A recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley reflects on her four years as a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta Chapter there and looks forward to our fraternity’s role in her future
For the summer, I am working at ((305)) Fitness, a fitness start-up company in NYC, as the Search Engine Optimization and Market Strategy Analyst. I did not realize how lucky I was to find an internship that I love until this past week. Someone asked about my summer, and I explained what I was doing. When they asked about the fitness company I work for, I said I loved the classes they offered and was happy to work for a company which I believe in.
((305)) Fitness has been recognized for bringing a Miami club atmosphere to a cardio dance, high intensity training workout. Every class has a DJ, lights, and an awesome instructor that will make sure you sweat while dancing, sprinting and toning. Last year I got obsessed with ((305)) classes after my friend brought me to one. It’s one of the few exercises that will have you singing and leave you with a puddle of sweat after you’re done with your session.
Although most of my work has involved working on the company’s website and Google Analytics, a lot of my time is also spent calculating Key Performance Indicators, speaking to clients, etc. On a daily basis, I track how people are interacting with the website and develop ad campaigns when they are needed. I have also been able to build the company’s blog. I love working at a start-up company because I am exposed to so much and have been able to hone my skills with SEO.
I have had so much freedom to work on various projects. Since our company has just launched a new location in Washington D.C., I have been working closely with reports to look at our consumers’ behavior. I was thrilled to begin this task because its something I always thought was interesting but had no previous experience working with. It’s very tedious, but in the end I find it incredibly fascinating to be able to strategize after doing research on our sales, clients and performance.
What I love the most about my work is the opportunity to work with such a great team. The founder, Sadie, is an amazing person whom I look up to and have become close with. She is so hard-working and fierce. (She’s only 24 and has a business that Cosmo, The New Yorker and all of NYC is raving about!) She loves what she does, does what she loves. I met her last year since I often took classes instructed by her. The small team we have in the office is always great fun and appreciates the work that I do for the company.
Three years ago, I don’t think I would have ever thought I would be doing this. Since I was 16, I have interned in corporate law firms, fashion showrooms, event management agencies and non-profit organizations. I always thought about going into fashion business, but I became exposed to different fields after my summers abroad and time at Swarthmore. I have always known that I am interested in trends and behavior, but I am still figuring out where it will lead me. My job on-campus as an Information and Technology Associate really contributed to me finding my passion. I enjoy discovering how technology makes it easy for people to solve problems or look at data. SEO and Market Strategy seemed like the perfect thing to try out.
During my Spring abroad in London, I was able to take marketing and accounting classes at University College London which got me even more interested in consumer behavior. I also met one of my mentors who introduced me to the start-up scene in London and encouraged me to take online courses to learn more about Google Analytics and SEO. Every couple days, I would go to a new cafe and watch a few videos and take tests online. I taught myself most of what I know, and it gave me the opportunity to apply for the position I have now.
NYC has also been amazing this summer. I am currently living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with two roommates. I love the neighborhood I live in. There are a ton of unique and quirky boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. I am a New York native, but after being abroad and being at Swarthmore, I have recently spent very little time here. It’s great to be back. I also went to Ecuador during the July 4th weekend for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and wedding vow renewal. Much of my free time has been spent catching up with old friends and family, walking around the city, and of course, taking a few ((305)) classes.
This past weekend, February 22 through 24, I had the honor of participating in a series of six, two hour long seminars conducted through the Institute for New Economic Thinking (http://ineteconomics.org/). Professor Michael Sandel organized and led the weekend’s sessions. Professor Sandel is one of today’s preeminent political philosophers, and a professor at Harvard University where he teaches the wildly popular course entitled Justice (http://www.justiceharvard.org/). I submitted my application for this opportunity over the winter break and promptly put it behind me as I knew there would be many more applicants (about 500) than spaces for students (12). When I heard from the Institute in February, I was shocked and thrilled to learn that I had been selected by the Institute and Prof. Sandel to participate.
Going into the first day of the seminar I had no idea what to expect from the experience, other than that it would be filmed and cut into one hour segments for a series on PBS. Meeting the other participants the first morning before beginning filming I soon learned that my colleagues happened to be from everywhere. One participant flew over from Kings College in London, another came from Western Ontario, and another two were from Bulgaria and Syria, though they attend school in the United States. On top of that, schools like Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Smith (and Swarthmore!) were represented. The group held and expressed ideas from every angle one could imagine.
The first day on the set where the seminars were being recorded was quite restrained. I believe that the twelve of us were trying to decide how far we could push each other without crossing a line. The fact that we all got along so well while having such different views on economics and capital markets helped us to move more quickly to question one another’s assertions and arguments because there were no hard feelings as soon as the cameras stopped rolling. And, even when the cameras were still rolling, there were very few instances (possibly no instances) when someone’s zeal for their belief led them to be less than respectful.
The purpose of the series is to discuss the morality of certain market practices. Then, if there are moral problems with certain economic structures, business practices, government policies, or markets for goods, is it enough to warrant the regulation or even elimination of that practice, market, or structure. The methodology of the seminar was to move us out of our comfort zone and promote critical thinking on the topics for discussion. One of the topics we discussed was whether “lookism” (a hiring policy practiced by companies such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Lululemon, and PanAm in the fifties and sixties) is morally wrong, and if so should it be made illegal in the same way that prohibitions on racism, age discrimination, and sexism have been codified in U.S. law. Another topic that generated much discussion was what would be the moral implication of creating an international, tradable quota system for accepting refugees into countries.
For some reason, four hours of discussion a day was not enough. We ate most meals together for three days, and made the unspoken decision that no matter how hard we tried to give our minds a rest we would continue discussing some tougher subjects during meal times and after the twice daily seminars! I hope that the final product is able to convey the sense of respect and friendship that developed among the twelve of us as a result of these friendly and animated conversations.
The easiest friendship to make for me was with another Theta who was also in attendance. Laura Spring, a sophomore at Princeton and a student in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs was another of the five women in the group. Her enthusiasm and clarity in arguing her points were great parts of every conversation. It was a wonderful surprise and great honor to meet another of my sorority sisters from another college. Laura is another example of the high personal and intellectual standard to which most Thetas aspire to hold themselves.
Given the intensity of the weekend, even my trip back to Swarthmore from New York was spent thinking about the varying perceptions of the role of markets in creating a moral society. I have tried to describe Professor Sandel’s seminar in this post, but I think that the best way to find out what kind of experience it was, would be to watch the finished products that are going to be up on PBS and YouTube, eventually. I hope that our discussions, arguments, and ideas will be able to inspire people to have these kinds of conversations more often. And, hopefully, to demonstrate that people with inherently different views can remain open to each other and have productive discussions while remaining respectful of each other’s beliefs and ideas. I intend to stay in touch with the friends I made this weekend, and who knows, maybe there will be a reunion in a few years and we can all find out how we have developed our beliefs or found reasons to change the beliefs we held as college students!
This winter break, I got the opportunity to explore my heritage, a new city, and my identity as a Theta. I spent two weeks in the city of Chennai, in Southern India, where my parents grew up and the majority of my family still resides. Traveling to Chennai always involves a little bit of a culture shock— going from the wintry suburbs of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the hot, dusty metropolis where I spent so many of my childhood summers took a few days of adjustment. But after conquering jet lag, my two sisters, parents, and I spent our time there visiting members of our enormous extended family, touring a traditional village, attending Indian classical musical concerts, and exploring a textiles factory. Although going to India can be a bittersweet experiences—poverty is easily visible, and there is much evidence of the fact that India is still a developing nation–visiting even for just two weeks always reminds me of the parts of my heritage that I love: the delicious, spicy food, the rich history that can be seen from the thousand-year old temples to which thousands of devotees flock every day, the hospitality and warmth that are so ingrained in Tamil culture. Saying goodbye to my great-grandmother, grandparents, and multitudes of cousins, uncles, and aunts is always sad, but I am already looking forward to our next visit to Chennai upcoming year.
The second half of my winter break was not spent in New Jersey, applying to internships and summer study programs as I had originally planned, but instead on an impromptu trip to Europe with my father. I spent three days in Barcelona with my dad, touring the city in a double-decker bus. Since our time there was so limited, we disembarked the bus only at the tourist sites that I had read about in the guide book and was particularly interested: Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, the FC Barca soccer stadium, and the lively Plaza Catalunya. I unearthed the Spanish I learned in high school, and tried to communicate as best as I could to the owners of the small bakery we went to every morning for breakfast. However, what made the trip truly special was the quality time I got to spend with my dad in such a beautiful city.
After Barcelona, we flew to Paris, where my dad was stuck in meetings and I roamed the city, which I had only vague memories of from a childhood trip to Paris. I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Constance and Raundi, two fellow Thetas who are from Paris. Constance and I met up on my second evening there, and she showed me some of her favorite sites around the city. We first went to the Pont des Arts, a bridge covered in locks placed there by couples that represent their eternal love, and then ate pastries near the Eiffel Tower. Having dinner with her and Raundi, and picking up exactly where we left off at Swarthmore three weeks before, made me realize that there is something very special about the bonds between sisters, that make it so easy to reconnect all over the world. Whether it’s sitting in Hobbs in the Ville, or a Parisian café with a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower, we are still able to connect over our hopes for the upcoming semester and 2014, our experiences over break, and so much more. I look forward to the connections I continue to make through Theta, and am excited to explore more places with my Theta sisters at my side!
As a freshman, I wasn’t sure what to expect during my first winter break of college- having over a month off from school seemed like such as long time! After spending time with family and friends and even getting a chance to dive Cozumel, I was ready to see everyone from school again. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long-I spent the last 10 days of break in Puerto Rico on the swim team training trip!
Every winter break Swat Swim flocks to a warm tropical island to train. In the months leading up to the trip, the team raised money by giving swim lessons to kids in the local community and by writing to alumni, family and friends to sponsor us in our annual Swim-a-thon.
Finally the day came: we all met up at Newark airport to catch our flight. The freshmen chatted excitedly, eager to escape the sub-freezing temperatures of the Polar Vortex. The upperclassmen on the other hand, were far more reserved, and with knowing smiles reminded us that we were going to Puerto Rico to do the most intense training of our season. We boarded our 7 am flight and our journey began.
The first day we didn’t have practice and instead we went grocery shopping for our suites, but the next morning, the real work began! For the rest of the trip, we woke up at 5 am for our first practice of the day. After swimming, we had dry-land workouts. Then we would come back to the hotel to eat and nap. In the afternoon we went back to the pool for our second practice of the day. Finally, exhausted, we would pile onto the bus and go back to the hotel to eat and sleep. The days quickly became a blur of eating, sleeping, and swimming. Still, I gained so much from the experience!
Even though the workouts were daunting at best, and jumping into the outdoor pool before dawn only added to the challenge, there was something so incredible about swimming as the sun rose over us. Similarly, in the evenings, we ate dinner together with our suites as the sun set. Everyone helped in either the preparation or cleanup of dinner, and we always had lively dinner table discussions.
Not only did our eight-person suite bond during the trip, but also so did the team as a whole. On our two afternoons off, many of us explored beautiful beaches, visited Old San Juan, or just hung out by the hotel pool. These moments all provided us with opportunities to connect with each other and to learn more about our teammates. For me, the training trip epitomized what it means to be part of a team. We all worked hard together, lived together, and even shared a few moments of relaxation together!
I am so impressed with and amazed by my wonderfully supportive teammates! As our season draws to a close in just a few weeks, I can’t wait to watch everyone’s hard work payoff!
Before attending the recruitment meetings for Alpha Beta, I had heard great things on campus about the goals of the chapter and the high standards it holds for women. The meetings were delightfully welcoming while informatively emphasizing the goals of the organization, which are academics, character, and community work. I felt excited to pledge because the speakers gave such a warm vibe of sisterhood. The poise, class, and confidence of the executives overwhelmingly impressed me and, as a young woman new to college life, I feel that these ambitious women are fantastic role models.
Our journey began with two memorable recruitment events. At Sisterhood and S’mores, the ladies were warm, welcoming, and encouraged us to tell them about ourselves. The second was more formal and gave us a chance to meet all the sisters. The upcoming Saturday was bid day! We accepted our bids in a small, cozy room and spent some time happily conversing with some familiar faces. We were finally new members.
For the next few weeks, we attended New Member meetings every Sunday night with Julia Nee, where she taught us the values of the fraternity, its history, and the true meaning of sisterhood. Julia’s poise, fashion sense, and soothing nature are the images coming to mind for us. New membership is a time of humility and a time to reflect on the privilege of sisterhood. Along with all the seriousness though, the sisters held events all of “Inspiration Week” before Initiation to help bring us closer together. We became closer to our sisters through bonding activities like Faith, Hope, Love night and our Big/Little Reveals where we popped balloons to reveal the names of our bigs. Then, our bigs gave us adorable, cozy Theta blankets! There were some activities that we couldn’t partake in until we would become members. This added a little bit of excitement and a little bit of nerves. What were the secrets? What didn’t we know? What are they keeping from us?
On November 1st, all new members met at Bond Hall and ceremoniously relinquished their pins, one by one, to Ashley Gochoco, our CEO. This was the first step to becoming an official member. We took an oath to the fraternity and pledged our loyalty. We all were excited for the much-anticipated Initiation ceremony the next day. We were told nothing except that this event would be one of the most memorable events in our lives and we can attest that it certainly was special. A very intimate atmosphere made us feel so close to our sisters who guided us through each step carefully. As we stepped out of Bond Hall, we embraced our new, official Theta badges with care, respect, and honor. We were finally Thetas and we couldn’t be happier with our new family!
Dana Benton & Erin Jenson
Dina Zingaro ’13 Current Job: News Associate at CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley in NYC
After graduation, like many Swatties, I plunged into a free trial of Netflix and decompressed from all the emotions of senior year and graduation. Soon though, I started reaching out to and met up with alumni I had worked with in the past – Cynthia Leive ’88 at Glamour, Martha Spanninger ’76 at the NPR affiliate Latino USA. I was so thankful to sit down with these women who had been in my shoes years ago and to listen to their advice on how to reorganize my resume, but even more, on how to navitage the limbo Swatties find themselves in after graduation. With the support and honesty they offered, both Cindi and Marty would have made great Thetas. During July, I started interning at an interreligious journalism organization in NYC, Odyssey Networks – Marty actually suggested the organization. Since I was a Religion and English Lit double major and had worked in journalism since high school, Odyssey served as a fitting transition after Swat. Even though Odyssey could not hire me full-time because of budget cuts, my boss connected me with dozens of journalists in the field that helped me expand my network. Staying active with work that interests you – even if the position is unpaid, and saying “yes” to meeting with anyone and everyone are two of the most valuable things I learned post-Swat.
For a few weeks this summer, I had the opportunity to travel with a fellow Theta sister – Ms. Amanda Brown and another Swat friend. We lived as tourists (which isn’t always easy…so many foot blisters!) traveling and soaking up the sights and sounds of other countries. After sufficient carbo-loading in Europe, I returned to the US and picked up on the job search I had left behind.
At the end of September, I was hired as a News Associate at CBS News in NYC, for which I will spend 4-5 months at a time at different broadcasts such as CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes and Face the Nation. Right now, in the Research Department of the Evening News with Scott Pelley, I conduct research and background interviews, along with fact-checking the accuracy of the daily broadcast. This week is my fourth week and it’s been a rush; there are so many moving parts to the product that airs at 6:30 pm each night and to contribute even the small piece that I do is a thrill.