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.

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!