Delta Delta Delta, University of Florida
There’s Something Different About That Place
It’s not uncommon for volunteers and leadership consultants to quickly develop a knack for identifying the performance level and culture of a chapter shortly after entering the house. Well, the team at CSL seems to be picking up on this “sixth sense” as well. And while we typically stick to assessing the physical facility, sometimes it’s impossible for us not to recognize what’s happening culturally and relationally as well. Such was the case a few months ago when Director of Assessments and Project Management, Jeff Peterson visited the Tri Delta chapter at the University of Florida in Gainesville. When asked about his time at 1134 E. Panhellenic Drive, Jeff simply said, “There’s just something different about the place – the chapter, the facility itself. Something good is happening there.” That visit, that quote, that culture, that facility prompted a need to learn more of the chapter’s story, because when students are having an experience so positive you can’t put a finger on it, we believe their story should be shared and celebrated.
Next Stop: The Swamp
After a quick stop at our new favorite place for local eats (Shout out to Adam’s Rib Company! So good!), Operations Manager Laura Bynum and I arrived at the Alpha Psi chapter house midafternoon. Upon arrival, it’s impossible not to be a bit in awe. The home is stunningly beautiful. It’s modern and fresh, but also possesses certain elements – a great front porch, gorgeous white columns, etc. – that one might connect with a traditional chapter house. The palm trees in the
foreground and the bluest sky ever serving as a backdrop certainly didn’t hurt the first impression the facility was making either. More inviting and exciting however, was the welcome we received. Almost as soon as we stepped out of our rental, we were greeted like friends who’d been missed, rather than “the people that help us with the house.” Immediately Jeff’s original comments began to ring true. The conversation that ensued made his comments come to life and was one you’d hope to have in every chapter house across North America.
So Tell Me About This Place
After exchanging pleasantries, Laura began her fall walk-through with Linda Mixson, the chapter’s house director for the past nine years. While they caught up on action items and upcoming projects, I sat down with Kate Lewis, current chapter House Manager, and Alpha Psi chapter President, Jamie Wilkinson to learn more about Tri Delta at University of Florida.
CSL: How about we start with the nuts and bolts? Tell me about this place, specifically the chapter and facility history.
Kate Lewis: The chapter was founded on September 11, 1948, a year after the University began admitting women. The current house opened nine years ago and is home to 69 of our members, 70 including Miss Linda!
CSL: How many meals are served each day?
Kate: We serve lunch and dinner every day but Friday when we have a “walk through” instead of a family style meal. During the week we also have “self-serve” options available for breakfast each day. Our chef and Miss Linda also help us on special occasions and events such as recruitment, football games, and our spaghetti dinner for St. Jude, which is always one of the biggest events of the year.
Jamie Wilkinson: One of my favorite things about living here is the family style dinners Kate just mentioned. They’re open to the entire chapter and luckily we have a space large enough to seat everyone. It’s our opportunity to be together, to be with the new family you develop when you come to college. We appreciate that time to connect.
CSL: So talk about that, about family? What makes this chapter, this home so special?
Jamie: It’s the relationships that form, and that starts in recruitment. Round three is when we really bring them into our home and the prospective members begin to get a real sense for our chapter and the relationships within it.
Kate: Yeah, people feel that and want to be a part of it. To live here and to be with these friends every day, it’s a gift. I think people get a feel for that early on and appreciate it more as time passes. This is really a once in a lifetime experience and our members appreciate it for what it is.
CSL: Talk about the facility itself. What are your favorite parts of the chapter house or specific features you really appreciate?
Kate: Well, for starters, I love the dining room. Having a place big enough for us all to have a meal together is important. Our chapter is home to 261 members and only 70 can live-in, so creating opportunities for us to be together as a family is important. Being able sit with each other every night allows that to happen.
Jamie: I totally agree. That time is special. I’d also add how much I appreciate the number of study spaces we have available to us. There’s never a challenge finding a place to study in private, or with others if you’re working on a project or in a study group.
Kate: Yeah, having so many places that are quiet makes it super convenient. It’s nice to have that in your home rather than having to go back to campus.
Jamie: And while I wouldn’t consider Miss Linda part of the home, since she feels more like part of the family, she’s certainly one of my other favorite aspects of living here.
Kate: Yeah, we love how she engages our parents when they visit, how she tries to get know the new member class as soon as recruitment is over. From being there for us when we’re sick to helping with the details of recruitment, she takes great care of us.
CSL: So in addition to those aspects, what are the main reasons people want to live-in versus other nearby options? What’s the draw to living at 1134?
Jamie: First off, this is definitely an upgrade to first year living on campus. That’s the easy one!
Kate: Another easy call is convenience. I know we mentioned that earlier, but I’d definitely say that’s a draw as well. Living here makes it easy to quickly get to classes and meetings on campus. It’s nice to be within walking distance of so many different places and activities.
Jamie: I’d add living-in just makes it easy to stay connected. It’s impossible to live here and not be an active member or know what’s going on in the chapter.
Kate: Along those lines, I feel people appreciate the connections and bonds that are created when living in and they miss that when they move out. One of the things I think we’ve done a good job of is making sure upper classmen and out of house ladies stay connected. We been successful at creating and maintaining an environment that members – even after moving out – still want to be a part of.
CSL: Talk about some of those experiences that connect those living in and that keep out of house members coming back? (These answers came fast and furious.)
Jamie: We have over 1600 women coming through the house during Formal Panhellenic Recruitment. It’s a lot of work, but it’s an exciting time that we enjoy together.
Kate: Spaghetti dinner for St Jude is huge! Big/Little night is always a great night for the entire chapter to be together as well.
Jamie: And sushi night is amazing. Those are a few of the really special events that bring everyone together, but I’d also add initiation. We’re fortunate to have a house big enough for our initiation ceremony. Like our chapter dinners, being able to have initiation in the house is one more way that our members really connect to this house and to Tri Delta.
CSL: So since you went there, let’s talk ritual and values. If I sat in the corner and just observed, how would I see Tri Delta’s values come to life here?
Jamie: (Quickly) You’d see it in our interactions, how we treat and support each other, how we treat and support the staff.
Kate: You’d definitely see Tri Delta’s values in the community we have here. We treat people like they’re part of our family. We want to make sure they feel connected to this sense of community we share here.
On that mic drop of a moment, we decided to give the student leaders a break and proceeded to catch up with Miss Linda to learn more about her experience supporting the chapter, their families and the multitude of activities that take place throughout the week.
CSL: Ok, Linda. You’ve been house director here for nine years now. How would you describe the chapter here at Florida and what are some of the things you love most about them?
Linda Mixson: They’re really a great group. I’d describe them as smart, funny, athletic, sweet, and respectful. I really love the respect and care they show me and the others on the staff here. And being in the middle of football season, I’m reminded how much I love seeing the alums come back. That’s generally a really good sign we’re doing something right.
CSL: What are some of your favorite events or most memorable moments?
Linda: Well, four nights a week we have family style chapter dinner. Watching them take advantage of that time to actually connect with each other is a fantastic thing to see. In addition to that, and I’m sure they mentioned this too, I’d say our spaghetti dinner. It’s a big part of the work we do for St. Jude. It’s a monumental challenge, but worth it given the cause we’re working for and the joy the students get from it.
CSL: It’s clear you have a special relationship with this group. What makes them so great to work with?
Linda: It just makes me feel good to see how they treat people. They’re just a special group of students. Even if I won the lottery, I think I’d still do this. It’s been a great experience.
Sorority Done Right.
So as we wrapped up the day with a tour around the house, everything that Jeff couldn’t put a finger on during his visit started becoming crystal clear through the smiles, laughter, studying, hospitality, singing, and fellowship. In a nutshell, this is just a really wonderful group of women who work hard, who build into each other, who serve and treat others well, and who live their organization’s values. Because of all those things, the women at 1134 are having an amazing sorority experience. Perhaps Tri Delta’s Senior Director of Properties, Erin Herren, said it best when she shared, “I love walking into the Alpha Psi house at Florida. It’s the kind of place that is impressive while not intimidating. And, thanks to the love and attention that our House Director, Linda, gives to every possible detail in the home, you walk in and immediately know: “Special things happen here.” One of my favorite things, is to join the chapter for formal dinner – they genuinely treasure the time to sit around the dinner table and respectfully share life together. They are sisters dedicated to servant leadership and to each other, and I’m proud that they have an inviting and beautiful home that fosters that sorority experience.” Alpha Psi certainly deserves to be proud of their college home as well. The respect and care they show for the facility and each other indicates that is unquestionably the case. As for CSL, consider us grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to support Linda and the chapter. Grateful for the sorority experience being had within the four walls of 1134. Grateful for the opportunity to witness students enjoying it so. And while it’s still difficult to put a finger on it, make no mistake, we get it now. Good things are happening here.