Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter Vacation

As finals wrap up and all begin to travel back home, I hope you enjoy the break. I will be gone for 2 weeks and taking a break from posting until Thursday, January 5th.

I pray that this season affords you the opportunity to reflect on all that we are blessed with in our community.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Student Leadership and Involvement Center!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Route to Success

What do you notice about the image below?
The arrow ends in the same place. No wonder I am so tired. The ground travelled in the image in the right is significant.  It is filled with deviations from the intended course, but also forward movement.  Well, mostly forward movement.  As you look closer, you can see that sometimes the line doubles back upon itself. In both of the images, we see LEADERSHIP.

My most obvious example of the image above is parenting my two daughters. The route to that "success" is twisted and complex. One of my greatest desires is to complete the task well, finding success. Isn't that sentiment the same in student leadership positions? At the start of each semester, I ask fraternity and sorority presidents, "What do you want people to say about you when you finish?" The answers vary, but have a common theme around trying our best and being successful in moving the organization forward. Is there also a desire to enjoy the twisted and complex route to get there?

This week I was reading a chapter on change in preparation for teaching my Emerging Leaders class. I was reminded of a few simple truths. In considering the route to success, one consistent is the fact that change in occurring. (Leadership for a Better World, S. Komives, et al)
1. "Organic change involves recognizing that individuals and organizations are a part of an interconnected system." (p 128)
2. "Developing an appreciation of resistance is critical to making change." (p 131)
3. "Individuals and groups must also develop... comfort with ambiguity, confidence that change can happen..." (p 136)

Today, our new Interfraternity Council Executive Board Officers are being sworn in. It is my earnest hope that they take on this next year with the drive to accomplish their goals, but to also enjoy the journey. As they are sworn in, they will repeat the USD IFC Creed. As I consider the facets of this Creed, I am filled with a sense of appreciation. I am appreciative that fulfilling these promises will be a twisted and complex road, but one with a lot of learning along the way.

University of San Diego Interfraternity Council Creed
We, the undergraduate fraternity leaders of the University of San Diego,
Believe in the pursuit of education and the inspiration of maturity.
We, the InterFraternity Council, promise to serve as an international shrine of
One that has passion for the welfare of traditions, principles and ideals,
One that is not passively virtuous, but stands aggressively for honesty, opposing
all lawlessness and vice, and
One that is generous with the faults of our brothers, as we wish them to be with ours.
We strive to provide the tangible and intangible aids necessary to encourage academic
achievement and the practice of academic integrity.
We believe in an exemplary standard for collegiate fraternal societies,
One that respects the dignity of all persons,
And one that is conducive to the formation of gentleman.


Friday, December 2, 2011

USD is Growing - Welcome #8

After an extensive and thoughtful process, USD is pleased to announce the addition of our 8th Sorority.  Kappa Delta will join the 6 NPC groups and 1 multicultural sorority to be the 8th member of our Panhellenic Community in Fall 2012! Over the next few months, Kappa Delta representatives will be on campus, meeting with Panhellenic and preparing for their colonization.  As they are visiting, please welcome them and introduce yourself.

Welcome to our newest friends!

The following letter was sent to Kappa Delta this week:

The University of San Diego would like to extend an invitation to Kappa Delta to colonize in the Fall 2012 semester.  This decision was based upon the recommendation from our Panhelleinc Council Extension Committee and feedback from our University community.  On behalf of the University of San Diego and our Panhellenic Association, I would like to welcome Kappa Delta to our Greek community.

I understand that you have been in touch with Katy Cooper, Panhellenic Extension Committee Chair, regarding this decision.  It is our expectation that Kappa Delta will begin its colonization efforts in September 2012.  Please be in touch with Mandy Womack, Director of Student Organizations and Greek Life, as she will assist you with any planning and logistical needs.

Our Extension Committee was impressed by both organizations that presented on campus. As a result, I am supporting their recommendation to open USD for extension to Pi Beta Phi within the next five years, but no sooner than Fall 2014. Over the next few months, metrics will be developed for our use in determining the best time for considering another NPC addition to our community.  As a partner in creating a positive experience for our students, Kappa Delta will be a part of this conversation.

We are looking forward to establishing, as soon as possible, a network of local and national contacts with whom we will work to make the colonization a complete success.  We are looking forward to building a cooperative relationship with all concerned, even before the chapter is established.

We are excited by the growth of our sorority community.  Kappa Delta’s establishment will provide the opportunity for many more USD women to have the benefits and privileges of sorority membership.  The Panhellenic stands ready to assist in every way possible in the establishment of the chapter.  Please don't hesitate to call on us for whatever assistance we can provide.

Cynthia Avery, Ed.D.
Assistant Vice President for Student Life

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So, So Thankful

Today, USD has an undergraduate holiday. No classes are held. Staff not taking a vacation day are relishing the quiet opportunity to clean off their desks and empty their inboxes. As I celebrate the eve of Thanksgiving, I am aware that I do not often choose to pause and look outside myself. I move too fast, focus too much on the future- and no matter how much I try to do otherwise, the pace overtakes me. Today, I am trying to do better. I committed to doing three things that would help another, but not necessarily benefit me. I have found 2 opportunities so far, and am hoping that I see #3 when it presents itself.

A few years ago, Facebook friends prompted each other to participate in creating a list of 25 Random Things About You. Did you do it? It was more difficult than I had imagined. As I spend some time this morning considering all that I have been given, I suppose I am even more aware of the difficult things I have not been given. Just last night, I received a text message from a chapter president affirming my suscipion that they were feeling underappreciated for their work, commitment and drive. This president has given their full attention to student leadership this year. They are well-liked, do well in school, etc., but as we approach the break, they shared that they feel unappreciated and unacknowledged. For all the work that has been given, they have been given negative in return. My message back was one of appreciation, but also a promise to continue the conversation of who they have been as a leader and how thankful those in our community are for them.

Below I have listed my 25 "Things". I have also listed (in italics), the blessing that I am reminded of with each one. I invite you to do the same... Truly, I want to hear about you - and the blessings you derive from your everyday life. Challenge yourself to leave a comment with your reflection.
1. I feel most upset/depressed when I am misunderstood or misrepresented. (I am surrounded by those that know the truth)
2. My heart aches and I feel called to action when I encounter social justice issues. (I work in an environment where the call to action is embraced and expected)
3. I haven’t spoken to my best friend from college is almost a year and hope to be a better friend this year. (I have friends that know my soul)
4. I believe in the sorority and fraternity experience. (My vocation is my job)
5. My Dad and my only sibling died within a month of each other from illness this past year (2008). (I have empathy for those with loss)
6. I never like to be the loudest/funniest/most excited person in the room. (I can choose to be surrounded by many people)
7. I have a terrible memory for grudges, but can vividly remember meeting my two best friends from Graduate School over 15 years ago. They started signing the 90210 theme song in the middle of a class when the clock struck 9pm. (My parents provided me with an education)
8. I married my college sweetheart. (Kevin makes me a better person)
9. I read blogs of people I have never met (and probably never will) so they aren’t alone in their journey of caring for sick children and partners. (Through many experiences, I learned that it wasn't all about me)
10. I believe that there is a need inside of me that can only be met through faith in Jesus. (I have that need met)
11. When describing most things, I use the words “best” and “favorite” regularly! As a result, I have many “favorite” students and lots of “best” pals. (People are willing to accept that sometimes I am just a little strange)
12. I almost died in 2001. It was the scariest thing that has ever tested me. I lost over 50 pounds being sick and sometimes wonder if that’s why I don’t seem too motivated to lose weight. (I have had 10 years more than I thought I would to see my children grow, serve my God and impact the world)
13. I am in my 14th year of working for the same University, doing basically the same job. (I have a job - and one that I love)
14. I saw RENT with most of the original Broadway cast in London. (I have had the privilege of seeing a lot of the world)
15. My entire childhood, I wished my name was Kelly. That would have made me “Kelly Lee”. (See #11's comment)
16. After having a daughter, we navigated (and came out stronger people) the San Diego County adoptions process. We were blessed with a firecracker of a kid who makes me a better person! Jury's still out if we will navigate again. (God has humbled my heart as I try to be a good parent)
17. Both of my girls have middle names from spiritual concepts – Grace and Faith. (My kids don't seem too warped from being raised as 'Pastor's Kids')
18. Every year my best girlfriends go to Palm Springs to celebrate our lives and each other. I treasure that trip! (I have the support, financial and people, to abandon responsibilities for a time of selfishness)
19. I was the president of the Home Ec Club in high school – yup, I am a total winner! (I can sew almost anything - and have the confidence to cook without recipes)
20. I cry at almost every episode of Grey’s Anatomy and laugh out loud at almost every episode of The Office. (I am able to understand why I am empathetic and use that to serve my community)
21. When I look in the mirror and see a 36 year old (now almost 39) staring back at me, I am amazed. I still like doing stupid stuff like gluing quarters to the ground to watch people try and pick them up. (I am thankful to be alive)
22. My first car was a 1967 Porsche. (I grew up very spoiled, but with the firm message that to those given much, much is expected <Luke 12:48>. I am thankful that I had/have parents who cared enough to teach me the 2nd part)
23. As I have grown older, I care less and less what others think… It’s pretty liberating. (I am thankful that I know my self-worth is grounded in something larger than public opinion)
24. I have seen Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi well over 100 times and know most of the dialogue. And, I kinda rock at the Disney Scene It game. (I appreciate that there are some inner nerds out there that connect with me on this fact alone)
25. If I could change one thing about the love of my life, it would be to have him love to play cards and games… Guess that’s pretty small, right? He’d probably pick to have me be Lance Armstrong. (I have been given an abundance of everything)

My prayer for you all is that you feel love beyond measure; contentment with who you are; and a peace that comes from knowing that you matter. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Event Themes, The Issue No One Wants To Discuss: Part 1

This week I received the following news story from not only my professional listserve, but from several professional friends. For you see, when something comes up in Greek Life, I am the person that comes to mind for oh so many. I am the one to answer the calls, run roster checks to see if so and so is Greek, or just check in to be sure no one gets a similar bright idea on our campus. Just like some of you who hold positions, I am responsible for all of our community's actions. Sometimes when I tell you things, it is because I care about you. Sometimes, it is because I want you to avoid the hurt and pain you may cause yourself or others.

USM Students in Blackface Article

Really, Team?  Really? As you may have noted in the article, the theme of the event was "80's".  I am fairly confident that the intention of the group was to be funny.  However, the impact was so much more. Sadly, I have found my staff team engaging in a similar conversation more than half a dozen times in the past month.

When I look at USD's mission, it is pretty clear to me that we are tasked to develop culturally competent leaders. We, as a staff team, are charged with creating experiences that allow students to learn, grow and develop. So, why all the crazy when we ask you to look outside of yourself?  Why all of the anger when asked to consider how someone might feel about your costume? I have been surprised by the hostility and lack of willingness to engage in dialogue about how we represent ourselves. I have been left shaking my head and asking, "Really, Team?  Really?"

We do so many amazing things, just like these women from USM. They will not be remembered for those.  Instead, they will be remembered as women who mocked a culture and race by dressing in blackface for a social event. I want to remember you as more than this type of situation.  I want to remember your laughter and joy at celebrating new members with your sisters; I want to remember the roar of cheering when your fraternity took first place at skits. I want to remember that this era was the one that said, "We are better than this." And, I want us to be the one that means it.

Last week, I wrote about being "on the road". Maybe you just aren't as far along that road as you need to be to understand how dressing up as a racial/cultural stereotype can be hurtful and offensive. Maybe it has been one too many conversations where I have sat eye to eye with someone who felt alone, isolated, not accepted.  And, that experience was compounded by them being an underrepresented group at USD. When I talk about diversity and inclusion, I like to talk about power and privilege.  We are the largest student organizations on campus.  We have the power to protect those who are not as powerful.  We can choose to protect them in our word and deed.

I suppose I am asking you to consider it all.  And, to consider the role you play in our community.  Do you board the bus for events without saying anything, or do you step out of your comfort zone to share the message of, "not cool" with those that you call sisters and brothers if they have on inappropriate costumes? Before we jump to Mandy, Onar, etc. are ruining this, let's think. Intent versus Impact. Really.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

On The Road

If you are in my direct advising world, you have probably heard me explain one of my (many) life philosophies. It goes something like this... We are all on a journey. As we travel down the road, we recognize that each of us are in different places. Our goal is to be (1) moving and (2) doing so in the same direction.  That, Friends, is what we call progress.

Each of us sees our world in different ways.  As the primary advisor to the community, I have little doubt that my world view does not always match yours. But, are we on the road together? Are we, together, moving? Is it in the same direction? More significantly, is it in the right direction?

On Thursday, November 17th, at 1pm we will be hosting our Fall Town Hall meeting in UC Forum C. I invite you to attend. And, to engage in the assessment of where you, individually and as a chapter, are on the road.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Celebrating Excellence

A busy week, but filled with much celebration.  Greek Awards was held on Wednesday night (I am using that as my excuse for missing the Thursday posting deadline) and many of your peers were recognized for their outstanding work.  Enjoy these photos!
Dr. Mills, Order of Omega Commitment to Excellence recipient,
with Dayn Sommer, Order of Omega President. 
Alli Berryhill, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Ryan Boufford,
Beta Theta Pi, 2011 Greek Woman and Man of the Year.

Joe Wetzel, 2011 Delta Tau Delta President with
Dan Martin, 2010 Greek Man of the Year, and
Brian Maurer, 2011 New Member of the Year.

Greek Woman of the Year finalists: Allison Berryhill,
Kappa Alpha Theta, Sam Keil, Kappa Alpha Theta, and
Cicilya Kaunang, Gamma Phi Beta.

Greek Man of the Year finalists: Jourdain Artz, Sigma Phi Epsilon,
Ryan Boufford, Beta Theta Pi and Beau Velten, Phi Kappa Theta.

Alpha Chi Omega with Stephanie Sibley, Chapter Advisor
of the Year.

Kappa Alpha Theta, 2010-2011 Dean's Trophy Recipients.
Alison Bloom, 2011 New Member of the Year, and Allison Berryhill,
Greek Woman of the Year.

Beta Theta Pi, 2010-2011 Dean's Trophy Recipients.
Ryan Boufford, 2011 Greek Man of the Year.
Beta Theta Pi
Dayn and Erin, Order of Omega hosts for Greek Awards.
Thank you for a great evening!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hugging The Cactus: Where Forgiveness Begins

I recently saw this video clip and was moved by it in a significant way.  Robert Downey Jr received an America Cinematheque Award and made a plea.  It is only 2 minutes long, so take a moment and click here to watch the video:
Robert Downey Jr on behalf of Mel Gibson

Is this how you approach life? When things go wrong, do you take responsibility? Have you "embraced that part of your soul that is ugly"? I have found that when I do, I am more at peace.  Perhaps not in the immediate, but in the long term.

More often than I would like, it is a challenge to say those 3 little words...  "I was wrong." I know this is difficult for me to say, but also shocking to others to hear. I have engaged in conversations with students where I have muttered, stated, and confessed that oh so difficult message. What have I been met with? Shock, mostly. It is so contrary to the way we live. Expressing perfection, never waivering on being right...  This is the American way.  Right? In most interactions with students, I have the authority and power. Why would I chose to lower myself by admitting I was wrong?  Well, maybe because it was the right thing to do...

I once had a meeting with a chapter president who shared with me his experience of being told by his chapter that his attitude was off. Members had told him that he had been rude and ill tempered in running a specific meeting.  They told him that he had been impatient and mean spirited. I was expecting his next sentence to be one of indignation - one crying out, "They don't appreciate me."  Instead, he told me, "They were right.  I was a total %*@$. I remember that meeting and I did everything they accused me of doing." In that moment, he demonstrated to me that he was a man of humility.  And, for him, that self-awareness and the ability to recognize that he was wrong allowed him to grow.  Or, as Robert Downey, Jr. said it, "...Life would take on new meaning."

Over the last month, the men of Delta Tau Delta have visited our sorority meetings to acknowledge the mistakes they've made in the past and apologize.  Honestly, to work to reconcile with the community. Members are in different places in accepting that apology - and that is fine. But, I can't help but be proud of them for trying. This is a real-time example of where forgiveness begins. They have "hugged the cactus", or are trying. This is the beginning of forgiveness and healing.  This is where our community shows our mettle. This is where we model for those that don't live the values of fraternity and sorority life what it means to work through challenge and come out strong.

Nicely done.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Being Gay and Greek - Part 1

In college, I had a friend come out to me.  He had shared that he was gay with his fraternity the week before and wanted me to know. We were walking across the parking lot next to Zura Hall when he told me.  It was a regular evening, probably following some student leadership meeting.  What I remember most was how he ended his prepared statement.  It ended with, "So... " It instantly hit me that he was asking if we were still going to be friends. I hugged him, thanked him for sharing with me, and assured him that we were still going to be best pals.

A few years ago I received an email from an alumnus just catching up. In the midst of it, he shared about his partner and how he had found a real sense of who he was. He was kind enough to let me ask...  "Was sexual orientation something that you were questioning during your time at USD?" His response gave me a lot to think about.  He shared that he had chosen to keep busy (4.0, president of his chapter, IFC Exec officer) rather than think about who he was and who he wanted to be. He also shared that having someone really ask how he was doing may have helped him to start thinking about his identity earlier.

More than a decade ago, one of our students wrote a chapter in the book, Out On Fraternity Row. In his chapter, he shares, "Many of the events that happen are geared for straight couples, thus it would seem out of place at something like a date dash to have two guys there together.  Why does that have to be?"

So, I find us at a place of discussion and conversation. We have a need in our community for us to tell members that they're OK just as they are - not with some mask that they wear. This is true in many facets of our experience, but especially for sexual orientation/identity. So, how do we create that reality?  How do we make ours an environment where women and men are respected, welcomed and embraced?

It is this, and yet it is so much more. Do our sisters and brothers know that we've got their back?  That we would stop anyone who tried to hurt them - either physically or emotionally? Do they feel comfortable bringing their partner to a social event? As I have informally surveyed people, the response has been a confident, "yes".  The confused face comes when I then ask, "Well, do they actually bring them?" Then, the realization hits.  "No, they don't."


I invite you to engage in this conversation: with me (; via comments below; with each other.

...To Be Continued...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

IFC & Panhellenic Elections: Leading the Fraternity and Sorority Community

Believe it or not, it's time for IFC and Panhellenic elections.  The time when our organizations select the very best to lead our governing Councils.  It's hard to believe that it has been almost 20 years since I decided to run.  The first time, it was on a whim.  I was the Vice President, Finance for my sorority.  I put my application in to serve as the Panhellenic Association Treasurer.  I won (I was told) because my sorority used a computer program to track their finances. The second time was a little more intentional.  I was elected President.  I was leading the largest student organization on campus.  And, there I was at 20 years old...  Ready to take it on. Serving as a Panhellenic Executive Board officer was life changing for me.  I worked with chapter leadership. The best of the best. Unlike the positions I held in my chapter, our focus was on the bigger picture. I mean, sure, we spent time talking about embroidered shirts vs silk screen and we had a rotating award called "Primate of the Week" where the winner received a xerox of a monkey from a book someone had purchased.  But, all in all - we were looking out for 1500+ women and making our experience stronger.

Thank the Maker for Facebook...  Over the past 2 weeks, I reached out to alumni/alumnae that have served as IFC & Panhellenic Exec here at USD to find out WHY THEY DID IT and WHAT THEY GOT FROM IT.  The responses were mixed between men and women, as well as from a variety of years.  Here's what they said:
  • I initially applied for the leadership experience and admittedly because my chapter really wanted someone to be on it to represent us. I re-applied my junior year because I had learned so much about myself and the community my first year, I knew the second year would be just as great. ...I wanted to make changes that would benefit the whole sorority community as well as the campus community.
  • I learned the importance of looking at the bigger picture of things. Choosing a t-shirt color and an event theme seemed like such a big deal, when in reality, the privilege to wear my organization's letters and the opportunity to build sisterhood were much more important. 
  • I learned that being Greek is more important than being Kappa. To any non-Greek, the letters don't differentiate who is a part of which organization, but rather they just group us all together. What I do in my everyday life, how I treat others, and how I behave in public places do not just reflect poorly on my Greek organization, but every Greek organization. 
  • I also learned the importance of asking "why" in talking to others. Arbitrary rules are kind of annoying and can be frustrating- but if I explained why the rule was created, I found that it was often easier to get support in following them. 
  • I gained a lot of Panhellenic sisterhood, ...a support system that I needed sometimes more than I realized, and a lot more confidence- Panhellenic gave me a voice that I'm not sure I would have ever found on my own.  
  • ... I saw a bigger picture, that my chapter wouldn't be present on our campus if it wasn't for the greater organization that oversaw it, Panhellenic. And if I served on Panhellenic, I would be continuing the ability for other woman to connect to USD and other liked-minded women who strive for similar ideals as myself. 
  • Panhellenic offers you a unique opportunity to serve with men and women from all chapters, and for me, sisterhood wasn't only with my only direct sisters, but with every woman who wore Greek letters. 
  • It excited me to work with the leaders of every chapter, as opposed to the duds or checked out... We're only as strong as our weakest link, so what better chance to build the Greek community than from the inside on PHC or IFC. 
  • I joined Panhellenic because I believed very strongly in the five core values of the USD Greek community, especially the notion of social justice and selfless service.  I realized that if I wanted Greek Life to be better then I had to take an active role within the community and try to create positive, sustainable change. I gained lifelong friends and created connections with so many amazing women and men around campus because of my position as Panhellenic President. I grew so much as a leader and learned the importance of not only believing, but living and voicing your values.  
  • I think it's a certain caliber of men and women who join PHC and IFC. ...They're willing to give more of themselves, and without knowing if they'll be rewarded - which they are, INFINITELY so, through helping others! 
  • I gained more experience in twelve months in this leadership role than I did sitting inside any collegiate classroom. Panhellenic prepared me for the "real world" where I was immediately able to conduct meetings, plan events, negotiate and compromise. You cannot learn what Panhellenic teaches you from a textbook. 
  • The two best decisions I ever made at USD were to study abroad and to join Panhellenic. Not only did I get to become a leader that everyone recognized, but I also saw myself transform into someone I was proud of. 
  • Skills I developed through PHC are things I'm able to use now in my post-grad years; managing large groups of people (helloooo 600 women during Recruitment!), budgeting finances and keeping to deadlines, to name a few.
  • For me, I knew that I loved the brotherhood which came from being a part of my chapter in USD's Greek Life, and that was truly what made me want that for everyone. We all found our place within the community, but I wanted more: I wanted to get the word out to all the prospective new members that Greek Life is and can be for everyone, not just for the stereotypical "frat boy". 
  • Holding officer positions in both my chapter and in Exec made me realize that I didn't have to try and make my chapter the best; Seeing we each are the best in our own ways afforded me the opportunity to openly realize that, appreciate my fellow brothers and sisters in Greek Life, and to expose as many people as possible to the amazing opportunities which we as a community can offer. 
  • Hanging out with people I had grown so close to from every different chapter made me feel a part of something bigger than just the 90 active members of LXA. I was able to expand upon my leadership potential, become further entrenched in USD itself, and truly find out what it is to be a servant leader
  • (I am)... a more self-aware and better person in my professional career.  (I was told) (we) live in a glass house.  (Meaning)...we've all been there-you're not alone in this...and people who look at you and up to you know that they can strive for better.
  • Joining IFC was an opportunity to learn more about Greek life, to challenge myself as a leader, and to collaborate with and learn from other chapters and their organizations. As an executive officer, it was a unique opportunity to see and experience Greek life differently. I found that the Greek councils create, foster and inspire community …and have fun while doing so!
  • It certainly broadened my outlook on the Greek community, and made me realize we all joined our separate organizations for the same reason. It allowed me to see the Greek community as one cohesive unit. Some of my favorite memories were creating special bonds with such a motivated, strong, smart group of folks from each group – it was like the “All-Star” team, and I like to think we all learned something from one another.
  • Before I applied to PH Exec. I was a member of a wonderful Greek Organization - but not truly a member of the Greek Community. PH allowed me to interact with other chapters on a deeper level and become familiar with all of their foundations - from their charities to their overall missions.
  • I realized how powerful the Greek Community can be when it acts together for a cause. Working with St. Jude Children's Hospital was an extra bonus as it was the experience of a lifetime to actually fly out to Memphis and see what all of our hard work was helping to achieve.
  • Some of my fondest memories from undergrad were at leadership retreats and ropes courses for sigma rho chis... etc. When I look back, I was a member of AXO, but just as much, I was a member of the USD Greek Community. 
  • I learned to build relationships across different groups, which is a skill that I still use today in my career.
  • Greek gov't not only allowed Greeks... to share ideas between each chapter, but gave "us" (the Greeks) a chance to have an active voice on campus! 
  • I have always been extremely involved and sought out leadership opportunities. I originally decided to apply for an executive position on Panhellenic, because my own sorority emphasized the importance of each chapter being represented on the council, and I wanted to be that woman for mine. While I originally joined out of love for my chapter, what I learned was respect for the entire Greek community. 
  • During my time on Panhellenic, I became best friends with women from other chapters and also call them my sisters.
Applications are available online.  Panhellenic Exec Application and IFC Exec Information

Consider it.  What can you give?  What can you gain?  The community needs you - maybe even more than you know.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Being an Innovator

As I sat down at my MacBook on Wednesday night to finish the edits to my post for this week about running for IFC and Panhellenic Executive Board positions, I opened Facebook and saw that my entire newsfeed was posts about the loss of Steve Jobs.  Today the world lost a man that was a powerful symbol of creativity and innovation. For this generation (today's University students), Steve Jobs work has influenced and shaped our world through his passion and his vision for change, perhaps more than any other.

I want to be an innovator.  I want to be a person that views the world, sees a way to make it better, and seeks out ways to make that change a reality.  It is with complete confidence that I state that I will never be "famous" to anyone but my mom, but how can I be a person that sees opportunity in every moment? How can I be a person that does great work? I saw this quotation and knew I had to share it:

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
~Steve Jobs

I am satisfied. My work is to provide opportunities for young men and women to learn and grow. It is great work. I love what I do - and it gets better each and every year.  The opportunity for me to make a difference is right before me.  Just like it is right before you. Who will you be?  What will you do?

I wonder what would happen if we all lived this was true?  Instead of complaining that "the administration" was changing all of the things you liked, what if you brought a new idea to the community? What if, in the absence of the leadership you hope for and desire, you stepped up and changed the way we do business? What if... you risked it all and were truly great?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feedback: The Other F Word No One Likes

Feedback. Many say they want it, but do they really? As an advisor, this is a huge tension point for me. Students tell me that they want to learn and grow, but then bristle at the feedback. Well, in all honesty, I suppose they bristle at the critical feedback.  It's hard hearing the things that we can do better.

Last week I had a day in which several people offered me unsolicited critical feedback on how I could be better:  "Your website needs XYZ on the front page."; "You know, nobody thinks you like them."; "Have you ever thought about pulling together all of the chapter presidents for a weekly meeting to talk about issues in the community."; "You ask too many questions."; "Wow, that dress is really interesting."; etc. Honestly, it kept coming all day long.  I was tired, discouraged and depleted as I sulked to my car.

It occurred to me that my main issue with the day wasn't the feedback itself.  Instead, I found that the delivery, relevance and overall critical nature were the challenge.  Of course, being a (sometimes too much so) reflective person I started to think about how others take my feedback.  Despite the sentiments of some, I don't snack on small children's hopes and dreams.  I do have a soul and care about how others are experiencing me as a leader.  I have been in conversations where I am called to share some tough insights into situations.  As a result, I felt compelled to reach out and gather some feedback on myself.

A valued alumnus that used to receive a lot of my feedback provided me with these insights:
  • "When you mention things that I do well (positive reinforcement), that helps. Makes me feel good about who I am before realizing/talking about what I should work on. Gives a little motivation to do the hard stuff."
  • Feedback "...can make me frustrated/irritated in the moment, and even if it doesn't seem to hit me then, I always think about it later and put effort into working it out on my own." 
  • "I know even when I get frustrated with it, I still appreciate the help in realizing what I need to work on."
Interesting food for thought.  Gives all of us a good starting point for those times that we need to coach our peers or those we oversee.  The dialogue with my alumnus also reminded me that feedback should also be positive.  We all need to hear affirmation that the work we are doing makes a difference.  We need acknowledgement that others see how hard we are trying.  We need a cheerleader for our souls - someone that can keep us moving when we see the next hurdle.

This isn't easy.  It isn't a popular thing to do.  But, it is my hope that many of you will leave USD and find great success in your career.  For many, that success will put you in a position of leadership over others.  And, then, you may just find yourself having to provide both positive and critical feedback to those that call you "boss".

And, maybe, just maybe you will remember that sometimes giving the feedback is just as difficult as hearing it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Being A Gentleman and A Lady

The week that classes began was fairly busy for us in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center.  That's, at least, what I told myself when I not once, but twice, tripped over a student that held the door open for me.  Twice.  OK, Fine!  It was actually the same student twice on the same day.  Both times he graciously smiled and offered me that knowing nod of a southern fella living in San Diego.  But, it got me to thinking about being gentlemen and ladies.

The opening the door practice aside, what does it mean to be a lady or to be a gentleman? I see this as being a fairly easy question to answer.  Respect.  Respect for yourself and respect for others.  In my example, the person I was with was being respectful.  Not just because I am a woman, not just because I am older, but because I am a person that he chose to put before himself.

I don't do that as often as I would like. I wish I could say that my default mode was to put others first.

What would our community be like if we chose to put other's needs before our own? I heard a troubling story about this concept just this week. A member of our community was treating another member with disdain and judgement. The details don't matter as much as the fact that this poor treatment occurred in front of an audience. When we talk about being mature, responsible leaders, we mean treating EVERYONE well. Not just the one you like. Not just the one that can give you something. All of us.

Our leadership wants it. Our values demand it. Our community is ready for it. Try it. Being selfless (or at least less selfish) isn't a bad way to live. Peace.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Healthy Eating, Healthy Community

At USD, one of our greatest privileges is being able to consider the holistic development of students...  Stay with me here - I am talking about the fact that we care about the growth and wellness of your mind, your body and your soul.  It always brings me a smile when I see the group of Phi Kappa Theta men gathered in the SLP Dining Room with their advisor, Father Mullen.  Spending time together - having a meal together - builds stronger connections. When we consider the wellness of your body, we think about what you are consuming.  Nutrition is a big part of healthy eating - and one that we know isn't always on the forefront of college student's minds.  Often, you are busy moving to a meeting, work, class, the library.  Some of you eat junk food, some of you skip meals, some of you only eat alone - in general, there are some unhealthy eating patterns.

For this week, I have invited Meghan McCarthy, the Assistant Director of USD's Center for Health and Wellness Promotion (CHWP) to share a few thoughts on healthy eating.  CHWP is an excellent resource for our members as we work to develop all parts of our members - healthy mind, body and soul. Enjoy!

The U.S. as visualized by the nearest McDonald's
Do you know the farthest distance you can be from a McDonald’s in the contiguous United States? 107 miles (South Dakota).

This is a part of why
for the first time in modern history, children's life spans are expected to be shorter than their parents.  Most people eat communally, with family and friends, so understanding nutrition basics is not only important for you but for those who you share a table with.

Here some other healthy eating strategies to keep in mind…

  • Think about what you had for lunch when deciding on dinner. No veggies yet today? A salad will help you get in the daily-recommended amount of 2 and half cups. 
  • What you eat every day is more important than what you do once in a while. Follow a good weekday breakfast routine and then enjoy Sunday Brunch.  
  • No matter how much you eat in one sitting, you will be hungry again 4 hours later. That is how the human body is wired.  
  • Learn how to read a nutrition label. It is the only way to know what fuel you are giving your body.
The Center for Health and Wellness Promotion offers a drop in Nutrition 101 class every Thursday in UC 161 at 1 PM.  It is a semester of college nutrition packed into one session.  Everyone has to eat, you might as well do it in a way that gives you energy and makes you feel great!

Meghan McCarthy is the Assistant Director for the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion.  She can be reached by email at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Message from the NIC

I received this email today from the North American Interfraternity Conference.  Please take a moment to  watch this video and think about how YOU can be a part of the Fraternity Call To Action.

If you're having trouble viewing this email, you may see it online.

Share This: 
Interfraternal Partners,

The NIC has shared the following video message with its 
member fraternities for extended delivery to 
undergraduates and alumni. As our interfraternal partners, 
we encourage you to share this message with our peers 
and colleagues. 
Unfortunately, across North America this year, our 
behaviors, actions, and events have been obscuring the 
true essence of fraternity – to build better men. As we 
enter into a new school year, a time for welcoming a 
new generation of fraternity men into the bonds of 
brotherhood, we all have a role to play in restoring 
true fraternity.
This video is available via YouTube at:  
Please contact us if there is anything the NIC can do 
to be of assistance. As you know, we offer resources 
and  programs that target IFCs. Additionally, we are 
happy to discuss specific items of concern at any time.
Sincerely yours, 
Andy HustonDirector of Member Services

North-American Interfraternity Conference3901 West 86th Street, Suite 390
Indianapolis IN 46268
317.872.1134 fax

a d v o c a t e   I   c o l l a b o r a t e   I   e d u c a t e

Founded in 1909, the North-American Interfraternity Conference is the trade association representing 75 International and National Men’s Fraternities. Through advocacy, collaboration, and education, the NIC works to ensure that fraternities can operate in an environment conducive to their success.

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