhiannon's Suitcase: AOII Love for Valentine's Day

Rhiannon O'Coin, Gamma Alpha Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant

Working with Alpha Omicron Pi as an Educational Leadership Consultant has not only given me the opportunity to travel the country, but also to meet amazing women all over the country. If you had asked me a year ago where I thought I would be, or what I thought I would be doing, I never would have answered at Oregon State University working with Alpha Rho Chapter. My past few weeks with these women have been some of the most meaningful weeks of my ELC experience thus far. 

Just this past week at Alpha Rho, the women put together a Sisters for Soldiers event, making Valentine's Day cards for troops overseas and at a base in Texas. The chapter partnered with ROTC and set up a table in the main area of campus, where they collected over 200 cards to send out. It was such a great way to send a little love this Valentine's Day. 

Alpha Rho also welcomed 21 new members this past week! They had been working so hard at informal recruitment and it was amazing to see all of that hard work pay off. Seeing the love that this chapter has for these new women has been so touching, and I feel truly lucky to be a part of it. 

Watching Alpha Rho grow as a chapter has really reminded me of why I love Alpha Omicron Pi so much. The women that AOII attracts are such strong and remarkable people, women who want to give back and who welcome everyone with open arms. I feel so fortunate to be part of such a wonderful organization, and family.

Friday, February 6, 2015

From Jordan's Suitcase: 800 Miles From Home

Jordan Travis, Delta Omega Chapter
2014-2015 Educational Leadership Consultant

My experiences as an ELC have been nothing less than extraordinary. Being from a small town in Kentucky, I get so excited when I get to travel to chapters in locations that I have never even been close to. This week I had the pleasure of visiting Iota Theta Chapter at Monmouth University. My first visit to the state of New Jersey has been an adventure, that’s for sure. 

The women took me to visit Seaside Heights, where the “Jersey Shore” house is located. I even got to try a famous cheese ball from Steaks Unlimited - yum! While I was at Iota Theta we experienced two snow storms, Juno and Linus. I was like a kid in the candy store playing in the snow. It was so strange to see snow covering the beach, but it was beautiful.

The women of Iota Theta have become more than just sisters to me. I have developed lifelong friendships on this visit. Meeting other AOIIs, you know you will have many things in common, but with this group of women it was so much more than that. They made me feel at home, even though I was 800 miles away from mine.

Congratulations to the Iota Theta chapter for a very successful recruitment and your wonderful new members!