by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2017-2019 NPC Chairman
As I travel on behalf of the National Panhellenic Conference and work with today’s young women, I am constantly amazed at the strong desire they have to make an impact and leave a lasting legacy.
During the 2019 College Panhellenic Academy in Indianapolis last month, I was privileged to work with the recruitment officers. Wow! Talk about enthusiasm and passion. They are ready to take on the world. The challenges they face each and every day – whether that’s facilitating hard conversations, finding new ways to market sorority life on their campus or figuring out how to better serve potential new members – are providing them leadership skills to use throughout their lives.
Always a highlight of Academy are the “The Talks: Learning Through the Stories of Others.” Four amazing women shared messages about leadership – what exceptional leaders must be able to do, becoming a stronger leader while “growing up” as the only “other,” the importance of self-care and the secret to successful goal setting and dream building.
Two of the speakers were college senior Alexis Cooper and young alumna Rita Elfarissi. Alexis attends Utah State University majoring in bio-veterinary medicine and minoring in chemistry and biology. She is a member of Kappa Delta and has held many positions within her chapter as well as on the Utah State Panhellenic Council, and currently holds the title of Miss USU 2018-19. Alexis talked about the subtle racism she experiences as the only “other,” and challenged the audience to think beyond stereotypes. Her message was empowering – diversity in Panhellenic life matters. “Strength comes from diversity,” she said. “The different experiences, different backgrounds and different mindsets make a chapter more united. We are change and we need to start thinking about being better by being open to culturally diverse membership.”
“Leadership and Self-Care: How to Cultivate Change While Exercising Healthy Mindfulness” was Rita Elfarissi’s story. A recent graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Rita is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi and served as Panhellenic vice president of judicial affairs. She participated in the Fraternity Government Relations Congressional (FGRC) visits for three years, which gave her the opportunity to advocate for sorority and fraternity legislative initiatives on Capitol Hill. Rita’s message: We can’t lead others if we aren’t leading ourselves. When this became abundantly clear to her, she did two things – started taking a yoga class each day and stopped answering emails after 5:30 p.m.
The courage and passion Alexis and Rita shared in their messages set the tone for a weekend of leadership building. Alexandra Rufatto-Perry and Lindsay Boccardo also spoke on leadership and left messages for leaders to consider. Lindsay noted that none of us can make it alone. We all need each other or a “life team,” a group of individuals hand-selected to teach you necessary life skills and show you how to build a life you want.
The recommendations from Alexandra included always saying, “thank you” and admitting you need help. “Great leaders know how to ask for help because it lets other people shine,” she said. “It makes it safe for other people around you to ask for help too.”
Lorin Phillips, a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, tied it all together and wrapped up the educational weekend in her closing keynote, “Lessons from the Next Generation of Panhellenic Women.”
She recommended making this year about building each other up and taking care of ourselves. “Be a support system for one another,” she said.
Bottom line: Leadership is a choice, but when you make that choice, be free to commit yourself to it while also taking care of yourself.