By Laura Knobel (Iota Alpha, Alumnae Initiates), assistant director of lifetime engagement
A communications director in the metals industry in Birmingham, Alabama.
A human resources specialist in Seattle, Washington.
A Montessori paraprofessional and small business owner in Dayton, Ohio.
Under ordinary circumstances, these women may have never interacted. However, 2020 has been anything but ordinary, and Alpha Chi Omega has a way of bringing together women from all walks of life.
Alpha Chi Omega has also proven itself to be remarkably adaptable. Just one of many ways our Fraternity adjusted to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic was the addition of virtual Initiation Ceremonies for our collegiate new members whose campuses were closed before they had the chance to be initiated as lifetime members of Alpha Chi Omega.
With 26 additional women across the country suddenly halted on their path to membership through the National Alumna Initiate Program (NAIP), it became apparent that our newly modified virtual Initiation Ceremony would be needed one more time before the summer was up.
On July 23, 2020, nearly 100 Alpha Chi Omega sisters gathered on Zoom with our National Council to welcome these 26 new alumnae initiates to our sisterhood. In a meaningful display of unity and cooperation, the National Council and headquarters staff conducted our sacred Initiation Ceremony. There were beaming smiles, tearful eyes – even applause. It was clear that the connections to our Ritual were just as deep over videoconference as they would have been in person.
New initiate Susan Stegemann Michel (Iota Alpha, Alumnae Initiates) admits, “At this point during the pandemic, Zoom fatigue was real, and I probably joined that call with lackluster expectations. Yes, I was excited, but it was still ‘just a Zoom call,’ I thought. I was so wrong. That Zoom call was remarkably distinct, memorable, sincere and beautiful. Everyone did a wonderful job to make the event unique and special, and it is truly something I’ll never forget.”
Particularly special was that each sister could see the faces of others as they participated in this beautiful and momentous occasion. To see such a diverse group of women come together in the bonds of sisterhood was awe-inspiring for those in attendance.
“During the initiation, I looked around the Zoom call at everyone on there and said, ‘I really did this. I really belong to something of different cultures, different backgrounds and different lifestyles…I felt accomplished,” shares LaKeshia Horton (Iota Alpha), one of the new initiates.
Also diverse were the reasons the new initiates were drawn to our sisterhood — each one with a uniquely personal explanation for why Alpha Chi Omega was the sisterhood for her.
The mother of an Alpha Chi Omega member at the Alpha Upsilon (The University of Alabama) chapter, Shirley Fagan (Alpha Upsilon) sought a deeper connection and a group of women to call sisters: “I am a first-generation college graduate, and my family was not in a position for me to join a sorority… If I could have chosen a sorority to join, it would have most definitely been Alpha Chi! It has created an even closer bond between my daughter and me.”
Jasmine Williams (Iota Alpha) connected with our philanthropy of domestic violence awareness. “I was in an emotionally and financially abusive relationship for eight years. I am passionate about empowering other women to leave their abusers as well as educating them about signs of potential abuse.” Enthusiastically, she adds, “Real, strong women empowering other women; it’s the way I live my life!”
Now a few months post-initiation, these new sisters are eager to start connecting and engaging with Alpha Chi Omega. Most quickly joined a local alumnae chapter or Rho Chi Rho, the alumnae chapter for alumnae initiates. Others are interested in volunteering with the lifetime engagement department or serving on collegiate chapter advisory boards.
For Jasmine and Susan, that volunteer journey has already begun – and although they will advance the collegiate experience virtually for now, they will get to work together supporting the Zeta Xi (University of North Carolina at Greensboro) chapter. Jasmine will soon start her term as the chapter’s recruitment advisor, and Susan has been invited to serve as its Panhellenic delegate advisor.
Not only did July 23, 2020, mark the first-ever virtual initiation for NAIP, but it also represents the largest group of alumnae initiated simultaneously. In a year like this, it would be easy to think that there is no point in starting something new. But like many of us who are leaning on sisters for support during this time, these 26 new Alpha Chi Omegas discovered the certainty of sisterhood in uncertain times.
It may feel like the world has stopped, but Alpha Chi Omega keeps on turning – and that is something truly extraordinary.
The National Alumna Initiate Program continues to welcome women of all backgrounds to lifetime membership. Is there a woman in your community you think would make a great Alpha Chi Omega? Click here to learn more.
This story was originally published in the winter 2020 Lyre. The magazine is sent to all collegiate members and alumnae members who have achieved the Life Loyal Roll through cumulative gifts to Foundation. Learn more about the Life Loyal Roll on our website.