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 Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s Xi Alpha Chapter at Georgia Tech and did an interview with Tia Calhoun the 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 Calhoun 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 Architecture 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?
In theory, it means taking on the responsibility of your chapter and of your community. In reality, it means sacrificing your time, and energy for the love of your sisters, your letters, and your community. It could mean sleepless nights and early mornings, but it could also mean unforgettable experiences and an irreplaceable honor. Honestly, being chapter president is not easy, and it is not for the weak – hearted. With that being said, what is amazing about the job is seeing the hard work come into fruition with every chapter event, sister to sister relationship, and person who commends the work being completed. Every day I feel more and more blessed to receive this job, and it continues to mold me into the leader I am today.
What made you decide to attend the Georgia Tech for undergrad?
It’s actually a funny story. I never imagined myself attending Georgia Tech. When I was a junior in high school, I told myself I was going to go to a local college and study Interior Design. When I told my classmates this, they were shocked, mainly because I was third in my class. People encouraged me saying, “Tia, you are too smart for local college!”, and I am so glad I listened to them! I only applied to three universities upon graduating high school, Georgia Tech being one of them. I applied early action and was so shocked that I got accepted. Because I knew of Georgia Tech’s reputation as being one of the top engineering schools in the country, I knew God made no mistakes on building this path for me. So I gave myself an ultimatum: If I love the campus during the campus tour, I have to go to Georgia Tech. I fell in love with the campus, and here I am in my fourth year of undergrad today.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
In addition to the national initiatives of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and following the sorority’s five programmatic thrusts, Xi Alpha focuses on the needs of the black Georgia Tech community. We tend to spark various conversations based on a needs assessment and provide different resources based on that assessment. This could vary from mental health safe spaces to scholarships to help fund student’s education to community service. Although we focus mainly on the black community at Tech, we do collaborate with other student organizations and greek councils to reach the remaining student body. In doing so, we realize the work we are doing is so much bigger than us, and that in order to see the change within our community, both academically and socially, we have to educate one another.
What made you want to pledge Delta Sigma Theta?
Out of my intermediate family, only three people, including myself, had attended a four – year university. With that being said, I was not really exposed to college or greek life until high school. Even then, no one in my family was greek or was aware of greek culture. It was not until my second year of college, where I had faced various trials and tribulations, that I felt in my spirit that maybe this was something I was meant to do. As I was facing those trials, and I looked around at who was helping me, they were all Deltas. It was not to say that my family wasn’t helping and motivating me, but being that only a few of them went to college, they did not fully understand what I was going through. Furthermore, I did more research while simultaneously asking God for guidance, and once again, I felt my spirit tugging me in this direction. When I told various Deltas my story, they just began to pray for me. Those moments sealed the deal for me. I have never been apart of a sisterhood so heart – warming, God – fearing, and barrier breaking. It is a sisterhood that I am proud to be apart of.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Well for starters, Xi Alpha was the first black sorority on Georgia Tech’s campus. We were the face of black women in sorority and fraternity life for the longest period of time and that was much needed representation for the community and for ourselves. In a like manner, the women who crossed over the last 41 years are change agents in terms of advocacy for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), and black women in education. Many of them come back to Georgia Tech to encourage the black community to continue to get their education, continue to break the glass ceiling, and to continue to represent the community well, especially since we are only six percent of the student body. It is a great honor to continue that commitment through the chapter.
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?
We have to remember that we all are a walking brand and advertisement for our organizations. My advisor always says that when I crossed, I was no longer just Tia. I was now Tia, the Delta. This simply means that whatever I do is tied to my organization. Because of this fact, our organizations need to analyze every thing posted on social media. We need to ask ourselves, “Is this representing my organization in a positive light?” It is sad to say, but often times, people are watching our social media pages more than our in – person actions. Social media is a powerful weapon to raise awareness of various issues and victories within our community. We just have to make sure not to misuse this power.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a bit difficult to unpack. In one sense, leadership is about self – awareness. With that being said, it isn’t only about internal awareness, such as ones values and beliefs, but it is about external self – awareness, such as how other people observe the leader. In another sense, leadership is about inspiring people to make a change, and pushing them towards their greatest self. In order to achieve this, leadership then becomes about action. One of the greatest challenges of leading an organization is participation. Typically, the members may forget the reason they joined in the first place, and stop taking action. It then becomes the leaders responsibility to inspire these members to take action, and continue to make a difference.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard serves as a platform that demonstrates the positive aspects of greek life through social media. It serves as the face of black greek life on social media and this representation is essential. Typically, on the news, greek life has a negative connotation, so it is refreshing to have a media outlet promoting the good a lot of us do. In addition to that, it provides another layer of community to the NPHC. All of us joined a chapter, within a larger sisterhood/brotherhood, and it feels good to now be able to “join” a larger network of sororities and fraternities.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood to me is another word for family. It means that whatever I endure in life I know I have a group of ladies that will forever have my back. It also means that wherever I travel to, I will have a network and a place I can call home. It honestly feels as if I am never alone, and that can never get old.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After I receive my Bachelors of Science in Architecture and my certificate in Building and Construction, I would like to either work for a general contracting company or an architecture firm for about five to ten years. My ultimate goal is to be CEO of my own design – build firm that specializes in residential and small commercial work. Until I fulfill that goal, I would like to invest in my community and flip foreclosed houses and businesses part – time in the local Atlanta/Decatur area. I have not decided on whether I would like to pursue a license in Architecture or Project management, but I do know I would like to get a Masters in the construction/design area.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Tia for her work as the president of Xi Alpha Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1978.