Women had just gained the right to vote, travel was slower than we could imagine today with trains and cars being the main form of transportation, and cross-country communication was practically nonexistent aside from letters and some telephones. This was the world when the first full-time Chapter Visitors, Susan Montgomery and Elizabeth Holloway Jackson, were hired in the 1920’s. These young women had a difficult and important job for our Fraternity. Through their roles they lived as a “symphony of high purpose and helpfulness” to the many chapters they visited and the collegiate women they impacted.
Since then a team of dynamic and exceptionally-trained Chi Omegas have hit the ground annually, traveling to campuses across the nation and working face-to-face with our collegiate leaders. Although taking on various name changes ranging from Chapter Visitors, National Consultants, and now National Leadership Consultants, their role has always remained the same – to purposefully serve our collegiate members and support them in building an exceptional Sisterhood on their campus. In addition to special projects and recruitment visits, they are responsible for each collegiate chapter receiving an annual visit, during which the National Leadership Consultant works with the chapter members on areas ranging from Ritual to leadership development, chapter programming to risk reduction, and morale to communication.
Katherine Mendieta Photography
In a 1912 Council Meeting report it was stated that, “Considerable time and care were given to systematizing the work of the chapter visitor,” and this program has continued to evolve over decades to fit the changing needs of our collegiate members and the transforming climate of campuses across the nation. Our National Leadership Consultant program is quite possibly one of the most critical factors in our success over the past 125 years. The Sisters who serve as our National Leadership Consultants play a crucial role in continuing our legacy of purposeful Sisterhood by providing hands on support to our chapters.
Before full time Chapter Visitors were hired in the 1920’s the Supreme Governing Council visited collegiate chapters, as published in the Eleusis in 1906.
“All chapters to be visited by some officer, as was directed by the last Convention. Including installations, investigations, Inter-Sorority Conference (now NPC), we have tried to divide the visiting somewhat equally among the six officers… All the officers now have broader ideas of Chi Omega, of the American College girl, and of their own responsibilities. In short, they are better prepared to be Chi Omega workers. Also, they do not expect to quit working when they cease to be officers…. the chapters will be apportioned between the members of the S.G.C. (Supreme Governing Council) for visitation at least once within the two years between Conventions.”
Even after the Chapter Visitors were hired members of the Supreme Governing Council continued to do routine chapter visits until 1987. As Chi Omega grew, the Supreme Governing Council’s role shifted. After 1987 their expertise was used more strategically for difficult and troubleshooting cases.
Through each phase of the National Leadership Consultant program the work and the experiences have varied, just as the campuses and the chapters we work with have transformed. We asked Sisters from each phase of the program, Chapter Visitor, National Consultant, and National Leadership Consultant, to recount their time and experiences in the program.
Katherine Mendieta Photography
In a letter written on January 16, 2002 former Chapter Visitor Evelyn Shute Hecker recounted her time working with the Fraternity by writing, “I worked full time as a Chapter Visitor for Chi Omega from September 1945 until June of 1951. Sometime during 1949 Mary Love gave me the title of Assistant to the National President. I continued to visit chapters until I resigned in order to marry. At the time when I began to work for Chi Omega, there were two full-time Chapter Visitors who worked in the office when not traveling. Our duties were varied. We were responsible for keeping the Eleusis subscription lists up to date along with other clerical type jobs. As I recall, my salary was the magnificent sum of $150.00 a month. Eleanor Ramsey was hired when Jan McDonald left. Eleanor and I helped with the move (also riding in the van) from 26 Cooper Building to 2245 Grandin Road. Before the move, the Chapter Visitors who were working full time rented a room in Dr. Posey’s home. Dr. Posey was a Chi Omega who lived in Hyde Park near where the Cooper Building was located. They lived there when they were not traveling and were working in the office. Since my home was in Cincinnati, I lived at home when I was not traveling. After the move to Grandin Road, Eleanor and subsequent Chapter Visitors and office helpers lived in the Executive House.”
Our very own National Archivist Lyn Harris started her alumnae life with Chi Omega as a Chapter Visitor. In a letter she wrote to a team of new National Leadership Consultants she said, “When I was a collegian at Mercer University in the early 1980s, I wanted to be a Chapter Visitor more than anything. I volunteered to pick up the Chapter Visitor from the airport, I wanted to have lunch with her, and my senior year I even tried to dress like one! Well, it was not to be for me that year. The year was 1983 and looking back now, the competition was pretty stiff with the likes of Letitia Niemeier and Jean Mermoud in the mix! Anyway, long story short, I was given the opportunity to travel in 1989. To be honest, I wondered whether or not the reality would live up to the lofty expectations I had for the position. It did. I loved it – dare I say, I flourished! Then, having the opportunity to serve as Director of Chapter Services for the next 8 years – let’s just say I have a very special place in my heart for the program!”
National Consultant: Allison Nopper 2008-2010
How did you get involved as a National Consultant? As an undergraduate member of Chi Omega, our Chapter had two National Consultants visit each year, one for recruitment and the other our annual visit. Each and every consultant who came was engaging, dynamic, sincere, and so well spoken. When I served on the Executive Board I had the opportunity to work more closely with our National Consultants and began asking more questions about the program. I knew the program offered incredible training and a unique opportunity to travel the United States directly out of college, working for an organization which had already given me so much throughout my collegiate years. With the encouragement of a few amazing National Consultants and our incredible Regional Director, Emily Knodle, I applied!
What part of the role was the most important to you? As an undergraduate Chapter Officer myself, it wasn’t just the programming and Chi Omega education that the National Consultant brought that made an impact on me, it was the way they connected with me on a personal level which made me want to learn and do more. I’ve always believed that understanding someone’s story, background, and what matters most to them is an important first step in bringing them on a journey. Sure, as a National Consultant I could have just shown up and gone right into my workshops, but getting to know the women made it so much more meaningful, personal, and authentic on both sides. “Sisters on purpose” is the perfect way to describe that sentiment. I wanted to really convey that while I was sometimes visiting for a difficult reason, I was still first and foremost a Sister.
Can you describe one moment you had while visiting a chapter that you felt most connected or impactful? It’s hard to pick just one moment! There were so many amazing Sisters that I got to know along the way, and so many incredible memories. That said, I always loved when I had an opportunity to return to a chapter for a second visit. It felt like going home to me. A few standouts that I still think of to this day include my visits to Nu Alpha at Stanford and the amazing couple who hosted me, former Chapter Advisor Carol and her husband Dan. They welcomed me into their home like I was family and were so invested in the well-being of the chapter, asking thoughtful questions about the day’s meetings and chapter members each night at dinner. Omicron Mu at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was also a highlight during my time as a National Consultant. I traveled there for an extended recruitment visit, and I was so impressed by the attitude, commitment to learn, and positive energy that each chapter member showed up with every day. After workshops a big group of us would get dinner together, and it was an absolute joy getting to know the amazing women of Omicron Mu!
How did this role impact your personal growth? In those two years I learned to be more independent, confident, and to be highly adaptable. I became a better listener and a more comfortable public speaker. I was connected to a network of incredibly talented, capable, smart, kind, funny, and inspirational women every day and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to watch and learn from each of them.
How has Chi Omega remained a part of your life after being a National Consultant? For me, Chi Omega is so much of who I am today. It’s given me lifelong friendships and mentors. It allowed me the opportunity to travel the United States and see cities and states I may otherwise never have seen. It was my first professional job after college and gave me the best personal & professional development to prepare me for life & my current career.
Do you still keep in touch with other National Consultant who were on your team? I do! When you travel as a National Consultant you share a special and unique bond with the women who travel the same years as you. Since “retiring” from the National Consultant program I have partnered with former National Consultant Sisters on National Teams, traveled to celebrate their marriages, and hosted several visits to my hometown! We call and text, most are better than I am at sending cards, and of course, keep up with all the happenings on Instagram! These are women who I admire and love, and I am thankful to have shared our National Consultant years together.
National Leadership Consultant: Divya Ramoo 2016-2018
How did you get involved as a National Consultant? I decided to apply on a whim after a particularly impactful visit from one of these consultants, Morgan Netz. I was granted an interview, and it was during that process that I really became sold on the program. The women I met at the interview were so inspiring and wonderful. It was so apparent that everyone that worked at Headquarters legitimately enjoyed their jobs and the environment. We were even lucky enough to Skype with some former National Leadership Consultants who all spoke so highly of their experiences. It was during that session that I truly realized how incredible of an opportunity this would be, and I was all in!
What part of the role was the most important to you? From the beginning, the aspect of the job that drew me in the most was the opportunity to help young, promising leaders develop and grow through their experience in Chi Omega. I know from my own experience as a collegiate leader, my relationships with my National Leadership Consultants helped me become more confident, and I was incredibly drawn to the opportunity to be able to give back to other Chi Omega women.
Can you describe one moment you had while visiting a chapter that you felt most connected or impactful? It is so hard to narrow it down to one moment because there are impactful moments on every chapter visit, but the moment that stands out to me was actually on one of my shortest visits as a National Leadership Consultant. I went to the University of Iowa/Psi Beta for a very quick workshop in my second year as a consultant. The workshop itself only lasted a few hours, so I had a lot of free time to just meet with different chapter members and officers. It was during one of these impromptu meetings with some incredible officers that I felt truly purposeful. They shared with me some of the struggles and challenges they were facing in their roles, and it reminded me a lot of struggles I had faced as a collegiate leader, and I was able to help them work through some of those issues. Though the conversation was brief, it connected us and we still keep in touch! Being able to be there for them during a trying time and seeing them overcome that was such a rewarding feeling and has stayed with me.
Divya pictured right, Katherine Mendieta Photography
How did this role impact your personal growth? This role has helped me grow so much, both professionally and personally. I have learned so many skills, from problem solving, to presentation and facilitation skills, to working independently and managing multiple projects at once, to even discovering new passions and talents. The National Leadership Consultant role truly pushes you to become quite independent. I’ve also been in able to travel across the country and even live with two very different chapters. These experiences have taught me how to connect with people and thrive in any situation. I am a much more confident person than when I first started the job, because this role teaches you to rely on yourself and your skills, while also having an incredible network of support should you need it.
How has Chi Omega remained a part of your life after being a National Consultant? I chose to stay on with Chi Omega and currently serve as a Chapter Development Specialist for the Fraternity! In this role, I get to work with a few chapters and visit them repeatedly. It’s really the perfect job for me, because I’m able to focus on relationship building and see long-term growth of these Sisters and these chapters. I know I will continue to volunteer for Chi Omega even after I am done working for the organization as well.
Do you still keep in touch with other National Consultant who were on your team? Oh my goodness, yes! The other National Leadership Consultants I’ve worked with are some of my very best friends. They are such incredible, supportive, HILARIOUS people! We have a very active GroupMe and Snapchat group that helps us keep in touch. My favorite thing about this group of women is having such a great network of friends all across the country. We are constantly planning reunion trips to see each other and catch up. Another amazing thing about my National Leadership Consultant friendships is that we have also gotten the chance to meet each other’s friends from our respective chapters. It has only expanded my network of Chi Omega women that I love and respect so much!
Applications for our 2019-2020 team of National Leadership Consultants are live now! Click here to apply by the Monday, November 5 deadline!