Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Business

So I've been in my graduate program for 3 semesters now & I'm about to start my LAST. SEMESTER. Before I graduate though I have to complete a internship. Lucky for ME I'm doing my internship at the Northwestern Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life. Even LUCKIER is that my first project was 2012 Panhellenic Recruitment. Originally this opportunity had absolutely zero conflicts associated with it...until  a few weeks ago when I stepped into a role as chapter advisor for the Zeta chapter at Northwestern. Even with dual "responsibilities" I was still able to give my full attention to my internship as OFSL staff & made some time to check in with my chapter. But wait...there's more...our National President, Mrs. Riddle came for recruitment so I also got to spend a lot of quality time talking & laughing with her & hearing the big dreams that National Council has for Zeta Tau Alpha. I still can't believe this is my life.

Even with all of the happiness & excitement around this time of year, the process of formal recruitment for both the women going through the process & the chapters looking to add members can be very business like. We started with around 600 women who all visited each of our 12 chapters to see who they connected most with. On day 1 it all seems really easy & fun & everyone is having great success meeting people they have things in common with. Then everybody makes their choices of who they liked the best, we all go to sleep & start again the next day. On day 2 it gets a little complicated. Some of the women that loved particular chapters don't get to go back to that house, and vice versa. This turn of events can be at least a little emotional for some women, but we are usually able to turn each PNM's attention to the silver lining & move forward with the process. Then everybody makes their choices of who they liked the best, we all go to sleep & start again the next day. On day 3, things get more than a little complicated, & the process continues into day 5 when emotions are high, expectations are higher & everybody's hopes are up & hearts are set on ONE particular chapter or member. When it's time to come to a close, everybody meets together & the matches between unaffiliated women & the respective chapters are made & everybody runs off  (for the most part) to join their new sisters for a Bid Night celebration.

Even as I write this it can read a little corporate, a little processed & mechanic. Even though I know the purpose & benefits of all of the working parts, I can still see how this experience can be overwhelming to participants, & unnecessary to observers. This is the business side of sorority membership, and it does seem a little impersonal. But somebody who sees only this business side could never truly understand what sorority women are in the business of doing.

Sorority women are in the business of building a stronger womanhood. We are in the business of strengthening identities, challenging values, & encouraging excellence. We are in the business of forming supportive relationships, lifelong friendships & motivational mentorships. We are in the business of connecting women to professional opportunities. We are in the business of demanding equitable educational and professional opportunities for women. We are in the business of protecting & promoting each other. We are in the business of sisterhood.

My sisterhood has been about the business of making me better since I was a barely affiliated woman who couldn't be bothered to attend a chapter meeting or a social event. I was overly committed to the wrong things & barely committed to the right ones. I intentionally alienated myself & rejected sisterhood whenever possible. But they never gave up. They finally pulled me in, gave me the opportunity to do something that mattered, set goals that challenged me, pushed me to academic excellence, and reunited me with values I believe in.  Zeta Tau Alpha was about the business of developing me as a student leader, which in turn inspired me to help other women become leaders & Zeta Tau Alpha has been about the business of my education so that I can achieve that goal.  Zeta is about the business of patiently waiting for me, and letting me go from barely affiliated to strategizing with the National President about ways to empower other chapter members.  Zeta Tau Alpha has been about the business of making me a woman of character & values who believes that college women are valuable, brilliant, capable, talented & worthy members of their campus & the community.

I know that I'm not the only Panhellenic woman who credits her membership for lifelong leadership development & support. But I also know that sometimes observers who only see "the business" side of sorority membership undervalue it. And even though I can appreciate how things can seem that way, I know that the real business of sorority membership is, to inspire other women to be the very best they can be in everything that they do. The thing I do because of ZTA is the business of students, where I get to volunteer my time with some of the most amazing & talented PHA student leaders I've ever met, & watch them support each other, counsel each other, & administer one of the most technically difficult programs on a college campus. I have my sorority sisters & mentors to thank for introducing me to this business & helping me do the same for other women. Thank you ZTA.


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