Jennifer Holt, Gamma Psi - McDaniel College

So Perfectly Phi Sig

Who doesn’t like and admire Archon of the Year Jennifer Holt? Only those who haven’t met her yet

October 5, 2009

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE, and you instantly feel good – as if all is right with the world?

That’s the feeling you get – literally – in the presence of Jennifer Holt, former archon of the Gamma Psi Chapter at McDaniel College and recent recipient of one of Phi Sigma Sigma’s most prestigious honors: the Jeanine Jacobs Goldberg Archon of the Year Award.

Self-assured and self-effacing, this high-spirited, intensely focused and charismatic young leader epitomizes so much of what it means to be a Phi Sig sister, we couldn’t possibly include all the reasons she earned the distinction here.

But in describing just a few, what becomes obvious is just how much she cares about the organization – and the fact we’ll likely see more of this rising young star as an emerging Fraternity volunteer and leader in years to come.

Collaborative, caring leader

When Gamma Psi won this year’s Chapter Progress Award (becoming a “chapter to watch” internationally for demonstrating excellence on every level), Jennifer – a truly visionary and collaborative leader who launched multiple initiatives to take her group from good to great – was quick to point out it was a team effort.

“This isn’t ‘my’ chapter j
ust because I served as archon,” she said at the time. “Everyone contributed. Everyone had a say in the process.”

Her sisters claim, however, that Jennifer herself implemented key changes in the archon role, and within the chapter, that encouraged everyone to contribute (rather than the traditional “top down” model of leadership).

“She has a way of winning people’s admiration and respect,” says Lindsay Anderson, her “Sapphire Sister” who was so inspire
d by Jennifer’s leadership and friendship that she also ran for, and became, archon (serving this year). “In everything she does, Jennifer critically thinks things through – and then performs them to the best of her ability.”

Chapter Key Advisor Rachelle Seeds agrees. “Jennifer is by far the most caring and hard-working archon that I have seen in my 10 years as advisor,” she says.

Visionary changes

Among some of the changes Jennifer implemented as archon, with far-reaching and positive consequences for the chapter’s future:

  • A comprehensive constitutional review. If that sounds like an exercise in tedium, think again: Jennifer worked tirelessly to bring the policies of the chapter and Fraternity to life, challenging sisters to embrace best practices and draft new guidelines designed to strengthen their group. “Our constitution is more than words,” she explains. “We need to understand our purpose for being here, and to truly believe in the values Phi Sigma Sigma strives to promote – because that’s how we become even better students and women.”
  • Consistently positive reinforcement. Who wrote a note of congratulations whenever a sister achieved an important goal? Jennifer. Who intentionally ended every meeting on a positive note – with a group hug or happy exercise that sent sisters into the world with a smile and a heart filled with love for Phi Sig? Jennifer. Perhaps it’s the nascent counselor in her. (She’s currently on track to earn her master’s in counselor’s education in 2010 – a program she began concurrently while completing her undergraduate degree.) Such efforts worked: Sisters at McDaniel enjoy membership even more, Lindsay says, since Jennifer’s tenure.
  • Rediscovery of our rituals. To Jennifer, Phi Sigma Sigma ritual isn’t just a book or a process. It’s a link from the present to our past – and an opportunity to plumb the mysteries and magic of true sisterhood. “At Gamma Psi, we’d never heard of the ‘Celebration Ceremony’ before,” Jennifer says. “We changed that – and it quickly became a wonderful way for us to recognize all the great accomplishments of our women.”

Outstanding student

Jennifer herself would have been eligible for honors at those very ceremonies, of course, as even the briefest glance at her collegiate achievements would show:

  • Captain of the cheerleading team
  • Member of the McDaniel College Honors Program, as well as an officer of the college’s Trumpeters Leadership Society
  • Order of Omega recipient (the Greek honor society)
  • Inter-Greek Council secretary
  • Sponsorship chair of St. Jude’s “Up ’Til Dawn" Program, and
  • Officer of the campus chapter of Psi Chi, the international psychology honor society.

At the same time, she also held many Phi Sig leadership roles – starting as scholarship chair (revamping the program so sisters focused even more on academic excellence), becoming tribune and scribe, and finally archon: a position she so revered that, word has it, she actually began crafting a speech when she joined the chapter nearly two years before earning the coveted, though highly challenging, leadership title.

“Believe it or not, ever since I set foot on campus, it has been a dream of mine to become the archon of Phi Sigma Sigma,” she says. “When my sisters decided to elect me, that dream came true.”

Extended family

Like most sisters, Jennifer thinks of Phi Sig as her “home away from home.” Unlike most sisters, however, that concept is vastly more important on a personal level because of the incredible challenges she has overcome in her life to achieve happiness and success today.

She lost her mother at a very young age in a tragic situation that removed her father permanently from her life as well. She and her twin brother and younger sister were then raised by her grandparents – only to lose their grandmother several years ago to cancer. “My sisters became a solid rock of support for me – constantly there to listen, hug and encourage me at a time when losing another mother was absolutely unbearable,” Jennifer says.

So Phi Sigma Sigma became a second family to her – and she has continued to expand that family by taking the fullest possible advantage of her lifetime membership: paying her way to attend Leadership Conferences when her chapter officer role wasn’t part of the collegiate delegation one year,
reaching out to international volunteers and leaders who’ve since become beloved mentors, becoming Gamma Psi’s scholarship advisor as a new Phi Sig alumna.

“Phi Sig made my collegiate experience,” she says, explaining how membership changed her life by offering “more leadership opportunities and opening more doors than I can think of…. Not only have I created hundreds of bonds with women that I look up to and consider some of my best friends, I’ve also created a network that literally spans the world.”

Is it any wonder, then, that this Archon of the Year earned such distinction within Phi Sig, and at such a relatively young age?

No one who knows, and loves her, questions it for a moment.

“She’s an amazing person – the definition of a phenomenal woman,” says Lindsay (who counts herself among Jennifer’s best friends). “As her chapter sisters, we feel strongly that Jennifer is someone Phi Sigma Sigma is so lucky to have.”

We couldn’t agree more.


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