In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s Iota Omicron Chapter at the College of Charleston and did an interview with Thomasena Thomas the Basileus/president of the chapter.
The position of president of an undergraduate chapter of a Black sorority is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 21-year-old Thomas has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around her.
We interviewed the Political Science and Public Policy major and talked about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
As a chapter president for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated I strive to uphold the values and mission of our storied organization. Leading a local undergraduate Chapter, is hard but truly amazing work. It requires grace, integrity and prioritizing my sorors above myself; all the while, aiming high and pursuing excellence. Our chapter is at its best when each sister uses their individual calling and gifts in a way that allows for them and the chapter to shine. Illustrated by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:27 when he writes, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” A lesson I have learned as a leader is that our chapter works best when everyone knows their role. Additionally, it is important to recognize that a leader is not anything without the people they lead. I would not be the president that I am without my vice president, Nykia King and the rest of my phenomenal chapter. We have worked together in leading the chapter but also in growing as sisters and as individuals; and that is what being a chapter president means to me.
What made you decide to attend the College of Charleston for undergrad?
My journey to the College of Charleston started 133 miles up the South Carolina(SC) coast outside of my hometown of Effingham, SC. For me, undergrad started at Florence-Darlington Technical College a two-year school of Florence, SC, which is near my hometown of Effingham. Following my first year, I pursued an internship in North Charleston, SC. I interned with Aldersgate United Methodist Church in ministry that was focused on Food Insecurity. This experience opened my eyes to the hurt people experience around me and the need for action and advocacy on their behalf. One of the people I worked with at my internship informed me of the phenomenal liberal arts education offered at the College of Charleston. Inquisitiveness overcoming me, I went on a tour and fell in love with the institution. Not only did they offer me a substantial amount of money to attend the college but also great opportunities for research and studies abroad. Most importantly and the last factor in my decision; my father became very sick that summer and we lost our family home. Family is important to me so any other factors I was considering dimmed and my choice was made to attend the College of Charleston. It has become one of the best decisions of my life.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
The Illustrious Iota Omicron chapter has been working diligently to meet and exceed the standard articulated in the AKA international program targets set forth by our administration; while also making a firm commitment to service first. One of the initiatives that my chapter started the semester off with was “No Service, No Strolling”, gladly accepting the challenge Watch The Yard issued in August. The IllustIOus Iota Omicron chapter remembers our commitment to excellence as we soar past the minimum requirement for service hours and set a standard rooted in a desire to do our very best for our community. We ended our campaign with over 230 hours and it helped reaffirmed our commitment to service PHirst! This initiative allowed us to take time to refocus on what service to all mankind really means. We worked on a variety of community initiatives that allowed for us to truly engage as active citizens to the people in our campus community and our community at large.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated is a sisterhood composed of individuals committed to a cause greater than themselves. The first Black female Greek-letter organization a mere one generation removed from slavery and devoted to the idea of service to all manking, To be apart of such a rich history of phenomenal woman, dedicated to the uplift of others was something I desired for a large portion of my life. Not only were many of my founders educators but also community advocates. This was something that I was able to relate to on a deeper level with my desire to go into the education policy field. To be apart of an organization such as this, was something that propelled me to seek acceptance into this illustrious organization.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The Illustrious Iota Omicron chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated has been able to thrive on a predominantly white institution for 44 years. Not just any PWI however, our institution deep in the bastion of southern antiquity within a few miles of the start of the Civil War was built in a city that was the entry point thousands of enslaved African people. Yet despite historical opposition to black freedom and expression we persevered. Our hard work and dedication is fueled by the purpose of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. The Iota Omicron chapter is firmly committed to working hard in the classroom, we currently have the highest GPA at the College of Charleston for NPHC organizations. We also work hard outside of the classroom in our extra curriculars, jobs and community service initiatives. Many of my sisters have received pheneomenal opportunities to study abroad, produce research, and intern for impactful organizations. Excellence is not our goal, it is our standard.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
Social media is a phenomenal platform to not only show the good works that a chapter is doing but also promote upcoming events, new member presentations and update the general public about initiatives going on within the chapter. A helpful tip that my chapter learned is that chapters should be encouraged to elect a social media and technology chairman to govern the social media outlets for the chapters. This will allow for the chapter to showcase the work they are doing consistently.
What does leadership mean to you?
To me leadership means a commitment to service. It means leading a team in the best possible way that benefits everybody . Leadership to me is selfless. It also means that in my own life I must lead by example, model excellence, and live virtuously. A true leader steps up when necessary but also makes sure that everyone within the team is using their abilities and has the necessary tools to work at their best. A true leader upholds the values of the organization and without letting personal biases distort decision making. Finally, a true leader leads from the heart and is fueled by compassion, and commitment to the team and the mission at hand.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom because it provides greeks with an outlet to see the success of other greeks. Watch The Yard creates a sense of greek unity, which is not often seen on campuses. It allows us to feel connected to other Greeks across the country and sometimes the world. Watch The Yard also allows for people to learn more about greekdom through social media a get an understanding what BGLOs are about.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood to me means so much. I have two sisters and at first, the idea of sisterhood with people that were not my blood related sisters didn’t seem like a true sisterhood. However, after getting to know my line sisters and growing our bond, I started to learn that sisterhood is about the bonds that are shared. It is about people that share a common goal and helping each other grow. Sisterhood is a blessing that everyone isn’t blessed with and I was able to gain 22 other line sisters and thousands of others. Having Sorors has been a huge blessing, Its amazing to travel and meet a soror and have an instant connection. I have been able to meet and connect with so many phenomenal women because of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation, I am moving to Washington, D.C. and working with Teach for America while pursuing my Masters at John Hopkins University. My career interest is in Education Policy and Reform. I have seen firsthand growing up in South Carolina that our education system does not equally prepare our children for success . My desire is to help bring change to the South Carolina Public School System through Career and Technical training and providing resources to historically vulnerable students through policy change. I have been so blessed with a solidified plan after college and plan to help give career advice to fellow students.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Thomasena Thomas for her work as the president of Iota Omicron Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1975.