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 Tau Rho Omega Chapter in Carrollton, TX and did an interview with MarQuisia Johnson the President 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. MarQuisia Johnson, who works as a Tech Support Coach, has been in the position of president since January 1, 2022.
We interviewed Johnson, who is a Spring 2009, Gamma Theta Omega, Tampa, Florida, initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
My term as President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Tau Rho Omega Chapter began in 2022 with the members unable to meet in person. The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, and this drastically changed the operations of the chapter and limited the interactions of the members. I began developing my ideas for ways to engage with Chapter members. It was a priority for me as President to find ways to get members to reconnect after 2 years of virtual meetings. The chapter also experienced significant growth during this time, so it was important that I deliver an accessible and responsive vision for the chapter. I decided that I wanted my legacy as the 16th Tau Rho Omega Chapter President to continuously encourage sisterly engagement, further invest in the undergraduate chapter that we sponsor, and deliver impactful community service. By serving as chapter President, I would actively cultivate this vision through streamlining chapter operations, minimizing risk, implementing new technology for improved communication and administrative tasks, conducting member focus groups to generational gaps within the Chapter, build new community partnerships, formally mentor our undergraduate Chapter Leaders, and continue to identify opportunities to meet the needs of Tau Rho Omega Chapter members and families.
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 Tau Rho Omega Chapter has partnered with a local elementary school in our service area (Carrollton, Lewisville, Farmer’s Branch, Coppell, and Irving, TX) where most of the student population is Black and Latino, and many of the families qualify for free or reduced lunch. We have implemented The Alpha Kappa Alpha Child Hunger Initiative Power Packs (CHIPP) program in our partner school, and we provide weekend meals to 80 students for 40 weeks during the school year. We recently supported a Back to School Bash providing free school uniforms, school supplies, and distributing back packs to students. Tau Rho Omega has also committed to mentoring 4th grade students in the same school through the Academy4 program. Once a month, members mentor 4th grade students for 90 minutes in the areas of math, science, robotics, and music among other subjects. Another major community initiative is our annual Fit & Fabulous Health and Wellness Expo (www.fitandfabulousexpo.com). This event seeks to inform our surrounding community of the importance of preventive health and wellness while focusing specifically on the healthcare needs of black women and the broader Black community. We implemented the Building Economic Wealth Initiative by partnering with several black women owned businesses to give them exposure.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
My cousin Vera was the first member of my family that I saw serving in the sorority. I always admired her community involvement and commitment to service, as well as her style and grace. She was my introduction to the idea of wanting to be a part of this great sisterhood. I have always been active in my community, through service and as a cheerleader for community activism and progress. Becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha allowed me to invest my time and talents in a sisterhood alongside many beautiful and talented like-minded ladies.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Tau Rho Omega Chapter has everything any member could need! We have doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, authors, artists, teachers, preachers and more. We have such a dynamic and diverse collection of professional ladies that willingly lend their expertise to our members, the community, and the sorority. We’ve also cultivated a culture within the chapter which encourages members to share their talents, help others hone their talents, and offer opportunities to grow and develop through serving within the chapter and throughout the community. Whatever you need, it’s here.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Tau Rho Omega sponsors the undergraduate Kappa Nu Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Our graduate/alumni chapter provides a Graduate Advisor as a primary point of contact for all undergraduate chapter needs, a Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) to support the undergraduate members and programs, and graduate mentors for each undergraduate chapter officer to model effective leadership. The Graduate Advisor and the GAC stress the importance of undergraduate members balancing the commitment to the sorority with their academic demands and we regularly recognize the achievements of the ladies of Kappa Nu Chapter. This has led to the recent selection of a member of Kappa Nu as an Alpha Kappa Alpha Leadership Fellow, which is a distinct honor for undergraduates within the sorority. We also support the undergraduates spiritually with quarterly joint “Chapter Church” where we worship together. Tau Rho Omega also provides financial support to the undergraduate chapter in the form of a budget line item specifically allocated to support the needs of Kappa Nu.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
I foster unity among the members of the Tau Rho Omega Chapter by promoting and facilitating opportunities for members from different generations and backgrounds to get to know each other through service. An example of this is our Senior Tea where seasoned members shared their traditions and they were served by younger members. We also included a team building exercise in our annual chapter retreat where teams were given 25 minutes to create a runway ready outfit from foil, plastic bags, and duct tape. The chapter programs such as our local “Adopt A Highway” cleanup, dressmaking for refugee children, and a feminine product donation drive for the local Salvation Army also offer some of the best bonding experiences. We’ve had members identify a family in crisis during a community service event and immediately rallied to gather resources and provide assistance.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
First of all, start with prayer. Pray often and humble yourself to accept the fact that you can’t lead alone. Secondly, prepare for isolation. Executive leadership can be lonely at times and at some point, you will have to make unpopular decisions. Last but not least, building your personal Board of Directors is critical if you aspire to leadership within Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Your Board of Directors should include: 1) Coach – someone who’s done your job before and can offer advice, 2) Cheerleader – a constant source of encouragement and positivity, 3) Sponsor – a person who will commit to financially support your leadership endeavors, 4) Advocate – someone to speak well of you in rooms you don’t have access to and introduce you to new opportunities, and 5) “Thug” – this is your ride or die who won’t allow anyone to speak ill of you, but will tell you when you’re wrong, and show up to support you anyway.
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 shaped me into the successful chapter President that I am today. I have mentors within and outside of the chapter, and I have learned that mentorship goes both ways. I gain from the relationship what I put into the relationship, and I’ve had the honor and privilege of learning from some extraordinary ladies within Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Each of my mentors left me with nuggets which I have applied regularly throughout my leadership journey. I have 4 mentors in Alpha Kappa Alpha who constantly mentor me. I have one who challenges me to consider opposing viewpoints and try to understand other perspectives, one who encourages me to be innovative and find ways to offer new ideas, one who is a 50-year member that helps me avoid the pitfalls of sorority leadership, and one who provides policy and procedural guidance to help me understand the political landscape we operate in. I am truly grateful to each of these women because they play a critical role in my success as a leader within Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard first and foremost is educational. This platform expands the reach and influence of all Divine Nine (D9) organizations. Watch The Yard helps instill a sense of family, pride, and unity across all Black greekdom. It also provides excellent examples of the investment D9 organizations make in the Black communities and our commitment to social, economic, and political advancement. Lastly, it shows us the power that we have to come together from 9 different organizations to mobilize votes for a U.S. Presidential Election. If we can do that, we can do more to uplift our people.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
My motto for this administration as chapter President is “Helping Others Pursue Excellence (HOPE)”. When I see the impact of the Alpha Kappa Alpha service in our community, it brings a smile to my face. We have helped several people in our chapter, in our communities, in the South Central Region and beyond. As an only child, I love that my chapter members have become my family. During my recent stroke and throughout my recovery, I have been surrounded by sisters praying for me, walking with me, celebrating my small victories, even providing meals for me. This sorority is truly an extension of my family.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is a fellowship that is sincere and rare. It’s a lifetime commitment that lives forever. When you need someone, my sisters are there whether things are good, bad, or indifferent. Sisterhood is definitely a verb. It’s a continuous act of sincerity and kindness, allowing you to be your whole self, and deciding to always be supportive in constructive and loving ways. Each organization in the Divine 9 has a sisterhood that’s special to them. But to me, there’s no other like OUR sisterhood…Alpha Kappa Alpha!
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend MarQuisia Johnson for her work as the president of the Tau Rho Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1993.
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