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Leadership Highlight: La’Shaunda Ewing the Basileus of Sigma Gamma Rho’s Epsilon Lambda Sigma Chapter in Cincinnati, Ohio

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In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorors of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.’s Epsilon Lambda Sigma Chapter in Cincinnati, Ohio and did an interview with La’Shaunda N. Ewing 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. Ewing, who is a Sr. Business Solutions Analyst focused on global data and analytics/business intelligence, has served in the position of Basileus for four years.

We interviewed Ewing, who is a Spring 1992 initiate of her sorority, 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 does it mean to be a chapter president to you?

To be a chapter president first means being a servant leader and living by the strategy of “watch me work with and for you!” I can never ask someone to go, where I don’t take the first step. I must lead by example first. It also means making tough decisions when necessary that empower and encourage my sorors, Philos, and Rhoers in becoming leaders in the community of Cincinnati. Some people assume a chapter President is an entitled member with extra benefits, of which is an uncomfortable burden to bear. I am not power-hungry, so I don’t leverage it to hold power over people. I utilize the authority given to prayerfully make things easier for those who come after me, securing a foundation they can proudly stand on.

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

There are many which include:

  • Launch of the E. Kathleen Cooke Foundation (501c3) which allow us to secure greater funding and resources to enlarge our footprint and giving
  • March of Dimes Walk and Fundraising
  • Project Cradle Care (seeks to improve pregnancy outcomes in high-risk communities by providing adequate prenatal education on infant care and development and prenatal care).
  • Swim 1922 (in conjunction with USA Swim we provide free swim clinics to prevent drownings in the inner city)
  • Youth Symposium (highlight some of the prevalent concerns that negatively impact our youth: drugs, teen violence, abuse, low self-esteem, suicide, teen pregnancy, etc. along with providing STEM education and scholarship opportunities)
  • Breast Cancer Awareness, and so much more!

We recently conducted Operation Big Book Bag at King Academy within the inner city of Cincinnati, Ohio. We provided school supplies for every student, totaling 140. At King Academy, every child is listed at or below the poverty level. We are honored to be able to provide students with school supplies and the administrators and teachers with classroom resources. This is a blessing for them and our chapter. The previous principal shared during an open house that we have given in partnership with the CAFA over $28,000 worth of school supplies and other resources over 12 years. Children and schools should never have to worry about the basics when we understand that education is a central key to success in this world. Our goal is always to provide “Greater Service” utilizing these initiatives and others for the “Greater Progress” of the whole community.

What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?

While attending Wilberforce University, I had the opportunity to see up close, three organizations, and believed I had set my mind on a particular one. Not so! A friend suggested I research the rich history of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority and I was amazed. The only Divine Nine sorority to be founded on a predominately white institution which meant they went against the grain. They had to have vision, purpose, and courage to overcome the hardship of the ’20s. In 1922 seven school teachers determined in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the Ku Klux Klan was headquartered, to strive for a better life for themselves and African Americans. Our founders recognized that education was the key to their success and to share that opportunity with others. I had to overcome many obstacles to get to campus carrying a dream, and my mind was made up no matter what to succeed. I was blessed and I saw women (including my sands) that not only put scholarship first but also the people around them with GOD as their guide. I understood that you could party hard, but you better study harder! There were no airs in the sisterhood; we were all women regardless if we had letters on our chest or not. We were taught to put everything into perspective. The women who helped us re-establish Kappa Chapter lived the motto of “Greater Service, Greater Progress” and I felt right at home.

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

Epsilon Lambda Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority is unique in our level of energy and commitment to serving the City of Cincinnati. We even call ourselves “Energetic ELS.” We support everyone and we are everywhere! We once won “Organization of the Year” amongst non-Greeks (i.e., NAACP, Urban League, and Cincinnati African American Firefighters) and Greeks organizations which were voted on by the African American community by the then Black-owned website “Around the Nati.” When invited, we bring our entire Sigma Gamma Rho family (i.e., Graduate Sorors, Undergraduates, our Philos and Rhoers) to each community service event. I even make sure that if the team is busy, I go, so the community knows we genuinely believe in “Greater Service, Greater Progress.”

We now live in a digital world, what do you think alumni chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?

As someone who was a social media hater, I recognize the importance of telling your story. We have to get the word out about what we are doing because people genuinely want to support you individually and collectively. We have to go where the people are and leverage the power of social media. This makes it easier for the community to connect with us often, creating continuous and significant moments for them to feel a part of our organizations’. Today, the majority of people get their news and create networking opportunities on social media and via websites. So the ability to showcase your outreach and solicit support in seconds vastly expands your brand and viability even to large corporations who can see your immediate impact. We must recognize that not everyone is on social media, so when appropriate we should still utilize traditional means of communications (i.e., phone calls, stamped letters, and emails) as to not leave anyone out.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me means recognizing my faults, owning them, and make sure I don’t try to portray myself as perfect. Leaders need to be humble at all times so that their influence can be embraced. As a leader, I am not above anyone because my role is equally as important as all the other roles, which at times makes me struggle with all the recognition sometimes given to me only. We are a team of leaders. Leadership empowers the entire team to even walk while afraid into new roles, understanding that we are the supporting team right here with them. Leadership, as I stated before, leads by example. You cannot ask anyone to go where you are not willing to go yourself. Leadership never gives up, even when a restart is required. Fail fast, learn from the errors, and begin again. It is my job as a leader to motivate the entire family on a shared vision while making the journey enjoyable, educational, and purposeful. Leadership recognizes that not everyone willingly follows! We love them, however don’t spend too much time giving all of our energy away when others may be able to secure them. Leadership is everyone’s job, and it can be executed at every level of the organization when the proper processes are in place.

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

There is such a negative perception in the world concerning Black Greek letter organizations. We are sometimes seen more as rivaling gangs versus professionals, scholars, and innovators who are surrounded by a large supportive team. Watch the Yard provides that real, factual, genuine and even-spread showcase of all the Divine Nine organizations and the unity amongst us. Watch the Yard also showcases how we leverage our shared resources to empower our communities. And lastly, you remind us sometimes to celebrate the greatness that we have in common versus our minimal differences.

What does brotherhood/sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood to me means having a village/family mentality and being my sister’s keeper. The village requires everyone to do their part in protecting the family, which allows us to move together and support everyone unto success in and out of the sorority. The village may have difficult times, but as we love each other and understand our struggles, we can pull together and overcome anything. Everyone wants to expand their territory and legacy. By having a strong foundation, we are willing to invite others to join who have common goals and passion so that our history will forever remain great as a sisterhood.

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

Epsilon Lambda Sigma currently has two undergraduate chapters that we advise – Nu Gamma (University of Cincinnati) and Pi Upsilon (Xavier University). Our 2nd Anti-Basileus (Vice President) provides supervision and support to the undergraduate chapter advisors by creating ongoing training programs for both the advisors as well the undergraduate members. While each chapter has its own advisor, we also have an undergraduate advisory team. With the graduate chapter members hectic lives and even the undergraduates, we wanted to make sure at any points they know they are supported. So the team is committed to showing up to our undergraduate events. To create an atmosphere of cohesion among all levels of Sigma we have at least 2 meetings per year for those who share the same office from the graduate, undergraduate, Philo, and Rhoer levels and they sit together. It is important that we continuously understand that we are one family regardless of affiliation. To support this, we have a chapter family GroupMe, which includes the undergrads so we are aware of the things going on in their lives and on their campuses. We support them financially, emotionally, and spiritually because we are their sister’s keeper. Every undergraduate has a mentor from the graduate chapter outside of their direct advisor. It is the responsibility of the mentor to walk through their college and sorority career with them. We also ensure that when an undergraduate is ready to transfer to the graduate chapter, we waive their local dues. These are just a few things we do to support our undergraduates.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend La’Shaunda N. Ewing for her work as the Basileus of the Epsilon Lambda Sigma Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1980.

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