Tuesday, April 13, 2021

From the NPC Chairman: The State of the Conference in 2021

Per the Bylaws of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the Board of Directors shall submit an annual report to the Council of Delegates during each Annual Membership Meeting. During the 2021 NPC Annual Membership Meeting, held virtually on April 10, the board delivered its annual report of the activities and financial position of NPC. Following is an edited version of excerpts from the chairman’s portion of the report, presented by NPC Chairman Carole J. Jones.

During the June 4 (2020) Council of Delegates call I shared a quote from Cora L.V. Hatch – “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

This past year has certainly been a year of adjustment as the NPC Board of Directors continuously assessed the changing winds brought on by the pandemic and anti-sorority activism, and carefully and thoughtfully adjusted our sails in response. When the pandemic hit and students were sent home last spring, the board’s focus had to quickly shift from conversations about the future of sorority and Project 2029 to how to protect sorority members and the sorority experience in the moment of a very real and ongoing crisis. I am humbled by the support of our member organizations, inspired by what we accomplished together and energized by the potential for big things to come.

The challenges of this past year offered us an opportunity to test changes to the ways in which we recruit and to begin eliminating barriers to membership, including some financial barriers. In response to the relevancy research conducted last summer and presented to the NPC family last fall, staff and members of the board have been engaged in considerable conversations about the findings and appropriate responses to them.

As announced earlier this year, we have launched an examination of the cost of sorority membership with the context of growing over-arching concerns about college affordability. As part of this yearlong project, data has been gathered and reviewed regarding the costs associated with Panhellenic membership recruitment and we are already at work incorporating what we’ve learned. …

Knowing that NPC can more effectively tell its story when it is backed by data, the board has been committed to partnering with research experts. For example, we partnered with VOX Global for the 2020 relevancy research. Those research results have informed our current and future marketing efforts, such as Join a Sorority Week and new quarterly campaign templates for College Panhellenics. And, we’re beginning to roll out updated NPC messaging and proof points – supported by the relevancy research and other sources – to help us focus on our strengths and improve public perceptions.

We are also pleased to partner with the Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform as we embark on two companion research studies that will evaluate cultural competency and diversity, equity and inclusion within NPC-affiliated sorority chapters. The two studies will measure the level of cultural competency among sorority women at both minority-serving institutions and at predominantly white institutions. Researchers will also identify best practices for strengthening competency and enhancing inclusion within sorority chapters and communities. …

But it hasn’t only been the pandemic that has influenced the board’s work and the work of the Conference and its member organizations. As part of the strategic plan, the board had begun strategic discussions regarding racism and inequity within Panhellenic organizations prior to the pandemic and the conversations about racial injustice. This has helped bring greater clarity to these topics and set us on a path to create a more inclusive, equitable and accessible Panhellenic sorority experience.

We appointed the Access and Equity Advisory Committee, and they have been diligently working in three areas:

  • Auditing of Unanimous Agreements, policies, best practices and template documents. …
  • Consulting on inclusion of diversity factors for NPC workforce recruitment focusing on creating an accessible and equitable recruitment, hiring, application, selection and onboarding process as part of our commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce, both staff and volunteers
  • And third, identifying barriers to access created by norms and practices at the campus level. Data from College Panhellenic area advisors, chief panhellenic officers and member organization chapter services staff has been gathered and reviewed to develop a better and broader understanding of barriers that exist on the campus level.

We know that collegiate members seek to hold NPC and inter/national leadership responsible to make changes within current policies and practices in response to the demographic and attitudinal shifts that will continue to happen within the collegiate environment. Moving forward, as we work to create positive change toward access and inclusion within our organizations, the Access and Equity Advisory Committee will be focused on recommending potential pipeline programs for recruiting a more diverse group of high school women and helping to educate them about the Panhellenic experience, identifying barriers to sorority membership based on social identities and reviewing Resolved to Educate resource documents in order to provide recommended edits to include more inclusive language.

And, finally they are working to recommend a process for reporting bias and discrimination by Panhellenic community members, recognizing that adjudication of such incidents would likely be handled by individual member organization chapters.

As we lived through this uncertain year, I believe there is a silver lining as it has helped us make change faster than anyone ever expected. The spring task forces led the way in ensuring Panhellenics could operate during the pandemic and prepare to welcome new members last fall. The need and desire to make aggressive and significant changes to the way we offer membership, removing barriers to the cost of membership and responding to questions of diversity, inclusion and gender identity that reflect our values and respond to the expectations of our members and prospective members all fit into the larger whole of visioning the sorority experience in 2029.

We continue to discuss and examine ways to help our Panhellenic communities reflect the diversity they would like to achieve, consider and work to change the systems and norms within the Panhellenic community that have historically benefited and centered the experiences of women of privilege and empower our members and volunteers to openly discuss race and racial injustice. …

We have learned this year that we cannot predict what the future holds, but rest assured our commitment to our mission will not waver. Together, we will continue to build upon a stronger, healthier sorority community. Each of us are concerned about our organizations’ survival during this time of uncertainty. We are all grappling with complex challenges, but it is crucial that we understand how these challenges and our responses to them affect the greater good of our Panhellenic communities and the Conference as a whole.

One example, and a great win for the sorority community, was our win at Harvard. It took two years of legal maneuvers and the issuance of many public statements condemning the school’s actions, but Harvard women once again have the opportunity to celebrate sisterhood. We look forward to rebuilding that Panhellenic community to be stronger than ever.

However, the fight to protect the fraternity and sorority experience is far from over. Many institutions seek retribution against our membership organizations for a variety of reasons. So, the value of fraternity and sorority life must always be at the forefront of our mission.

We are all the Conference. It is not a separate entity. As we work to leverage our strengths to advance sorority, let us remember the values we have collectively committed to – relationships built on trust through transparency, accountability and mutual respect. Innovation and our core values of friendship, leadership, service, knowledge, integrity and community guide us in fulfilling our mission of the advancement of the sorority experience.

I invite you to imagine with me the impact we can have together in the years to come. The board looks forward to our continued work together as we make sound decisions and understand how to thrive in today’s ever-changing world.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

From the NPC Chairman: Honoring strong, valiant women

Dear friends,

Celebrated during the month of March in the U.S., National Women’s History Month traces its beginning back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911. As celebrations of International Women’s Day increased throughout the years, both in public school districts and on college campuses, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation in February 1980 declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week. 

In 1987, due to the growing popularity of Women’s History Week and after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Since then, a special presidential proclamation is issued every year honoring the achievements of American women.

In Canada, Women’s History Month is celebrated in October to coincide with Persons Day on Oct. 18. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and girls as trailblazers throughout Canadian history.

This year’s National Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.” Honoring the valiant women who have fought for a woman's right to vote in the U.S., the theme is being carried over from 2020 and captures the spirit of these challenging times. Since most 2020 women’s suffrage centennial celebrations were curtailed, the National Women’s History Alliance extended the annual theme to 2021.

Most certainly, I equate this theme with the women of the National Panhellenic Conference, who are also valiant as we tirelessly advocate for the sorority experience and work to preserve the women's-only experience. We are persistent in ensuring our sorority and fraternity communities stay vibrant and healthy, and we refuse to be silent when our rights to sisterhood are threatened.

As you know, sisterhood is the foundation of sorority, literally and figuratively. When the first sorority was founded on a college campus more than 150 years ago, women were overwhelmingly outnumbered by their male peers. Sororities provided a crucial support system in environments that were anything but welcoming. Women have largely triumphed over these early obstacles, now surpassing men in college enrollment and achieving higher graduation rates, but it doesn’t mean that women don’t still need their own spaces on college campuses…spaces that allow women to support each other.

Today, our sororities typically provide the only student-organized women’s-only safe spaces on campus…spaces that allow women to empower and to advocate for one another. We know these spaces are sorely needed on campus and within society. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, we saw the rise of women’s-only co-working spaces and empowerment zones for women entrepreneurs. These are the type of spaces so many women look for to help them flourish.

And we know that college-going women are looking for this type of experience…a sisterhood and a shared experience. 

As we find ways to celebrate Women’s History Month, we will continue to focus on the future of sorority and preserving the experience while at the same time adapting and evolving to meet the needs of our members in this ever-changing world. As sorority women we will be strong and valiant in our efforts to keep our sisterhoods thriving and to advance the sorority experience together.​

Panhellenically,




Carole J. Jones
NPC chairman


Monday, February 22, 2021

Finding a Passion for Advocacy

When Ivy, a member of Delta Delta Delta, began classes at Washington State University, she wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives. Knowing one way to do this was through politics, she decided to major in political science. But, it wasn’t until her third year in college when Ivy challenge herself to apply for a state senate internship that she discovered her true passion for advocacy.

Ivy with her chapter sisters during Bid Day.
Each semester Ivy pushed herself to do one thing outside of her comfort zone. Her first year in college, she joined a sorority and gained a group of women who would always fiercely support her. When she was applying for an internship that pushed her outside of her comfort zone, Ivy’s sisters were there to step in and support her. “My sorority sisters are the ones who really helped me out filling out the internship application,” Ivy said. With their help, Ivy submitted her application and waited. 

 It wasn’t long until Ivy heard back and began moving forward in the interview process. While she was nervous, Ivy’s sorority experience prepared her for this moment. All the recruitment conversations, life skills programming and networking opportunities gave her the confidence she needed to believe in herself and her abilities. “My experience helped me present myself in the light I wanted others to see me in,” Ivy said. 

Ivy soon learned she had received the internship and would be working directly with Senator Mona Das. “They couldn’t have placed me with anyone better who best aligned with my values,” Ivy said.

During her time as an intern, Ivy did a lot of things you might imagine an intern would do. She answered the phones, sorted the mail and took notes at constituent meetings. She also gained a greater understanding of the inner workings of state government. She was able to learn about the financial aspects of bills, organize events and wrote proposals. The legislative aids she worked with were able to act as mentors. They offered her advice and ideas on the important work she was doing. Most importantly, this internship helped Ivy find her true passion. “Through this internship, I found my passion for advocacy and realized how many more opportunities I could have to help others with a law degree,” Ivy said. 

Ivy at a plastic pollution rally.

Ivy graduates in May 2021 with the intention to attend law school in the fall of 2022. Before heading to law school, Ivy knows she has a bit more work to do in her community. Over the past year, she has organized many grassroots campaigns to support social justice causes she cares about. By working with others in her community and the local government, Ivy plans to continue to challenge herself to step outside of her comfort zone and to make a positive impact on the lives of others.



Tuesday, February 9, 2021

From the NPC Chairman: A time for celebrating Panhellenic sisterhood

Dear friends,

WHAT IN THE WORLD? Galentine’s Day…when I first heard about this event on a morning news show, I thought, “Good grief, another holiday for the retail world.” But, the more I thought about it, what a great way to celebrate Panhellenic sisterhood.

According to The New York Times, Galentine’s Day, celebrated on Feb. 13, is for celebrating sisterhood with your women friends, whether single or not. The celebration was created by Leslie Knope, the "Parks and Recreation" fictional main character played by Amy Poehler. She invented the holiday as a tribute to her close girlfriends and hosted a waffle brunch.

via GIPHY

I’m going to digress for a moment. My spring 2020 calendar was chock full…until March happened. The last in-person meetings I attended for NPC were the Annual Membership meeting and Board of Directors meeting in Dallas March 7 and 8. After returning home, my husband and I were looking forward to our annual ski trip to Park City, Utah. On the morning of March 15, while getting ready to leave for the airport, all the ski slopes closed resulting in the trip being canceled. While I was relieved that I didn’t have to board an airplane during a time of uncertainty, it was just the beginning of all my travel coming to a halt. My spring calendar had included speaking at the Nashville Alumnae Panhellenic scholarship luncheon, Northern Virginia Panhellenic luncheon and the Houston Panhellenic scholarship luncheon. The time spent with Panhellenic sisters was stripped away.

All of this to say, NPC collegians and alumnae across North America are experiencing the same thing – in-person meetings and celebrations have moved to Zoom and travel is limited. Many of us are tied to our computers as we work or take classes and attend meetings virtually, and Galentine’s Day gives us the perfect opportunity to take a break to connect with our ​​​​​​Panhellenic friends and celebrate sisterhood. 

If we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic, ideas abound for gatherings with sister friends including pink-themed parties, dinner or brunch at a fancy restaurant or a group mani-pedi. But this year, with most of us staying at home, take the celebration virtual:

•    Order your favorite meal and enjoy a chat while you eat.

•    Play trivia together online.

•    Watch/stream a movie together.

•    Take a virtual class – exercise, cooking or baking.

•    Organize a secret cupid gift exchange.

There’s no wrong way to celebrate our Panhellenic sisterhood, and taking advantage of Galentine’s Day is the perfect time to acknowledge the lifelong bond of sorority membership and the experiences we share.​

Panhellenically,




Carole J. Jones
NPC chairman

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

From the NPC Chairman: Being flexible and innovative in unprecedented times

Dear friends,

As the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021, it struck me how much our lives have changed since last March when social distancing and virtual meetings became our new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to experience a very different way of living and learning, and has challenged us to be flexible and innovative. 

As students return to campus this month, the safety of our members, volunteers and campus professionals with whom they interact continues to be a primary concern and focus for the National Panhellenic Conference. I get it, many of us have COVID fatigue and we can’t wait for the vaccine to be widely available, but I encourage the use of NPC’s #StopTheDrops educational resources designed for use by College Panhellenics and individual chapters. We must continue to ensure our members are illustrating care for all in our campus communities. 

Given that fraternities and sororities can often set the tone for campus social life, we recognized this fall that a return to “business as usual” was not acceptable and, as Panhellenic women, we are empowered to be leaders in helping to maintain healthy campus communities. By continuing to adopt safe behaviors, NPC members and chapters can help reduce the likelihood of outbreaks and help shape the behaviors of the broader campus community.

As our deferred recruitment campuses prepare to welcome new members, the successes of this fall’s virtual recruitment experience have been shared through educational resources, individual support and panel discussions. Zoom 301, a virtual program with panelists who completed a virtual recruitment in the fall, included a discussion on how to best prepare for virtual recruitment, how to manage the technical pieces of virtual recruitment and how the College Panhellenic can be focused on their work to support chapters individually. Through the hard work and preparation of our chapter and Panhellenic leaders, with support from their advisors, campus professionals and NPC and inter/national organization volunteers and staff, we are confident spring recruitment 2021 will also be successful and life changing. (You can access Zoom 301 and other virtual recruitment resources here.)

Flexibility and innovation continues with NPC’s 2021 College Panhellenic Academy. Scheduled for Jan. 22-23, this year’s Academy has been redesigned to be executed as a virtual event and has a record-breaking nearly 850 participants registered. Collegiate officer breakout sessions will be offered for judicial officers, marketing officers, presidents, recruitment officers and fraternity/sorority advisors. Advocacy Building Block sessions will focus on citizenship and service, health and safety, scholarship and freedom of association, giving participants an opportunity to reflect on NPC’s advocacy efforts and create actionable ways to engage in future advocacy in these areas.

Additionally, we are fortunate to have the following keynote speakers thanks to the financial support of the NPC Foundation: Krystal Clark, who will share her personal story about being a Black woman, her path to joining a Panhellenic sorority and the hurdles that stood in her way; Thea Zunick, who will share not only why self-care is important and necessary, but how Panhellenic leaders can help one another practice self-care and continue the self-care/well-being conversation with fellow students; and Tracy Walder, who will share her personal story about why sorority means so much to her and how sorority helped shape who she is today while focusing on women’s empowerment. 

If January is any indication, as always, Panhellenic women are off to a busy start. Best wishes for a productive, successful and meaningful 2021 as we all continue to confront new challenges during this unprecedented time. 


Panhellenically,






Carole J. Jones
NPC chairman

Friday, December 18, 2020

NPC Board of Directors Service Opportunity

The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) is looking for Panhellenic women to serve on the 2021-23 Board of Directors. The NPC Board of Directors leads the Conference and has authority and responsibility for overseeing its affairs. Since joining the board in 2019, current directors have learned and accomplished a lot in their work to set the strategic direction of the Conference and create a vision for the future of Panhellenic sorority life. Below, three directors share their thoughts and advice for future board members.

Why Panhellenic Women Might Consider Serving

“There are so many exciting opportunities coupled with unique challenges as we build the future framework of the sorority experience,” Mary Baker, Alpha Chi Omega, said. “In addition to the collaborative work with highly competent and progressive women on the board and staff, working with 26 NPC organizations to make a difference in the lives of undergraduate women is fulfilling volunteer work.”

But, the work of the board is also to think about the future of NPC and the sorority experience. Mary shares that directors must want to pay it forward and find ways to make the future sorority experience relevant for women enter college in the next few decades.

A Successful Director Possesses Certain Skills

To be able to fulfill the duties of the board, a successful director possesses certain skills. Malaea Seleski, Zeta Tau Alpha, shared a director should be emotionally intelligent, kind, confident, flexible and a strategic thinker.

“They should have the ability to look at things from alternative points of view and have the willingness to change your mind if your point of view is not the best for NPC,” Malaea said.

Serving is Rewarding and Challenging Work

Serving on the NPC Board of Directors is fulfilling and challenging volunteer work. Directors have an impact on the future of the sorority experience and service can be both rewarding and challenging.

“Being a servant leader, anticipating the possibilities for all women on the campus to feel welcomed in membership and planning for that future has been the most rewarding,” Laura Sweet, Sigma Sigma Sigma, said.

As NPC’s current organizational model and governance structure is still new, it is continuously being perfected. “It will be a privilege to have the opportunity and joy to make NPC’s evolving structure work for our member organizations and the future women who will thrive in their sorority environment,” Laura said.   

To learn more about serving on the NPC Board of Directors, you can visit this link. Starting the path to service is as simple as submitting the NPC Board of Directors Interest Form here.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

From the NPC Chairman: Many Initiatives, One Goal of Advancing Sorority

Dear friends,

In the November Chairman’s Message, I reflected on the year and the things I am most grateful for as we continue to advance the sorority experience together. This December message finds me reflecting on the work of the NPC Board of Directors during the last 18 months, the initiatives we’re working on and how all of those efforts fit together to set the strategic direction for the Conference and create our vision for the future of Panhellenic sorority life.

Collectively, all of us – NPC staff and volunteers, member organization staff and volunteers, and College and Alumnae Panhellenic Associations – have worked tirelessly to meet the challenges of 2020 and to help prepare for the future of our organizations.

About Project 2029

In fall 2019, the board, in setting our goals for our term as directors, stated that our most important future-looking work was Project 2029, a focused effort to imagine the sorority experience in the year 2029. This project reflected our strategic goals and we began digging into the following questions:

  • How do we best protect the sorority experience in environments that can be skeptical of our mission and sometimes hostile to our existence?
  • How do we protect student rights and the right of free association?
  • ​​How do we evolve and embrace questions of diversity, inclusion and gender identity that reflect our values and respond to the expectations from new members and prospective members?
  • How do we continue confronting challenges such as hazing, sexual assault and high-risk drinking?
  • How do we define feminism and women’s empowerment for our organization and our women at a time when equality and gender equity is front and center in our national and international debate?

From fall 2019 until early 2020, the board engaged in strategic conversations, gathered feedback from our constituents and participated in educational webinars regarding trending topics – all with the aim of answering the questions raised by our work on Project 2029.

The Pandemic Changes – and Accelerates – Our Work 

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the board’s focus had to quickly shift away from conversations about the future of sorority and Project 2029 to how to protect sorority members and the sorority experience in the moment of a very real (and ongoing) crisis. 

As we live through this pandemic, I believe there is a silver lining as it has helped us make change faster than anyone ever expected. The NPC Disruption to Panhellenic Operations Task Force and subsequently the Recruitment Contingencies Task Force led the way in ensuring Panhellenics could operate during the pandemic and prepare to welcome new members this fall.

If anything, the pandemic offered us an opportunity to test changes to the ways in which we recruit and to begin eliminating barriers to membership, including some financial barriers. Panhellenics successfully shifted to hybrid or fully virtual recruitments and began eliminating barriers to the recruitment process. Now, as Panhellenics prepare to welcome new members this spring, the NPC Recruitment Committee is gathering the lessons learned from the fall so they can make further recommendations regarding the future of Panhellenic recruitment.

Conversations Regarding Racism and Injustice 

It is not only the pandemic that has influenced the board’s work and the work of the Conference and its organizations. While the board had strategic discussions regarding racism and inequity within Panhellenic organizations prior to the pandemic, the national conversation regarding racism and injustice – a conversation that is now ongoing and multinational – has helped bring greater clarity to these topics and set us on a path to create a more diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible Panhellenic sorority experience.

To that end, in June 2020, the board outlined three frameworks we were committed to as our contribution to the discussion about race and racial injustice:

  • Our organizations don’t reflect the diversity that our Panhellenic communities hope to achieve. As a community, we don’t make ourselves broadly attractive to women of color and we have too often fallen short in supporting our Black and Brown sisters.
  • We believe that we must consider – and change – the systems and norms within the Panhellenic community that have historically benefited and centered the experiences of white women and women of privilege, more generally.
  • As a Panhellenic community, we have an obligation and responsibility to empower our members and volunteers and to openly discuss race and racial injustice.

The board then appointed the NPC Access and Equity Advisory Committee to provide recommendations and guidance to us on increasing access to the sorority experience and equity across NPC policies and procedures. The Access and Equity Advisory Committee’s work will continue for several months, and it is a critical component of helping us answer questions related Project 2029.  

Yet, we know “The road to diversity, equity and inclusion is a journey not a destination.” I used this quote from Syreeta Greene, MSW, Ed.D., director of the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Multicultural Affairs, Midwestern State University, in my August Chairman’s Message. I am still feeling the impact of her statement as we work to make our Panhellenic communities more broadly attractive to women of marginalized identities and create lasting change in the way we operate, recruit and support collegiate sorority women. (For more on NPC's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, please visit our website here.)

Relevancy Research 

Also prior to the pandemic, NPC staff and volunteers had been working on projects in the 2019-22 NPC Strategic Plan, including updating the message framework regarding how we communicate to our publics and constituencies about the sorority experience. That work led to the summer’s relevancy research, managed by VOX Global, regarding the relevancy of women’s-only organizations and sororities in the eyes of rising undergraduate women and their caregivers. While the NPC marketing team is using the research results to inform their near-term work, the board also has outlined three loud messages from that research of which we believe NPC can play a role in changing perceptions about and removing barriers to the sorority experience:

  1. Recruitment and perception of the sorority experience: The need to make aggressive and significant changes to the way we offer membership. Noted as the most immediate critical goal. 
  2. Cost: The cost of membership has risen greatly during the past few years and has created a number of barriers to entry into our sisterhoods.
  3. Safety: The perception of PNMs and caregivers is that ours is not a safe community. Whether thinking of activities within a chapter such as possible “mean girls” behavior or mental health challenges, or the larger community’s challenges with social risk, we need to change perceptions. 

All of these loud messages tie back to the questions we must answer to advance Project 2029, and they give us concrete focus areas for future messaging and initiatives.

Tying It Together

While sometimes it is difficult to see how all of these seemingly independent projects go together, these initiatives all fit into the larger whole of visioning the sorority experience in 2029. In totality, these projects work to address the questions, frameworks and loud messages outlined above and crucial to our long-term success. The work the board, our volunteers, staff and member organizations are undertaking will ensure our organizations are places where women from all walks of life feel they are welcomed, understood and heard now, in the year 2029 and beyond.

Panhellenically,






Carole J. Jones
NPC Chairman