Friday, October 13, 2017

Feature Friday: Cristiana Villani, Gamma Phi Beta








Puzzle me this: Accurately constructing someone’s identity without having all the pieces to who they are, where they are from, what they love, hate, speak etc.

At the Center for Gender Equity (CGE aka “ge-spot”) retreat, we designed puzzle piece paper cut-outs with descriptions of our inner most identities and had a colleague, who was practically a stranger, try to piece together and explain our lives back to the group. It was probably one of the most vulnerable, yet enlightening experiences for me at Lehigh. Regardless of how many theories I read or histories I sympathize with, this activity showed me how influential and frightening it is to be on the other side of the a socially-constructed perspective.
            
I now understand why Lehigh and the CGE ardently encourage students to practice bLUeprint foundations, like inclusive leadership, that culminate in better and deeper relationships. I strive to employ these guidelines in planning my events. My CGE project, Love Your Body day & campaign, aims to impact students and staff of all genders, races, ages, abilities, mindsets, organizations, etc, so that everyone’s intersectional identity is represented and celebrated. It also starts a conversation about ongoing campus sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and other beliefs destroying people’s self-image. The events planned have the potential to influence not just our school, but also society’s unwritten discriminatory and unfair procedures.
            
It is important that more voices be heard and dominant culture be awakened to communities they typically do not interact with, blatantly critique, or deliberately undermine. The tension on campus is at an all time high and through the CGE, I have learned how (and would suggest others) to get more involved, meet new people, create unexpected relationships with the faculty and staff, and get voices heard AND respected.
             
I think many Lehigh students get caught up in the mainstream college experience and forget about the dynamic communities outside Greek life. Fortunately, my Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies double major offers me a kaleidoscope lens to look through, seeing beauty and opportunity in places others overlook. This is what led me to the Center for Gender Equity. I had often walked by (collecting many pro-woman pins), but never entered until this year. It is like walking into another universe, one that I had been searching for throughout my past two years here. The staff and interns are like me; we speak the same nerdy activist language. I feel truly confident to be un-apologetically me AND get school credits!
             
With a dynamic group, the “ge-spot” undeniably allows me and any person who walks in the opportunity to unforeseen connections with individuals across campus, connections that are absent in the Greek community. Thankfully, some of my CGE colleagues (shoutout to APhi’s Holly Gwydir) are trying to change that.
             
Projects and events I learn about whether it be CGE or Greek Allies-related, I share with my sorority and beyond. In GPhi, I became a self-appointed deputy house manager, decorating the bulletin boards around with upcoming events, body positivity posters, and other creative designs that relate to the CGE and other clubs. The change that is needed for progress to be transformational requires action from all parties.
 



Friday, October 6, 2017

Feature Friday: Tanairy Ortiz, Kappa Alpha Theta


What it is to be a Greek member and CGE Staff Member
-Tanairy Ortiz

It was during my first-year orientation that I was introduced to the then Women’s Center.

As part of our programming, we had to complete a list of places around the UC that we had to check off from our blue Draft Book—I happened to have chosen Track 4: Inclusive Leadership. And leadership I found, indeed.

I entered the Center and was told everything about what they did, their focus, and their goals for the Lehigh community. A week later I was on an interview with Dr. Rita Jones for a position as a graphic designer, and to be honest with you, I had no idea what I was doing. I did not know much about feminism and the importance of intersectionality. I was a recent high school graduate turned first-generation college student being thrown into a different world with a dissimilar vocabulary to learn and not much knowledge about college life. I managed my way through the interview and got the position right away.

It was at the Center that I learned about feminism, sexuality, privileges, and how every intersectionality, whether by race, color, religion, political or socioeconomic status, all ties back to being an intersectional feminist (or not being one). It was at the Center where I truly matured and learned beyond textbooks, where I met people with different backgrounds and experiences and where I’ve had the most productive and enriching conversations of my life. I was not confronted by a wall whenever I would speak to people like how I did back home; I could actually try to persuade others or have others persuade me to be more open-minded to different ideas.

It also became the place where I would interact with my now sisters, although at that time I had no idea. (It’s quite funny; one of my sisters who was also a staff member wanted to interview me about my thoughts on Greek Life for the Brown and White two semesters ago and I did. I ended up telling her that I never thought I would rush just because I had no interest in it, but here I am, writing a blog for all of you).

I tried rushing my first year to no avail; all plans fell through and no one could join that specific sorority for that semester. I decided that I was not going to rush anymore as I was devastated, but in the end, it was all for the better. I spent my first three semesters instead focusing on my studies and my work at the Women’s Center, trying my best to be as involved with the Center and everyone working/interning in it. I met visiting professors and was invited to numerous high-end events by Rita, and by the end of second semester I gave a speech for the Center’s 25th anniversary (plus creating the logo and flyers for the event). I also became the lead for our discussion series “Gender in a Global Context” where I speak about the intersectionality between globalization, feminism, politics, and everything in between.

After the much needed identity development, I decided to give rushing another try, and by the end of rush I was part of Kappa Alpha Theta. I was already close to some of them through our collaborative work at the Center, but it was in Theta where I got to immerse myself in a different setting with them, and have them lead by example as to what Theta stands for. I am glad I was able to have that familiarity with them because I was integrated to Greek Life much more smoothly than what I had expected. To this day, there are five Thetas working at the Center, with two more occasionally volunteering for scattered activities.

It makes me appreciate Greek Life more, knowing these leading women and seeing how involved they are. Some are involved with bringing Lehigh a discussion on the wage gap, some others are focusing on self-love and body image, and others are looking into the intersectionality between feminism and the LGBTQIA+ community. I have continued my work with “Gender in a Global Context” and graphic design, and I am always looking forward to helping them develop their personal projects.

Despite the many rumors and setbacks that often occurs within Greek Life, I want to remind everyone that there are many like us that are involved, that are growing, and that are developing their identities and leadership skills within and outside of Greek Life. We all are working in improving ourselves individually by getting involved with different offices, organizations, and philanthropies in hopes of changing the views of Greek Life for the better. Being both a Greek member and a staff member at the Center for Gender Equity (also known as the GE Spot, the spot where all the gender equity happens) has taught me much about how Lehigh is truly invested in their students and evolving them to be world leaders. What I learn from Theta I get to bring to the CGE and present discussions on gender and fraternities; what I learn from the CGE I get to bring to Theta and inform my sisters about new events or ideas to be discussed. It is a never-ending cycle of constant learning that I am extremely grateful to be part of.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Intervene


Check out some stats regarding the latest educational program facilitated by OFSA and DOS staff members, Intervene.  The workshop was required for second-year members of fraternities and sororities before classes started.  For more information about Intervene, click here.  If your chapter is interested in using Intervene, please reach out to Ashley Baudouin, amb512@lehigh.edu. 


Friday, September 29, 2017

Feature Friday: Eric Rizzi, Theta Chi








Here is Eric's perspective on "Balancing First Years and Fraternity Life"

Being an Orientation Leader is the best decision I have made at Lehigh thus far. It is an experience like no other on campus, and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It strongly mirrors the experiences I have shared with brothers of my fraternity, which is another aspect of my campus life that I deeply cherish. The camaraderie between me and my fellow staff members is something that closely parallels that inside the Theta Chi house. 

One concept that immediately became apparent to me in orientation that mirrors that of Greek life is being a part of something greater than yourself. Orientation gave me the opportunity to step back and really see what sort of people make up Lehigh’s campus. Whether it be in the lens of major, class year, Greek vs. non-Greek, or even where someone came from originally, we all had to come together to make the orientation experience the best it could be. All barriers of campus life were dropped at the door, which gave all staff members an equal opportunity to freely participate, contribute ideas, and ultimately grow as individuals. This sort of “open to being open” mentality is something I see benefiting our Greek community on a large scale. There is so much that we can learn from one another, and the letters on our houses don’t have to be a divide for intellectual or charismatic growth.
               
Once the brothers in my house started to move back in during the orientation training period, I quickly remembered how special the bonds I share with my brothers really are. I took that idea to heart, and applied it as much as I could throughout the orientation experience. To my benefit, I was able to make deep and personal connections with several staff members, and they are now some of my closest friends who I can say hello to anywhere on campus.
                
Orientation was a very fulfilling experience, and I would highly recommend doing it to anyone who is even remotely considering it. It showcases some of the best personalities Lehigh has to offer and offers the ability to effectively grow as a student, a leader among the community, and a better person on the whole. I look forward to applying as a returner in the near future.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Feature Friday: Gaby Montes, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.




Huge thanks to this week's Feature Friday, Gabriela Montes!  

Community service, social justice, education, and sisterhood. Through my involvement in both the Community Service Office and my sorority, these themes remain at the core of my daily experiences and complement one another well. I love being both a CSOer and a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated. Both positions have taught me so much and made me into a stronger leader and better individual. It is great to bring what I learn in the CSO back to my sorority and the Cultural Greek Council.

The Community Service Office has helped me become a better leader and has helped me to fully understand and know how to share with others the value of meaningful service and the grandiose importance of working together with one’s community. Meaningful service calls one to be in communication with their community and to know their needs at that point in time. This communication allows them to know how they can best work with their community. Working in the CSO has also allowed me to understand how important the connections we have with our community partners are because in the past they did not exist. The community and Lehigh used to not work together at all and it was as if there was a large barrier between the two. I find it important to remember this historical context and not take the partnerships for granted.

My membership in Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated has also honed my leadership skills and with the emphasis on the principles of unity, love and respect, allowed me to continue my passion for service and spread it to even more people! I have the ability to not only teach my sisters about meaningful service, but to carry lessons about communicating well with partners, ensuring we work “with” people rather than “for”, and many others to our chapter and council. I have also been able to use my frame of reference from my work in the CSO to bring ideas out into the community and foster those relationships.

It is my goal to always continue to learn from my involvement in these amazing organizations and share such lessons with others and our community in impactful ways.