Illinois State University made history this month, sending 72 undergraduates to the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values (AFLV) conference.
It’s inspiring to know all Greek chapters and councils were represented at the conference and able to gain from this experience. This landmark opportunity to advance the community was made possible by the Areté Greek Leadership fund, established during Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State.
Illinois State was one of 300 campuses present and engaged at the conference, which exists to accelerate progress in fraternity/sorority communities. The students and staff engaged in a host of keynote and educational sessions, all of which breathed new life and a sense of pride into our sorority and fraternity community.
Angelica Rodriguez, president of the United Greek Council, returned from AFLV invigorated and ready to pursue change on campus.
“It was really special seeing how other campuses are driven to achieve more for their communities. The other council leaders and I are ready to work to build friendships across councils and make big things happen for Illinois State,” Rodriguez said.
Fostering friendships outside of her immediate circle was only one of Rodriguez’s takeaways. She also raved about an educational session facilitated by Tina VanSteenbergen ‘11. VanSteenbergen encouraged vulnerability in her session, which discussed feminism and the role of women’s organizations.
VanSteenbergen believes Illinois State’s Greek community inspired her to be the professional, speaker, and sorority woman she is today. While completing her graduate degree in the College Student Personnel Administration program, she was initiated as an alumna into the Alpha Gamma Delta, Beta Omicron Chapter.
“Those 38 women that lived in the chapter house while I was house mom shifted everything about me and my world. Between those women and my experience in the CSPA program, I have a lot of gratitude for my time at Illinois State,” she said.
What makes this conference so special in VanSteenbergen’s eyes is the energy.
“AFLV is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Students, who are often newly elected leaders, have so much enthusiasm and are highly motivated to create change. Seeing that excitement from the Illinois State students at this year’s conference, especially as an alum, was really special,” VanSteenbergen said.
The conference provided space for students and presenters alike to talk about what matters most in the fraternal community. For Ciara O’Malley, Alpha Omicron Pi’s vice president of communications, what was most salient were the sessions on mental health and sexual assault.
“Since I’ve returned from the conference, I have been thinking a lot about the health and wellness of our members,” O’Malley said. “I have a much better understanding of why it is important to listen when people disconnect from our organization and how to connect them with resources that can help them when they are struggling.”
Keynote and breakout presentations such as “Greek Out Over Your Resume” and “When We All Vote” were amazing but what cemented this conference as truly memorable was the awards banquet. Illinois State brought home five awards. The Wilford A. Butler Change Maker Award was given to Jeff Boaz of ACACIA Fraternity, for advising with a spirit of inquiry and remaining focused on the needs of the community, as opposed to the singular needs of the chapter. Boaz’s award nomination stated, “This advisor’s approach, starting with asking “Why?” helps the students take a step back from the situations they are dealing with and analyze the best solution. Boaz doesn’t solve issues for the members; rather, he ensures the members learn how to ask questions and solve their own problems.”
“It is because of Jeff Boaz that I am in my role as Interfraternity Council (IFC) president and leading with confidence,” Clark Purdy said.
AFLV opened the doors for chapter members and council leaders to think differently and discover ways to be more united. The community will come together again on Birds Give Back, to show gratitude for the current donors who have made this learning opportunity possible and to raise additional funds for Greek leadership programming.
Alongside many other Redbird alumni, Dr. Suzette Walden Cole, Ph.D. ‘19, a former adviser and staff member of Illinois State, will champion the fund.
“If the financial resources had been made available when I was serving as a sorority adviser, it would have allowed the community to recognize and address issues like hazing and alcohol that commonly plague Greek communities,” she said. “Our Redbird leaders need this conference to openly discuss the complex and confidential dealings happening in their community.”
Give to the Areté Greek Leadership Fund and be part of the vast community of alumni and friends who support today’s students in thinking differently about Greek life.