Thursday, August 25, 2011

Being Better - An Open Letter to My Community

Dear Friends and Community Members,

Next week we open school and officially welcome all of you back to USD.  I have started seeing some of you around this past week as you prepare for your role as a Resident Assistant, in Associated Students, as a Preceptorial Assistant, SSS member, Torero Squad leader, etc.  Those of you that are here at serving, you  know the message that I am sending.  Give of yourself to make the community stronger.  In short, "Be Better".

During the first two weeks of classes we have two Greek Discipline Board hearings that impact five different chapters.  Don't let this reality take you off of the course of serving your community.  Allow the past errors of our members to motivate us to Be Better.

I believe in you.  I believe in the fraternal experience.  I believe that, when done right, being a member of a Greek letter organization will make you a better man or woman.  I believe that perfect success rarely exists, but it is something we hope for.  I believe that making a choice to act in a way that affirms that hope is what it means to Be Better.  I don't need us to be without flaw or error, but I want us to Be Better.

As we begin this next semester, I invite you to email, call or make an appointment to see me.  My door is always open to you.  As a member of the community, my role is to help and serve you.

Best wishes for a great Fall!
Director of Student Organizations and Greek Life
Student Life Pavilion, Room 301

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thoughts of Another

One of my favorite blogs to follow had an interesting post on what's happening with our friends at University of South Carolina.  Thoughts from our community?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sentence Standout - What Matters

I saw this image on Facebook this week.  The words listed are powerful.  When people ask me the "why" behind my vocation of working with Fraternity and Sorority Life, I tell them that I am helping to build better men and women for life after USD. This image seems to express some of that passion. So, I ask you...
What sentence stands out to you?

I will start...  My favorite is, "Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them..."

Thursday, August 11, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I was out in Mission Beach on a Saturday night celebrating the upcoming wedding of my "Theta Little Sis" from years ago.  (If you are an undergrad from USD, you're welcome for not making it down to South Mission.)  Earlier that week, I had developed my next 4 topics for posting and one of them was to share with you this story of Katie.  In one of those "the universe has a message" moments, Katie's story came up at dinner.  Interestingly, what was a raw and painful memory for me was just a story that was being told over dinner.  One more reminder that different people are impacted different ways. Here is my story...

In life, there are defining moments.  Moments in time where life can be measured as before XYZ and after XYZ.  Katie's story is one of those moments for me. As an undergraduate, I served San Diego State's Panhellenic Association as their President.  Katie was my Vice President, a member of Alpha Chi Omega and a good friend.  She was beautiful, smart, and well-liked by just about everyone.  During my time, Theta and A Chi O were close chapters.  Each Fall, we hosted a date dance together and many of our members were good friends.  We were elected in March and worked closely together all Spring, summer and Fall.  I can still remember talking on the phone late at night on November 8th with my then-boyfriend (now husband, Kevin) and him telling me that someone had jumped from the new parking structure on campus.  His fraternity house was nearby and several of them had gone over when the sirens were heard.  They didn't have any details, but it was unsettling.  Early the next morning, the ringing phone woke me.  It was Kevin.  All he said was, "Mandy, it was Katie."

In this defining moment, my perspective was changed in many ways.  As I look back, I suppose the most important one was how I viewed my friends.  As an involved and trained student leader, I was utterly unprepared for How To Help A Friend.  I knew that our advisors were there for us if we had questions.  But, I had no idea how to look out for those around me and get them the help they needed.  In following the See Action, Take Action: The Dan Plan themes of Personal Responsibility, I saw that my Community had dropped the ball on #2.
  1. Take Care of Yourself
  2. Take Care of Each Other
  3. Take Care of This Place
Katie's death had a ripple effect throughout the community.  As the IFC President and I walked from chapter house to chapter house to meet with each sorority president, it became clear that we hadn't been taking care of each other - and we needed to begin now.  No one had put Katie on their radar - she was "fine" and "had it all under control".  She was admired, loved and on the outside had it all together.  In the wake of her suicide, the signs of her unhappiness were easier to see. As the weeks wore on, our campus resources ensured that "This Place" would heal.

When I googled "how to help a friend", there were over 2 billion matches found in .18 seconds.  How To Help A Friend Handout  So much information is out there.  So, what is holding us back?  We don't want our friends to be hurting, so why in those peer to peer relationships aren't the hard questions being asked?  USD's Counseling Center/Wellness Area has some incredibly talented and caring staff.  How do we get those with really significant needs connected?

The answer (for me) is that we care enough to risk the relationship by saying the difficult things.  Our friends may get angry, but isn't it worth it to Take Care of Each Other?  
  • "I notice you've lost a lot of weight and I'm worried about you." 
  • "I haven't seen you this unhappy before.  I think talking to someone at the University would help?"
  • "When you say that you wish you weren't here any more...  Are you thinking about hurting yourself?"
  • "You've been drinking more than before. I feel like it's impacting our friendship/your academics/your health."
And, then, we get them the help they need.  As peers, you walk them to the Counseling Center or you call their family or you bring them to the SLIC for us to get them into the care of our Wellness Area.

We are here for you.  

I am here for you.

Take Care of Each Other.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Staff, Same Vision

This week, we are fully staffed again in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center.  The last of our new Graduate Assistant crew started August 1st.  (All we are missing now are the students!)  It has been a very quiet summer for us in the SLIC.  The break that we all needed has been achieved...  And, now we are in the final stages of preparing for the opening of school.

Summer is always a bittersweet time.  We say farewell to some of our staff and welcome new ones.  This year, we welcome three new advisors to Fraternity and Sorority Life.

Katelin Rae is joining the SLIC staff as the Panhellenic Advisor.  As an undergraduate, Katelin attending Loyola Marymount University where she joined Delta Gamma.  In addition, she was very involved in the LMU Greek Council.  New to San Diego, she is re-adjusting to Southern California and has jumped in with both feet.

Emily Cunningham is serving the SLIC staff as the IFC Advisor. Emily is a graduate of Iona College where she joined Phi Sigma Sigma.  Emily served her chapter as President and comes to us with great interest in advising our IFC men. A new transplant from New York, time will tell if San Diego's non-seasons and 75 degree weather makes her a permanent resident.

Taylor Shramo will be working in the SLIC while attending law school next year.  He will be working with See Action, Take Action: The Dan Plan, as well as serving as a resource to fraternity officers.  Taylor is a member of Beta Theta Pi and did his undergraduate work at USD.

The rest of our crew remains - Liberty, Onar, and Mandy.  We are looking forward to a great year with all of you.  Come by the SLIC and meet our new staff (and get welcomed back by the returning!).