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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Deirdre Harris Stepter the Basileus of Sigma Gamma Rho’s Mu Sigma Chapter in Baton Rouge

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 Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.’s Mu Sigma Chapter in the Greater Baton Rouge Metropolitan Area and did an interview with Deirdre Harris Stepter 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. Deirdre Harris Stepter, who works as a Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist, has been in the position of Basileus since August 2020. 

We interviewed Deirdre Harris Stepter, who is a Fall 1987 – Mu Sigma Chapter (Graduate) initiate of Sigma Gamma Rho 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?

I was motivated to run for the office of Basileus of Mu Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. because of my desire to move my chapter forward to the next level of service. The goals of my administration included increased service to the community, increased membership growth and increased marketing of the brand of the Magnificent Mu Sigma Chapter. Motivated to serve my sorority and my community since I became a member in 1987, this was the a natural next step in my growth and development as a leader. 

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?

To serve the community, you must recognize your strengths and weaknesses. One of the key goals for Mu Sigma chapter this year is self-care and individual member development. Investing in our membership will allow us to provide greater service to the community. Our Women’s Wellness Initiative is focused on addressing the stressors that women face as caregivers and nurturers. A better understanding of the needs of our members will help us address the needs of the African American community around Breast Cancer Awareness, Mental Health Awareness, Black Maternal Health, Heart Health and our annual Youth Symposium to promote health and educational awareness. We are also partnering with local social action groups to promote voter registration and education. 

What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?

I joined Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. because they took a young girl with leadership potential and gave me an outlet to develop those skills through the Mu Sigma Rhoer Club and also through participation in their youth programs. The sisters of Sigma Gamma Rho became second mothers – mentoring and guiding me from 7th grade and through college. 

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

My chapter is unique because we have always inspired our members to take on leadership roles, whether new sorors or seasoned sorors including those with 50 years or more of membership. Members join our chapter from our undergraduate ranks and directly as graduate members. Each brings her own unique skills and experiences. Our diversity is our strength. 

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

Mu Sigma Chapter sponsors three undergraduate chapters: Beta Alpha Chapter at Southern University, Gamma Pi Chapter at Louisiana State University and Pi Iota Chapter at Southeastern Louisiana University. An advisor along with a team of graduate sorors mentor and shape the next generation of leaders by helping them develop the skills necessary to guide our sorority to the next level. We work with them on service opportunities and member training. 

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

Every member is an individual and there is no cookie cutter approach to membership development. I believe that transparency is the best way to increase unity and camaraderie. An informed membership is an involved membership. As members strive to achieve work/life balance, you must help them understand how to balance sorority membership and service to others so that it does not add stress in their lives. 

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

This may seem cliché, but knowledge is power. The more knowledgeable you are about your organization, the better able you are to serve. Volunteer to serve on chapter projects and committees. Understand policies and procedures and attend conferences of your organization. It is also important to join and serve in other organizations to develop a diverse and balanced leadership skillset. 

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?

My 7th grade science teach, Myrtle Moran, took my under her wing and guided me to Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. She saw so much potential in a shy young girl and encouraged her to excel. She supported me as her student and helped me spread my wings and fly. Soror Moran introduced me to a sisterhood that I have embraced for life. 

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

Watch the Yard is important to Black Greekdom because it showcases our excellence. 

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

I love being involved in my organization because seeing the work of Sigma Gamma Rho in our local and international communities make me proud to serve. 

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

I don’t have any blood sisters. Being a member of the sisterhood of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. allows me to bond with a diverse group of women. These women have mentored me, shared joys and triumphs, support each other in our grief and loss and inspired me. These are the sisters that I choose. 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Deirdre Harris Stepter for her work as the Basileus of the Mu Sigmawhich has a legacy that spans back to 1945. 

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