Our Sorority Saturday this week is Meredith Darling of Alpha Phi’s Delta Nu chapter at the University of Maine. Meredith is a fourth-year student with a double major in Business Management and Marketing. Outside of contributing to Alpha Phi, Meredith spends her time being a Customer Experience Coordinator and Bridal Stylist at Blush Bridal and Formal. She started college as a freshman at the University of New Hampshire but decided to transfer after her first year. When she transferred to UMaine, she wanted to put herself out there and try sorority recruitment. Alpha Phi was so supportive and welcoming every step of the way, and that is how her journey started.
In Alpha Phi, core values are referred to as “high ideals,” theirs being generosity, character, sisterhood, and innovation. Most women probably know that Alpha Phi donates money to heart health research, but there is much more to it. Their philanthropy events throughout the year go towards the Alpha Phi Foundation, consisting of five different pillars. The first pillar is scholarship. Part of the money they receive goes towards scholarships for Alpha Phi grads and undergrad programs, and there are over 70 scholarships in total. Another portion of their money goes towards leadership opportunities for members, such as the ability to attend leadership conferences.
Meredith was able to attend two of the Alpha Phi Leadership Conferences, the first one being in Atlanta, Georgia; and then Washington D.C. which she luckily could go to before the COVID-19 shutdown. There is also a conference known as the Emerging Leaders Institute, where two sisters from each chapter go to Butler University in Indianapolis for a week to learn more about Alpha Phi and their opportunities. Alpha Phi Internationals just developed a leadership program with the Disney Institute as well, where sisters are selected to travel to a conference being held at Disney World to refine and develop their leadership skills.
Another pillar is heritage, making sure they invest in preserving the history of their sorority. They had their Founder’s Day just last week, and they are almost at 150 years of Alpha Phi. Alpha Phi also has a Forget-Me-Not grant, which is an homage to their organization’s flower. This grant was created to help sisters who are struggling with a financial crisis, such as a natural disaster or money for a family member’s emergency.
“It shows that in Alpha Phi, you’re a sister for life. It’s not just a collegiate experience, it’s a forever thing.”
Each recipient of this grant receives crisis aid to help those in need of financial support. Just recently, there was an Alpha Phi alumna living in Maine whose house burned down, but she was able to completely rebuild her home because of this amazing grant. The last pillar is the Heart to Heart grant, which donates to heart health research. Heart health is currently the number one killer among women in America. It is typically donated to a chosen medical school to support the research already being conducted, last year’s being the University of California Davis Health medical school.
In order to raise this money, Alpha Phi hosts several philanthropy events throughout the year. The first event hosted is Move Your Phi’t, which is a 5k typically taking place on parent’s weekend so families can get involved. This year, they were still able to make it virtual. Participants just had to track their own running and submit it rather than contribute in person. They also host Alpha Phifa, which is a more collegiate based soccer tournament. You have to buy a ticket to form a team, and this is where lots of student life is involved such as basketball teams and other sororities. Mac N’ Phi’s is another yearly event, usually taking place at the Orono Brewing Company. It brings together a mix of the Orono and the college community. “It’s a good way to get Orono families involved. Younger kids love mac and cheese, but also college students appreciate a cheap bowl of mac and cheese.” They love this event because it brings everyone in the community together, making it such a big success.
The Red Dress Gala is another event centered around the family aspect. This event is normally held during homecoming so families and alumni can attend. The ticket for the gala gets access to the event and dinner. During the event, there is also a silent auction, where donations for their basket of choice go towards the Alpha Phi Foundation. When asking Meredith what her favorite memory has been so far in Alpha Phi, one of them was her first Red Dress Gala. Her parents had their stereotypes about her being in a sorority, so this event was a chance for her to prove their sophistication as a sisterhood. “When they attended our first Red Dress Gala and we were really able to present ourselves to my family and friends, I could show them ‘Hey look, this is not a joke. We are super successful and driven,’ so that was a really proud moment for me.” She was so appreciative that they got to be there so they could see how seriously devoted these women really were.
When Meredith joined Alpha Phi in the first semester of her sophomore year, she immediately ran for her first executive position that November and was elected Vice President of Marketing. In this position, she leads three different departments. She manages the Director of Social Media, Director of Merchandising, and Director of Parents and Alumni Relations. She is currently filling the Social Media role since the original director has transferred. She runs their Facebook, Instagram, and website. For merchandising, she helps create packages for sisters that they can buy or ask to have for Christmas.
For the Parents and Alumni position, she works with the director to send out quarterly newsletters to update friends and family about philanthropy events, new members, and new executive boards, etc. She explained how jumping into an executive position immediately after joining Alpha Phi usually isn’t the best choice since there is so much learning involved. “Because Social Media Marketing was something I was already interested in prior to Alpha Phi, I felt like I did have the qualifications to apply for it. I took a leap of faith, and I felt like I was super supported.” Her Grand-Big had also previously been in the position, and she knew she could gain guidance from her as well.
When asking her how she knew she was “home,” she exclaimed, “Although I had a different situation being a transfer student, I was still welcomed with open arms. Once you join a sorority, there’s no question that you’re just a part of this big family.” Alpha Phi has given her many different opportunities, within and outside of her sisterhood. She also feels that Alpha Phi has given her lots of preparation for the real world. She made it clear that she didn’t have a specific memory of when she knew she felt she was home. Rather, all of the experiences she has gained are a constant reminder of how proud she is of Alpha Phi and herself.
Another memory being in Alpha Phi that she loved was their sisterhood retreat. Meredith has a home at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. She was able to convince her mom to have their retreat there. Girls could ski, hang out, and her mom would even cook them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The retreat was a way for her to feel more connected to her sisters. “Definitely having all of my sisters at our winter house and getting away felt like we were so far from campus. We could really focus on building our sisterhood, compared to other weekends when we couldn’t all get together as often.” It has been a tradition for the past two years, and Meredith is hoping they can do it for another year depending on the status of COVID-19.
When asking Meredith what advice she had for women contemplating joining Greek Life, she proudly responded, “I would just encourage other girls to at least go through the recruitment week process. I know there’s a stereotype with it being super overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s also so fun. You’ll hear girls say that the recruitment process was so much work, but you also make the most memories that week and you meet so many new people.” Meredith is such an important role in Alpha Phi, contributing to their marketing, retreats, and general sisterhood. Her willingness to lead and serve the chapter truly reflects all aspects of Alpha Phi’s high ideals.
It was such an honor talking to Meredith about Alpha Phi and her contributions to her chapter. The dedicated spirit she so clearly expressed along with her hard-working ethic shows she has a lot more opportunities destined for her as she graduates UMaine, with a strong group of women to support her.