For those of you who don't already know, I've been on my sorority's executive board for the last year. I've served as the Public Relations Vice President, which oversees 12 different officers, including Philanthropy, Socials, Standards, Merchandise/Apparel, and Community Service. Having so much under my department has definitely proven to be a learning experience for me, and being on the executive board for my chapter has completely changed me.
Some kind of big news to share with you all: directly before my chapter's Founders' Day Brunch this Sunday, I was elected in as our chapter's incoming President for the year of 2017. This is something that I never expected I would see for myself, but now just feels like a natural next step. My passion for serving this chapter has only grown in the past two years and I'm feeling pretty humbled to have been chosen by the chapter for this position.
In the past year, as I've gone from an officer in the chapter to an executive board member to now the incoming President, I've learned so much that has completely shaped me.
One thing that's been incredibly humbling this year is learning how to deal with criticism. I'm someone that grew up with a thin skin. Any word or look shot my way felt like it could be an insult or criticism. It was something my parents always told me to try to be stronger about and it wasn't really until high school that I started shedding how I felt about other peoples' opinions of me. Being on exec this past year has only made me learn this idea even more. It's difficult to please 7 people (the number on our exec board), let alone over 100 (the sisters in our chapter). More often than not, every decision that was made, made some people happy and other people either didn't care about the outcome or weren't pleased. After hearing a few grievances after my first few decisions, I had to learn that making choices wasn't always easy. I can't please over 100 people. It's physically and mentally impossible for me to do. And it's okay if not every single person is pleased. I've learned that more often than not, people are not actually angry or hurt about decisions, they just want a say.
Similarly, the thing that I've struggled most with as well is how to be as transparent as possible. Being in a sorority comes with a lot of stereotypes, one being that sororities are exclusive. For me, exclusive is everything I do not want my chapter to be. I want to do everything I can in my power to make sure each sister feels like she has a voice, a say, a worthwhile opinion. While it's impossible to implement 100+ opinions, it's important to listen to them all. Each sister is in my chapter for a reason and I want her to enjoy her experience as much as I've enjoyed mine. Listening to sisters' suggestions, complaints, worries, and wants is sometimes difficult and while it won't get easier, I want to be as open and supportive as I possibly can be as a leader in our chapter.
The thing that's been the most humbling in the past year is watching my chapter grow. When I joined my chapter, I was part of he first girls to join our chapter. My chapter was an extension chapter, meaning that we were basically starting from scratch. If you want the whole story, it's that Barnard used to have a Gamma Phi Beta chapter back in 1901 or so and then shut it down when Barnard banned Greek Life. In the 1980s, Columbia started opening up sororities and our chapter was reinstated in spring of 2015, or when I was a freshman in college. For some reason, when I went through Formal Recruitment and met the other 5 chapters on our campus, I loved girls that I met in each chapter, but I didn't see any of the chapters as a home for me. I decided to give Gamma Phi's extension recruitment a try and ended up joining their first class on campus in over a century. Since then, we've had three recruitments, two informal and one formal, and our chapter has grown to over 100 women. It's been crazy to see our chapter grow and grow and go from knowing every single face and name and woman in the chapter to having to be introduced multiple times to fellow sisters. What's been even more amazing to see in the past now almost two years, has been the passion for our chapter grow. Sisters have become more and more passionate about being involved within our chapter and with our philanthropy. It's been incredible to see women who I met going through our chapter's Formal Recruitment just about a year ago joining me on Executive Board. It's been an incredibly inspiring journey to be on.
I was never someone who expected to join a sorority in college, let alone be president of one. I heard all the stereotypes about it and I thought it was below me. If I could talk to my 17 year old self now and explain just how wrong I was, I'm pretty sure she'd laugh in my face. Being a member of this chapter has only grown my love for the world around me and the sisters in my life. Being a leader in this chapter has lit so many sparks inside me and taught me so much about my community and myself. I can't wait to see what President will bring.