January is a time of new beginnings. Maybe this stems from my time as a teacher, but after the holidays, I am ready to get back into a routine, eat better, get back to the gym, etc. With the start of the new year, I am ready to recommit to working hard at my job (National President) and on my hobby (music).
Grand Council kicked off the year by spending the first weekend in January in Tampa, Florida. For our quarterly in-person meeting. We met on Thursday (a day earlier than usual) and spent the afternoon working through our agenda on basic business items. Thursday evening was reserved for some sisterhood time together. We all know the value in time spent together. This is the essence of who we are. We designated one of the hotel rooms as the “hang-out room”, changed into our comfy clothes, and ordered in pizza for dinner. We exchanged Christmas gifts and spent the evening sharing stories and songs, getting to know each other, discussing Theta Phi Alpha, and generally solving the world’s problems. The seven women who are on Grand Council are a team who are committed to working together to serve our Fraternity. This bonding time helped build our trust in our ability to work effectively together.
On Friday, thanks to Katie Owsianiecki, National Vice President-Collegians, and her facilitation on StrengthsFinder for Grand Council, we learned how all our strengths work together. For the rest of the day we dove into the main purpose for our meeting: our goals for the biennium. We did a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the Fraternity as it is right now. We talked about what keeps us awake at night about Theta Phi Alpha. As we looked at all of these things which we had written on big charts and posted all over the room, we began to see a path to what we felt we most need to accomplish this biennium.
The biggest area of need and therefore our highest priority is developing and serving our members. As alumnae, our responsibilities are to be loyal, life members of Theta Phi Alpha, adhering to our Creed in our daily lives and offering our time, talents and treasure to the Fraternity as we are able throughout the various stages of our lives. We are here to support our collegiate members, helping them develop into the future leaders of this Fraternity. To our collegiate members, your responsibility is to maintain high scholastic and moral standards by adhering to our Creed in your daily lives and to support your chapter sisters in working together to create the best chapter experience possible.
This is what we have expected from our members since 1912 and will continue to do so. We have grown tremendously in the number of chapters and associations and now need to make sure we are serving the needs of those individuals by providing support and consistent communication. Easier said than done, though. Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring, remember? Our goals for the biennium center around member development that will benefit our alumnae volunteers individually as well as our chapters-both large and small, well-established, and younger.
This is a business, and we have to spend our money wisely, in ways that will bring the greatest benefit (or return on that investment) to the Fraternity. If we are supporting our chapters as well as serving the needs of our individual members, we will grow. Without that growth, we will die. We, as Grand Council, are working to clarify roles and responsibilities of National office staff and volunteers from Grand Council on down. Our goal is to streamline and strengthen procedures that enable our Fraternity to function well and serve our members. Part of this involves improving the teamwork between staff and volunteers. We are committed to providing and improving training and support for our volunteers.
We also need to strengthen the infrastructure and prepare for the future financially. We can’t stay in our current National office space forever. The physical building is not very conducive to our needs, but we have made it work. However, we have been talking in our strategic planning about finding a better office space for more than 10 years. That move will become a necessity rather than a wish in the near future so we have started preparing financially. There is no guarantee that the next time we sign a lease it will be offered without an increase in cost. The issue is not if the cost will increase but when.
We have to run the Fraternity like a business, but remember at the heart of it all we are in the business of relationships. Nurturing those relationships is the number one priority. Spending time with my sisters this past weekend at Officer Leadership Training was a refreshing break from the “business” side of the Fraternity. Listening to our collegiate women work together to define leadership (based on our values) was inspiring. These young women get it. Their responses were well thought out and they gave several real life examples of how they have lived our values. Working with my fellow “facilisisters” and Caitlin Parker, our Director of Collegiate Services (who is a fellow Panhellenic sister) was also inspiring. These women get it as well. The promises we all make to serve the Fraternity are alive and well.
Do we have improvements to make? Without a doubt!
Is Grand Council committed to taking steps immediately to address these issues? Absolutely!
What can you do to help? If you are a collegian, serve your chapter to the best of your ability. If you are an alumna and you serve as a National Officer or a volunteer, work in your position to the best of your ability. If you aren’t sure what you should be doing contact the Grand Council member you report to. If you cannot fulfill your obligation, please let Grand Council know so we can work together to find the best person or solution. If you would like to volunteer, fill out the interest form on the website at, http://thetaphialpha.celect.org/national-volunteer-form so we can have a pool of available sisters as positions open. If you are not able to or interested in serving nationally, stay connected locally or virtually.
Finally, remember another quote from St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Our sisterhood and support for each other is alive and well. I am truly proud to be a Theta Phi Alpha and I’m excited for our future.