Representing Columbia Theta at the Emerging Leaders Institute

Ellie Cornell BC '19
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Even before I knew that Theta’s motto was "Leading Women," I equated the Columbia chapter and its women with leadership. The way the sisters composed themselves, held positions on campus, and supported the empowerment of women made it obvious to me that they were leaders on and off campus. When I, myself, joined the Epsilon Upsilon chapter, I continued to see that the idea of leadership was not just in the individual sisters, but in everything the fraternity did, dating back to 1870. 

Theta’s Emerging Leadership Institute (ELI) is a weekend of leadership training that I was lucky enough to attend this summer. Every year, through the amazing work of the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation, a group of girls from across the country travel to DePauw University to learn how to become better leaders. Along with fellow Columbia Theta sister Ashley Rodriguez and 40 other Thetas from across the country, we started the weekend at DePauw University by talking about what we thought leadership meant.

I believe every woman there would say that over the next three days, our definitions drastically expanded. On a broader level, we talked about the key elements of what makes a good leader: courage, inclusivity, ethics, and change. On an individual level, we learned our strengths through taking the Clifton Strengths Finder Assessment and discussed how it is more productive to build up your strengths than it is to try to fill in your weaknesses. The most impactful thing I learned is the importance of surrounding yourself with a team of people who have strengths that complement your weaknesses when working towards a common goal. 

On the last day, we visited the Alpha chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at DePauw, established by Bettie Locke in 1870. What Bettie started in the 19th century- four brave women coming together in a time when they were barely allowed to be in college- has since grown into a 200,000 member strong organization. Bettie was a leader and that spirit lives on today in every Theta sister. Today, in the campus garden at DePauw, stand four trees in memory of the four founders.

I have left Theta ELI with more confidence, new friends, and leadership skills to share with my chapter. I encourage all my sisters to apply next year. This weekend would not be possible without the generosity of the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation and we are all forever grateful.