by Koren Phillips, Phi Chi (U of Chicago), International Vice President
In Policy Governance, one of the primary roles of the Executive Board is to gain feedback and information from our membership as a key input for our work as organizational leaders. As we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, these connection points have become more important than ever. One positive outcome to our new digital and video-based world has been the opportunity to connect with an even broader cross-section of members through virtual focus groups. During this year’s Virtual Convention, members of the Executive Board were able to meet with our Collegiate Chapter Presidents, a critical piece of the puzzle in understanding the current needs and dynamics of our collegiate chapter sisters.
In a broad-sweeping conversation covering the relevancy and impact of AOII, our Ends and how we can further innovate as an organization, and our hopes for AOII in the future, we were inspired by the commitment and energy of our CPs. Here are some key highlights and takeaways from our time together earlier this summer:
- The highest priority for our Collegiate Chapter Presidents and our chapters is fostering a sense of belonging and the development and maintenance of relationships. They described a deep gratitude for the bonds of sisterhood as we navigated a dispersed and virtual world. They were seeking guidance and support in making the transition back to in person experiences, both related to the lack of face-to-face meetings in the past academic year and with efforts to be mindful of public health and the emotional well-being of our members.
- “Balance” was a recurring theme in our conversation, whether that is finding equilibrium between the business and sisterhood aspects of our organization or balancing AOII commitments with other parts of our lives. Our collegiate chapter leaders shared and communicated a strong sense of empathy, understanding that the pandemic has impacted everyone in different way and that mental health needs to be a priority for us as an organization.
- There was a clear understanding that we, as an organization, need to listen and to support the desires and needs of our members. Especially as we move back into an in person world, there was conversation on how we need to ensure that our members are actually speaking to one another and interacting. Listening is an important aspect of the AOII experience, whether that is at the chapter level or at the international level through focus groups such as this one.
- Self-care and support are important for all members of AOII, no matter their role. We discussed the need for support and empathy for our Chapter Officers, many of whom may feel overworked or isolated in their leadership roles. The Collegiate Chapter Presidents were grateful for this forum of their peers, as they were able to share candid feedback with others who were experiencing similar issues as chapter leaders.
We left the focus group conversation feeling extremely energized. We are so grateful and awed by the dedication, thoughtfulness, and strength of our Collegiate Chapter Presidents. As we have continued to hear directly from our members through our focus group efforts and Membership Connection plan, we are inspired by AOIIs near and far as we work in earnest for our beloved organization. Thank you, to all of our members, for all you do – and a special thank you to our Collegiate Chapter Presidents who spent time with us this summer!