So Far, and Yet So Near to Our Hearts
How the women of Delta Delta keep the Phi Sig flame alive thousands of miles from ‘home’
March 2, 2010
IF YOU'VE EVER STOPPED TO THINK ABOUT IT, probably no chapter is further from our home base in Elkridge, Md., than Delta Delta at Linfield College. (To give you an idea, you have to fly to Portland and drive west to get there.) It’s in McMinnville, on the opposite end of the country, practically at the Oregon coastline – a distance spanning nearly 3,000 miles.
And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Phi Sigma Sigma chapter anywhere in the world with as much dedication and enthusiasm for our sisterhood, or for the Greek way of life.
Fully 90 members strong, Delta Delta – founded in 1981 and preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary – consistently demonstrates time and again what it truly means to be a chapter of excellence.
This past year alone, the women earned six of the Fraternity’s most prestigious chapter honors, including:
- Outstanding Collegiate Chapter Award (tops of all 108 chapters internationally)
- Membership Recruitment Award
- Scholarship Program Award
- Health and Wellness Award
- “Summa” Scholarship Achievement Award and,
- a Gold Award for Chapter Excellence – demonstrating overall success in everything from chapter operations and financial management to personal and leadership development and philanthropy. (Few chapters internationally achieve this honor annually – perhaps 3-4%.)
And that’s not all. Delta Delta has become an interfraternal tour de force on campus – earning distinction as Linfield’s “Chapter of the Year,” sweeping Homecoming awards five years in a row, and continually setting new standards for community service that define Phi Sigma Sigma as the Greek leader to watch.
But wait – there’s more: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first Phi Sig chapter that has helped create a completely vested scholarship fund benefiting students outside our organization – specifically, single moms or dads who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend college. (More about how they did that in a moment.) Gives you chills, doesn’t it?
Just what is it about Delta Delta that makes it successful? The answer is so simple, it may surprise you.
Their secret is...
From the time the chapter was founded, local alumnae have always been actively involved in guiding and supporting their collegiate sisters on campus, says Dana Vandecoevering, chapter key advisor (and Delta Delta’s founding archon).
Alumnae have felt deeply loyal to, and – here’s the catch for chapters wishing to model Delta Delta’s success – warmly welcomed by the collegians. Working together, they have created a close-knit community of women who are truly committed to living our core values, fanning a flame of true sisterhood that’s so bright, it’s impossible not to see it, no matter where you are in North America. (This is especially true at Conclave, when Delta Delta continually stands to receive Fraternity awards, and the chapter’s collegians and alumnae in the room cheerfully whoop it up.)
“We’ve worked hard over the years to cultivate strong advisors who are experienced in every major area of chapter operations and can assist the women with whatever they need,” Dana explains. In fact, there are a total of six other women who serve on the alumnae advisory board, all of whom attended Linfield and knew Dana as collegians. (Most are so active in Phi Sig, they volunteer at the regional and international levels, as well.) Their combined understanding of the chapter’s strengths and areas of improvement in recruitment, sisterhood development, finances, and university and alumnae relations spans decades.
Equally important, because they’re from the same chapter, they understand its culture of excellence – and the unique personality of its sisters.
“The women of Delta Delta historically have had a lot of spunk, spontaneity, passion, zest for life and high energy,” Dana explains. “That’s what the founding sisters were like. They were risk takers, leaders, even a bit rebellious. And the same is true today: Chapter sisters aren’t satisfied to sit on their laurels. They’re always looking for innovations to make things better, and better, and better.”
And so they have – progressively kicking performance up to new levels, and then aiming even higher from there. (Perfect example: In just two short years, they went from earning Bronze and Silver awards in Chapter Excellence to Gold, in part by figuring out what steps to take to earn maximum points in four key areas of membership: Self, Chapter, Campus/Community and Fraternity.)
A lifelong state of mind
Having a group of dedicated alumnae advisors to rely upon has made all the difference in the world, says Ashlee McKay, former archon who is graduating this May and looking forward to becoming – like many of the sisters who preceded her – an active alumna.
“Our advisors are amazing,” she says. “Anything we don’t understand or ‘get,’ they catch – but they do it in a way that’s respectful of us and the fact that we’re the ones running the chapter.”
Adds Dana, who has served as CKA for 15 years (making her one of the most seasoned advisors internationally): “They’re the ones who are amazing. Student body leaders, officers of campus organizations, honor society members, athletes – all walks of life. They’re very active, very known at Linfield, very sharp. It’s their chapter, so as advisors, we’re big on communicating, but not overly hands-on. They have to make the decisions about where to take the chapter. But they listen to us, too. They know we care. Working together, all these years, is why we’re going in the right direction – the best direction.”
Ashlee and the current archon, Megan Schmeckpeper, both note that having alumnae advisors ever-present at meetings, recruitment functions, fundraisers and other special events gives everyone a feeling of living history – of achieving something special that’s uniquely theirs. Additionally, it gives the youngest sisters role models to look up to.
“We always talk about transitioning from seniors to alumnae status, and what that will be like,” Ashlee explains. “In fact, the Portland Alumnae Chapter is already inviting us to learn more about them, which makes sense for the most seamless transition: Why would you want to join a group you hadn’t heard of before or knew nothing about?” she adds. “This way, we do. We all know what to expect, and how our membership continues for a lifetime.”
Bettering the lives of others
Of the many things that make Phi Sigma Sigma such a prominent force on campus, the one that truly stands out as Delta Delta’s signature service project is the Powderpuff Game. It benefits the sisters’ “Better a Life Fund.”
Held every May for the past six years on what they call “Moms’ Weekend,” the game is one of those family-friendly Greek events that draws together many people across campus for a few hours, raising funds for a worthy cause through ticket sales, a barbecue, silent auction and raffles. Each year, the senior-freshmen team plays against the sophomore-junior team, and special T-shirts designed for the event feature all four sororities who contributed to its success.
“We run the event, and everyone’s invited to play,” Ashlee explains. Last year, more than $3,600 was raised, vaulting the combined value of the fund – which has been accruing these six years – to an impressive amount where the sisters can now put the Better a Life Fund, which offers scholarships to promising young single parents, into action.
Archon Megan, who coordinated last year’s Powderpuff Game, is thrilled it’s finally happening, and that all their hard work is paying off in a big way: nothing less than helping change someone's life. (Imagine for a moment how incredible Delta Delta sisters must feel about that.)
“We’re giving out our first scholarship this year,” Megan says. The amount is significant: $2,000. “We had to figure out how to advertise it through the Oregon electronic scholarship fund site, and we did,” she adds. “We’re all so excited it’s finally going to happen.”
It’s that shared feeling of accomplishment in all they do that defines Delta Delta most of all.
“What separates us from other groups on campus is that we see the difference between being ‘friends’ with someone and being ‘sisters,’ Ashlee explains. “Sisters are more than friends, because there’s a bond there that you expect to know them your whole life. You share experiences with them that are fun, and interesting, and exemplify what it means to be a Phi Sigma Sigma.
“We’re involved in philanthropy not because we have to be, but because we want to be. We hang out with our sisters because we want to,” she adds. “Spending time together as a chapter – and really wanting to do all these things together, is what makes our experience so special. It’s what makes us Phi Sigma Sigma sisters.”
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