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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Erica Lewis the President of Zeta Phi Beta’s Rho Alpha Zeta Chapter in Hermitage, TN

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 Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.’s Rho Alpha Zeta Chapter in Hermitage, TN and did an interview with Erica Lewis the President of the chapter. 

The position of president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Erica Lewis, who works as a Resident Director, Residence Life and Housing at Tennessee State University, has been in the position of president for 2 years. 

We interviewed Erica, who is a Epsilon Alpha Chapter at Tennessee State University Fall 2001 initiate of Zeta Phi Beta 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 take on the role of graduate chapter president because it presented the opportunity for me to grow and align the chapter brand under a new international president who focuses on branding and partnerships.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many graduate chapters to begin to use more technology to accomplish initiatives. I was excited to use tools introduced during the pandemic to impact a wider audience while increasing opportunities for our chapter members to grow, participate more often beyond our immediate community, and to share our accomplishments with a global audience. 

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?

This year, our chapter will streamline our ZHOPE (Zetas Helping Other People Excel) projects. We will focus on Domestic Violence Awareness, Elder Care, Social Action, and Mental Health. We believe that by improving awareness and increasing access to resources, we can help improve the quality of life for Hermitage and Middle, TN, particularly people of Color. 

What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?

Growing up, I wanted to be a member of a different NPHC organization because I wanted to be just like my aunt. When I reached the campus of Tennessee State University, I was introduced to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. through observation of members of the Epsilon Alpha Chapter who served a peer mentors, resident assistants, and program counselors. It was through my relationship with Keely Gipson and Rashedah Young that I decided to learn about their sorority. The principle of FINER WOMANHOOD sealed the deal for me. The members on campus exemplified this principle. The members on campus were smart, kind, and inviting. I was also impressed that Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was the only sorority constitutionally bound to a brother fraternity. The bond between the Epsilon Alpha Chapter and Zeta Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, Fraternity, Inc. seemed unmatched. After reading more, I knew I wanted to pursue membership in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. 

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

The Rho Alpha Zeta Chapter is unique because it takes a modern approach to the principles established by our five illustrious founders. We take pride in creating an environment for members to grow and pursue leadership opportunities in the sorority at all levels. Through the years, chapter signature programs have included Coats for Kids, Hats Off to Mom, Young, Gifted, & Black, and the Garden Party. As participants in the Tennessee Adopt-A-Highway, Rho Alpha Zeta has adopted the Hobson Pike route, a 2-mile stretch from Smith Springs Parkway to the Hobson Pike bridge. Our chapter is home to the 16th Tennessee State Director, Jaci Y. Henley. 

Photo Credit: @vincemusings

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

The Rho Alpha Zeta Chapter sponsors the Omega Pi chapter at Vanderbilt University. Our chapter recently assisted with the reactivation of the chapter by recruiting new members providing moderate financial support to cover their starting fees. Our Third Vice President, Lori Goins, provides guidance for the undergraduate chapter. Members of the graduate chapter support Omega Pi by attending events, assisting with fundraisers, and serving as mentors for undergraduates. 

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

Lead by our First Vice President, Charity Allen, our Sisterhood committee hosts monthly outings for members to spend time together at events and activities. Each month, the type of activity varies in order to be inclusive for all members. Unity and camaraderie is also built during service initiatives and while attending events hosted by other members of our local NPHC. We have found the combination of these strategies to be effective because it allows members to connect while attending and completing initiatives that interest them. It allows members to learn who has similar interest and build stronger relationships through common interests. 

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

In addition to the leaders in their chapter, I would advise aspiring leaders to get to know members in other chapters who hold the role they wish to fill. I advise them to ask questions about the work done behind the scenes, find out about the time, finances, and sacrifices required to be successful in the role. I also advise them to think about the how they will add their unique signature to the position. 

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 been an essential part of my growth in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and life. It has provided me with guidance, support, and advice from those who have more experience and knowledge. My undergraduate advisor Keisha Milton has continued to be a reliable source of guidance for me. To be a successful advisor, Dr. Kendra Walker has taught how to collaborate and grow with undergraduate members. Joyce Murphy, the 17th Tennessee State Director, has taught me attention to detail and planning. Lametric Bishop has provided peer-to-peer mentorship for me since my initiation into the sorority. These sorors have been key mentors for me and continue to aid in my development as a graduate chapter president. 

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

I think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom because it showcases a complete view of NPHC organizations. It allows others to see Black greekdom beyond step shows and new member presentations. It is important for others to see the impact that NPHC members have in their communities and the world. 

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

As I reflect on my 22 years as a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., I love that I have experienced global sisterhood. I have built relationships with women I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to know and learn from and that alone is invaluable. Since becoming a member, I have lived in four states across 3 regions. I love that no matter where I’ve lived, I’ve had a network of sisters to help me settle and acclimate to a new home. I love that I share this bond with three of my cousins, Toiya Craig, Dr. Eboni Caridine, and Christian Caridine. I have seen the joy of a soror welcoming her daughter into our beloved sorority and I look forward to the day I can do the same. I would be remised to not mention the sorors who keep a bag packed and are ready to take flight at any moment, my Finer Fairies (Marhonte Tennial, Danielle Epps, Shamona McFadden, Jacinta Miller and Tandra Carter). These sorors are my support system, my travel buddies, and my conference comrades. They are the epitome of SISTERHOOD. 

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

To me, sisterhood is a feeling of connection and community among women. It is the feeling of being supported and understood by other women, regardless of their background or circumstances. Sisterhood is about celebrating our diversity and uplifting one another. We learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives and become stronger as a result. When we have a group of women who support us, we feel less alone and more confident in ourselves. We are confident that we can always rely on them for support and guidance. 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Erica Lewis for her work as the President of the Rho Alpha Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1997. 

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