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Leadership Highlight: Dr. Alexis Gaston Heaston the Basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Nu Kappa Omega Chapter in Clarksville, Tennessee

Photo Credit: @jazzyma823

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s Nu Kappa Omega in Clarksville, TN and did an interview with Dr. Alexis Gatson Heaston the Basileus of the chapter. 

The position of Basileus/president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Dr. Alexis Gatson Heaston, who works as a professor, has been in the position of Basileus for 2 years. 

We interviewed Dr. Gatson Heaston, who is a Fall 04 initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha at Austin Peay State University and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age. 

Photo Credit: @jazzyma823

Read the full interview below. 

What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?

The role of Basileus is a humbling and consuming role. The city in which my chapter serves, is a very diverse, transient, and growing city. Our members also represent this diversity. However, we have not had a younger member to serves as the role as Basileus, which may be a result of the community’s transient nature. Likewise, my chapter has been blessed to have several members who have served Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated for many years as well as honored our traditions and values. We have also been fortunate enough to have members full of energy and innovative ideas. I took the role as president to promote and foster that sense of unity among the generations that our chapter represents. In addition, I was motivated to serve both my organization and community. 

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?

The Nu Kappa Omega has been following Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated’s International initiatives to include Strengthening Our Sisterhood, Empowering Our Families, Building Our Economic Wealth, Enhancing Our Environment, Advocating for Social Justice, and Uplifting Our Local Community. In addition and in alignment with our international initiatives, we have a Signature Program known as Belles and Beaus. Belles and Beaus is a Scholarship Program for high school juniors and seniors. Participants in this program are given the opportunity to experience a wide array of cultural, academic and social activities while also obtaining scholarship funds to support their future educational endeavors. At the end of the scholarship program, participants are presented to the community at an elegant Finale Ball where the “Belle of the Ball” and “Mr. Beautillion” crowned. In addition, we have partnered with several schools, churches, and civic organizations to provide meals to underserved areas, serve as mentors for students, and advocate for issues impacting our communities such as gun violence, juvenile justice, and mental health. 

What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?

During my childhood, I had a mentor by the name of Mrs. Eloise Griffey. Mrs. Griffey always carried herself with the upmost regard. In addition, she always encouraged youth to value education, present themselves with confidence; especially when reading aloud…lol, and to never be afraid to ask questions. I always admired Mrs. Griffey and she told me if I “did the right thing” she would support me along the way. In addition, I was encouraged by the way the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the Kappa Rho Chapter represented on the yard! 

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?

The Nu Kappa Omega chapter is very diverse when it comes to the ages of our members. In addition, we are in a military community, so we serve individuals from many different backgrounds racially, culturally, and through other identities that bond us. 

How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?

Members of the Nu Kappa Omega chapter serve as mentors for the undergraduate chapter, Kappa Rho. We have paired members of the undergraduate chapter up with graduate chapter members based on their majors and interests. We want to ensure that postg-raduation that our undergraduate members are career ready and able to transition into the graduate chapter. We also have the best graduate advisor and graduate advisory council. 

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

One of our international initiatives is to strengthen on sisterhood. We have capitalized on this initiative is through our sister squads. Our sister squads allow members with like interests to come together for various activities. The sister squads have been extremely beneficial for our chapter and promoted intergenerational bonding 

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?

One piece of advice I would share with aspiring leaders is to pace and encourage yourself. Additionally, encourage others to hone in on their leadership abilities. 

How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?

Mentorship has been a vital component of my development. At times when I did not feel capable, there has always been someone there to encourage me along the way. Moreover, although I am the chapter president, I do not have all of the answers. I am grateful for wise counsel, to help me on this journey both socially and professionally. A few names in my organization that come to mind include Mary Davila, Cherie Long, and Devora Ramey. 

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

Watch The Yard has played an instrumental role in Black greekdom. Among the Divine Nine, there are more components that bind us than divide us. Watch the Yard has promoted a sense of unity among our respective organizations and served as a source of pride for not only Black greeks, but the Black community as well. 

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated because of the foundation of our mission, to be of Service of All Mankind. Our history makes me love AKA and the prospect of our future keeps me motivated. We are teachers, preachers, doctors, attorneys, entrepreneurs, executives, and more. Moreover, we strive to instill those same values into others. I love being a part of this endeavor. 

Photo Credit: @jazzyma823

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

When I think of Sisterhood I think of the love among a group of women. Attributes that come to mind include serving, inspiring, sharing, being truthful, encouraging, reliable, harmonious, open-hearted, open-minded, and devoted. 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Dr. Alexis Gatson Heaston for her work as the Basileus of Nu Kappa Omega which has a legacy that spans back to 1980. 

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