Suitcase Diaries: On The Road With AOII

Eight Lessons I Learned as a Sorority Woman Living On The Road
by Jordan Seaman, Delta Pi (U of Central Missouri)

On July 17th the Educational Leadership Consultant team and I began a journey of a lifetime. For all who do not know, ELCs are women who work as liaisons between the collegiate chapters and AOII International Headquarters. I wanted to be an ELC since I was a sophomore in college, and I was so excited to travel across North America to represent an organization that I love so much. At my interview for the position, my boss and I spoke about personal growth and development throughout the time as an ELC. However, I never expected the amount of personal growth and lessons I would learn in such a short amount of time. In only four months, I traveled to 16 states, seven universities, and I met hundreds of sisters who impacted my life that helped me grow and learn some lessons along the way. 

1. Know your necessities.
As many of my sisters, family and friends will tell you, I’m a clothes hoarder. I can spend hours on Pinterest researching the latest styles and trends. So when attempting to pack my entire life into two 50 pound suitcases and a carry-on, I panicked. Would I need that t-shirt I haven’t worn in months? Sure, I’ll bring it, just in case. Huge mistake. Like I said before, I love clothes, so what did I do when I traveled? Shopped of course. So, after a month on the road I quickly turned into that girl who pulled all my bags to the side to reshuffle my luggage so may bag would weigh less than 50 pounds. Finally, after being charged $100 at the Johnson City, Tennessee (Tri Cities) Airport at 6:30 a.m. for a bag that weighed 62 pounds, I said enough was enough. I landed in Louisiana and sent 2/3 of my luggage home. Lesson learned: If you don’t wear it, you don’t need it. Plus, it gives you more room in your luggage to shop. 

2.  Find a routine, and stick with it.
Throughout my life, I’ve always been surrounded by people. I went from growing up as the oldest of five, to a college dorm, Panhellenic Housing, and then living with four roommates. Because of this, I’ve never been on my own for an extended period of time. When I hit the road, it was safe to say I was somewhat terrified, traveling for four months alone. However, I knew that it would be a great time to learn more about myself. It only took until my first visit at Sigma Omicron at Arkansas State University to realize that being alone gives forces you go into a routine. I’m not talking about get up, go to work, eat, and go back to sleep routine, I’m talking about a routine that makes you happy. For me, it’s waking up and listening to music drinking a cup of coffee (or three). I love to run, so I run at least two miles a day. I love to explore, so throughout my travels I will always go find food or explore the area. I love to laugh, so I check my favorite IG accounts, watch some Snapchat stories, and maybe an episode of How I Met Your Mother or The Office every now and again. I always had a fear of routines, but I never realized that a routine could also lead to adventure. Lesson learned: Find yourself, find what makes you happy, form it into your daily routine, and live a life of happiness. 

3. You can network anywhere, but especially at the airport.
To be completely honest, before this job, I was absolutely terrified of flying. I quickly got over that fear, because I took 13 flights in only three months. Throughout my time in a variety of different airports, I learned that they all have one thing in common: opportunity. Opportunity in the sense that everyone in at the airport has the same mission as you: to get where they’re going. However, if you take the time to meet the person next to you, you can meet some amazing people. Being an outgoing person, I usually said hello and introduced myself to people in the Starbucks line, terminal boarding, or even grabbing a bite to eat. From simply generating small talk, I met some outstanding people, had extremely interesting conversations, and even received three job offers. I also met Lee Brice, but that’s beside the point, (but also really cool.) I’m not saying you need to do this anywhere and with anyone, because trust me, the 6 a.m. flights are rough. However, sometimes taking out the headphones and putting away the cell phone can go a long way, and I would suggest that to anyone. Make every opportunity a networking opportunity. 

4.     Always remember where you came from.
There seems to be a common misconception that moving away from your loved ones means you can’t stay as close as you once were. When I moved away, I was terrified that this would become reality. In my college years at the University of Central Missouri, I gained some of the best sisters, roommates and friends I could ever ask for. They’re entirely the reason that I applied for this position in the first place, and I was determined to keep these relationships strong. I reached out to one person a day through text, phone call, snail mail (yes, lots of post cards), Snapchat, and whatever else to ensure those relationships would last. When I returned for UCM’s Homecoming, I was overwhelmed with the amount of love I received from my sisters and friends from the Community. They’re so supportive of everything I’m doing and continue to push me to be the best I can be. Lesson learned: It only takes 30 seconds a day reach out and stay in contact. If you care about someone, make it known and always thank those who help you create your success. 

5. Positivity is everything.
Before this job, I underestimated the power of a positive attitude. The sisters I met definitely put positivity into a new perspective for me. If there is one thing that all Alpha Omicron Pi sisters have in common, it’s perseverance, but especially perseverance with a positive attitude. Throughout my travels, I met some of the most inspiring sisters with the most incredible stories. Lambda Tau at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) will forever stand out in my mind. They came together to help a sister who was in a terrible car wreck by raising funds within the community, visited her hospital bed every day, and continue to support her with their love, positivity, and sisterhood. When I met her, she was the most positive person I have ever met, and had the best attitude towards everything that happened. This woman and Lambda Tau changed my perspective on life and positive thinking. From that moment, I vowed to always look at the glass half full, and have taken that positivity and worked it into my everyday life. 

6.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m stubborn. I’m so stubborn that I walked a half mile to and from class every day because I didn’t want to burden anyone to ask for a ride. I hate asking for help because I don’t want to bother others, and I have the “I can just do it” attitude.  Because of this, I wasn’t the best at asking for what I wanted; however, with this job it quickly changed. For four months, I relied on my sisters for my food, transportation and experiences. Even though the guilt and independence was in full swing, I learned I had to start asking for what I wanted. I started to break down the stubborn wall when I arrived at Alpha Theta at Coe College in Iowa. I finally began to ask to on the adventures that I wanted, and in only one week I went to a Cedar Rapids live production, The Kernels minor league baseball game, Coe College football game, and had the best cup of coffee of my life at Brewed Awakenings. I made some fantastic memories, and bonded with sisters along the way. I began to slowly stop being so stubborn, and ask for what I needed. In my work and everyday life, I began to ask, and I began to be a lot happier and getting the things and experiences I wanted. Lesson learned: Whether it’s a place to eat or seeing a part of the country that you want to see, just ask. If you don’t advocate for yourself, you’ll never get what you want. 

7.  Patience.
So simple but so true. Before this job, my patience was extremely low. However, this quickly changed. From the small things like flight delays in the Atlanta Airport to tabling on campus for weeks, every situation helped me grow and realize the wonderful lesson: patience is a virtue. 

8. You never know who you can inspire, just by being yourself.
I’m constantly asked why I wanted to be an ELC, and my answer is always the same. I want to help and inspire others. However, I really under estimated the amount of sisters I would meet that would inspire me as well. I met a group of amazing sisters I call my ELC team. Not only did we make 14 people fit into a house with seven beds and three showers, but we made it through spider attacks, fire alarms, lock outs, and the AC turning off and breaking in the middle of the Nashville summer. We can take on the world. 

I met the wonderful Grace Houston: a sister who serves on the Executive Board who inspired me to push myself to the best of my abilities. We spent the day in Monroe, Louisiana, and she also served as the Colonizing Officer for Phi Alpha at East Tennessee State University. She inspired me and so many other sisters, and I can only imagine to be like her one day. 

I met so many sisters from across the country that made me realize why I wanted to be an ELC in the first place. Sometimes, it’s the little things like dancing and singing Broccoli with Sigma Omicron while preparing to recruitment. Their fun and larger-than-life attitudes made my first visit so enjoyable, and with their hard work and determination, they had the highest recruitment return rates they’ve had in years. The women of Phi Alpha inspired me by being them. They managed to grow and build the foundation for their chapter in only six weeks. Their love for AOII and each other is unbreakable, and I know they’re going to be an outstanding chapter. You never know who you’re positively impacting, so just be you, and the rest will follow. 

In just four short months, I’ve grown so much as a person, and my love for Alpha Omicron Pi has tremendously grown. I can’t thank everyone on my ELC team, and everyone I’ve met across the country enough for this fantastic experience. One semester down, one more to go, and many more lessons to learn.

How Life Fell Right Into Place
Meghan Brown
Epsilon Omega (Eastern Kentucky U)

If you know anything about me, you know I am one of the biggest homebodies you will ever meet. How did I decide to apply for a job that is the complete opposite of the homebody experience you might ask? Trust me, I ask myself everyday how I jumped into a position that throws you into the unknown and completely out of your comfort zone. But, wow, I am glad that I did!

To start, being an Educational Leadership Consultant for Alpha Omicron Pi was not something I have always wanted to do. While the experience may be once in a lifetime, I simply did not think it was one for me. I was the girl who wanted to “settle down,” get married and live a happy life with a husband and a pup.

Toward the end of my fall semester of my senior year, my grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. It did not take myself or my family long to rush to his comfort and to the loving arms of my grandmother. I vividly remember when my grandfather told me, “I am not scared to die. I have had a good life, and I have done everything I could have ever wanted.”

His statement threw me into tears and sadness for a few days. However, it was not until I really took time to self-reflect that I realized how significant his remarks were. In the uncertainty of my senior year, I was beginning my job hunt. I wanted to find a job relatively close to home where I could have a stable and comfortable life. However, hearing my grandfather discuss doing everything he wanted in his life offered me an “aha!” moment. Did I really want to jump into what now seemed to me as a life of incredible boredom just because it was convenient and stable? I have never been one to take on “out of your comfort zone” experiences, but I had to ask myself if that ultimately was the way I wanted to live my life. As morbid as it may sound, I pictured the end of my life, and I asked myself “Is this life one I could really be proud of? Did I accomplish everything I wanted?”

After continuous self-reflection, I was reminded of the solid ground I had my past three and a half years of college. It had always been Alpha Omicron Pi. While I had been encouraged to apply for the Educational Leadership Consultant position in the past, I always thought it was out of my comfort zone, but I decided to step out on a limb and pursue it.

I applied and had an interview where I met 19 absolutely incredible AOII women. A few short weeks after interviews, I received a phone call that I was chosen to be a part of the Educational Leadership Consultant team that year.  

While I was absolutely ecstatic to accept the position, I was certainly overwhelmed and anxious. I questioned if I was good enough, capable enough or strong enough to fulfill the dynamic aspects of this position. However, my grandfather remained in the back of my mind. I needed to do something I did not think I could do. I needed to explore this country. Most importantly, I needed to find myself.

Fast forward eight months and you can now find me in College Station, Texas. I am one of the Resident Consultants on the Texas A&M campus where I work with our new Alpha Omicron Pi chapter. This job has changed my life, and I have learned that I am a woman who truly can accomplish and do anything, even if it is miles away from home. I finally feel valued and feel like I am making a difference. The colony members of this Texas A&M community challenge me to be the best version of myself every day. I have another Resident Consultant partner who is incredible, and she reminds me to value myself all the time. I am so grateful.

Alpha Omicron Pi has always been my solid ground. I am so lucky to say that it continues to be my solid ground. I have never been the biggest believer in “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that people are placed in your life when you need them the most. My grandfather’s medical struggle has challenged me to be proud of the life that I live. My now co-workers at AOII, the Texas A&M community and all of AOII sisters stepped into my life when I needed them the most. They have encouraged me to live a life out of my comfort zone. To all the other AOIIs who are similar to me and question the uncertainties of life, I hope you can ask yourself the same questions I asked myself. I am so grateful I did.

From Cornfields to Palm Trees
Ashley Lahue
Kappa Kappa (Ball State U)

I thought leaving my friends in Indiana and family in St. Louis was hard, but parting ways with the 14 women that I grew to love in Nashville was even more challenging. We had bonded to the point of referring to ourselves as our own little chapter, Epsilon Lambda Chi—ELC. The only thing that made me feel prepared to trek out to the West Coast was knowing that I was taking a little piece from each member of my team.

From Maddie Archer-Burton: vulnerability. Andi Tomko-Williams taught me ambition. Miko Guzzardo displayed independence. From Jenni Law: apathy. Ali McLaughlin showed me creativity. From Mary Kate Berger: kindness. Erin Mullaney was trustworthy. Meghan Brown taught me determination. From Jordan Seaman: enthusiasm. Alicia Gauker demonstrated patience. Lauren Smith showed me motivation. Ankita Naik was full of joy. Tanasia Jackson embodied true sisterhood.

After an 11-hour travel day that consisted of missing my first-ever flight and navigating the most overwhelming airport in the world (shout out to Dallas Fort Worth), I finally arrived at California State University Long Beach. I was welcomed by palm trees and Pacific Ocean air, and comforted by Lambda Beta Chapter’s unconditional love.

Throughout this journey thus far, I have hiked the Rocky Mountains, danced on the Santa Monica pier, welcomed new members on bid day, sang under Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and stargazed at 6,700 feet.

But the most exciting experience of all has been realizing, first hand, the common bond that every AOII shares. Whether you are on the West Coast or in the Midwest, sisterhood is sisterhood, and we all need somebody to lean on.

Sometimes I glance at the “Find Friends” map and my heart sinks to find that my closest ELC teammate is still 1,650 miles away. But that feeling quickly fades when the newly-met sister to my left invites me on a McDonalds run for my third Diet Coke of the day.

I wanted to be an ELC to lift others up, but the women I have met have encouraged me and uplifted me beyond what I could have ever imagined.


Back Home Again in New Orleans

They say you can always go home.  And so it was the case for me, as I excitedly packed my bags right before Thanksgiving, to join several AOII leaders in New Orleans for the Arthritis Foundation’s annual meeting!  I called New Orleans my home for many years, and this was a wonderful chance to return to my hometown, to represent my favorite organization in supporting a very dear cause, arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis came into my life in 2002, and while any chronic disease comes with unique challenges, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have amazing doctors, effective treatments, and of course, an army of thousands of AOIIs supporting me along every step of this journey.  So, it is indeed my privilege to pay it forward and do everything I can to keep working for the betterment of other arthritis patients’ lives.

Soon after landing in New Orleans, I joined International President Gayle Fitzpatrick, and AOII Foundation Director Andrea Dill, for a late dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel. Dining is always a pleasure in the great city of New Orleans, and the highlight was a delicious bread pudding for dessert! 

The next morning we arose bright and early to hit Café Dumond in the French Quarter on a gorgeous, sunny day.  Gayle, Andrea, PIP Allison Allgier, and I met AOII Foundation Secretary Linda Grandolfo, and Schuyler Ruhlman, a New Orleans native, and recent winner of the Adele Hinton award. One thing about those Café Dumond beignets—they are decadent and delicious, but you have to watch that powdered sugar!  

With our tummies content, it was time to get down to business at the conference, and first stop was the wonderful AOII table, manned by our new Director of Communications, Mariellen Sasseen!  She had brought some lovely photos featuring Strike Out events and the many Walks and Jingle Bell Runs supported by our collegiate and alumnae sisters! We got a lot of attendee traffic, with many thanking us for all we do for the Arthritis Foundation, including former AOII HQ staffer and arthritis volunteer Rachel Boison.  Directly across from our table was a fantastic showcase of the child’s and teen “power packs” that are sponsored by a generous grant from the AOII Foundation.  These fabulous backpacks provide newly diagnosed kids with some important resources and tools for comfort, including a teddy bear cool/hot pack, as they begin the treatment journey.

A group photo of all of the AOII's in attendance at the Arthritis Foundation Annual Meeting, 
plus a look at the Power Packs brought to patients by AOII!

Our conference opened with some very inspiring and riveting presentations from Arthritis Foundation leaders, challenging each of us to be a Champion of Yes!  AF President and CEO Ann Palmer shared the 2016 annual plan, the main goal of which is to “create a reputation as the cause leader audaciously attacking arthritis and its effects.”  Powerful words, and a daunting challenge!  Keynote speaker Jason Saul took the room by storm with a presentation on measuring, marketing, and selling impact.  Each of us learned so much about how to change the conversation, make a stronger case for support, and sell tangible outcomes that move the needle.

Next came breakout sessions, the first of which was Telling Your Story.  Wow, get out that Kleenex-I was so inspired! This session, facilitated by my good friend Julie Butscher, with whom I volunteered on a National Walk Committee years ago, drove home the need to tell your arthritis story in a few words and impactfully.  From there, we went to What Makes Great Events Great?  This session told us success stories about Walk teams that have effectively brought their communities together!

Recharged from these learning opportunities, it was time to get fancy for the Evening of Honors!  Emcee Matt Isemann, a television star and comedian, had us in stitches as he rolled off the jokes, but he also shared his poignant story of being diagnosed with RA and living with it while navigating a career in Hollywood.  We also heard the heartwrenching stories of two young arthritis patients who are bedridden and face life-threatening obstacle upon obstacle as they come in and out of hospitals and surgeries.  Matt may have had us rolling, but in reality, arthritis is no laughing matter.  It’s not just a disease of joints—inflammatory arthritis attacks organs and disables people from living their lives vibrantly and meaningfully. These young patients want their stories shared with the world so we can stand up and continue to walk with them, jingle for them, and make that crucial difference in finding a cure.

With the evening over, Gayle and I agreed that it was very exciting and motivating to be part of this special conference.  We were so proud when they announced AOII has given $566,000 in support! Talk about exceeding that expectation! I felt truly blessed to share this weekend with such dear sisters, and to learn how to be a stronger leader in supporting the many initiatives of the Arthritis Foundation. Content, I boarded my plane and said goodbye to this great hometown.  Till next time, New Orleans, and laissez les bon temps router!


Heading Home For The Holidays

Is it really already time for the holidays? It’s hard to believe that 5 months of being an ELC have come and gone so quickly! It feels like yesterday I was anxiously waiting to be reunited with the best team a girl could ask for in Nashville, TN for our extensive training led by our amazing and selfless leader Kaya Miller.

 5 months ago I was ready to hit the road!

During our three weeks of training the thought on the back of all of our minds was where are we going to visit? As the weeks progressed and we were getting closer to our departure date that once thought turned into a daily question. I had imagined myself traveling most of the semester to a multitude of chapters across the US and Canada. I knew that we had three new colonies and some of us would be resident consultants, but to be honest I didn’t think I would be one.

Finally one Thursday after our lessons for the day had concluded our boss walked into the room with a stack of papers. Everyone looked at each other hoping and wishing it was our schedule for the Fall semester.  Kaya stood up and said, “I believe this what you guys have been waiting for??” So she then passed the papers around one end of the table and then the other half on the opposite side so we would get it at the same time. Throughout the room you could hear tiny screams of happiness and excitement.
The best co-workers a girl could ask for!

As I was flipping through my schedule I figured I would be traveling because for the first month I saw I was visiting four different chapters: Delta Tau, Zeta Pi, Sigma Theta, and Phi Upsilon. As I continued to flip I saw that Gettysburg was written for the rest of the semester. That’s when it hit me that I was going to be the resident consultant for Gettysburg, which is one of our colonies this semester.  To be honest, I was completely shocked, extremely nervous, but very excited!  

The day came for us to embark on our first semester of travels. 4 weeks seemed to fly by as I visited Delta Tau, Zeta Pi, Sigma Theta, and Phi Upsilon. The women at those chapters made me feel so incredible welcomed and I genuinely loved meeting all of them! From seeing T-Pain, to learning fun new recruitment chants, trying new food, and celebrating their success at Bid Days; they made me realize that I truly have the most incredible job on the planet. 

Zeta Pi chapter was one of my first wonderful visits!

On September 7th I arrived at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA.  I didn’t know what to expect as I drove into this small town full of such rich history. Another consultant, Allie Jivraj, came to help with three weeks of intense PR and Marketing on campus- from tabling in the CUB, to hosting information sessions, meeting with other organizations, and scheduling one-on-one meetings with PNMS those three weeks felt more like three days. On September 27th, we finally got our colony of 77 (now 80) wonderful, beautiful, and excited AOII’s. I couldn’t contain my excitement! 

Allie left the week after and nerves shot through my body. I then realized that it was on me to educate, engage, and get this new colony ready to soon be a chapter. My goal for the new AOII colony was that their experience be everything they had hoped it would be and so much more. For the past three months, I have watched the women learn about AOII History and Traditions, make bonds that will last a lifetime, have leaders emerge, have enthusiasm about making this a great AOII colony, and participate in many different other organizations philanthropy events (and might I add place in every single one!!).  As my time to go home for the holidays approaches a lot of the women have said, “What are we going to do without you?!” While they question their ability, I have to utmost confidence that they will grow into an incredible AOII chapter. 

The Gettysburg charter members at their twin reveal!

When I first arrived I thought I would be the one teaching them, but in fact they have taught me a thing or two. From getting guest swipes at Servo, having movie nights at my apartment, hanging out the women in the CUB, and dancing in the chapter suite I wouldn’t have traded my time at Gettysburg for anything. These are some of the most caring, kind, determined, and driven women I have ever met. Words can’t express how proud I am of these women and all that they have accomplished in the three months that I have been here. I will truly miss them, but I have left a piece of my heart here at Gettysburg with the Beta Eta women and I cannot wait to call them my sisters in January at Installation. 

Our Gettysburg women have placed in every single philanthropy 
that they participated in for their first semester!

These have been some of the best five months of my life being an ELC. I am truly thankful for this once and a lifetime experience. I will forever cherish the friendships and memories made this semester. I thank Alpha Omicron Pi for the woman I am today and cannot wait to see what next semester holds!

Caroline Listoe

Finding Home At Every Chapter I Visited

“Why did you decide to be an ELC?” – a question I have received many times on the road. I think I give a different answer each time, because there are numerous reasons as to why I applied for this experience of a lifetime (I can’t call it a job because it is SO much more than that). Throughout my four years at Arkansas State University, I grew an undeniable love for AOII. Through the educational programming, service projects, and leadership opportunities, I developed skills and learned more than I ever did sitting in a lecture hall. I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime, and began to network on campus and in the community. The amount of support that I received from my sisters was unbelievable. Where else do you find a group of people who will surprise you with signs, balloons, gifts, and cheering as they send you off to your first “big girl” job interview? A State is an amazing university that has so much to offer its students, but I couldn’t imagine going through college without AOII. The best way to sum up why I decided to be an ELC is that I wanted to give back to the amazing organization that has given me so much. From the moment I found out that I was part of the 2015-2016 Educational Leadership Consultant team, I was counting down the days until the team would be reunited in Nashville to begin our training. I thoroughly enjoyed living in the Nu Omicron house for three weeks with some of the most intelligent, driven, and caring women I have ever met. Their love for AOII is infectious, and I am blessed beyond measure to go through this journey alongside each one of them. During these three weeks of training, our amazing leader, Kaya, spent countless hours preparing us for the road ahead. From chapter operations, policies, and risk management to recruitment and colonization, AOII Headquarters staff ensured that we had all of the information and training we needed to be successful ELCs. When our time in Nashville came to an end, I was confident that I was prepared to give back to AOII. I hoped that I would be able to educate my sisters, impact the chapters I visit, and share my love for AOII across North America. Little did I know that it would be the chapters I visit and the women I meet who would teach and impact me instead.

The fabulous 2015-2016 ELC team at HQ!Nerves set in as I stepped on that first plane to Richmond, Virginia. I prayed that my mind wouldn’t go blank as soon as I got to my first chapter visit. Luckily, the first thing I saw at baggage claim was an AOII stitch letter shirt worn by a friendly and welcoming face, and I was completely at ease. Rho Beta’s (Virginia Commonwealth University) Chapter President greeted me with a smile and we immediately began talking like we had known each other for years. She quickly updated me on the Work Week that Rho Beta was having in preparation for formal recruitment, and assured me that as soon as I stepped into their room I would feel right at home. Sure enough, I was greeted with even more warm and welcoming faces. Throughout the week, the women constantly asked me questions about AOII and were eager to learn more. They payed close attention during the workshops, and fully committed to each activity. It was evident that Rho Beta deserved the Excellence in Operations award that they received at AOII’s 2015 International Convention, and no surprise that they had achieved Ruby Level.  It was stunning to see a group of women who were so determined to succeed, but remained humble and genuine at the same time. I can’t wait to see all of the wonderful things they do in the future, and I’ll be cheering them on along the way!After finishing up a wonderful Work Week with Rho Beta, I made my way down to the sunshine state for Gamma Theta’s (University of South Florida) Spirit Week. In no time at all, I could see their sisterhood shine, and I loved how accepting they were of one another. The chapter is made up of women from all walks of life, with different stories, dreams, and goals. Each woman is truly loved for who she is, and it makes me very proud to see such a strong support system. Gamma Theta made my visit one that I won’t forget. They insisted that we celebrate my birthday (even though it isn’t until April) at four different restaurants. That’s right – four free desserts! At the end of my visit, I was able to spend three days off in Florida. AOII has so many post-graduation benefits, such as alumnae connections everywhere you go! Local alumnae in the Tampa area ensured that my free days would be nothing less than enjoyable. Gamma Theta’s Chapter Adviser opened her beautiful home to me, and allowed me tag along to Busch Gardens with USF’s athletic department. I was also taken to a Buccaneer’s game and spent a relaxing afternoon at Clearwater Beach. I have loved keeping up with Gamma Theta through social media, and I can’t wait to see them continue to strengthen and grow as a chapter.Celebrating my "Birthday" with Gamma Theta!By the time I finished up at Gamma Theta, it had been over a month since I had left home and I was certainly experiencing my first case of homesickness. After two weeks of assisting chapters with recruitment preparations, I felt excited and slightly nervous going into my first formal recruitment visit. All is fair in love and sorority recruitment, so I began hoping for the best and preparing for anything that could be thrown our way. As soon as I arrived at Northern Kentucky, there is no better way to describe how Nu Omega made me feel other than simply at home. My homesickness quickly vanished throughout the week, and true friendships began to develop as the women debated over whether to call me an “Arkansan” or an “Arkansawyer.” We took recruitment head on, and I was their biggest encourager as they overcame each obstacle, late night, and stressful moment that came their way. When Bid Day finally arrived, I was overjoyed to see all of their hard work pay off! Not only did they meet quota, but 46 women were welcomed into a sisterhood that would change their lives for the better. Nu Omega was installed in April 2013, so I was able to meet some of the colony members and hear about their experience. I have recently helped colonize a new chapter of AOII, and the words of encouragement from my Nu Omega sisters who understand the colonization process meant the world to me. I know this chapter will continue to strive and impact their university, community, and Fraternity. They truly are a wonderful addition to AOII, and I am thrilled that I was able to be their ELC this year!Me with the amazing women of Nu Omega!After three amazing visits, I had high hopes for my next stop. Coming from my initiate chapter of 125 women, I didn’t quite know what to expect from a chapter of 30, but Beta Chi (Kentucky Wesleyan College) blew me away.  They showed true dedication to AOII, as most officers held multiple positions, kept up with their studies, and still managed to stay involved on campus. Recruitment “frills” was another first for me on this visit, and I shed tears of laughter each time I watched their Dr. Seuss skit. By the end of the week, I felt like I was a part of their family. Beta Chi’s chapter size may be small, but their passion and love for AOII is tremendous. Beta Chi sisters made my stay feel like home!

My stay with Beta Chi ended on a positive note after meeting quota with 14 beautiful new members and a fun Bid Day by the pool. My next flight took me all the way to Texas, but this visit would be much different than the four previous to it. There were no officers to meet with, no recruitments to assist with, and no chapter members to greet me. I was heading to Tarleton State University where I would work alongside Mary Faith as a resident consultant for the rest of the semester. Together we would colonize a brand new chapter of AOII, and I couldn’t have been more excited! The first three weeks of our time in Stephenville, Texas were spent tabling, visiting student organization meetings, meeting with campus faculty and administration, holding informational sessions, and recruiting potential new members. The excitement surrounding AOII at Tarleton was overwhelming in the best way possible. Those three weeks of PR passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Colonization weekend finally arrived along with a team of AOII volunteers, Headquarters staff, and collegiate AOII members from surrounding schools.  The colonization team spent the entire weekend meeting the potential new members and sharing their love for AOII. By the end of the three days, 120 colony members were selected. Each and every woman was eager and determined to lay the foundation for AOII at Tarleton State University, and I am in awe of how enthusiastic the colony members have been to learn all there is to know about AOII. Tarleton State has certainly been a unique experience with its fun and quirky traditions, and it’s exciting to see AOII join the Greek community here. I can already see leaders emerging, bonds forming, and their sisterhood growing each day.  I cannot express how thankful I am to have the opportunity to work with such outstanding women. As Installation approaches and my time with Theta Sigma comes to an end, I often hear the women question how they will survive without the ELC’s here. For the past three months, I have watched as the colony learned about AOII history and traditions, listened as they shared their love for their new sorority, and helped guide them in a positive direction towards an exceptional Greek life experience. Just as their sub motto states – “Tradition through service” – I know that Theta Sigma will uphold AOII’s tradition by continuing to be of service to Tarleton State University, the Stephenville community, and our beloved Fraternity. While they question their ability, I have full confidence that they will blossom into an amazing chapter and continue to exceed my expectations.Our amazing Tarleton State Colony sisters at their retreat!Sigma Omicron will always be my home, but I like to think that I have taken a little piece of home from each chapter I have visited this semester.  As I continue to be asked why I am an Educational Leadership Consultant, my answer will continue to change. I now have experiences with six different chapters, six different groups of amazing women, six different stories, and six more reasons why I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I thought that I could give back to AOII for all it has given me, but I have quickly come to learn that this organization never stops giving. I will always be thankful for the people I have met, places I have been, and the person I have become because of Alpha Omicron Pi. ALAM,Emily

Finding Your Niche

Kate Novinger
Epsilon Omega Chapter/Eastern Kentucky University
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant

Finding your niche is when you can make something your own, where you find something you completely excel in, and makes you realize this is something you do not understand how you were ever without. In Fall 2011, I decided to join Alpha Omicron Pi, which in just a few short months I discovered was my niche. 

Becoming an Educational Leadership Consultant was filled with a whirlwind of emotions. I was overcome with excitement, anxiousness, and a newly renewed love for this organization. This was an experience that I could not wait to begin, and as soon as I received that phone call I realized part of my dreams were coming true. I was going to be given the opportunity to help collegiate members all over United States and Canada find their niche in AOII. The only thing better than growing in AOII is watching another member grow. 

We do not all walk the same journey in AOII, and every member finds their niche differently. Whether that is as a group, holding an office, during the first Recruitment for a colony, or reaching for the next level of exceeding the expectation, the best part of the journey is discovering your place in the foundation of our sisterhood.  

My journey as an ELC has been all I imagined and more. In my travels so far, each chapter has shown and taught me so much. At Upsilon Lambda/University of Texas San Antonio, I was able to help and watch certain members grow drastically in their office. Every little bit of information I had to offer they were ecstatic to learn.  Sigma Omicron/Arkansas State University’s sisterhood during Recruitment was something I never have experience before. The sisterhood that was developed throughout the process of Recruitment was something all chapters should strive for. Chi Theta/Northeastern State University’s newly initiated members realized what AOII meant to them, and how much of an impact each member plays. I was able to speak to two of those members about how important the position of VPMR & VPMR elect is to AOII, and now, those two members are now the newly elected VPMR & VPMR elect! Phi Delta/University of Wisconsin Milwaukee experienced their first Formal Recruitment at their campus, and I watched them fall in the love with the idea of having new members, especially their NME. Mu Lambda/Rollins College realized how much potential they have, and what steps need be taken to continue their growth in AOII. 

Luckily, I am able to be a residential consultant at Upsilon Beta/University of Arkansas Fort Smith this semester. I have watched these members understand how important it is to find their niche in AOII, and set the foundation for their chapter for years to come. Everything about this experience has helped me continuously grow as a woman, and I could not be more blessed with this opportunity to help collegiate members all over find their niche. 


Conquering the world at Upsilon Beta's pumpkin patch sisterhood!

Chi Theta/Northeastern State University's fabulous new members.

Chi Theta's awesome new VPMR Audra and me!

Phi Delta/University of Wisconsin Milwaukee members at their first formal recruitment!

Sigma Omicron/Arkansas State University's amazing bid day!

With my fellow ELC Monica at Upsilon Beta/University of Arkansas Fort Smith's beautiful campus fountain.

Having a blast at an Upsilon Beta sisterhood!

Changing Nevada, Changing Me

Taylor Donahue
Kappa Kappa Chapter/Ball State U
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

It felt like just another day of ELC training at Headquarters, but secretly we all believed that was not the case. The sisters on this year's team and I sat patiently as Kaya Miller, our fearless and wonderful leader, entered the training room with a giant stack of papers in her hands. We all knew exactly what it was - our fall semester schedules. This was the day we had been waiting for since March, when we found out we would be serving on the ELC team. 
I don't remember exactly what I was thinking in that moment when Kaya walked into the room, but over the past few days I had ingrained in my mind that no matter what my schedule said, I would be happy. Happy because I would be traveling to new places, making new memories, and most importantly forming new friendships with so many AOII sisters. Seriously, who wouldn't be happy about that? 

Kaya was almost putting herself in danger holding our schedules in her hands because we wanted them so badly. I'm honestly surprised someone (me) didn't bombard her to try and get a glance at one of them. She said a few words to the group before quickly tossing half of the stack to the left side of the table, and then to the right. Myself and the other ELC sisters grabbed at them and devoured their content like they were slices of free pizza. Each of us sat there flipping through our copy of the schedule and then awkwardly realized there was a problem - we didn't know how to read them. I stared intently at mine trying to make sense of the thing. It was definitely a calendar, but there were twelve sets of different Greek letters listed on each day of the semester. As we were all looking at it, Kaya pointed out a box at the top of the first page with each of our initials displayed in a table just like the ones listed on each day of the semester. 

She then explained that the place where our initials were in this box corresponded with the diagram on each day of the semester. Every second box made up my schedule. 

I looked back to the packet of paper in front of me. For about 10 minutes, questions were flying around the room. All of us would look at a week and then ask Kaya which school each chapter was located. I was finally started to piece it together. On the first week of my schedule for August was the letter "O" - Omicron (U of Tennessee, Knoxville), and the second week  ΩY - Omega Upsilon (Ohio U), two schools that were close to home. Places I was familiar with and had visited before. The last week of August had the letters  ΔΝ - Delta Nu displayed in my box on the diagram. I flipped to the second page of my schedule, the month of September, and saw that those same letters were repeated on every day of the month. I was going to be a Resident Consultant for Delta Nu I realized, but I didn't know where that was exactly. "Kaya, where is the Delta Nu Chapter?" 

She smiled her sweet gentle smile and responded without hesitation "Nevada", and confirmed that I would be a Resident Consultant for their chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno. She filled me in on some other small details, too, like how they were colonized in the spring, which is why they were receiving a Resident Consultant and that I would be assisting the chapter with their very first recruitment. 

The biggest smile then started to appear on my face as Kaya told me this. I truly was so happy to be assigned to Delta Nu, but beneath that smile I was also a little terrified. I had considered the weekly visits and the possibility of helping establish a colony, but being a Resident Consultant hadn't really crossed my mind, and Nevada definitely hadn't either. Immediately I started wondering what my experience would be like with the chapter. Nevada is a desert climate, right? So it would be warm all the time - that's good, I like warm weather. First recruitment? I love recruitment. I can handle that. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Wow, I'm a huge dork. Are people dorky like me in Nevada? Oh my gosh, what if they don't like pugs? These and other ridiculous questions are what filled my thoughts as I continued to stare at the month of September and those repeated Greek letters ΔΝ

Time has a funny way of sneaking up on us, though. Before you even realize it, you go from sitting by your fellow ELCs in a training room at HQ simply imagining the experience to actually taking your first steps off the connecting flight from LAX into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and beginning it. Then even faster... comes a day like today. 

It feels like just another Monday of meetings at Starbucks with Delta Nu's officers, but instead of meetings I'm writing this AOII Suitcase Diaries blog reflecting on my time with this amazing chapter and trying to comprehend how it could already be almost the last day of September, how it could already almost be my last day with Delta Nu as a Resident Consultant. 

When I was interviewing to be an Educational Leadership Consultant, I knew one thing for certain - I knew that as a member of the team, I would be guiding sisters across the United States and Canada to make positive changes for themselves and their collegiate chapters, but ultimately at the end of this year, at the end of this amazing experience, the person who would change the most is me. 

It has only been a month, but I have learned so much and have changed for the better because of the wonderful chapter members here at Delta Nu. I had never considered before how different an AOII collegiate experience can be as a colony member of a new chapter. The collegiate chapter I joined already had its foundation. The traditions were set in place, elder sisters had knowledge and experience to help support younger sisters during their first recruitment, which had been planned almost in its entirety before the VP of Recruitment was even elected, and chapter officers had sisters before them who could help them understand and excel in their role. 

Delta Nu colonized in the spring semester of 2015, and was officially installed later that semester in May. The first AOII chapter in the state of Nevada, forever changing it. The officers had very little time to understand their positions before summer break and the chapter as a whole had only a couple of weeks to learn this complex thing we all do called recruitment. In those weeks, there was some doubt among the chapter. They were really nervous about how recruitment would go and honestly, I was, too. I didn't know how recruitment normally went for chapters their first time around, but I was hopeful. 

After two days of sisterhood rounds, a philanthropy and preference night, I went with several of the Delta Nu advisers to the UNR Greek Life Office to pick up the most important document of the week - the chapter's bid list. My heart was racing. I wanted good news more than anything. The Greek Life advisor walked from his office to the waiting area where we all were with a small pile of papers in his hand. He shared that quota was 77 before passing the appropriate bid list to the chapter representative. When I saw the list I immediately started crying. There were 77 names on the list. They did it! Despite all the factors against them, the doubts and the nerves, they did it! They made quota!

The happiness I felt on that day is very close in comparison to the happiness I felt on my own Bid Day. The chapter had 77 Delta Nu Bids on the Block. We had the time of our life. The leadership I have witnessed in this chapter alone has already made my ELC experience worthwhile. Take for instance Lindsey Forbes, the first Chapter President of Delta Nu, who was elected into her position in the spring and attended AOII Convention in Los Angeles shortly after during the summer, who has the best sense of humor, lives ritual every day of her life and will be missed dearly by the chapter when she becomes an AOII alumna at the end of this semester. 

Another beautiful example of leadership, the Vice President of Membership Recruitment Sarah Almaraz, who, if it were possible, would have the Delta Nu women wearing pink during every single round of recruitment. I admire Sarah so much for her commitment to her office. The first recruitment wasn't an easy task, but she was up to the challenge and made so many people in AOII proud to call her a sister. 

And the adorable and wonderful Kenzie Chelemedos, who will be the New Member Educator for this first new member class and has a heart so kind that she is willing to foster kittens while also educating 77 women on what it means to be a sister in AOII. She also planned the most perfect Big/Little reveal for the Delta Nu Chapter. 

These three women are just a few of the many sisters at Delta Nu who are leading the chapter through their first experiences with patience and grace. The leadership doesn't stop there, though. Every woman in this amazing Delta Nu Chapter demonstrates leadership because they took a chance on something that was completely new to UNR's campus. If I could mention every woman's name in this blog post I absolutely would. I am so thankful for every member of this chapter because together they have provided me with a new understanding of what it means to be a collegiate member of AOII. What it means to light a spark of this sisterhood from the very beginning. 
Thank you dearest Delta Nu sisters for forever changing Nevada and forever changing me. 



Feels Like Home

Allie Jivraj
Iota Chi Chapter/The U of Western Ontario
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

My ELC adventure began on July 19th when my overweight suitcases and I headed to the airport and were Nashville-bound for training. I couldn't wait to be reunited with my fabulous teammates and spend a few weeks in the city I had been dreaming of moving to for years. Nashville was everything I wanted it to be and more, and being with 11 wonderful sisters was definitely the cherry on top. From our road trip to Indianapolis, to late night walks exploring the gorgeous Vanderbilt campus, Chick-Fil-A runs, and Sunday brunches, there was never a dull moment for Cycle 6. I can't begin to understand how our team bonded so fast, but I am so grateful that we did and couldn't have asked for a better team of women to share this journey with. 

Spending time in sunny California!

It didn't take long for me to realize that Nashville was the next place I wanted to plant my roots in, but by the end of training I was overwhelmingly excited for my adventures on the road to begin. My first stop was at Lambda Beta Chapter/California State U Long Beach, and I definitely didn't mind getting to visit Southern California for the second time in one summer. My 12-day trip was a blast - I got to spend a day at Disneyland and visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, but without a doubt the sisters of Lambda Beta were the highlight of my trip. As we spent countless hours preparing for recruitment, I had so much fun getting to know them and was so grateful for their love and hospitality. One of the members even took me to her family home in Palo Verdes and let me spend a morning riding one of her horses. I rounded out my trip to California by meeting up with my dear friend Zoe Gertner. She took me to an adorable little brunch spot in LA and we spent the morning updating each other on the events that had occurred in our lives since the last meal we had together in February 2015 when she visited my chapter of initiation as an ELC. After the half day I spent with Zoe, I was refreshed and ready to head to my next chapter. 

Bid Day with Alpha Gamma at Washington State U.
After flying Alaska Airlines for the first time, and the possibility of having my flight diverted to Idaho due to the magnitude of smoke from all of the fires burning in the Pacific Northwest, I finally landed in Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State University (GO COUGS!). From my time with the rest of my ELC team, I had already experienced how quickly AOII sisterhood can bring our members together regardless of their chapter of initiation, but boy oh boy did Alpha Gamma Chapter feel like home. Within 24 hours of being there, I felt like I was a part of their family and not just a guest passing through - shout out to PC 12 for treating me like one of their own! I had the best time celebrating Bid Day with them, and loved watching them welcome 53 new members home. Though my days were filled with officer meetings, my week in Pullman hardly felt like work; I felt like I was just hanging out with the sisters I had been friends with for years. The sisterhood I found on the road didn't end at the end of my visit; it has been a month since I left and Snapchats are still sent back and forth almost daily. I would have never guessed that a small town in Washington would bring me so much joy, and I can't wait to reunite with my Alpha Gamma sisters someday soon!

As someone who has been an avid traveller and adventure seeker her whole life, getting homesick on the road was the last of my worries. But by the end of my visit I was caught off guard with hard feelings of being thousands of miles away as all my sisters and friends from my alma mater headed back to my university town. It was the first time in five years that I wasn't heading back to London, Ontario, and I suddenly felt very alone as I walked through the Chicago O'Hare airport to catch my connecting flight to Ohio. I started to doubt myself and felt anxious that being homesick would distract me during my time in Bowling Green, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to put my game face on and give Alpha Psi my best during their formal recruitment. In the half hour it took to drive from the airport in Toledo to Bowling Green State University, all of those feelings of doubt and anxiety had vanished. I spent the majority of the ride with the two sisters who picked me up laughing as we got to know each other, and the laughter continued all week long. The sisters of Alpha Psi Chapter welcomed me with open arms and I felt so appreciated. Recruitment and Bid Day with these women was more fun than I had ever experienced, and working with the MS team made even the latest nights of voting enjoyable. Sisterhood on the road saved me yet again, the feeling of being so warmly welcomed into an AOII family is indescribable. My only wish is that I could bottle up that feeling and carry a stash of it with me wherever I go. My time at Alpha Psi flew by and before I knew it, I was heading to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for my next adventure. 

I squealed with excitement and happiness when fellow ELC Caroline Listoe picked me up from the airport - it was so good to be reunited after a month on the road. We had been entrusted with the task of helping to colonize a brand new AOII chapter at Gettysburg College, and though we were a little nervous, we were ready for the challenge. I quickly fell in love with Gettysburg, the town is so charming and the campus is absolutely beautiful. Everyone in town is so friendly, and the fraternity and sorority community on campus has been so wonderful and welcoming. Since arriving we have been busy tabling, hosting information sessions, sending countless emails and of course taking daily trips to McDonald's to get her a sweet tea and me a Diet Coke. All of our hard week is about to pay off, as Colonization Weekend is happening RIGHT NOW! We cannot wait to meet our Gettyburg College new members on Sunday. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to help form the foundation of what I know will be a great legacy for AOII here at Gettysburg College, and I can't wait to watch this chapter's future unfold. 

Since July 19th I have been on 10 planes, in three time zones, and have had the pleasure of working with countless unforgettable sisters. In true AOII fashion, this experience has already exceeded my expectations, and I can't wait for what the rest of the year has in store. ALAM, Allie  

My Wish For A New Colony

Mary Faith Erwin
Beta Zeta Chapter/Kennesaw State U
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

Is it really almost the end of September? I could have sworn it was just last week when I stepped off the plane in Nashville, 150 pounds of glittery luggage in hand, ready to begin the journey of a lifetime with 11 of the most incredible women I have ever met, my ELC sisters. I am almost certain that it was just yesterday that I was given my travel schedule, and was overflowing with happiness as I saw all of the universities that I would be visiting to assist with recruitment. I imagined the adventures that I would have: Bid Day celebrations, sappy memories of preference ceremonies, opportunities to share my AOII story with the collegians that I would visit, and moments that maybe, just maybe, I would get to have an impact on someone the way that previous ELCs have impacted me.

But I must admit that the most exciting part of that schedule was what came AFTER those first visits: I learned that I would be one of the resident consultants for AOII's colonization at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and I couldn't have been more thrilled! Having assisted with two AOII colonizations in Georgia during my collegiate years (Phi Gamma/Georgia College and State U, and Lambda Delta/Dalton State College), I knew what an incredibly exciting experience this would be. My mind immediately started racing, imagining all of the wonderful things that this new group would accomplish. I began daydreaming of Pinterest-perfect sisterhood events, a flawless AOII Homecoming float, and all of the things that I hoped this new colony would get to experience.

But then, I began my travels, and ideas for the Tarleton State colony were saved for another day. As I visited my first four chapters - Alpha Pi/Florida State U, Iota Sigma/Iowa State U, Lambda Tau/U of Louisiana at Monroe, and Kappa Chi/Northwestern State U - each one quickly earned a place in my heart. Although it is easy to focus on what can be improved, the things that stood out to me were the things that they did well. I saw so much good during that first month of visits, and although I may not have been actively thinking of it, I saw so much that I hoped would become a reality for this new colony.

And now, I am in Stephenville, realizing that the dream of a new colony will soon become a reality. My heart is filled with so much joy and expectation for all that this new group will be, and I am once again overflowing with daydreams of the things they will accomplish. But these dreams are very different than those I had back before my travels. Now that I have visited all of these other chapters, I realize that no one chapter has it all; that each chapter has something unique. Something wonderful. Something that should be shared with everyone, because it would make us all better. So now, my dreams are not so Pinterest-perfect ideas of what an ideal sorority should be, but instead little pieces of magic from each chapter I have visited. I hope our new colonies (AOII will also join Illinois State University and Gettysburg College this semester!) have a little bit of each of these chapters, and then some. I hope that they are able to learn from those who came before them, but also make their experience their own, with their own memories, their own goals, and their own sisterhood.

With that being said, here is my wish for our newest chapters:

Recruitment practice with Alpha Pi.
I hope that they have Alpha Pi's fun-loving spirit. From the moment I stepped into their gorgeous new house, I knew that I was going to have a blast with Alpha Pi! This chapter is full of women who truly enjoy each others company, and I loved experiencing their sisterhood for the short time that I was there. Whether it was a simple movie night at the house, a fro-yo party after a long day of recruitment practice, or a creative workshop (MAC makeup presentation, anyone!?), everyone was always having fun! They weren't afraid to be silly, and why should they be? They are surrounded by sisters who love and support them. 
Door stacks with Iota Sigma. 

I hope that they have Iota Sigma's confidence. My visit to Iota Sigma at Iowa State was the first time I have ever been to the Midwest, and while I may have attempted to order sweet tea on the first day (oops!), I was excited to experience sorority life outside of the South! I quickly learned that this is a very strong-willed chapter, filled with women who are confident, independent, and willing to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. Although everyone was so kind and welcoming to me, they were also not afraid to challenge me, which I loved. They would ask me "Why?" when I offered suggestions, or offer a different approach to counter mine. I appreciated that they wanted to make sure that everything they were doing was for the best of the group.

The one and only Grace Houston at Lambda Tau Bid Day!
I hope that they have Lambda Tau's genuine sisterhood. My visit to Lambda Tau had me wishing that I could join AOII all over again! These ladies truly exceeded my expectations of hospitality, kindness, and sisterhood. Traveling to a different state every week can be scary, and I am always a little worried that the chapter won't like me or connect with me during my visit. Lambda Tau immediately eased my fears, welcoming me with open arms (and ALL of my favorite foods!). They had this incredible way of making you feel like you were one of them from the moment you arrived. You could just feel the sisterhood in the room, wrapping each sister in the warmth and comfort of the place she calls home. It was such a beautiful thing to witness, and I left that chapter inspired to make every sister I come into contact with feel as welcome and loved as they made me feel.  
Hanging out with Kappa Chi AOIIs before a football game.

I hope that they have Kappa Chi's unconditional love. Kappa Chi is such a unique chapter, something that I loved about them from day one. Each sister has something special to contribute to the group, and no two are quite the same. Their bond is one of the strongest I have seen, despite the differences among them. They're so loving and accepting of one another - during my visit, it dawned on me: wouldn't the world be such a better place if we all had Kappa Chi's mindset? What if we all embraced each other and celebrated our differences, instead of trying to mold someone into something they are not? 

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my first few months as an ELC! It has been such a blessing to learn and grow through the sisters I have met, and I have no doubt that being a part of colonization at Tarleton State, and hearing the news of our other upcoming colonizations, will only deepen my love for AOII. Here's to hoping I get my wish! Roses, Mary Faith 

Sisterhood and Southern Hospitality

Kate Donahue
Chi Epsilon Chapter/The Ohio State U
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

As a Virginia-born but Ohio-raised woman, I could be considered a "Northerner" in all regards. Throughout my time during training, however, I began to identify with my Southern teammates so one can imagine my delight when I was presented with my fall semester schedule and the opportunity to spend my first several visit serving chapters below the Mason-Dixon line! As I begin my fifth chapter visit working with the Gamma Sigma Chapter at Georgia State University, I reflect on my experiences thus far and the relationship between the idea of "Southern hospitality" and sisterhood. 
Phi Gamma on Bid Day!
Pi Alpha rocking their Skit Night. 
I spent my first visit with the lovely ladies of Phi Gamma at Georgia College & State University during their week of Formal Recruitment. The chapter's Vice President of Administration, Hollie Schwanebeck, not only made me extremely comfortable as a guest in her room in the gorgeous chapter home, but she also made sure that I had all of my favorite breakfast essentials, including chocolate milk. In addition, chapter member and Keeper of the Ritual Emily Zilleox graciously spent an afternoon showing me around the quaint town of Milledgeville and even helped me mail home some of my excess belongings! 

Omega Sigma's amazing Chapter Adviser Julie. 
I then moved on to Pi Alpha at the University of Louisville for another week of Formal Recruitment. Once again, chapter members warmly welcomed me into their home for the duration of my visit. The chapter leaders, including Vice President of Administration Riley Cantrall and Vice President of Membership Recruitment Emily Adams did an exceptional job at making sure I was comfortable and well-fed at all times. The chapter's dedication to learning from my experiences and appreciation of my advice warmed my heart each and every day. The genuine sisterhood within this chapter is showcased in all they do, from bonding together after the tragic loss of a chapter sister, to the kindness that each member displayed as they all made an effort to make me feel right at home with the chapter. 

My third visit took me all the way to Oklahoma to spend time with Omega Sigma Chapter at the "other" OSU, Oklahoma State University. Not only did I have my very own suite in the chapter house, but these wonderful women also took special care to introduce me to numerous local attractions, including treating me to my first county fair! Chapter members Lindsey Evans (Property Manager) and Kerry Stark (VPMR) even helped me run personal errands and did not hesitate to mail me a few garments when we accidentally missed our window of opportunity to pick them up from the dry cleaner. 

Lambda Delta at Dalton State having an AWESOME recruitment. 
On my fourth visit, I was blessed with the opportunity to head back to Georgia to work with the Lambda Delta Chapter at Dalton State College. Vice President of Administration Carolina Gomez prepared a perfectly organized binder of information for my visit as well as a beautiful welcome basket filled with goodies. Once again, a chapter member (Natalie Espinoza-Hensley, Social Chair) offered up her room for me to stay in, even though she had to wake up early each morning for cross country practice! An assortment of chapter officers and general members spent their minimal free time throughout the week introducing me to the wonders of Dalton and even included me in their Sunday worship practices. 

Not only did the collegiate women make me feel right at home at all of the chapters I have visited, but I also experienced the love, sisterhood and hospitality of AOII alumnae along my journey. I spent my first weekend off exploring Lexington with Megan Cherry, Chi Epsilon/OSU alumna and past advisor, who is now serving as an advisor with Kappa Omega Chapter at University of Kentucky. While in Dalton, Melanie Faith Erwin, alumna of Lambda Chi Chapter at LaGrange College and mother of my beautiful teammate Mary Faith, treated me as if I were her own daughter as we enjoyed an afternoon of lunch, ice cream, and shopping. Finally, I had the opportunity to spend the Labor Day holiday with Ashley Calhoun, Gamma Sigma/Georgia State University alumna and her wonderful family who made me feel right at home. Kelly Angelo, alumna of Gamma Omicron/U of Florida and Financial Advisor for Lambda Delta, helped to make my weekend off even more special by providing Ashley and me with tickets to the World of Coca-Cola, where we spent an afternoon learning the history of the company and trying every variation of soda imaginable! 

All in all, I have felt blessed from the moment I was offered the position to be an ELC earlier this year, and not a day goes by that I do not feel thankful for the opportunity to work with so many fantastic chapters. Though I was nervous when I set out for my first visit, I can truly say that each chapter I have visited thus far has made me feel like part of their "chapter family" from Day One. Sisterhood and Southern hospitality have gone hand-in-hand as these chapters have planned and executed exceptional chapter visits. Though I am a loud and proud Buckeye from Ohio, the spirit of kindness and love I have experienced throughout my time in the South has truly stolen my heart!

I hope to see y'all soon! Roses, Kate Donahue 

That Crazy Concept of Sisterhood

Darcy Kaul
Gamma Delta Chapter/U of South Alabama
2015-16 Educational Leadership Consultant 

We all talk about that special "AOII bond" that holds us together, but do we really understand what it is? Is it a secret meaning? Is it just a line that we use during recruitment to try to make PNMs understand that crazy concept of sisterhood? I always tried to explain it, but I was at a loss for words every time because an invisible feeling that connects us together is not exactly easily understandable. Let me tell you what I believe it is. 
Ready to get to know the women of Delta Sigma!
On the first day of my travels as an ELC, I flew from Tennessee to San Jose, California. After being in airports and on planes for 11 hours (the time change makes a difference, trust me), I was exhausted and nervous to start work week with Delta Sigma Chapter at San Jose State University. I have to admit that the night before day one of work week, I could not sleep because I was questioning myself and if I could even do this job, and actually help the chapter like I was supposed to. Also, the question "what if they don't like me?" kept flashing like a bright light in my head. I am just a 22-year-old Disney-obsessed girl from Alabama - how could they relate to me? 

Delta Sigma Chapter having a blast duringwork week.
I learned the answer to that question very quickly. Although I was not a part of their chapter, I was still their sister. That "AOII bond" that mysteriously exists guided me to love each and every girl at Delta Sigma as if they were from my own chapter. These women took care of me and actually wanted to get to know me. They were my sisters, and they wanted the best for me as much as I wanted what was best for them. I had such a great first visit with these women. Yes, the experiences of San Francisco and dancing/making a music video with them were incredibly fun, but I was able to see the sisterhood in this chapter during the stressful work week. I saw friendships and love for AOII, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of this job. 

To me, that bond is what we all believe as our core values because we are members of Alpha Omicron Pi. We are from all over the U.S. and Canada, but those values that we hold are the same everywhere you go. That special bond is the reason we all chose AOII, and why we are loyal forever. It is even why you have to run up to a woman in Disney World with an AOII t-shirt on just to say "I'm an AOII, too!" It is more unique and wonderful than any feeling I know, even though you can't exactly see it. 
Sister trip to San Fran!

I am so excited to be traveling as an ELC this year, and I will hopefully be at your chapter soon! Alpha Love! -Darcy

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


The Life of AOII's Newest Chapter

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.

-Haley and Rebecca

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. 


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! 


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

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!


AOII Love For Valentine's Day

Rhiannon O'Coin, Gamma Alpha Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant 

Working with Alpha Omicron Pi as an Educational Leadership Consultant has not only given me the opportunity to travel the country, but also to meet amazing women all over the country. If you had asked me a year ago where I thought I would be, or what I thought I would be doing, I never would have answered at Oregon State University working with Alpha Rho Chapter. My past few weeks with these women have been some of the most meaningful weeks of my ELC experience thus far. 

Just this past week at Alpha Rho, the women put together a Sisters for Soldiers event, making Valentine's Day cards for troops overseas and at a base in Texas. The chapter partnered with ROTC and set up a table in the main area of campus, where they collected over 200 cards to send out. It was such a great way to send a little love this Valentine's Day. 

Alpha Rho also welcomed 21 new members this past week! They had been working so hard at informal recruitment and it was amazing to see all of that hard work pay off. Seeing the love that this chapter has for these new women has been so touching, and I feel truly lucky to be a part of it. 

Watching Alpha Rho grow as a chapter has really reminded me of why I love Alpha Omicron Pi so much. The women that AOII attracts are such strong and remarkable people, women who want to give back and who welcome everyone with open arms. I feel so fortunate to be part of such a wonderful organization, and family.


800 Miles From Home

Jordan Travis, Delta Omega Chapter
2014-2015 Educational Leadership Consultant 

My experiences as an ELC have been nothing less than extraordinary. Being from a small town in Kentucky, I get so excited when I get to travel to chapters in locations that I have never even been close to. This week I had the pleasure of visiting Iota Theta Chapter at Monmouth University. My first visit to the state of New Jersey has been an adventure, that’s for sure. 

The women took me to visit Seaside Heights, where the “Jersey Shore” house is located. I even got to try a famous cheese ball from Steaks Unlimited - yum! While I was at Iota Theta we experienced two snow storms, Juno and Linus. I was like a kid in the candy store playing in the snow. It was so strange to see snow covering the beach, but it was beautiful.

The women of Iota Theta have become more than just sisters to me. I have developed lifelong friendships on this visit. Meeting other AOIIs, you know you will have many things in common, but with this group of women it was so much more than that. They made me feel at home, even though I was 800 miles away from mine.

Congratulations to the Iota Theta chapter for a very successful recruitment and your wonderful new members! 


My Friends and Dearest Sisters

Haley Mruz, Tau Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant 

A gift from Zeta Tau Alpha at Wright State!
The past 4 months have been absolutely sweet spending time at Wright State University and with our Kappa Delta Colony. It has been quite the honor to see a recolonization, and to see Kappa Delta alumna come and support the new chapter. The amount of support we have received from the

We have had quite a semester, with placing in the top 5 in fundraising for Raiderthon, as well as creating new traditions by volunteering our time at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base with veterans, Kappa Delta has started a strong and 
 committed experience. The members have 
Kappa Delta sisters enjoying a Halloween sisterhood event.
created such a warm and loving environment that fosters sisterhood and support, and my heart is happy from having the opportunity to meet them. I am not only proud to call this colony of beautiful women my friends, but also my dearest sisters.
surrounding schools has made the experience here unforgettable, and many of our members feel that they not only gained 53 sisters in AOII, but hundreds from the area chapters and alumna groups.
Kappa Delta's first Leaders Council. 


From Colonization to Installation

Rebecca Easterling, Epsilon Omega Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant 

For the past few months, I have had the privilege of working with our new colony at Wingate University in North Carolina. From weekly colony and sisterhood meetings, to a sisterhood retreat, Homecoming festivities, Phi Beta Sigma's Stroll Off, and Sigma Sigma Sigma football, the women of this colony have grown closer and started developing a strong sisterhood!

The colony decided that their chapter name would be Alpha Epsilon and that their submotto would be "Always Encouraging" to remind them to always be encouraging of their sisters. We have also elected our first Leaders Council and Cabinet officers, and it has been so sweet to watch these young women become leaders on this campus. They have TONS of ideas and will, without a doubt, leave quite a mark on Wingate!

Alpha Epsilon's first LC!
As for me personally, Alpha Epsilon has become a home away from home. My sisters here have shown such love and kindness. Getting to know each of them and teach them about AOII has reminded me of all the reasons why I fell in love with AOII in the first place. They have stolen a piece of my heart and I'm so happy to have had this experience!

To say we are looking forward to installation this weekend is an understatement. The members of Alpha Epsilon are ready to know exactly what AOII stands for, and I am ready to share that bond with them!


An International Perspective

Kendyl Trail, Delta Rho Chapter
2014-15 Educational Leadership Consultant 

The ELC team is back on the road again to continue visiting the rest of the amazing AOII chapters and colonies throughout the U.S. and Canada! While we had a great break for the last month, it was time to hit the road again to complete the second half of our year. It was hard to leave our friends and families after the holidays but I couldn't wait to head to Canada for my first visit of the spring semester!
I spent the last few days with the wonderful women of Gamma Chi Chapter at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. I shared with them that this was my first visit to Canada, and also my first time outside of the United States so they showed me everything Canada has to offer. The cold and the snow didn't stop us, I had so much fun with the women and it was a packed week of exploring the city and attending continuous recruitment events. My adventures included ice skating while enjoying a "Beaver Tail", exploring the Canadian Parliament building, and even trying ketchup chips for the first time!

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to celebrate Founders' Day with the women of Gamma Chi Chapter and some members of the Ottawa Alumnae Chapter. We had a potluck lunch and then gathered for a ritual ceremony dedicated to our founders. After the ceremony, I realized how awesome it was to share this opportunity with these women. Even though we are from different countries, our bond of ritual connects us together. 

So many times we find ourselves caught up in our own chapter "bubble" but this visit has really helped me understand the importance of recognizing that AOII is an international organization that connects women throughout the United States and Canada. As AOIIs, we are so lucky to be one of the NPC organizations to have chapters in Canada. Often I hear sisters refer to our Headquarters as "Nationals", but we should always remind ourselves that we are an international organization providing women with lifelong opportunities to Exceed the Expectation! 


Omicron Chapter House Dedication

Jane Tessmer
President, AOII Properties Board

Omicron Chapter's (University of Tennessee - Knoxville) house dedication was held on November 8, 2014 and was well-attended by Omicron Chapter collegians, alumnae, and their families. Special guests and speakers included Executive Board Vice President Susan Danko, Chapter President Kelsey Wood, University Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, President Emeritus Dr. Joe Johnson, and Omicron Chapter alumna and member of AOII's Rituals, Traditions and Jewelry Committee Mary Jane Sharp. Ann Wallace, an Omicron Chapter alumna and active member of the Knoxville Alumnae Chapter who chaired the house construction committee, was also a very special guest. We also had the pleasure of welcoming past AOII Executive Director Melanie Lampertz and her husband Walter, whose granddaughter Elizabeth lives in the house. 


Susan and I met and spoke with numerous alumnae, chapter members, and other guests. The house was packed! And it is BEAUTIFUL. The house is a stand-alone, two-story brick structure with a basement, located at the highest point in UT's gated Greek Village. The village is some distance from campus and requires bus/shuttle service. The house sleeps 49 with three to a room, except for the chapter president, who has a private room with bath and small sitting area. These are all located on the second floor with a community bathroom, study/lounge rooms, and a great room for the chapter's Leadership Council to meet. The first floor consists f the house director suite, chapter room with dining room at rear, parlor, foyer, restrooms, kitchen, night kitchen, and entry hall with built-in trophy cases. The pictures we captured will do it more justice than mere words! The ladies of the chapter are delighted with their new AOII home. 



Susan and I conducted the house dedication ceremony and speeches were given by the Chapter President Kelsey, Ann Wallace, Chancellor Cheek, Dr. Joe Johnson, and a prayer was given by Rev. Bryan Wilson. Though our time at the house was limited, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and loved seeing the women of Omicron Chapter and old friends. And, I think we made some new ones.

(Pictured here is Omicron Chapter alumna and past Executive Board Vice President Kandyce Harber with the rose stained-glass window donated by Kandyce and her husband John.)    

Rho Delta Chapter House Dedication
Jane Tessmer
President, AOII Properties Board 

On November 2, 2014, I attended Rho Delta Chapter's (Samford University) house dedication. As it was Homecoming Weekend, there was a full house! Some of the special guests in attendance included Executive Board Vice President Grace Houston, Director of Housing Initiatives Veronica Kentish, Network Specialist - Alumnae Anna Davis, Samford University President Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, Vice President of Student Affairs Phil Kimrey, and Director of Greek Life Denny Bubrig. Numerous members of the AAC were also there, including Sara Hines, Chapter Adviser. Patti Buksa, the Parents’ Club president and other parents were also in attendance.

The house is a wonderful place for our members to call home. It is a stand-alone, brick, two-story structure high on a hill with fabulous views. The University owns the house and has provided it to AOII for use as a chapter house and residence. The house sleeps 66 and has an RA on each floor. The University maintains the residence portion and the public areas are for AOII to furnish, decorate and maintain (with University approvals). There is a front parlor, residential style kitchen, guest baths, and chapter room that is large enough for chapter and ritual. There are hardwood floors throughout these areas as well as dark wood paneling. The chapter room has a built-in entertainment center at one end and a fireplace with built-in bookshelves at the other end.  

The chapter just moved in this fall and there are still lots of things that will be done to make it an AOII home. The kitchen is in the process of being remodeled and made usable. Interior design work and furnishings will be needed. The Parents’ Club will be a vital resource of time and talent to help with this process! While there, we had the opportunity to meet with Chapter President Jenna Harper, House Manager Blaise Bowman, and New Member Educator Rebecca Jackson, among others. The University President and Director of Greek Life are both very impressed with the young ladies of our chapter, and we are so proud. 

Grace Houston and I conducted the house dedication ceremony. Chapter Adviser Sara Hines and Chapter President Jenna Harper spoke, and we had the pleasure of hearing Director of Greek Life Denny Bubrig and VP of Student Affairs Phil Kimrey speak as well. We had a wonderful Sunday afternoon with the ladies of Rho Delta Chapter, and look forward to hearing about fantastic AOII memories made in their home. 

On The Road Again
Kappa Chi/Northwestern State University Initiation
Grace Houston, Executive Board Vice President 

On Sunday, October 26, 2014, I was privileged to join Kappa Chi Chapter at Northwestern State University (Louisiana) for the initiation of 30 beautiful new members. Twelve more new members will be initiated in a few weeks. These initiations are the result of a very successful recruitment for this chapter who pledged quota for the first time this fall. This chapter is a wonderful example of what can be done when a chapter and a network team work together with love and patience. Their membership has grown from single digits to 85 outstanding women!
All current members of Kappa Chi Chapter! 
The ceremony of initiation was held in a beautiful second-story room in a stately building on the Northwestern campus on a glorious fall afternoon. The women were excited and reverent at the same time as President Regan Cross led a meaningful initiation ritual. Several pictures will be posted on Facebook with “selfies” having been taken on the new initiates’ phones prior to initiation. Kylie Raines, Keeper of the Ritual for Lambda Tau Chapter (University of Louisiana at Monroe) came for the initiation and brought additional robes for Kappa Chi’s Initiation. 

Bring Your Letters... And Be Prepared to Smile and Laugh A Lot

Chi Epsilon/The Ohio State University House Dedication
Krista Whipple, Executive Board Vice President of Finance   

Katherine Donahue and Krista Whipple cutting the ribbon.
September 21, 2014 - It was a beautiful day for a drive down to Columbus, Ohio for the dedication of the Chi Epsilon Chapter house. The AOIIs rolled out the red carpet to welcome alumnae, members from every NPC and IFC group, and The Ohio State University administration. Special guests Karen Marchese (Executive Board Vice President), Susan Bonifield (Network Director), Jenny Meade (Network Specialist - Leadership) and Janet Evers (Network Specialist - Recruitment) were also present to enjoy the day with the chapter. Chapter President Katherine Donahue welcomed all of the guests to their new home. Special words of gratitude were shared for the Chi Epsilon Alumnae Advisory Committee, the Columbus area alumnae, AOII parents and the AOII Properties Board for making the move to a new facility a reality. We still cannot figure out where AOII Properties gets those giant scissors for the ribbon-cutting portion of the ceremony.

Chi Epsilon Chapter sisters after a night of recruitment events.
The new facility allows the chapter to have meetings in the large chapter room on the ground floor, and the formal living room on the first floor is a great place to meet guests. Outside of free laundry and Friday Brunch for the entire chapter, the most talked about feature of the new house was the Mirror Room. The Mirror Room is off the foyer outside of the powder room and features a semi-circle of lighted full length mirrors. Up the winding hardwood stair case, the women share super-cool loft spaces with living spaces along with a second study area and place to hang out and catch up with sisters. I think you would find me at the chair at the back of the big round table smiling and writing a paper. It was a wonderful day of reminiscing and building new memories with friends.  For those sisters who have just started to build relationships with AOIIs outside of their chapter, welcome to our AOII world. Bring your letters and be prepared to smile and laugh a lot.

An ELC's Year Comes To An End

As my days as an Educational Leadership Consultant come to an end, I am overwhelmed by countless emotions. Happiness to be reunited with my family and loved ones and sadness to leave the women I have met through my travels. I am thankful for the women who taught me about our Fraternity throughout my collegiate years and built the passion I have for AOII. I am honored to have had the opportunity to travel to chapters across the southeast and to have played a role in the re-installation of Alpha Pi Chapter at Florida State University.

As a new member, I never imagined what my involvement in AOII would be like after graduation. Even as the years passed by and graduation got closer I could not wrap my mind around any experience comparing to my phenomenal collegiate chapter years. Women told me time and time again that in AOII you get what you put in. I am so thankful that (although I am just one year removed from my collegiate chapter) I have now begun my journey as a Life Loyal member of AOII. After five years of membership I can now understand that AOII is much more than just a collegiate experience and am so thankful that I have had the opportunities to give so much of myself to this organization.

Though nothing will replace my collegiate years, my experience as an ELC has greatly added to why I love our Fraternity and who I am as an AOII. From the hundreds of women who have welcomed me in to their homes, to the women who trusted me as their resident consultant, and the ten amazing women that served with me as the 2013-14 ELC team, each one of them has continued writing my AOII story. In no other job will my co-workers ever be my sisters, roommates and best friends. I am proud to have been a part of the consultant team and thankful for the women on whom I truly have no fear to call. 


60 Degree Winter Wonderland

While the ELC team reports to each other each day that the temperatures we are experiencing on chapter visits consist of 12, 7 and even -1 degrees, the ladies of the newly-installed Alpha Pi Chapter have been preparing to welcome a new member class to their 60-degree Winter Wonderland!

During the spring semester at Florida State University, all four councils of the Greek Community participate in Winterfest. From t-shirts, buttons and Pinterest creations, each organization creates beautiful displays where they are able to spotlight the advantages of being a part of the chapter they call home. More than 700 Florida State students participated in this event to learn more about the opportunities that Greek life can offer them.

After weeks of hard work and two fabulous informal recruitment events, Alpha Pi was ready to extend bids to their first new members since being installed as a chapter in the fall of 2013. Hot chocolate was poured, Christmas lights were hung and cupcakes were topped with snowflakes - it may not truly be winter in Tallahassee, Florida but Alpha Pi was ready for their Winter Wonderland Bid Day celebration!

The ladies of Alpha Pi welcomed 12 beautiful new members in to their chapter. As the New Member Educator announced each new member's name, the chapter sang chants and cheered while the women were given a rose and their bid card. The ladies in Tallahassee may not have freezing temperatures, but their Winter Wonderland was a hit!

-Morgan Butler

Common Bonds

This past week I had the wonderful opportunity of staying with Kappa Phi Chapter at McGill University. Not only was this the farthest North and the coldest I have ever been, it was also my first time in Canada! On the night of my arrival, Kappa Phi had a ritual planned. What a wonderful way to begin a visit by sharing ritual together!

A few days later, I was meeting with an officer and she stated, "Ya know, I was able to see you during ritual, and it was so cool to see you reciting the same words and sharing the same experience as all of us. We had never met, but shared a common bond." That's what makes AOII so special to me. No matter where I go, no matter how far from home I am... I have something in common with the women I am visiting. We share values that have not changed since 1897. How extraordinary that our founders were so forward thinking that our ritual has not significantly changed since its origination.

What I most enjoy is that although we do share the same ritual, AOII's ritual is open to your personal interpretation. For me, it is a time of reflection. Am I living AOII's ritual? Is there something in my life that I could do better to help advance the Fraternity? I try to really listen and apply every word to my daily life. For you, it may be a completely different experience... and that's okay! I encourage you to think back on the last ritual you participated in. Did you look around the room and feel extremely blessed? Were you worried about completing homework?

What do you think our founders thought about during ritual?


Don't Let It Pass You By

Hello from Milledgeville, GA!

I am currently serving as the resident consultant at Georgia College, one of AOII's newest colonies! This is my second colony to work with, and I have to say, although the towns, schools, and women are all very different - the adventure is the same!

AOII Bid Day at Georgia College and State University!
I set out on this journey as an ELC in January prepared to share every ounce of knowledge that I have of AOII with collegiate members. As I am approaching my 10th month being an ELC, I want to share with you what my experience has taught me so far.

I hit the road for my first visit in full-blast mode--ready to change lives, improve chapters, inspire members... you know... all those amazing, miracle things that ELCs in the past had accomplished at my chapter! However, it didn't take me long to realize that, while- yes- it was a good idea to have a game plan, the best experiences were the ones where I stopped to enjoy the moment. We are all guilty of getting caught up in things that we "have to do" that we miss the joy in actually "doing" it.

Making furry friends with Epsilon Chi at Elon University.
So, what I have come to realize is that while it is my role and responsibility to serve and encourage the women that I meet, it has been even more enjoyable having my sisters inspire me along the way. We all know Stella's wish for AOII, "May you have the joy in it all, dear children, that we (founders) have had all the way! May you love one another as happily always as we four have done in a life-long fellowship without a break! And may your descendants in Alpha Omicron Pi bring to you the glory that you yourselves are to us today!" What a beautiful wish Stella had for us, as well as a charge to enjoy each other's company in happiness. The chapter members that I have met on my journey as an ELC have done exactly this. I have made life long friends on this journey and have been positively impacted by all.

While I set out to teach, I have been taught so much. I have learned that going to visit that animal shelter, attending that baseball game, or staying up late with chapter members during a visit is where friendships happen. Enjoy the time you have with each and every AOII sister you meet! It is Stella's wish that we have joy and friendship within AOII! Don't let it pass you by! :)


Repetitious Recruitment

During ‘Recruitment Season’ an ELC's life is mostly made up of recruitment visits. While each Recruitment has its nuances—it is essentially comprised of three basics—recruitment events, conversation, songs/chants, and the inevitable lack of sleep. 
Then comes the excitement of Bid Day, and for an ELC, it is followed by another visit, and another first round of recruitment. 

In the 90s movie “Groundhog Day” Bill Murray’s character finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. At first he is confused and frustrated, then he re-examines his situation and takes advantage of it. He improves himself and uses all his knowledge to help others. 

Personally, I can relate to Bill Murray’s character. I initially thought that ELCs were crazy to do so many recruitment visits in a row. I distinctly remember ELC Clarke Erickson visiting my chapter of initiation during recruitment. On our bid day, exhausted as ever, I asked Clarke where she was off to next, she responded ‘another recruitment visit’. Fearful for her, I sheepishly asked her how many recruitment visits she had been on.  I don’t recall her specific answer anymore, it must have been around six, but I remember thinking— I could NEVER do what she does, that sounds like an exhausting job! 

Now, the joke is on me, as this is my not my first, but second year making my 'recruitment season' rounds. I have learned that the repetition is indeed tiring and it often seems mentally exhausting to know you are flying out to start a similar process again. return, it is so incredibly rewarding that there is no way NOT to want to do it again. 

Kappa Omega at the University of Kentucky doing a run-through of their Skit Round

Having finished my 11th recruitment visit I feel that I have reached the point in the movie where I have mastered a few things and  know that my knowledge can, and does, help the visiting Chapter. 

Also, being stuck in the ‘Recruitment time loop’ has continuously pushed me to better myself as a woman. A personal challenge for me has always been having full confidence in my skills and knowledge, fearful that I will come off as conceited or all-knowing. This time around, my confidence has skyrocketed, I have realized that I do know what I am talking about and that my knowledge will aid the chapter in performing to the best of their ability. 

Lambda Sigma at the University of Georgia Seniors huddling up for a cheer before PNMs walk in to their Recruitment Event.

This year, I have had an opportunity to do more pre-recruitment visits which have made me see the bigger picture of recruitment more clearly, and put a new spin on my 'recruitment time loop'. 

Epsilon Gamma at the University of Northern Colorado taking a photo opportunity during Pre-Recruitment activities
I have also learned to encourage members to realize that their best assets are often their Recruitment Advisers. 

There is so much knowledge Recruitment Advisers carry, sometimes it just takes a new sounding vessel (ELCs) to deliver the same information they have been providing. Recruitment Advisers also have their own 'recruitment time loop' of knowledge to reference-they in one way or another have performed/organized recruitment over and over again. 

Xi Rho at Sonoma State University at their Philanthropy Day Event

Recruitment is full of repetition in itself, each Chapter practices conversation, the mechanics of their events, skits, etc. Seniors in Chapters are often repeating the process for the third time.  Hopefully all AOII members can see the positive side of repetition and take advantage of the vast opportunities for improvement it provides. 

Consistent practice and familiarity with recruitment ideally allows AOII as a whole to provide Potential New Members with an amazing glimpse into our sisterhood. 

-Nevena Pehar

P.S.: I want to thank Lambda Sigma, Kappa Omega, Epsilon Gamma and Xi Rho on my incredibly rewarding visits so far—you have all made me a better person and stronger woman by putting your trust in me!  

Oh The Place You'll Go In AOII

From Amanda's Suitcase

Growing up, many of us read Dr. Seuss books at bedtime. The rhyme and rhythm of his stories were enough to lull us to sleep and leave us dreaming of magical places. No one really forgets those wonderful moments spent reading "Green Eggs & Ham" or "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" Dr. Seuss poems have a special place in all of our hearts.

I was taken back to my childhood memories at Oklahoma State University during their recruitment, as they sang and danced to a "Seussville" themed skit. After many hours spent chanting and smiling in their temporary home at Farmhouse, the women celebrated with 58 new members on Bid Day. Their colorful "All you need is Alpha Love" Bid Day was an extension of the visuals created by Dr. Seuss. In honor of the memories and connections I made on my first-ever ELC visit, here is my own version of a Dr. Seuss original.

Oh(klahoma), the places you'll go!
Bid Day was your day. 
You're off to great places!
You're off and away!
Your officers have new ideas in their heads. 
Your recruiters have sores from their shoes. 
You can steer your chapter any direction you choose. 
You're strong on your own
And you know what you know. 
And YOU are the girls who'll decide where to go.  
You'll look up and down the streets.
Look 'em over with care. 
About AOII, you will say "I choose to live there."
Thanks to the Lambert Construction fleet, 
You will be the coolest gals on the street. 

Out here things can happen
And frequently do.
With OSU people as spirited
and genuine as you. 

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed. 
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead. 
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best. 
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. 
...for people just waiting. 
Waiting for a train to go
Or a bus to come, or a plane to go. 
Or the mail to come, or the rain to go. 
Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow. 
Or waiting around for a Yes or a No. 
Or waiting for their hair to grow. 
Why wait to become an AOII!

Everyone except for you!

Somehow you've escaped
All that waiting and staying. 
You've found the bright place
Where "A Rose Ever Blooming" is playing.  
be your name Stella or Helen or Jess or Bess, 
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your sisters are waiting. 
So, get on your way!

A proud Pistol Pete fan,
Amanda Gilpin 
2013-14 ELC
Iota Chapter/U of Illinois 

Meet the 2013-2014 ELCs!

Schools are getting back in session, which means our Educational Leadership Consultant team of knowledgeable and dedicated AOII women have hit the road to visit each of our 122 chapters this academic year! Learn more about them in the video below. These women are Lauren Stern (Pi Alpha Chapter/U of Louisville), Tiffany Kirkland (Sigma Chapter/U of California Berkeley), Laura Johnson (Alpha Chi Chapter/Western Kentucky U), Helen Block (Zeta Pi Chapter/U of Alabama at Birmingham), Amanda Gilpin (Iota Chapter/U of Illinois), Mandy Hedstrom (Alpha Phi Chapter/Montana State U), Morgan Butler (U of Alabama), Jackie Rae Petta (Theta Omega/Northern Arizona U), Nevena Pehar (Gamma Theta Chapter/U of South Florida) and Kristen Phelps (Kappa Tau Chapter/Southeastern Louisiana U). You'll also learn more about them in the upcoming issue of To Dragma! Stay tuned to AOII Suitcase Diaries: Sisterhood on the Road for stories about their travels and our chapters.

Have Your Own AOII Convention Aha! Moment

Hi sisters!

As the semester draws to a close for many of our collegians and for us as an ELC team, we all have things we are looking forward to!  I am sure all of our collegiate sisters are counting down the days until summer break and our seniors are counting down the days until graduation.  As for this ELC team...I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are looking forward to having more options for clothing than what fit in our suitcases!  However, there is one thing in particular to be very excited about this summer and that is AOII's International Convention in Chicago!

Attending an AOII Convention is an experience that is nearly impossible to put into words but I am still going to try!  When I was Chapter President in 2011, I had the opportunity to attend Convention in Tucson, Arizona and it was more than I ever imagined.  You are able to meet sisters from all across the United States and Canada and connect - just think of the ideas you can share with one another and the friendships you will gain!  You can experience our Ritual on a large scale and see the values and bonds in "real time" that all of our AOII chapters hold dear.  Our chapters are recognized for their hard work throughout the year and biennium with awards as well as being represented in order during the Candle Lighting Ceremony which is open to the public!

Thinking back to when I was an attendee, I have to say that Convention was one of the events that served to be my "a-ha" moment in AOII.  Participating in everything that Convention had to offer was so eye-opening and allowed me to really see the big picture of AOII in a new light.  I walked away with a new appreciation for my Fraternity that allowed me to see beyond the walls of the chapter I was a member of.  It was then that I seemed to understand our sisterhood even more and share that excitement with other sisters learning those same lessons.  Looking back now, it has been interesting to see how many of my fellow ELCs that I met two years ago in Tucson - not knowing where our AOII paths would take us!

Every AOII should make plans to come to Chicago and attend Convention 2013 this summer!  No matter how you get there - bus, train, car, plane, subway -  just make sure you get there to experience this wonderful showcase of our sisterhood!  Our sisters are waiting to meet you and we will see you there!!

Alpha love and all mine,
Meredith Dunn

...And Then There Were Two

Today one by one the ELCs left the Courtyard Marriott-the hotel we spent countless nights in. This is where we interviewed, bonded during training, welcomed two new team members, and spent the last four nights laughing about all the memories made. 

By 2pm there were two of us left in the lobby of the hotel reminiscing about our time spent together. 

We concluded that the ELC experience let's our love for AOII grow endlessly because it allows us to rejoice in the friendships formed not only at visits, but also amongst the team. We end up learning tremendously from one another...  

Brittani- is courageous and sweet. She has taught us to trust ourselves and not be afraid to ask questions. She is passionate in all her endeavors. We have learned that knowledge is power, and to stay as up to date and informed as possible. 

Danielle- has taught us to be authentic, to always be the most genuine version of ourselves. She is the sister to call when you yearn that empathy. One of the most caring and kindest individuals we have ever met. Our DanJay. 

Hillary- is the shining example of accomplishing tasks effortlessly and with grace. Her calmness is much needed in a panic- that is who we call when we are in an ELC crisis. She is so friendly, her acceptance of anyone and everyone is contagious.  

Kimberly- is exceeding the expectation. She has taught us to not only be more technologically savvy, but to never settle and reach for the stars. We have learned to find the fun in anything we do, no matter if it is overwhelming or stressful. 

Kristen- has taught us to not boast about our accomplishments. She is tolerant and patient. We have learned to also simply be more polite and gracious in our daily interactions.  Her sarcasm and humor is infectious. She now has us obsessed with cats. 

Mallory- has taught us how to be motivated and to get through that 'To Do' list effectively and efficiently. She always strives to be the best version of herself (even when wearing Norts). We have learned to think ahead and to not get down about any obstacles thrown our way. 

Mary Kate- is the ultimate recruiter, which has taught us to step up our talking and communication skills. She is so incredibly engaging while being entirely sincere. She is the friend who you have no fear to call, she is everyone's go to person. The inspiring leader of our pack. 

Meredith- she has taught us how to tell an incredibly hilarious and engaging story. We always seek her opinion. She always chooses her words and delivery wisely. We admire her incredible memory and knowledge of crazy facts. She also has an affinity for ghosts. 

Sarah- She is so incredibly dedicated and hard-working. She has taught us how to be loyal to our cause. She serves as an incredible example of college loyalty, and will do anything for her friends. She is the care-taker of our team, and most up-to-date on TV shows. 

"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
-Edith Wharton
Thank you for shining your light sisters!
ALAO, (Alpha Love and All of Ours)

-Arianna and Novena 

For You As For US

From Mallory’s suitcase…

The University of Washington welcomed its 50th Greek organization in the form of 97 bright young women who are now the charter members of Alpha Omicron Pi at UW.  These women are a group of energetic, hardworking, bright, determined, soulful individuals whom I could not be more excited to see make their mark on campus!

Seattle welcomed some of AOII’s best and brightest: Gayle Fitzpatrick, Vice President,Troy LeForge, AOII’s Executive Director, Kara Mantooth, Director of Extension and Public Relations, Mary Catherine Steward, Assistant Director of Extension and Public Relations, Courtney Dillard, Communications Coordinator, Debbie Tam, Network Specialist for Recruitment, Liz Pietsch, Network Specialist for Alumnae, and Meghan Granito, Network Specialist for Development.  The team all joined myself and Kimberly Sons, Educational Leadership Consultant, at the University of Washington to bring AOII to the University of Washington during the weekend of March 8-10th. The team conducted over 170 membership interviews, represented our Fraternity throughout the weekend to faculty and staff, and eventually welcomed 97 outstanding women into our sisterhood.  

The AOII Colonization ceremony is one of my favorite rituals, and to be able to share it with the public is especially exciting.  When the colony reflected on their pledge ceremony the next day at their first-ever chapter meeting, they all thought that one particular phrase stuck out to them.  “I promise to maintain the highest standards of personal conduct,” was mentioned throughout the room as being a resonating portion of the ceremony.  Most women thought that it showed dignity and high ideals, which they were hoping to find in AOII all along.

To give a little bit of background, Upsilon chapter was founded at UW in 1915, and sealed over the group was the submotto “For You As For Us.”  My interpretation of this submotto is that one person shares the hopes, aspirations, triumphs, and pitfalls of the whole group.  An AOII is never alone.  I think that I have one of the best jobs on the planet; I get to witness the bonds that collegiate colony members form almost instantaneously as they embark on their mission to advance the Fraternity and make AOII something exceptional on their campus.  These women already embody their submotto, and their bond is already apparent.  The group was all laughs and snaps at their first sisterhood, and I know that they already have a bond that will continue to grow as they do.

Upsilon is back, with promise, fortitude, and endurance.  These women will undoubtedly do outstanding things in this campus community!


Spring In To Sisterhood

Daylight savings time. Warm weather. Sunny afternoons. Spring break. 

These are all signs of spring and a few of the things I used to look forward to as a collegian after a sometimes-brutal winter. Spring semester/quarter is always packed with campus and AOII activities.  Since being on the road this semester, I have gotten to experience a little snow at Alpha Gamma (Washington State U), but mostly sunshine as I have been in California for the majority of my time on the road! Spring is a wonderful time to focus on sisterhood, as there are so many wonderful opportunities that winter doesn’t always offer. Below are some of the fun sisterhood activities I’ve gotten to experience thus far this spring!

Me, Kasey, Myra, and Amanda from Theta Iota (CSU San Marcos)
While some people did not believe me that it was my first time at Dinseyland, it was true! And while I am 23 and it was my first time, I felt like a child again. Bonding with sisters over Minnie Mouse ears, fun rides, overpriced food, and taking pictures everywhere we went, going to Dinseyland with sisters is something I'll never forget! 

Alpha love on The Tower of Terror!
If you have the opportunity to go to an amusement park with sisters I suggest you go! Bonding with sisters over these things is sure to be a great time!


Melanie, Cassie, Shannon, Jessica, and Rachel from Xi Rho (Sonoma State U)!
Technically a COB Recruitment event for Xi Rho, this chapter had such a fun time bowling! Renting out a few lanes for a couple hours and getting together trying to play without bumpers is a good time to be had by all. I know I'm not the best at bowling but with sisters everything is more fun!

A BBQ/ Cookout!
Me, Cassie and Jessica from Xi Rho, and Quinn (Recruitment Adviser).
Quinn and I's home for a few hours.
A "Wild West BBQ" (also called a cookout in North Carolina) was a fun way to spend a few hours on a lazy Saturday! Everyone dressed up in plaid with boots of all sorts to eat some lunch and hang out! The chapter watched some country music videos and even learned a line dance!

Xi Rho


Depending on where you are in the country there are some great opportunities for outdoor adventures! When I visited Chi Psi (Cal Poly SLO) I got the opportunity to hike Bishop's Peak. Although I had to stop a few times on the way up, when I finally got there the view was beautiful! Taking a hike with your sisters to get some exercise and enjoy the spring weather is definitely something to take advantage of!

Panoramic View from the top!

These are just a few fun spring activities to do with sisters and I know there are chapters also doing wonderful sisterhoods all throughout the US and Canada! Spring is such a wonderful time to reflect on our sisterhood and get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather! Even taking a study break to lay out on the campus lawn and get some sun, or eating lunch outside with your sisters can make a difference in your week!

Summer is coming ladies, just a few more weeks! Hang in there!

Alpha love and all of mine,
Hillary Stewart

The Perfect Match

Can I just start with how amazing the Greek Community at Northern Kentucky University is? With just beginning my journey as an ELC in December, I was a little nervous when arriving at NKU to prepare for our colonization. However, the support that Kimberly Sons and I found here has made our job so enjoyable! From day one, I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing Greek Adviser, Panhellenic, and Greek Community. They have all adopted me as one of their own! I have seen several Team AOII shirts, croakies, and tumblers being worn and carried by other sorority women and fraternity men. I would like to give the students who are a part of Team AOII at NKU a shout out and a huge thank you for everything you all have done in supporting and preparing for AOII!
Today makes day 8 that I have been on campus, and I already feel like I am a part of the Norse Family. The Panhellenic women wasted no time in making sure I felt right at home by immediately supplying me with NKU t-shirts, mugs, blankets, and other goodies!

All of the goodies that the Panhellenic women gave us!

Kim and I are having a blast sharing our sisterhood and what it has to offer to the potential new colony members of AOII.  I cannot wait to be a part of colonization this weekend and watch the women grow and develop into a beautiful sisterhood. Stay tuned... updates on our new colony at NKU will be coming soon! NKU and AOII have been a perfect match! ALAM, Kristen Phelps


Just having a little fun in the Greek Life office

It's Time For School Again! Make Your Own AOII Syllabus

Here we go again, it is the first day of school! You have your crayons, lunch pale, new backpack, and your mom and dad are taking pictures of your new first day of school outfit. Oh wait, that's not right. If only life was this simple on the first day back to school for the next quarter/semester in college. Instead we've got over-crowded classrooms, the stress of getting an add-code for one more class, and freshmen who still don't know how to park in the garage. With all this stress and anxiety, the last thing that we want to do is put added pressure on our members. But with the first chapter meeting, new officers, Fraternity men wanting to make announcements, and SOE's due in less than a month, how do you keep that chapter meeting from running three hours long?

Why not make an AOII survival guide for the semester? I have to give credit to Epsilon Gamma (University of Northern Colorado) for the name :) This packet should contain all the information that members will need for the quarter/semester. This is kind of like the syllabus that teachers give you. It shouldn't take too long to make because LC/CAB officers already have the information to provide to the chapter. For example, all the months of the calendar. This was created and voted on last quarter/semester, so this should be simple to copy and paste into a document. Hopefully, I got your attention and you want to know what else should be included! Well, I'm glad you asked. The first thing that I would suggest is a contact list for all members, LC/CAB officers, and AAC members. A fun touch could be adding their birthdays, which can be found on Facebook. Next, the chapter's academic plan! Because the whole reason we're in college is to get an education, good grades, and find a good job! Then, I would include 101 ways to live ritual (a document that can be found on the ORL). Update it a little bit to fit your chapter and your campus. Then, I would include the policies that our members and chapters have made a commitment to follow- Alcohol, Hazing, and FINANCIAL AGREEMENT. It is important to include the goals for the chapter and LC/CAB that year. What are we going to accomplish? The survival guide will be helpful to remind chapter members to always Exceed the Expectation! Now, for some fun stuff! Include some information about the Fraternity (pre-study guide for the IME), chapter history, and achievements from the last couple years - so you can say, oh, we won Greek Week in 2010, we're going to win it again this year! We also can't forget about the point system. What is your points system, levels, numerical value for each event? Last, some words of encouragement! What are your chapter strengths and how do members contribute to these? Leave some blank areas for members to fill in what they are most excited about for the quarter/semester? Or make a sisterhood activity out of it and include quotes from members with their favorite memory in the organization so far!

Hopefully this alleviates some pressure and announcements, and maybe you can have a sisterhood event instead of being all business that first meeting back. Or maybe you all will get out early and can spend the time catching up with your sisters and best friends on how your break was, vacations, and what you got for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have a great quarter/semester!

Alpha Love and Mine,
Arianna Fota

The Soon-To-Be 117th Chapter

The second I arrived at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, I was immediately taken aback by the gorgeous scenery.  UAFS is a tight-knit school boasting 7,500 undergraduate students with lots to offer: from Greek Life, to Student Government, to Cub Camp, to the Quidditch Club (yes this is real!)  So, I was thrilled that UAFS would soon have an addition to the quickly growing Panhellenic and Greek Community: AOII!

I quickly became known as "the girl with the Twizzlers in the campus center," when I started PR at UAFS.  I made sure I never forgot free candy for the table!  The Greek Community here is fantastic!  Members constantly stopped by the table in support of AOII:

 Delta Gamma hung signs to show their support of AOII's colonization! 

Members from Kappa Alpha Order, Gamma Phi Beta, and Delta Gamma show their support for AOII during our colonization!

Colonization week was one of the most exciting times I have experienced in AOII!  The colonization team arrived after a long day of cancelled flights and 2 hour cab rides. The great city of Fort Smith welcomed Joyce Strout, International Executive Board Vice President; Molly Fenton, Assistant Director of Colonization and Extension; Kelley Schillig, AOII Corporations Relations Manager; Bailey Read, Assistant Director of Chapter Services; Teri Forsythe, Network Specialist - Development; Joelle McWilliams, Network Specialist - Leadership; and last but not least Nevena Pehar, Educational Leadership Consultant.  Collegians from the University of Tennessee - Martin and University of Louisiana - Monroe drove several hours to help out, too!  AOII was ready to take UAFS by storm!

The first round of colonization, "Picture Yourself in AOII" was full of color, a fun photo booth with ridiculous outfits, and values all around. I enjoyed snapping photos of the values the women going through the process held.

By preference round, I already knew that the women showing up were going to make incredible additions to our sisterhood.  Outside the event while Nevena and I were checking people in for the event, one women summoned the crowd and asked if they could make a large circle so everyone could talk and see one another instead of in small groups.  Then, to my surprise, they all exchanged compliments to one another, and some even hugged.  They carried their amazing spirit into the room: after we concluded our ceremony, we looked around the room to see that every single woman was holding hands with each other.  Soon after, the collegians joined in behind them to hold hands, followed by the Colonization Team.  If I had to pick the proudest moment I have ever been to be an AOII, that moment would be right up there.  We all agreed that we had never seen anything like that.

I am pleased to announce that after that evening, we welcomed 30 phenomenal young leaders into our sisterhood that will make up the future 117th active chapter of AOII.  This colony has known what sisterhood is all about from the moment they joined together at our Preference Ceremony!

 The beautiful colony class at UAFS after the colonization ceremony!

 UAFS Sisterhood in puzzle form <3>

Colony members Cara and Amanda holding up the first UAFS AOII homecoming banner!

 Myself, ELC Nevena Pehar, and Vice President Joyce Strout!

Delta Gamma's certificate, welcoming us to the UAFS community!

 Colony members showing some Alpha Love on bid day!

Myself with the new UAFS colony!

Dalissa, a Colony member, with Karly, a Tau Omicron member from the University of Tennessee - Martin!

Members Cara, Siarah, Casey, and Samantha in front of the UAFS lion at homecoming!

Kelley, part of the Colonization team, and Maddi, a Colony member!

Showing some Panhellenic love in the Student Activities office!

AOII representation at the UAFS tailgate!

Group hug at sisterhood!

I have never been so proud to call 30 women my sisters.  Alpha love from Fort Smith, Arkansas!

- Mallory

Recruitment: The Surprises and the Milestones

It's T-2 hours until the first round of recruitment at University of British Columbia, and the women of Beta Kappa chapter are slowly filtering in to prepare for the day. Some are flipping through the latest To Dragma, a few adjusting photo frames and tidying up, a handful touching up their hair and makeup, but most are catching up with each other and enjoying this time that allows the whole chapter to be together before the first meeting of the morning starts.

The ladies of Beta Kappa, ready for recruitment!


This is the beginning of my fifth recruitment as an ELC, so it'd be easy to assume that
this has become a routine by now. Yet every recruitment has presented its own unique triumphs and challenges that make me wonder every morning what crazy thing will happen. All of the ELCs can now laugh about walking into a preference ceremony room at 3:00am only to find a cricket infestation, though the laughs at the time were those of the nervous variety as we worried about how we could get rid of them before the rounds started for the day. Not all of these surprises are unfortunate though--I thoroughly enjoyed hiding behind the pipes and draping during a recruitment party so I could be the classical music DJ.

 Or there was the Great Flood of CSU just a few days ago. In the first of two Preference parties, I was standing on the edge of the conference room watching the sisters of Delta Lambda chapter engage their preference dates in conversation and feeling comfortable with how the party was flowing. The women had prepared so well and everything was going smoothly--it was time to check the score of the Indianapolis Colts game! Little did I know that when I walked into the mens bathroom where all of the AOIIs' belongings were stored I would find bags, shoes, and hairbrushes floating around in a few inches of water that had overflowed from a urinal that wouldn't stop running. It's a good thing that I wanted to check the score of the game because we would've seen way more water damage if we waited until the party ended! You would've thought that the bathroom was in a state of emergency and that us alumnae were the top agents of FEMA based on our delegation and swift recovery of bags. Despite the janitor telling us that the building was going to collapse because of the water damage (it didn't), the AOIIs and women in recruitment were unaffected and focused on the speeches and songs rather than the sound of the vacuum that echoed through the lobby that not-so-conveniently took place in the middle of the Preference Ceremony!

Delta Lambda looking poised and focused, despite the flood!

 I've now been a part of recruitment at a chapter in its first recruitment and at a chapter nearing its centennial. I've seen recruitment at a Panhellenic with 60 women enrolled in recruitment and and recruitment with over 1600. Yet whether we chant or sing, show a skit or a slideshow, sit or stand in our chapter houses or campus conference rooms, the goal is universal: to find our new sisters who will advance Alpha Omicron Pi and exemplify the values Stella, Helen, Jessie, and Elizabeth kept so close to their hearts. Congratulations to all of the chapters who have already welcomed new members into our sisterhood, and best wishes to those preparing for this year's recruitment! 


A Different Perspective

The past 3 months on the road have really given me a new sense of perspective. From visiting newer chapters like Omega Sigma at Oklahoma State (installed in 2012) or older chapters like Alpha Theta at Coe College (installed in 1960) it is apparent that no matter how new, old, small or big AOII’s different chapters are, we truly all cherish the same sisterhood that our Founders wrote about in 1897.  It has been such an amazing journey to see women coming together from all walks of life to create Alpha Omicron Pi at different schools around the U.S. and Canada (although I haven’t been to Canada, Kimberly Sons told me all about it!).
Bid Day at Omega Sigma

Coe College (Alpha Theta) football game

This past weekend I had the honor of welcoming 85 women to be a part of this amazing organization that we call home, Alpha Omicron Pi. Sonoma State’s Greek Community could not have been more welcoming and excited to have AOII on campus. It was incredible to see the amount of support that everyone provided as I was out on campus for a month prior to colonization doing PR. This is a community that AOII is privileged to be a part of, one that already sees how much we have to offer.

Members of Alpha Delta Pi and Gamma Phi Beta supporting AOII!
Being a colony member myself, I can relate to what these women are feeling; and I know that throughout the next few months they will grow to love AOII as much as I do! I am so excited to see them come in to their own throughout the next few months; voting on a chapter name, submotto, and their first set of officers are just a few activities the women have to look forward to!
The Sonoma State Colony is made up of wonderful women (of course!) who are ready to take on the adventure of being a sister in Alpha Omicron Pi. I know that these women, as well as the rest of the women who accept bids to be part of a colony this year, will never forget this experience. It is one that will provide friends for a lifetime, personal growth, leadership skills, and something to do when campus is dead on a Saturday. Seeing so many excited faces on Bid Day made the sleepless weekend 110% worth it. I absolutely loved having the opportunity to be on the other side of a colonization; being able to invite women into our sisterhood is a gift that not many alumnae receive, and I am so happy to have been a part of it!

Bid Day embrace with a colony member

Spending time with the Sonoma State Colonization Team was so much fun! Being able to see women from all different chapters come together and provide a successful recruitment for the Fraternity was amazing. I love that while we may have different views depending on our age, Chapter of Initiation, time spent as an alumna, etc. we all hold the same values in common and want the best for the future of the Fraternity. This colonization would not have been possible without the many perspectives brought to the table by the women on the Colonization Team.

Sonoma State Colonization Team
Back: Andrea Theobald, Sarah Stanley, Kimberly Sons, Linda Grandolfo, Molly Fenton
Front: Kimberly Hamilton, Abby Mason, Jackie Heintz, Me
Whether you come from AOII's oldest active chapter (Omicron) or you are a member of a brand new colony, just remember, our perspectives may differ, but our love for AOII remains steadfast and true.
SSU Colony on Bid Day!

Alpha Love and All of Mine,
Hillary Stewart

Observing More Than People

A few blog posts ago, Nevena gave each of us sub mottos, and she dubbed me as "observant."  While I was hoping for something like "amazing" or "hilarious," I will say that Nevena described me pretty well.  I do tend to notice things that others don't see or realize, and I think this trait has helped me considerably while being out on the road.

One of my favorite things to do is people watch.  Not in a way similar to the song "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, but in a more relaxed setting.  As ELCs, we are never short of people to be around, especially on our travel days.  Airports and bus stations are always filled with a mixture of people and I like to think about where each person has come from.  Where are they going?  What are they going to do when they get there?  What is their story?

Trying to figure out a person's story is kind of like putting together a puzzle.  Of course, I am never going to guess anyone's life completely, but people give off  hints (puzzle pieces) that give me great evidence as to who they are.  That man sitting in his business suit telling someone on the phone to "review the stocks and get back to him in an hour" is probably successful, has a secure job, and is traveling on business.  The woman hugging her husband goodbye as her group of friends wait for her by security? She's probably going away for weekend with the girls.  The large group of male athletes all waiting for the same flight is on their way to a game, matching clothes and all.  You can put together a good picture of who someone is by how they look, act and carry themselves.

If I am able to get a glimpse into someone else's life, then I know they are doing the same with me.  There are a lot of other observant people out there who see me and make assessments.  Why does that young lady have so much luggage?  Why is she traveling by herself?  What is that on her shirt - is that a very small broach or is that a badge of some sort?

When I am traveling, I am no different from any other person in the airport.  I will probably never see any of these people again and they will not remember who I am.  However, as soon as I put on my badge or I use something with AOII written on it, that is my symbol to the world.  I am suddenly no longer viewed as "any other person."  Everyone around me now views me as an AOII, a sorority member, a representative of Greek Life.  Whatever preconceived notions they had about me before I put on my letters are now extremely important.  Did I live up to the expectation they had of Alpha Omicron Pi and Greek Life as a whole?  More importantly, did I live up to AOII's expectation of me?

How about you?  Are you living up to the values that our organization stands for?  We all know that we are still a member of AOII when we take off our badge; we are members no matter what we are wearing.  The notion that we are always wearing our letters - in our hearts and minds - should drive us to demand more out of ourselves and each other.  We should always strive to be our best and to always be a member that AOII is proud to have, at all times.  When we represent our organization by modeling the way, all the other observers and people watchers have a better take-away and will remember us fondly.

Alpha love and all of mine,

Adventures at Texas Christian University
by Crystal Combs

When AOII colonizes a collegiate chapter, our alumnae on the Colonization Team have the special experience of helping to choose some of the newest members of Alpha Omicron Pi! Crystal Combs, AOII Foundation Board Treasurer, writes about her experiences on the Colonization Team for our Texas Christian University colony!  

When I received the call inviting me to participate in the colonization of our new chapter at Texas Christian University, I jumped at the chance!  I love all things recruitment!  The process of watching months of planning and work come together in a series of special events designed specifically to select who will be the future members and leaders of our Fraternity is an amazing experience.  And not one bid day passes when there are not tears of joy in my eyes for all of our new members and the sisterhood that they have now become a part of! 

It was only then that the panic began to set in!  What?  Membership selection?  I haven’t done this in 15 years.  Then I thought that surely it couldn’t have been that long.  And yet I was correct.  My son even counted it up on his fingers!  I was a graduating senior when I last cast my vote for a new sister to join our Fraternity.  And yet, here I was making plans and getting ready to fly to Texas for colonization.  

 And then I walked into the room and saw all of the faces that welcomed me into this process – friends from long ago and new people that will forever have a place in my heart because of these days that we spent together.  It wasn’t long before that old feeling of awe and wonder came back to me as parties and events began taking their shape, rooms began to pop and sparkle, and potential new members began the interview process.  The fact that I had been given the opportunity to once more be a part of progress and development for the Fraternity that I hold so close to my heart was not lost on me!  And neither was the local Starbucks, which provided a much-needed caffeine boost throughout the week!

The days passed by quickly in a maze of interviews and decorations and panda bear stuffing!  And the nights were even more special as I sat around in a circle with my sisters, pajamas on, being a part of the establishment of a new group of women who would be the first generation of AOII sisters on campus at Texas Christian University.  These women would define AOII on their campus, learning about the values and traditions of our Fraternity and establishing new traditions of their own, leaving a legacy for future members to follow. 

I had the opportunity to sponsor two of our new members during the colonization ceremony for this group of outstanding women.  Not only have these women made the decision to be a part of history at Texas Christian University, they have also been a part of shaping the history of Alpha Omicron Pi.  I am so proud to have been a part of this process and I look forward to all that these women have to offer AOII while we continue to strive to provide an exceptional membership experience to each of them!

And for those of you who are not familiar with Texas Christian University, their mascot is the horned frog and their colors are purple and white.  The Brown-Lupton University Union was our go-to place for all things AOII during the week of colonization.  Outside of the Union is a huge statue of a purple frog!  I vowed to myself the first moment when I saw it that I would have a picture with that frog.  It may have been the last stop on my way to the airport headed for home, but it was the icing on my TCU cupcake!

Go Frogs!
The whole TCU Colonization Team. 

With the two wonderful women I sponsored at the TCU Colonization Ceremony!

With AOII Executive Board Vice President Kandyce Harber!

With a Kappa Tau Chapter member and the famous TCU Horned Frog on Bid Day.

Opening the AOII Door to 82 Horned Frogs

When I was first informed that I would be the Resident Consultant for the Texas Christian University colony, my mind was swarming with thoughts. How was this going to go? How am I going to recruit an entire colony of new members? So many emotions, so little time. 

Once I stepped foot on the beautiful TCU campus in Fort Worth, Texas, my mind was finally at ease. I knew why I was here, I could feel it. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in the TCU Panhellenic, IFC, MGC, and overall campus communities. I was able to learn about this institution and its traditions, and in turn, teach them about all things AOII. I cannot even call what I am doing a "job." Rather, it has been an incredible honor to serve Alpha Omicron Pi in this facet. How can I consider this work that I am doing a "job" when I get to go out into the TCU community each day, and tell people why I am doing what I am doing, or why I am still involved as an alum?

Before, I was worried about getting this "job" done. After two weeks of tabling, Informational Sessions and countless meet and greets with campus organizations, I have constantly been reminded why I am an Educational Leadership Consultant and why I plan on staying an active alum for years and years to come. I cannot tell you how many times I got to share my "AOII Story". No matter what your personal experience with AOII may be, there is a reason you joined AOII, a reason you were initiated, and a reason why you are reading this blog right this second. AOII is special. AOII is welcoming. AOII is home. No matter if a woman I told my story to joined AOII or not, I know I left her with a lasting impression of my own personal journey through this organization and how much of an impact AOII truly has on women throughout the US and Canada.

During my time here at TCU I have been blessed with so much support and encouragement from alumnae, Headquarters staff, volunteers and my fellow ELCs. I cannot thank Kaya, Lindsay, Molly, Nevena, Arianna, TCU's AAC and the entire Colonization team enough for everything they have done for me and with me throughout this process. Arianna and I got the privilege of spending a lot of time with Potential New Members in the TCU community, learning from them and introducing them to Alpha Omicron Pi. Speaking for the both of us, I cannot think of a more rewarding experience than colonization. We went from the two of us tabling in extreme heat and passing out lemonade to TCU students, to welcoming 82 absolutely amazing, inspiring and passionate Colony Members to our AOII Sisterhood.

The week of Colonization was full of meetings, interviews and events. On the morning of our Black Tie Affair Preference Round I returned to my apartment to grab something and noticed a yellow envelope waiting for me outside of my door. My wonderful mother sent me a care package all the way from Cleveland, Ohio. She knew how much work and enthusiasm that everyone involved with TCU's colonization was contributing, and wanted to send a quick reminder of how much we had to be proud of. I was overcome with emotion when I read the homemade card that was inside of the package. My mom closed her note with this quote from Linda Parks, "Sometimes we stand outside life-waiting for a door to open to us, hoping the person behind that door will let us in and be our friend. I was once on the outside until a door opened to me and behind it I found not only a friend, but a new world-a sisterhood. Now, I stand behind that door-on the inside, helping to open it for someone else who stands where I once stood." Needless to say, I was emotional reading these words to the women sitting in the room who were soon going to become my sisters. I have been honored with sharing my AOII story at TCU, crediting AOII to giving me a new sense of direction in my collegiate experience, and strengthening my commitment to Alpha Omicron Pi.

Helping establish this new colony at TCU has once again reminded me why AOII is, and has been, a steadfast support in my life. Now, welcoming these new members into AOII, I have been blown away with their immediate excitement and willingness to take ownership of this colony. AOII calls for well-rounded members who will strive for academic excellence, lifelong learning, college loyalty and dignity to name a few. I have ALREADY seen each of these values exacted and embodied in these new Colony members. These women, the AAC and the alumnae in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are absolutely ready to take this colony and run with it. The sky is the limit for TCU and AOII.

Alpha Love and All of Mine,

Mary Kate

Wherever You Go, No Matter the Weather, Always Bring Your Own Sunshine
I have never lived anywhere besides San Jose, California, so you could say I am a bit spoiled when it comes to weather. And I know it might sound silly, but this has been the biggest change for me. 

San Jose is warm during most of the year! Think 73 degrees with over 300 days of sunshine, and did I mention low humidity? The hottest it has ever been while I was alive was 109 degrees and the lowest is 20 degrees. Most of the time though, the high is in the 80 degrees and lowest the temperature will get is 50 degrees. The city will see rain during the months of November to May, but we only get an average of 14 inches. You can sometimes see snow on Mount Hamilton and if you are lucky in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There might be a big thunder/ lightening storm twice a year, but I hardly remember them. 

Humidity, over 100 degrees, rain in August and September, Thunder/ Lightening multiple times a week and without rain? Yea, these were all new ones for me! The night we left Past International President, Barb Zipperian's house, there was a huge storm in Tennessee. So bad that I had to hold another ELC's hand so I wasn't as nervous or scared. Oklahoma, was having record setting highs of 115 while I was there. I could only imagine what other sororities thought of me as I visited other chapter's parties. Florida, there was a tropical storm coming in and raining constantly. It finally was sunny the day I left. Texas was hot! Everyone kept saying how lucky I was though because they were having great weather. Pennsylvania, goes from hot to cold, sunshine to rain, downpour, thunder and lightening. My face is always shocked at the climate when I arrive in a new city.

This is always a hot topic when I meet chapter members and they always say how lucky I am. And yes, I am lucky, but I would trade 300 days of sunshine for 365 days of rain, wind, snow, etc. to have this experience forever. With this job, we quickly come into peoples lives and then leave, just like the weather sometimes. But, I have met new members, collegiate women, and alumnae members that have brought sunshine to my life. In January, you might need to bring me a winter coat and snow shoes, but I want you all to know that you have changed my life and for that I will never be the same! 

Thunder, lightning and NO RAIN in Tennessee! I never knew this was possible. I screamed when I took this picture. 

A fun, sunny day with the Xi Chapter women at University of Oklahoma! We had a pool party and BBQ for Bid Day. Happy 10-year Anniversary Xi!

With the beautiful women at Gamma Omicron, University of Florida, waiting for New Members to arrive on Bid Day. It was sprinkling and cold, but we didn't care! It was too exciting! 
My four amazing roommates from Sigma Rho chapter in Pennsylvania! A few minutes with these girls will sure put a smile on your face. 

Let your light shine and I will see you next time!

Alpha Love,
Arianna Fota

Genuine (adj.) - 

As many of you who attended Leadership Institute this year can remember, the theme surrounding the conference was "Ask Me Why AOII."  To me, this means a lot of things - ask me why I joined, ask me why I stayed, ask me why I now travel for AOII, ask me why I love Ritual, ask me why I am Life Loyal, ask me why I cry over any AOII related slideshow; the list goes on.  We all have a lot of reasons why we joined AOII.

One of my favorite parts about my job is sitting down with an officer (or any chapter member) who I've just met, and asking them, "Why did you join AOII?"  The answers may vary across chapter, campuses, and parts of the country, but the principle is always the same.  I always get some answer that revolves around a common theme: genuinity.  AOII members all across the country seem to be doing something right; they all have captured the hearts of many new members at one point or another because they let their genuineness come through.  They are genuine in their love for this organization, genuine in their love for each other, and genuine in their pledge to themselves to be an AOII forever.

Recruitment season to me is my favorite time.  Yes, we wow the college women with our accomplishments, our rubies and pandas, and our love for any popular song that we can insert the words "AOII" into, but they all stay for a reason!  I think what's special about AOII is that 115 years, 8 months, and 3 days after Stella, Helen, Jess, and Bess dreamed this organization up, we all still in some ways or another reflect the same qualities that they all shared.  They wanted an organization based on the genuineness of friendship.

The women I've met on the "road" are some of the most amazing women I have ever had the privilege of meeting in my life, and they happen to be my sisters!  They are truly what AOII is all about.  Whether it's talking about cowboys at Omega Sigma chapter, chants and their go-to phrase, ''is this real life?" at Kappa Omega chapter, procrastinating homework because you're too busy updating your sister about your life in the suite at Pi Alpha chapter, or lots of discussion with one another about the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars at Delta Sigma chapter, I am convinced that AOII offers friendship unlike any other.

Walking around San Jose State's campus with some beautiful Delta Sigma sisters!

Kara, a Kappa Omega chapter member, and myself outside the HUGE UK library!

Omega Sigma, Rho Omicron, and Alpha Chi AOII sisters showing their Alpha Love for one another!

ELCs at Omega Sigma chapter during recruitment!

Beautiful California scenery with Trisha and Ronni, two amazing AOII alumnae!

Adorable shoes while bowling at Kappa Omega chapter.

We match with our teal!  With Kendra, Emily, and Mandy from Pi Alpha!

And finally, a map hanging in the Delta Sigma house showing just how far our incredible sisterhood spreads!

"Hanging out" with Pi Alpha!

So when someone asks YOU, "why AOII," I hope you have a similar answer.  Whether it's that you just couldn't resist that cardinal red, the jacqueminot rose is beautiful and
non-medieval, or that Juvenile Arthritis Research is near and dear to your heart, I can bet my bottom dollar that the women you joined AOII for instilled in you a genuine love that you now carry into the world. 

I wish all of the other chapters going through recruitment the absolute best of luck!  Keep showing what those roots of AOII are: genuineness.


The Place That We Call Home

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that I am a music lover.  I like most anything and everything, probably to the extent of having a rather laughable iPod and Pandora playlist.  Like most music-loving people out there, I like the way songs are written and really enjoy the lyrics.  This afternoon, I had the radio on when one of my favorite songs started to play and it gave me some inspiration for this blog post.  

What was the song, you ask?  "Home" by Dierks Bentley.

If you love this song, dislike it because you think the radio stations have played it too much, or you have never even heard of it, stick with me.  The lyrics to this song are quite powerful - so much so that each time I hear them, they make me think about AOII.  Sure, this song was written to instill pride in a country, but that's the funny thing about lyrics - they are left open for everyone's interpretation.  

"Free, nothing feels like free though it sometimes means we don't get along. 'Cause same, no we're not the same but that's what makes us strong."

How often in AOII do we hear about chapters who pride themselves on being unique and diverse?  The Founders' even realized how important that was all those years ago.  For anyone who has ever been to a Leadership Institute, International Convention, or even Leadership Academy, those young women can tell you that when assembled, there is no clear cut mold for AOIIs.  Our sisters come from literally all walks of life - and that is what makes it so great.  Our differences are where wonderful ideas stem.  How many LC, Cabinet, or Chapter meetings have you been in where you wanted everyone to just agree to one thing or vote how you vote?  That might start to cause tensions among members, but remember to take a step back.  Everyone's different opinions come together to create things that were better than before - like brainstorming in a small or large group.  If we were all programmed to think one certain way and never wander off the beaten path, our chapters and our members would not be successful.  We are strong because each of us have our differences.

"Brave, gotta call it brave to chase that dream across the sea.  Names, and they signed their names for something they believed."

Granted, our Founders didn't chase a dream across the sea, but they did chase their dream of AOII to span across the United States and Canada!  I cannot fathom how brave that Stella, Helen, Jessie, and Elizabeth had to be to start their own organization.  Can you imagine being in their shoes?  They were already facing the struggles of the time, women's rights were against them, and they were included in a small group of women that even got to attend college.  To have all of that and yet still be so moved by friendship and love for one another that they became pioneers.  They signed their names to become part of this sisterhood, just as we did when we joined - not because we had to, but because we wanted to.

"It's been a long, hard ride, got a ways to go.  But this is still the place that we all call home."

When life gets stressful, recruitment seems like it will never end, or you haven't made your mark on AOII yet, remember that there's always a positive.  Hard times will pass, kick off your heels because recruitment will come to an end, and remember you have many memories left to make with AOII.  Regardless of where we are in life, this IS our home and AOII will always be welcoming to us.  

Until next time,

Alpha love and all of mine,

Meredith Dunn

The Best Time of the Year
As recruitment season approaches for many of our chapters, I want to share my thoughts on the most exciting time of the year! (Don't you agree?!)

Many people compare sorority recruitment to dating, which is a fair comparison, but I personally believe it to be like the first day of school. We have butterflies in our stomachs, we're anxious for the friends (or littles in our case) we've yet to meet, and overall nervous for what will happen that day. During recruitment, it's important to remember, everybody feels this way not just potential new members. Just like the first day of school, we must approach everyone we meet with confidence, eye contact, and a smile.

I'll be the first to admit I love walking the fine line between being frilly and too frilly, the loud door chants, crowded door stacks, matching clothing--lets face it, I love the formal recruitment experience. But more importantly than that I believe in the opportunity recruitment presents to our organizations; an opportunity to meet new people and continue the growth and development of our chapters. We have the privilege of sharing our stories and our passion for AOII with everyone we come in contact with, during recruitment and after. People join people, and our mission as recruiters is to find those women who believe in what we believe and those who share our values. We must strive to find those women of good character and those who will be involved in their college community. As Stella put it, what we want are "high minded, like minded, loyal hearted girls, who will work together happily and hard according to their talents for worthy achievements in and for their college." If we recruit with our values, we can't go wrong!

During our ELC training, one of our guest presenters said the two most important things of the Fraternity are Ritual and recruitment. Ritual is the foundation for our organization and recruitment is the advancement of it. I encourage you all to find time in the busy recruitment season to think about WHY you joined AOII and how you plan on sharing that with potential new members. Share your story and be proud to be an AOII!

ELCs with Omega Sigma (Oklahoma State) Chapter President Cara and VPMR Kaitlyn - these ladies just had their first formal recruitment as a chapter, and rocked it!

Ladies from Iota Sigma at Iowa State University during recruitment!

Alpha love and all of mine,

Sarah Blank

Stormy Nights "Aha-Moments" and Personal Sub-Mottos

I write this at Omega Sigma Chapter at Oklahoma State University. This is the first "official visit" for the ELC team. I could not be happier to embark on the initial big step of this journey with my ELC sisters by my side and an incredible group of collegiates.

This also marks the end of our training at AOII Headquarters.ELC Training was informative, meaningful and incredibly fun.
The Nu Omicron house we stayed at during training!  Thank you Nu Omicron Chapter sisters!

Anything and everything AOII was presented to us. And I feel that in  moments when I am unsure, I will know who to call. Never have I felt more confident in information presented to me, and never have I felt so close to women I have just met.  

One particular moment in our training was what I would describe as my ELC "ah-a" moment.
 Past International President Barb Zipperian had us over for dinner in her beautiful new home. As we sat there, we shared so many stories, and ate an excellent dinner. The ambience was so comforting, we laughed and truly had the best time. As I looked around the table I just felt so fortunate to have this opportunity. I was also reminded of how each of my ELC sisters posses qualities I admire, and how much chapters will benefit from their visits. The warmth and love when looking around the room truly struck me. 

Heading home from Barb’s I felt such a sense of excitement as I pondered how much I would learn from my team and sisters I will encounter. Whether they be PIPs, or Directors I learned that we all do share such a common bond, we can sit and laugh for hours about AOII stories shared. 

A storm decided to join us on our way home. As we sat in our 12 passenger van, there was a mix of anxiety and then sheer excitement from the few who had never seen heat lightning. It was our group dynamic of differing personalities displayed at its best, and most entertaining. I realized I truly wanted to learn form each of my ELC sisters’ varying personalities and incredible strengths. 

At Barb's Home for Dinner
So without further ado, the characteristics I wish I could pack into my suitcase, coming to a chapter near you, or what their personal sub mottos would be:

Arianna- strong &amp; resilient 
Danielle- gregarious &amp; empathetic 
Hillary- genuine &amp; poised
Kimberly- driven &amp; confident/charming
Mallory- exuberant &amp; determined
Mary Kate- ambitious &amp; incredible
Meredith- observant &amp; quick-witted
Sarah- passionate &amp; diligent

As we slowly all depart on our journeys across the US and Canada I know we will call on each other through joys and disappointments. I know that my ELC sisters will make me smile, or rather laugh insanely hard! 

The map Kaya (Director of Advancement and our boss) has in her office.  She is tracking our journeys across the US and Canada.

In a way it all comes full circle, at the beginning of all our AOII journeys we were told by our collegiate sisters that once we were AOII’s, we would be AOII’s forever. Not only are we continuing our AOII journey as Educational Leadership Consultants (or Epsilon Lambda Chi Chapter of AOII as we have dubbed it) but more than ever we have realized that AOII is truly for a lifetime. Only now it will be a lifetime with 8 close friends in addition to all the women that will impact us on the road.  

Roses and Panda Hugs,

Welcome to the ELC Life! 

Here are all of the 2012-2013 ELCs with our AMAZING supervisor, Kaya Miller at Leadership Institute in June! We cannot wait to meet you all and see the awesome things our chapters are accomplishing .
In 2008, if anyone would have asked me what I thought I would be doing a few months after my college graduation, serving as an Educational Leadership Consultant for an International Women's Fraternity would not have been on my list of possibilities. I am sure a lot of women share the same sentiment with me in that I never even saw myself going through sorority recruitment or becoming a member of a chapter. Needless to say, I give thanks to the women in my freshman year residence hall for convincing me to give Greek Life a chance.

All of the experiences that I was presented with as a collegiate member of AOII led me to discover a passion in life that I never saw coming. I was a very active student on Miami's campus, but no other organization even came close to offering me the feeling of acceptance and love like I found within AOII. I found myself constantly surrounded by women who challenged me to become the best version of myself.

AOII introduced me to my best friends, allowed me to grow as a leader, made me proud of my school and helped me prioritize what the most important aspects of college were. The women I met in my chapter, my advisers and other chapter leaders I got the privilege of meeting at AOII International events helped me realize the potential within myself and eventually playing an absolute pivotal role in helping me decide to stay at my university and not transfer schools. After one semester of freshman year, I was uncertain whether or not I had made the right decision on where to attend school. A few weeks into my membership to AOII changed my mind and solidified the fact that Miami and AOII were the perfect fits for myself.

Because of the role AOII played in my college experience, I knew that I wanted to give back to the Fraternity. From being a New Member to serving as Chapter President, my faith in the Fraternity evolved over the years. I learned that the Fraternity offers so much to its members, but at the same time, it is the members responsibility and privilege to serve their chapters with dignity and respect. I decided to apply to serve as an Educational Leadership Consultant as soon as I learned about the program my Junior year. As an AOII, it is our duty to ensure that women have the opportunity to join a chapter and experience the life changing journey that so many of us embark on.

When I traveled to Brentwood, Tennessee to interview for the ELC position at our International Headquarters, I was immediately introduced to a group of women who were beyond inspiring. These women, whom were also interviewing for the ELC role, blew me away. From Panhellenic Executive Officers, to Orientation leaders and everything inbetween, these women were perfect examples of AOIIs from all over North America who exemplify what AOII stands for. College loyalty, scholarship, leadership are just a few areas that AOII calls each member to embrace and exceed expectations in. Needless to say, all of the women I met during the interview process became my friends and people to turn to when I have an AOII question or just a friend to call upon. After leaving Tennessee, I obviously wanted to become an ELC, but I knew any and all of the candidates would reflect credit upon our Fraternity and would be able to greatly impact our collegiate chapters, Networks and awesome alumnae.

I am so beyond grateful for the opportunity to represent the Omega chapter as well as the Fraternity to the greater Fraternity and Sorority community. We have so much to be proud about and we have great opportunities ahead of us that will continue to strengthen Alpha Omicron Pi. Every member of Alpha Omicron Pi contributes to the sisterhood that we cherish and I cannot wait to start traveling and witness the ways in which every single AOII chapter lives our Ritual and outwardly demonstrates the ideals upon which AOII was founded so many years ago.

Alpha Love,

Mary Kate


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