Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Greek Leadership Legacy

By Kristen Klingler, '10, Alpha Gamma Delta

As a senior enjoying my last few weeks at Lehigh University, I’m finding myself reflecting on the experiences that I’ve had over the past four years. It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, I will be on Goodman Campus with the rest of my 2010 classmates, waiting to receive my diploma. What is it that makes the college years go by so fast? Is it the lifetime friends, the unforgettably fun times? Of course, the people you meet and the times that you share with them make a college experience memorable. But the most incredible aspect of college life, I think, is something that people may not even recognize while they’re students - it is the transformation that a person goes through during their time at Lehigh that makes the experience so unforgettable. I am certainly not the same person that I was four years ago and I would never have become the person I am today without the experiences I’ve had at Lehigh and as a part of Greek Life…

If you would have told me during my first semester of freshman year that I was going to join a sorority, I would have told you that you were crazy. To make a long story short… I fell in love with Alpha Gamma Delta, and when I received a bid there, I accepted, thinking that it would be a great way to get more involved on campus and to meet some new people. What I didn’t realize was that by accepting my bid at Alpha Gam, I was getting myself into much more than “just another extracurricular activity.” I was about to make some of the most incredible friends of my life: Friends that would laugh with me through the most ridiculous scenarios… friends that would provide their shoulders to cry on when I needed it the most… and undoubtedly, I met the friends that would motivate and inspire me to work passionately to improve my Alpha Gam chapter, the Greek community and Lehigh’s campus during my four year stay.

I was initiated into the Zeta Beta chapter of AGD in the spring of 2007 and was later elected to be President during my junior year. While I was president, I transformed as a leader and as a person. I learned the importance of communication skills and mastered the arts of organization, time management, and planning ahead. But most of all, I learned how to push myself beyond the limits of what I thought I could do. I learned that with the right attitude and the right people backing you up, no task was too difficult to take on. This was probably the most valuable lesson I learned throughout my entire college career.

So what is the right attitude? And who are the right people?

Well, the right people are those who are willing to support you undoubtedly through anything you may encounter – these people and the support, guidance and assistance they provide will be invaluable as you push through the good times and the hard times. In the Greek community, we have our brothers and sisters and each other to rely on as an incredibly strong network of support. This gives Greeks an advantage when it comes to having the ability to create positive change within the campus community as a whole. And what is the right attitude? For me, the right attitude was realizing that even small changes now may have a large impact in the grand scheme of things on Lehigh’s campus. It is difficult for one individual or one student organization to do something so monumental that it changes the way that the Lehigh community functions or the way that it perceives its Greek population. However, with many student organizations and individuals working together to carry out small initiatives and programs over time, the impact becomes much greater and takes place much more quickly.

I challenge Lehigh’s future Greek leaders to continue inspiring their brothers and sisters to tear down the negative stereotypes that our Greek community is all too often labeled with and rebuild them into the positive reputation that our community deserves. I hope that when I revisit Lehigh in the years to come, I find a Lehigh Greek system that has exchanged its competition from within for more collaboration among chapters and with the rest of the campus community. Lehigh Greek Life attracts some of the most innovative leaders and the most passionate individuals on this campus… we have the potential to positively impact both the image that we portray and the campus climate in which we live.

The path towards creating positive change is not always easy and pleasant. The reality is that nobody ever feels comfortable addressing a problem that is difficult to fix or changing something that has been done a certain way for years. But always remember that no matter how difficult it may seem to carry out your vision as a leader, it is not impossible… especially if you learn to rely on the amazing support system and resources that we have all have access to as members of the Greek community.

So, my advice to future leaders is: Don’t be afraid to stand by your beliefs and challenge tradition. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is never a good answer. Over the past four years, I’ve seen countless “traditions” change for the better, and the result has only made our Greek community, and this campus, stronger. Keep up this forward momentum and don’t hesitate to leave your mark on this campus before you graduate.

Now, as a senior, I look back on my time involved with Greek leadership. I’m reflecting on all of the work that needed to be done, all of the meetings that needed to be attended, and all of the spur-of-the-moment problems that seemed to arise at the busiest times of all. I think about whether or not I would re-do it all, knowing what I know now about the time and dedication it takes to be a leader within the Greek community. I immediately answer, “YES” – I would do it all again in a heartbeat because the experiences I had taught me so much and made me the person that I am today. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I never joined Alpha Gam… I never would have met my best friends and I never would have learned that it is possible to make an impact on something so much larger than yourself or your organization.