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As time flies by and the semester wraps up, we wanted to check in with our 2017 graduates. While we miss them, it's great to hear about their next journeys! Here is what some graduates had to say:
It is a surreal feeling that a year has almost gone by since I graduated from Saint Louis University. Looking back, I greatly cherish my time as a SLU student and, more specifically, a Theta. After moving across the country to Boston in August, I have begun taking graduate classes at Boston University School of Public Health. I am working towards my Master in Public Health degree with certificates in Healthcare Management and Maternal and Child Health. I have also recently accepted a position as a Graduate Assistant at the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. In addition to graduate school and work, I am also planning on getting more involved with the Theta alumnae chapter in Boston. Looking forward, I am graduating with my MPH degree in December 2018, and am hoping to get a healthcare management fellowship at a children’s hospital somewhere in the United States. I am excited to see what the next year or so brings me and for more visits from my Eta Omega sisters (I have had 4 sisters visit me so far)!
I am taking a gap year before medical school. So I’ve recently applied to several schools and currently waiting to go on interviews. I’m currently living in St. Louis. I am working as an Emergency Room Scribe to gain more experience in the medical field before starting school. I work as an Irish dance instructor at studio in St. Louis. Over the summer I got my EMT (emergency medical technician) certification. I am volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and I’m going to start volunteering at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In my free time (lol) I am doing a lot of traveling!! I went backpacking through the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. I went on a road trip with Erica Prasad from St. Louis to LA, stopping at many places in between! (My favorite part being hiking Angels Landing) I’ve also travelled to London, Paris, and Marseille France (also with Erica!) I plan to take as many trips as possible!
I graduated from Saint Louis University in May 2017, and since have moved to Boston, MA. Here I am enrolled in a Master in Public Health program at Boston University, studying epidemiology and biostatistics. My favorite part of the program is the opportunity to collaborate with so many individuals with all levels of professional experience, from physicians to nurses to community health workers, and create solutions to some of the biggest health issues our country faces, including the changing insurance market and the opioid epidemic. On the weekends, I have been exploring the New England area, and my favorite adventure so far has been hiking in New Hampshire! This summer I will be participating in a practicum in Boston to work on a cancer research project doing data analysis. After graduation, I will be applying to medical school and hope to return home to Illinois to practice rural medicine.
Post graduation life has been a challenge that I wasn’t exactly expecting. I realized I have interests in working outside of my undergraduate major, Nutrition & Dietetics with an Emphasis in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I enjoy PR and Marketing, areas that I had some experience with as Chief Recruiting Officer for Theta and through my Entrepreneurship classes. My interests in these areas led to the decision to pursue an MBA. I am currently working on my applications and running my cookie business, Brookie’s Cookies, in the meantime. The holiday season is always a busy one! The challenge now is to find a full-time position and part time MBA program in the same city (I’m hoping for Chicago). The most important thing I have learned post grad is that, while it’s important to have a plan, plans can and will change. Being open to changes is often the best course of action. So right now, I am staying positive and working on finding the best fit for me.
I work at Barnes Jewish hospital on a cardiothoracic surgery stepdown unit as an RN. I moved to the Central West End and got a puppy! I recently traveled to Maine to meet my boyfriend’s family. I got a car in the last few weeks so that's exciting. I also went to my grandbig’s wedding in Chicago a few weeks ago to her high school sweetheart who was in TKE at SLU.
Since graduating in May I have been up to a lot. I am still at SLU, in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. Along with my post-baccalaureate course load, I was hired by two companies to work part time. I work for Advantage Nursing Services where I am a LPN and Home Health Aide for a young woman with spastic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and is non-verbal. Most of my summer was spent with her as I accompanied her to day camps and adapted activities to allow her to participate with her peers. My other position is at a specialty hand therapy clinic through Athletico Physical Therapy where I am a Rehabilitation Aide. Here I work with two hand therapists to work toward the best continuum of care for their patients.
One of our sisters, Natalie Bierbrier, is a sophomore from Dallas, Texas. She is also a passionate Occupational Therapy major. The first week of October is dedicated to national mental health awareness by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and in that spirit Natalie kindly offered to write a blog talking about her personal experiences and the importance of mental health.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects 2.3% of the population. Many individuals living with OCD are ashamed of their own behavior and suffer in silence, experts estimate that less than 10 percent of those with OCD currently receive treatment.
Not only is OCD highly stigmatized, as mental illnesses are, but it is also glamorized. Many view OCD as a “cute quirk” and throw around the term as if it is an adjective. It is not uncommon to hear, “oh my god, I’m so OCD,” “that stack of papers is so uneven, wow I'm so OCD.” Mental illnesses are not adjectives, they are debilitating disorders that affect millions of people each year. OCD presents differently in every person, is not a one size fits all disorder.
For me, OCD did not take shape in the form of needing every pencil to be sharpened at exactly the same length.
For me, OCD took form in ways no one would ever think of. I remember showing signs of compulsive behaviors around the age five or six, but it was not until I was fifteen that I received an official diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
For me, I can list out my diagnoses faster than most people can say their address. By the age of eighteen, I had received multiple diagnoses: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Excoriation Disorder, Trichotillomania, Impulse Control Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, just to name a few.
For me, OCD is debilitating. The amount of obsessions, compulsions, and delusions I experience are unfathomable. I had this certain delusion, “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument,” that my cell phone was going to take pictures of me and post them onto social media. Sounds irrational right?
For me, my compulsions seemed rational, necessary, imperative. For over three years, I would not change if my phone was in the same room as me, I would not be in the same room as my phone if I was wearing a sports bra or a swimsuit. I was certain that if I was in the presence of my phone and I was not fully clothed, somehow, this inanimate object was going to take a picture of me and post it on the internet, by itself, this glass object, capable of performing an action not possible without a human doing so.
For me, this is my daily life. I feared that by downloading social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter, that the amount of anxiety I would have would be unbearable. By allowing myself to use these modern applications that so many peers and young adults utilize, I was in part, signing away two to three hours of my day checking every post I scrolled by, every picture I liked, every tweet I submitted. This irrational compulsion was driven by my belief that I had accidentally written something on someones picture or post, accidentally commented something horrible and despicable. Again, these actions were only capable by a human performing them, yet OCD told me that my phone was capable of accidentally commenting vicious words or mistakenly liking someone’s post. Sounds like hell right? It was.
For me, I joke that my room is messy, but my brain is organized. If you know me, you know that my room is a mess. Pretty contradictory for someone with severe OCD right? Wrong, having OCD does not mean that everything has to be neat and tidy. Having my clothes strewn on the floor or papers on my desk doesn’t give me anxiety, but having someone touch my hairbrush or try to put a hat on my head overloads me with panic.
For me, OCD does not control my life as significantly as it used to. Partly due to medication, partly due to therapy. Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person. To anyone suffering from OCD or another mental health issue, you are so much more than your diagnosis. You do not even need a diagnosis to be struggling. Some days are more of a struggle than others, but I am trying the best I can, and I’m trying to be the best Natalie I can be for myself and others.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
On September 27th, Eta Omega’s Priscilla Rivera joined the ranks of nearly 87,000 Court Appointed Special Advocates. As a CASA, she will speak for America’s most vulnerable children: those in foster care. Rivera first heard about CASA through Theta and she says she “fell in love with everything that CASA is about and I made it one of my personal goals to become a CASA. From personal experiences, I know how strenuous it is to be in a position that you did not choose to be in. I feel that I can relate this to foster care children because they did not choose to be in an abusive home or in a home in which they are neglected.”
Rivera completed the five-week training before becoming an official CASA, which consisted of combined online and in-person training. She says, “I had a great time getting to know the people in my CASA class as well as people who trained us. It truly was eye-opening to learn about the foster care system and what my role as a CASA will be.”
According to the official CASA website, nearly 700,000 children experience abuse or neglect annually. Rivera says, “As you may or may not know, when a child goes through the foster care system, they are exposed to numerous amounts of case workers, social workers, and attorneys. However, a CASA may be the only person that still stands with that child at the end of their journey in the foster care system. Some CASA’s stay in touch with their child even after their case is closed. A CASA’s consistency is the key to those life-long differences for that child and it means the world to them.”
Barbara Smoyer Peterson is a Theta alumnae that recently received a service-learning grant from the Theta Foundation which enabled her to attend a conference held at the Cambio Center at the University of Missouri. There Peterson, who is an adjunct professor at St. Charles Community College, learned about being a linguistically and culturally competent teacher. While the Cambio Center focuses on making a welcoming environment for Hispanic immigrants to the region, Peterson said that the concepts taught at the conference can be applied to students of a multitude of backgrounds. Peterson says that the concept is important because there has been very little patience with non-native English speaking students in the classroom setting.
At the conference, she gained inspiration for her anthropology course and the English as a Second Language course she is starting this year. Within her anthropology course, she hopes to implement what she calls a “language road map.” This idea stems from an activity that took place at the conference, where participants were asked to draw their linguistic repertoires. Peterson adapted the concept into a timeline, where each mile marker indicates a different age. Onto the road, students can place cars that represent when, and to what extent, they learned a language. For example, a student who learned Spanish at home as a child could put a certain color of car on the first mile marker. If they then learned English in kindergarten, they could put a car for English at that later mile marker. The activity will show people a new way to look at linguistic diversity. Peterson said, “Instead of talking about how they don’t speak English, talk about why they do speak Spanish.”
This understanding of linguistic diversity is important because it affects many non-native students. Peterson says, “Let’s be more sensitive to the culture of students and how students speak, how they learn and the self-esteem issues that are tied into when you get to school and find that people laugh at the language you speak at home.”
In a similar vein, the conference brought up Gloria Anzaldúa’s quote, “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk bad about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language.”
Peterson says that if she is lucky enough to have a student that speaks another language, she’ll see it as an asset. Just as it was for Peterson, the Theta Foundation is a great resource for learning opportunities for alumnae and current students. For more information, pleasevisithttp://www.kappaalphathetafoundation.org/about/
This summer, Thetas Alli Ladage, Carly Vordtriede, and Nina O’Connell travelled to the Emerging Leaders Institute at DePauw University. Alli Ladage and Nina O’Connell share what ELI was and how it impacted them.
What is ELI?
Alli: ELI takes women who have leadership potential and gives them confidence and empowers them to act and make a positive change.
Nina: ELI stands for the Emerging Leaders Institute. It is essentially a seminar for Thetas interested in becoming more useful, skilled, and courageous leaders. It brought together 60+ leading women from all over North America, including Canada. It helped us analyze how each chapter interacts with its school community and allowed us to brainstorm ideas for possible actions we could each take to improve Theta in our home chapter.
What was the most memorable part of ELI?
Alli: The most memorable part for me was when they asked us to write down what was holding us back from doing something and so many people said confidence or the fear of failure.
Nina: The most memorable part for me while I was at ELI was we played an activity that involved every Theta. We responded with "always, sometimes, or seldom" to questions about how our chapter behaves on campus, and it was very eye opening to see how each chapter reacted differently to each question. It made me realize that some chapters have the same problems we do, and that some chapters deal with situations I've never even thought about.
What were you surprised by during ELI?
Alli: ELI surprised me because it formed bonds between me and sisters that lived across the country in four short days. We still talk to each other everyday and check in.
Nina: I was pretty surprised that not all of the facilitators were Thetas. Half of them were males and the other half have worked with Theta before but were never Thetas themselves.
What was ELI's impact?
Alli: ELI impacted me because it gave me a lot of confidence and redefined my definition of leadership. Going forward, I'll use what I learned at ELI to strive for positive change and to give others as much confidence as possible because that's what people told me was holding them back.
Nina: I felt that ELI has allowed me to become a courageous and heartfelt leader, and to always share my ideas even if I don't think people want to hear them; because if I think that I have a good idea then someone else might too, and if not then we can work together to come up with a better solution to the problem we are facing. I believe this ideology will also follow me throughout other aspects of my college career and hopefully beyond. Overall, I found ELI to be an eye-opening experience that also allowed me to make friends with Thetas all across America and Canada.
Natalia Ziemkiewicz is a rising senior in Theta. She is from Chicago, Illinois and is studying Biomedical Engineering. Here is her Theta story.
Both my freshman and sophomore year I was interested in registering for formal recruitment, but both years the weekend recruitment fell on I had prior commitments and was unable to do so. I didn’t know Theta was even a sorority on campus. However, my knowledge on sororities changed over winter break my sophomore year. I was traveling to Honduras with Global Brigades to help plan and later work on implementing water systems into various Honduran communities. The trip was a SLU-Mizzou trip, and it was only after our flight was delayed and we were stranded at the St. Louis airport that we all began to talk and discuss our college experiences. It was on this trip that I met Rachel Neuhalfen, a Theta who graduated this past year. While stuck in the airport she told me all about Theta and how it had changed her college experience for the better, making her step out of her comfort zone and helping her build relationships that thrive to this day. As the hours passed, we began talking to the group of women from Mizzou, and almost all of them were also a part of Theta. Over the course of a week we all bonded and I learned about all their favorite Theta experiences. Although their experiences influenced my perception of Theta, what really inspired me and made me want to join Theta was how different but alike each of these individuals were. They were all strong, funny, independent women that wanted to change the world, but they all had their unique traits and I could see how these differences brought them together and made their relationships stronger. After the trip to Honduras, classes started and a girl in the same program as me, approached me and asked about whether I would be interested in attending a few informal recruitment events. A few weeks into second semester of my sophomore year I attended an event and this further solidified my want to be a part of an organization that was bigger than myself. I was hesitant to go at first because I didn’t know anything about sororities, only what I had seen in movies and I didn’t want to believe that those movies were accurate representations. I attended the event and all the girls that I met were genuine, they even remembered me after the event and said hi to me in passing on West Pine! It was the genuine smiles and strong personalities that led me to Theta.
Theta has definitely made me step out of my comfort zone. It has pushed me to my limits, and taught me that I am always capable of more. I have taken on more leadership positions, become more confident in myself and my work, and I have learned to always ask questions. Theta has given me the opportunity to form relationships with women that I would not have otherwise met. For example, my twin, Liz Cary, and I are more different than alike, but she has become one of my best friends and my go to when things aren’t right. I met individuals with different dreams and wants, individuals that I can talk to for hours while losing track of time, and individuals that have shown me what a support system is. Theta has given me a home away from home, I mean walking down West Pine and recognizing so many smiling faces is an amazing feeling, everyone is so nice and wants to talk to you, genuinely wanting to know how your day.
I would say my favorite part of Theta would be the dysfunctional family I am a part of. We’re all so different but when we’re together it’s like time has stopped and it’s some of the best moments I’ve had at SLU. Random lunch/dinner dates or just chilling and talking, whenever I’m with them I can be myself and we can laugh at just about anything, it’s great. My little. Emily Look, is one of my favorites, she’s just great and quirky and I love her. Other favorite moments in Theta include food dates with Madison Streb, or dancing with Daniela Feliciano. There are so many good memories with the women in Theta, it’s hard to pick a favorite when the only memories I’ve made have been good.
Empower to me means to lift someone up, to make them feel confident and sure of themselves. Empower means to support someone until they know that they are worth more than they believe and that they have so much potential. Empower is a word that symbolizes many of the women that I have befriended in Theta, they are continuously reminding me that I can accomplish my goals and that my dreams can become a reality.
Good news! Finals have come to an end, so we can finally take a breath of fresh air and get out of the library. But first, a reflection on why we were there in the first place. Scholarship is an important ideal in our chapter and sorority, which is made self-evident each semester by all the Thetas seen studying around campus. Last semester, 18 women in our chapter received 4.0 GPAs and 102 women received above a 3.5 GPA. Since it is something worth celebrating, we honored all of them at our scholarship banquet. Our scholarship director, Brielle Bright, said, “Scholarship being Theta's highest aim means that I always have someone to motivate me to do my best in school, since that's why we're in college in the first place. Bettie, Bettie, Hannah, and Alice created Theta to be a support system for college women, and academic was definitely part of that.”
There are many reasons why we value scholarship. The overarching reason is that higher education is what we are here for. College is a time for discovery, exploration, and service, but at graduation we are handed a diploma for what we learned. So, congratulations ladies of the Eta Omega chapter, way to complete (and complete well) what you set out to do.
April 6th was National Alcohol Screening Day. This is a day that raises awareness not only about harmful drinking practices, but for other mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Many know that anxiety is a major issue on college campuses, as is alcohol abuse. However, this day can also connect at risk individuals with a variety of treatment options. If you would like to complete a mental health screening, http://howdoyouscore.org/ offers a free and anonymous way to do so.
As a sorority, Theta also works to ensure the well-being of our sisters. Kate McCollum, our Chief Operations Officer, says, “I think one of the best resources Theta offers its members is the Sister Supporting Sisters Mental Health Initiative. Its mission is to encourage dialogue about mental health and create a safe environment for members to discuss mental health challenges. As part of this initiative, Theta has a 24-hour phone line called Talk One-2-One. Any member of Theta can call this line to discuss a wide range of issues, including stress, anxiety, mental health, and alcohol and drug abuse. Members can talk to a counselor through this line for free and it will be kept confidential.”
If needed, we hope that everyone takes this opportunity to reach out for help. As a part of Theta, we are all sisters supporting sisters.
Last Wednesday, our chapter had the opportunity to hear Judy Schechtman speak to us about approaching leadership as women. Judy runs leadership workshops, along with owning her own private practice for social work. She spoke of how leaders do not need to be 6’0 tall men, who speak authoritatively in front a room, but can be anyone, in a variety of fashions. Leaders can be introverted and quiet, and they definitely can be women.
This talk resonated with me and many women in the room. Some girls shared that they have been told that they are not tall enough, or that their voice isn’t deep enough. Judy shut that down, with wit and practicality. She stressed the importance of having confidence in ourselves and carrying it out in our speech.
One example of a woman with, in my opinion, incredible diction and confidence is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, who gave an insightful TED talk titled, “We Should All Be Feminists.” While I think that it is beyond doubt worth listening to, there is one excerpt that I found especially relatable. It describes something akin to what Judy Schechtman said she’d experienced before, when she was leading a leadership conference with her male business partner and was automatically introduced as his assistant. Adiche says:
“I have a friend… who took over a managerial position from a man. Her predecessor had been considered a ‘tough go-getter’; he was blunt and hard-charging and was particularly strict about the signing of the time sheets. She took on her new job, and imagined herself equally tough, but perhaps a little kinder than him… Only weeks into her new job, she disciplined an employee about a forgery on a time sheet, just as her predecessor would have done... The employee complained to top management about her style. She was aggressive and difficult to work with, the employee said… It didn’t occur to any of them that she was doing the same thing for which a man had been praised.”
That last phrase describes part of the problem we have with women as leaders. We expect them to bring about a “women’s touch,” which perhaps they are not apt to do. These slights at women leaders are remarkably relatable to most women, and perhaps especially to sorority women. I once had a professor make fun of women in sororities by imitating them using a high-pitched voice and vapid facial expression. He did not make a swipe at fraternity members, while at the same time asking the class which members were in sororities, as if to bring his joke to life. Of course, this isn’t a major injustice. However, these stereotypes against women, leaders and sororities are things that many do deal with.
This assumption that women, or sorority women, may inherently not be good leaders makes one of Judy’s points even more poignant. She said that if given the opportunity, she encourages us to help fellow women climb up in their careers. In other words, she urged us to build each other up. What I thought of first, was that emboldening each other is an important aspect of our sisterhood.
I’m so happy that I can be sisters with ladies that I know will bring me up instead of tearing me down, all the while accepting me for who I am. Our voices are not too high and none of us are too short. We are all leading women.
Here is the link to Adiche’s TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc
We are the Eta Omega chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at Saint Louis University. We were established on November 9th, 2013. We have over 180 wonderful sisters that are alike in many ways but all with unique interests. Our blog will highlight many of these.