Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Voice of an Alumna

This week's post comes from an alumna that always makes me smile and filled my days with laughter during her tenure at USD. Parisa is a small woman with a powerful voice that she continues to use to make the world a better place. What a gift that she was willing to share her thoughts on "What did being a sorority member teach you?" I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did - both in living it and reading it now. Cheers!

            Ever since watching Legally Blonde as a young girl I knew I wanted to follow Elle’s footsteps and become President of my sorority then go on to law school. I actually did accomplish both goals. During formal recruitment freshman year at USD I fell in love with Alpha Phi; the members, the philanthropy and of course their fabulous room decorations and songs. Funny thing looking back now that I am attending law school in New Orleans, one of the days of recruitment the Alpha Phis were dressed in Mardi Gras colors. Even my Alpha Phi days were foreshadowing my eventual move to Louisiana.
            From the beginning I became involved in everything I could. Fall of my junior year I went abroad to Florence, Italy. As much as I enjoyed the food, the culture, the travelling around and the fact that I was living in Europe for four months, I missed the sense of belonging and community that Alpha Phi had provided for me. It was then that my decision to run for President became definite.
            Being President of a sorority is a challenging yet rewarding job. Actually it’s a cross between a job and being a mother type figure (kind of like Dorota in Gossip Girl-I really hope I’m not too old that making Gossip Girl references has become irrelevant). Not only are you managing the Executive board, overseeing the other officers, and looking out for the well-being and morale of the general chapter, you also are on call at all hours of the day and night in case someone needs you. If a chapter member gets sick during an event you are the one responsible to pick her up from detox. If a member needs someone to confide in with an issue that they aren’t ready to open up to their friends about yet, you are the one there for her. If a member needs a place to crash at the beach for the night, you are there for her. The list is ongoing and no matter how much you want to go back to bed when you get that 3 AM phone call from a chapter member, you are the first to be there for her.  In addition not only are you responsible to your own chapter, but you also need to check in with the chapter advisors, the USD Greek advisor (the wonderful Mandy Womack who served as my personal therapist during my year as President), and the Alpha Phi International office. It was a year of growing up. I as a 21-year-old individual was responsible for the lives of all of these young women. If I did not fully execute my responsibilities I would personally be held liable as well as the sorority itself.
            I met so many people and made so many friends who are still important in my life within the chapter and outside the chapter. One of the most proud moments of my life was the day at the Alpha Phi International Conference where I was handed the Eta Rho flag and lined up to walk into the room where the International President, board members, and the incredible woman who had memorized the ENTIRE initiation ritual were waiting. I couldn’t believe that I was there representing my chapter among all these other women who had accomplished so much. Sisterhood is not just within your own chapter; sisterhood expands to every woman who knows that secret handshake and that secret password. It also extends to other Greeks. It is a special and unique bond that you simply cannot describe to a non-Greek member. Just last weekend I was at a sorority sister’s wedding and could not stop talking to Jenna, who is a new chapter advisor about what is going on in the chapter and who is planning on running for which position in the upcoming election. Her saint like non-Greek fiancĂ© stood there and gave his input as well, showing that Alpha Phi becomes a lifestyle for all of those close to you in your life.
            Joining Alpha Phi was the absolute best decision of my life I have ever made. Being an Alpha Phi was not just my four years of undergrad, it is now and forever a part of me. I know that today I am a better, stronger, well rounded, and more responsible woman because of the lessons Alpha Phi taught me from being a better listener to giving back to the community. I will always cherish each and every memory I made during those four magical years and continue to live out the ideals Alpha Phi instilled in me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Voice of an Alumnus

This weekend, we welcome back alumni and alumnae from USD to Homecoming. As I look back on my 18 years of serving this community, there are many alums that come to mind as I consider the work of making men and women "better" through the fraternity/sorority experience. I have invited a few of them to share about their experience. The first is an alumnus that I met during my first few years as a Greek Advisor. I have since had the pleasure of watching him circle back to USD as an advisor. Geno brought a sense of kindness and laughter to every group he led as an undergraduate... His reflection certainly matches my memory of his tenure at USD. Delt was, for him, a place to belong and grow as a leader. For that, I am proud.

Without a doubt, my decision to go Greek shaped who I am today.  As a freshman at USD, I encountered a lot of new experiences, both good and bad.  Like most people my age, I was looking for something to enhance my college experience (parties, a sense of brotherhood, and opportunities to socialize with the fairer sex).  At the same time, I also wanted to join something where I could be myself and have a sense of belonging.  Obviously, I got much more than what I was initially looking for.  

I joined Delta Tau Delta as a sophomore and right away, I felt empowered to contribute something right away.  I held a variety of positions within the chapter and on IFC, as I really enjoyed ALL aspects of Greek life.  Looking at my overall experience as a Delt, I met people I probably wouldn’t have ever met anywhere else or even be friends with had we not shared the bond of being brothers.  However, the uniqueness of my chapter allowed me to be associated with men from all walks of life (different social backgrounds, military experience, ethnicities, and even sexual orientation).  Being part of a Greek organization is not always a rose garden, as there are hurdles to overcome when working with a group of 30 odd college age males.  Dealing with different personalities, working with people from different organizations, and compromising for the greater good, were all obstacles I encountered.  

Greek life is truly a "get out what you put in" type of experience, and my involvement in my chapter gave me an invaluable lesson in organizational leadership.  It allowed me to work for my chapter’s national headquarters after graduation and also assist me with my job search.  Networking is key to all aspects of your professional life and my Greek experience gave me a head start in networking.  Years later, I continue to apply all these lessons to my current job.  

My Greek experience continues to have a lasting impact on my life.  Some of my best friends today are Delts.  I married of my fraternity brothers’ sister (an ADPi from USC).  Living in San Diego, we both volunteered as advisors to our respective chapters at USD.  And joyfully, my wife and I have two Delt legacies.  When it comes time to talk to my sons about college and Greek life, I will of course tell them to check out the Delts.  But most importantly, I will stress to them that should they decide to go Greek, they need to find a group of men that they are most comfortable with and will offer them the best experience not only during their time in college but afterwards.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Natural Consequences

July 2013 brought a sad lesson to the Womack home. The teen Womack, while visiting her Grandmother, lost her 2 week old retainer. Newly freed teeth from the confines of braces were suddenly without the orthodontist's only "rule" - wear this retainer unless you are eating. She sent me a panicky text, knowing it was a big deal. I then called the orthodontist and found out that there was
nothing to be done on a Thursday afternoon when the patient was in Orange County. Further, they were closed on Friday and would not be able to see her until Monday. I explained that Meg was scheduled to be out of town for a week serving as a camp counselor. After conferral with the doctor, the decision was made - Monday appointment it was!

Unfortunately, going to camp late was not an option. Meg had to cancel her plans and miss the week of serving as a counselor. She was disappointed. But, in fairness, she wasn't angry. With the newly freed teeth, she had to have the retainer. Not going to camp was a natural consequence of her leaving it on a napkin in a restaurant. The nicest part, from a parent perspective, was that there was no need to talk it through or punish the behavior - she got it. Her actions had a direct consequence.

The last two weekends have brought a similar fate to some of our community. Some of our organizations have found the buses that are picking up and dropping off in Mission from registered
social events are being greeted by SDPD. The overnight parking lot has been filled with more than a few citations for Minor in Consumption/Minor in Possession as our members are travelled to and fro in a variety of costumes. These citations require an appearance in court and some significant financial cost. The response from our community has been interesting to watch.

This week alone, three different staff or student leaders have told me that they heard that I was calling SDPD to alert them to the bus locations and times. (Side note: Not true for anyone working at USD.) Several student leaders have been indignant that the police department were infringing upon their rights and demanded something be done about it. One idea has included having an attorney present. The chapter advisors group gathered this week and we discussed the citations issued over the past two weekends. After hearing it all, the response was that this was a natural consequence. If students choose to drink underage, it is a risk. It is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21, and while we focus a lot of our energy on educating our members on responsible drinking, it is breaking the law. So, another lesson of natural consequences - if you chose to drink underage, you also have to find yourself in a place where if you get a citation you are disappointed, but not angry.

As you read and think through this, I would like to leave you with another Womack home truth... "Don't blame other people for your problems." Works for the teen, works for our community.