Q&A With Amanda Belcher, Fraternity Manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Alpha Kappa Psi

During the fall of 2020, we launched an anonymous survey regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to better understand how well our fraternity fosters a culture in which all members can be their true authentic selves.

In this survey, we found that over 80% of our student members and 65% of our alumni members believe that Alpha Kappa Psi has a responsibility to provide DEI training.

Some of that foundational work has already begun, so to learn more, we sat down with Amanda Belcher, AKPsi’s Fraternity Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to learn more.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in your day job?

AB: I’m the Director of Human Resources for Sarah Cannon, which is the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare. Sarah Cannon provides integrated treatments to those facing cancer in communities across the U.S. and U.K.

DEI is a part of my current role and something I’m passionate about advancing in the organization. I have also worked as a member of our Strategy Team, where I built out a number of people strategies, including those focused on DEI.

Q: How did you get involved with this new volunteer role for AKPsi?

AB: I’m an AKPsi alumni (Spring ‘08) — Western Kentucky University, class of 2010! Shout out to Zeta Tau! I’ve always had a passion for AKPsi, as it provided me with some of the best experiences I had in college. I made so many great connections and am still connected with many of my brothers.

With my background and passion for DEI, I decided to raise my hand and get involved. I wanted to help in any capacity I could, and it turns out I’ve been able to directly support and lead the efforts that were already underway with the DEI task force that the fraternity put together last year (2020).

I’m still learning how to best balance my role with AKPsi and my day job — and sometimes wish we could move even faster— but we’re working to get even more people involved, so we can accelerate our progress.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became so passionate about DEI?

AB: I come from a tiny, one-stoplight town in Kentucky with some, but not much diversity. Everybody knows everybody; we all went to the same school and had very similar experiences. I remember growing up and feeling like there was so much more to explore! I truly appreciate where I come from and am grateful for the experience growing up in a small town, and it’s also been exciting to somewhat grow out of that space and venture into other parts of the country and the world!

When I went to college and joined AKPsi, we were a very diverse chapter, not only across racial dimensions of diversity, but across gender, age and generation, sexual orientation, and even with varying family dynamics. A semester or two after I joined, many of the white members graduated and I became the only white student in my chapter. I don’t remember any of us thinking much about it then. We simply were who we were: collectively, individually, authentically. And we accomplished great things on our campus and in our community.

These experiences, which I’d never attempt to compare to the experiences of anyone else, certainly trained my eyes to see the world through a lens I may not have otherwise picked up. I notice when a team lacks diversity, or when there’s an “only” in a room. I pay closer attention to others in my surroundings, to how groups form, to the ways people do or don’t find commonality amongst themselves. As a family member, a friend, a colleague, a leader; every day I’m consciously striving to develop genuine connections with and among people, which I hope contributes to increasingly inclusive environments.

The need for refined focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within organizations is far from new. Also, while in college, I went to a leadership camp along with several other students, and we were an amazingly diverse group of young people. At the camp, we were asked to imagine we were on the front page of a newspaper in 2030, and to share what we would want that headline to say. I still have the big flipchart paper where I wrote that my headline would read:

“The 10th Annual Diversity Speaks [my fictional company name] Convention was held this week, preparing students to enter the business world with culturally competent communication and leadership skills.”

I wanted to help students and business leaders learn to work together effectively within diverse teams. To think I wrote that in college and it’s now part of what I actually do today is quite inspiring and keeps me motivated to continue to contribute to this work in any way I can.

Q: How is AKPsi weaving a commitment to DEI into the organization and programming?

AB: I’m excited to share that we have a second iteration of the website that we’ve launched. On the DEI page, you’ll see “where we’re going,” which is an overview of the goals that the 2020 DEI Task Force put together. I’ve been supporting the continuation of these goals, chipping away at the number of goals we have in front of us.

Our DEI  goals are:

  • Increase the diversity of our brotherhood
  • Enhance unity and sense of belonging
  • Include diversity, equity, and inclusion in fraternity education
  • Ensure systemic integrity
  • Serve one another

What’s cool about those goals is that they’re really woven into the existing AKPsi core values of brotherhood, unity, knowledge, integrity, and service.

To start, we really want to focus on foundational education, to make sure everyone has a basic understanding of what diversity, equity, and inclusion are and why they’re important. We’re starting to roll out foundational courses, including an Introduction to DEI, an unconscious bias course, and courses on identity, microaggressions, and allyship.

There are also things behind the scenes we’ll be looking at—like the systemic pieces of the organization—to see if there are any traditions or practices that may need to be reevaluated or modified.  But all of that will take some time to work through.

Over time, we’ll have iterations on our goals and create new goals, and this work will continue for years to come. In fact, this work is part of a journey that will not end. I believe a commitment to true inclusion is lifelong work, both personally and organizationally.

Q: How do inclusive practices help develop future business leaders?

AB: The business world is diverse. The consumer world is diverse. Whoever your stakeholders are, they will be a diverse group of people. So if we build businesses with a singular perspective, we’re not going to understand the needs of our diverse consumers, or clients, or patients, or whoever we’re serving.

It’s a bit of a no-brainer that business leaders today, and in the future, need to prioritize DEI; and to do that, they also need to have diversity within their own organizations. There should be people at every table who can help a leader see things from a multitude of perspectives.

There’s this quote I love: “If you only see what you see, then you haven’t seen all there is to be seen.” It’s so important to have people around you, personally and professionally, who can help you see what you don’t already see.

Q: How can DEI be embraced at the chapter level?

AB: Creating a Chapter DEI Toolkit is something we intend to prioritize. While we’re in early stages of that development, there are ways chapters can begin to focus in this area.

From a recruiting perspective, a great thing you can do is develop some partnerships with other student organizations on campus, whether they’re greek or otherwise. Every college has so many different types of groups you can engage with. You can partner to host events or initiatives and bring together students from all dimensions and intersections of diversity. This will help our chapters build relationships and reach a wider, more diverse audience.

Internally, make sure the diversity you do have is celebrated. Make sure the people in your chapter—each and every individual—see themselves in the celebrations you have, the conversations you hold, the ideas you toss around, the officers you elect. Be sure every member of your chapter knows without a doubt that they belong and that the differences among all of you are celebrated.

Learn more about AKPsi’s commitment to DEI

Diversity, equity, and inclusion practices are a vital component of optimal business outcomes in addition to being the right thing to do. As the premier developer of principled business leaders, Alpha Kappa Psi must include awareness, understanding, training, and the practice of DEI as critical parts of our work.

Read more >

20 Years Later: Remembering the Brothers We Lost on September 11th

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and a tragic day for our nation. At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 collided into the World Trade Center’s north tower in New York City, killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more. Just 17 minutes later, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, flew into the south tower. About 30 minutes later, a third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the west side of the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., while a fourth plane, United Flight 93, crash-landed into a field in Pennsylvania killing all 40 souls on board.

So many innocent lives were lost during this attack, including three of our own Alpha Kappa Psi brothers: Thomas E. Burnett, Minnesota ’85, David H. Winton, Fordham ’91, and Jayceryll M. de Chavez, Rutgers ’98-Life.

Thomas Burnett

Tom graduated from the University of Minnesota’s School of Management in 1985, where he was a member of AKPsi’s Alpha Eta chapter. He went on to have a successful career in business, becoming Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Thoratec Corporation.

On 9/11, he was in New York City on business and was set to head home that day. Tragically, he had changed his reservation to an earlier flight so he could get home to his family sooner, which ultimately led to him being a passenger of Flight 93.

In an NBC interview, his loving wife, Deena Burnett, said, “Tom and the people of Flight 93 came very close to saving the plane. And of course we live with that every day, thinking ‘what if?’”

The passengers of Flight 93 will forever be remembered as American heroes and Tom’s legacy will live on in his family and future business leaders for generations to come.

Tom’s family founded the Tom Burnett Family Foundation in his memory, to help empower youth to become the leaders of tomorrow. The Alpha Eta Chapter holds an annual golf charity to raise money for the fund. Since 1988, the Alpha Eta Scholarship fund has awarded $1,233,292 in scholarships to 204 recipients.

Current Alpha Eta President, Sidney Enninga, described the chapter’s passion for the event: “The members of AKPsi attempt to exemplify Tom’s leadership and courage on a daily basis. He served as our chapter president from 1984-85 and was liked by everyone. We started the Tom Burnett Charity Golf Tournament to honor his story, while bringing those close to him a little closer. Tom loved golf, and that is why we are inviting all of his family, friends, classmates, and colleagues to come support those scholarships that strive to further his legacy.”

The 2021 event will be held September 23 at the Oak Glen Golf course in Stillwater, MN beginning at noon.

Learn more about the Tom Burnett Family Foundation and donate here. >

 

David Winton

David was a 1994 graduate of Fordham University’s business school, an active member of AKPsi’s Epsilon Psi chapter, an honor student, a member of the Globe Program, and Chief Executive Officer of the student-run Fordham Federal Credit Union.

At just 29 years old, David was serving as Vice President at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods on the 89th floor in Tower Two of the World Trade Center on September 11th. He had plans to marry his fiancée Amy later that November.

David’s family and friends established the David H. Winton Foundation and a scholarship fund for graduating seniors at Wethersfield High School, where he graduated as a scholar-athlete in 1990. Their annual memorial golf tournament which ran from 2002 to 2016 raised nearly $100,000 for college-bound students, and they continue to award the scholarship each year.

Learn more about the David H. Winton Foundation on Facebook. >

 

Jayceryll de Chavez

Jayceryll (Jacy) graduated from Rutgers University in 1999 and was a member of AKPsi’s Omicron Tau chapter. Jacy had recently passed his first level examination to become a financial analyst and was working at Fiduciary Trust International in Tower Two of the World Trade Center during the attack. He was just 24 years old.

Jacy is remembered by his family and friends, including his Omicron Tau brother, Chad Olsyzyk. Chad and Jacy, along with 28 other Rutgers business students, founded the Omicron Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi in 1998.

“I only knew Jacy for what now seems like a quick 3 ½ years, but his direct impact still lives within me. As one of the oldest brothers in the fraternity and because he was in Delta Chi, we looked to him for guidance. He wanted Alpha Kappa Psi to be a true professional business fraternity that helps college students become the best business associates after graduation. That’s the chapter foundation we built because of him,” Chad recalls.

Chad and other AKPsi members along with the de Chavez family pulled together to create the Jacy de Chavez World Trade Center Memorial Scholarship.

“Nearly 700 business students in the past 20 years have gone out to the business world better off because of this foundation he created. Jacy had an immense sense of determination, and integrity, mixed in with a little sense of humor, and these characteristics were contagious to those around him,” adds Chad.

Learn more about Jacy’s legacy on his 9/11 living memorial page. >

 

We’ll never forget

As sitting President George W. Bush said in his address to the nation on September 11th, 2001, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

The legacy of our fallen brothers lives on in their families, friends, and the many lives they touched. We remember them this year, and always.

We live in deeds, not years;
In thought, not breath;
In service, not in figures on the dial.
We count time by heart-throbs,
When they beat for God, for man, for duty.
He lives most who thinks most,
Is noblest, acts the best.

4 Steps to Starting an Employee Resource Group

An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a voluntary, employee-led group that aligns with a company’s mission and helps foster a safe and supportive working environment and professional development opportunities for specific groups of employees. ERGs are important to the creation of more inclusive workplace cultures. 

 

As Aiko Bethea writes in the Harvard Business Review: “Typically organized around a shared identity, such as race, gender, age, or mental health, they serve as a haven of belonging, offering a space for underrepresented employees to find one another, stave off a sense of isolation, and experience a reprieve from the daily aggressions they’ve endured at work.” 

Many companies today have active ERGs, but since they’re employee-led groups, it’s not a given that your company has any, or, that they cater to your specific demographic or interest. If you’d like to be part of a group that doesn’t currently exist in your organization, why not start one! 

Here are four steps along with some handy tips from the experts for getting your ERG off the ground.

 

1. Define your group and mission

To start an ERG, you need to first understand who your group is and what it will stand for. In order to get support and approval from your company, your group should also align with the company’s goals and values. (Your mission doesn’t have to be directly related to what your company does, but it certainly shouldn’t run counter to the business you’re in.)

A good place to start when developing the mission and vision for your ERG is to get input from other members or potential members of your group — what will they benefit from most?

As you get feedback from your peers, think about what you hope to accomplish with your group. Just getting together regularly and supporting one another is a perfectly fine goal. But if there’s more you’d like to see happen, define what that would look like and what roles and responsibilities will be needed in the group to make it happen.

Oh and don’t forget, your group needs a name! Alber Lin shared some tips for naming your ERG in his article for DiversityInc:

  • Avoid complicated acronyms
  • Have the name of the demographic group in the title
  • Include “allies” or “friends” in your title to make it inclusive

 

2. Get support from company leadership

Starting an ERG with buy-in from company leaders will help you get the resources and visibility you’ll need to make the group successful.  

“Effective ERGs are both top-down and bottom-up. First, the executive management team needs to fully support, fund, and endorse any ERG. One best practice is to ensure that each ERG has a senior leader as their executive sponsor and full participant,” writes Claire Hastwell of Great Place to Work.

Depending on how much you want to do and the goals of your group, you might need funding for programs and events, so an executive sponsor can be a great help. Again, aligning your group’s mission and goals to that of the greater organization can help leadership see how your group can bring value to the employee base and help the company meet its goals. 

3. Recruit members and be inclusive

Obviously, a successful group needs people. But how many members you have and what your growth goals are differs for every group. Some ERGs invite allies to join, while others prefer to focus on recruiting members from their own interest group.

If a goal is to grow your membership and expand your reach, you might consider opening it up to allies and friends. This is also a great way to share your message more widely and educate others about your group and how to best support its members.

For example, if you have a women’s group, you could consider inviting men to participate in your events, to help them learn more about the struggles women face in the workplace and how to be better male allies. 

Take advantage of company communication platforms like Slack or Teams, or the company’s internal newsletter to spread the word about your group and let employees know how to get involved. Just make sure to get permission first (this is another great time to have an executive sponsor on your side).

 

4. Start small and build a coalition

There’s no need to build a huge ERG right out of the gate. Take your time and lay a great foundation for your group to grow and thrive. As Noelle Salerno of Indeed.com writes: “A small, but mighty team of engaged members can make a big impact.” 

Make plans and set realistic goals for how you want to grow your group. There’s no right or wrong pace, no set amount of events or meetings you need to have. Do what works for you and your fellow group members, and only take on what you’re able to handle. Just be sure that you’re always moving forward toward those established goals. 

Another great way to gain momentum is to collaborate and share resources with other ERGs, both inside and outside of your company. You can work together with other groups to amplify your messages and work together on intersecting goals. 

Laura Folks, an Inclusion Resources Group Program Manager at Indeed said, “I can be a woman, parent, veteran, and Latina. Every issue we explore encompasses more than one identity, so it makes sense to look at your ERG program from a holistic perspective.”

AKPsi’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices are a vital component of optimal business outcomes in addition to being the right thing to do. As the premier developer of principled business leaders, Alpha Kappa Psi must include awareness, understanding, training, and the practice of DEI as critical parts of our work. 

Read more about our commitment to DEI >

How to Start a Corporate Social Responsibility Program

More and more companies are beginning to take notice of the importance of social responsibility today, and are realizing how much it matters to both their employees and customers. While many larger companies do offer some form of corporate giving or philanthropy, many organizations still don’t have a formal program in place, and lack any kind of employee-led initiatives.

If your organization doesn’t provide any formal opportunities for volunteering or charitable giving, have you ever thought about taking the initiative to start a program yourself? Some of the best corporate programs were originally started by an employee who wanted to make a difference.

What is corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) allows businesses large and small to enact positive change. When companies practice CSR, they’re contributing positively to society and their inititiaives often includes an economic, social, and/or environmental component. Companies practicing CSR consider their impact on people, the planet, and their purpose.

There are four main types of CSR programs:

  1. Supporting volunteer efforts
  2. Philanthropy
  3. Environmental conservation
  4. Company diversity and labor practices

The benefits of corporate social responsibility

The point of CSR is to make an impact on the communities and people a company serves and to build a better tomorrow. But there also are some profit-driven reasons companies embrace CSR:

  • Recruiting and retaining talent. Establishing a CSR program helps organizations attract and retain the best talent globally. In fact, 76% of millennials (the largest employee group today) consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. 
  • Customer loyalty. Socially conscious companies often see higher levels of customer loyalty. Research shows that 68% of global consumers will remain loyal to a brand that practices social responsibility.
  • Revenue. People will pay more if a company is socially responsible. 73% of millennial consumers are willing to spend more on a product or service if it comes from a sustainable brand, and 87% say they’d purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue they care about. 

Building a corporate giving or volunteer program

While you may have little control over your company’s carbon footprint or hiring practices, you can participate in or even spearhead charitable giving or volunteering programs within your organization.

Choose initiatives that align with your mission & values

One way to identify opportunities for your company’s CSR program is to explore opportunities relevant to your mission. There are many worthy causes out there to support, but the more you can align your initiative with what the company already does well or particular skills your group has, the more impact you can make and the more likely the team will be to jump onboard.

Find causes that matter to your customers or members

According to a Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of consumers would choose to purchase a product from a company that supports a social or environmental issue they care about. If there are certain causes your customers or community seem more drawn to, consider those as you evaluate different opportunities for your program.

Impact your local community

Every community has organizations working hard to make a difference. Consider supporting causes in the communties where your team lives and works. Your local United Way can be a good place to start to find volunteering opportunities in your area. 

Growing and promoting your CSR program

Chances are, you’re already pretty busy with your day job, so unless your full-time gig revolves around developing a CSR program, you probaby don’t have a ton of time to commit. That’s okay! Every little bit of effort helps and you’re not going to develop a robust initiative overnight. Start small and shoot for steady growth. What matters most is getting buy-in from others in the company and getting more people involved with the cause.

Get support from leadership 

Getting executive support from your CEO or other company leader can make or break your efforts. Without their support it can be more difficult to get funding or resources for your initiatives. But with a champion from the top ranks of the organization, you’ll see greater momentum and be more likely to get the financial support you need.

Generate buzz within the company

Communication is key to getting your CSR initiative going. Align your messaging with the company culture and get the team involved. You can use internal communication tools like Slack or Teams to generate buzz. Get friendly with your company’s social media manager as well, so you can leverage the corporate social channels to promote events and other things happening. 

Help people connect with the cause

Your teammates will be more likely to get excited about your program if they know more about the cause(s) they’re supporting. If you’re able to, have a representative from the organization you’re looking to support come and talk to your team. Have them share their mission and real stories about how they’re helping the community.

Interested in volunteer opportunities with AKPsi? Learn how you can get involved!

Finding Purpose and Engagement at Work

Most of us will spend about a third of our lives at work. (That’s literally thousands of Monday mornings.) So being engaged and passionate about what we do can really impact our quality of life. 

Your ideal job should give you a feeling of purpose and allow you to engage in interesting work with people you like (or can at least tolerate) and bosses that respect you and treat you well. If one or more of those factors aren’t hitting the mark, you could be at risk for disengagement.

The employee experience

According to Gallup, the employee experience is the journey you take with an organization and how you experience your workplace. There are three main stages that capture the day-to-day experiences of employees:

 

  1. Employee engagement
  2. Performance
  3. Development

 

All the interactions you have with your employer, from the day you’re hired to the day you leave are part of your experience as an employee. This includes tangible things like the tools or technologies you use, and the intangible, like how you feel about the company’s purpose or the relationship between you and your manager. All of these things impact your engagement, how well you perform at your job, and your professional development.

Employee engagement 

We know it’s one of the three main factors that make up the employee experience, but what does it mean to be an engaged employee? How do you know if you’re engaged?

Quantum Workplace defines employee engagement as “the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the work they do, their teams, and their organization” — it’s essentially how an employee feels about their work and their organization. Engaged employees are more productive, stay at their companies longer, and motivate the people around them. 

Gallup says, “an engaged employee shows up physically, emotionally, and cognitively. They are enthusiastic about what they have to do, and they naturally find ways to improve performance and excel. In short, engaged employees generate most of the creativity, innovation, and excellence in your organization.”

Performance

Employee engagement’s cousin-that’s-almost-like-a-sibling is performance, another key ingredient to employee experience. Quantum workplace found that 92% of business execs believe engaged employees perform better and create better outcomes for their businesses.

Think of performance as a key metric for engagement — the more engaged you are, the better your job performance will be. It’s what you’re judged on and what your employer will evaluate as they consider you for promotions or raises. 

But while most people want to perform at their best, it’s not just up to the employee to magically become a high performer. Employers need to provide the resources, environment, and motivation that enable people to do their best work.

Development

One of the main factors involved in motivating and equipping individuals to perform at a high level is professional development. Learning and growing is an important piece of the employee engagement puzzle. Most (but not all) people desire some level of personal or professional development in their careers. 

Even if you’re not interested in climbing the corporate ladder or pursuing a new career path, you probably still want to grow as a person and learn new skills or flex different cognitive muscles at work. Some of these opportunities you’ll have to seek out on your own, but an organization with leaders who care about their employees’ professional development will help you find those opportunities and give you the freedom to try new things — even if that means you’ll eventually outgrow your current job responsibilities.

Mission & purpose

Countless studies have concluded that there are some things that matter more to employees than just making money. One of those factors — particularly for millennials, today’s largest segment of employees — is a company’s mission and values. 

Many of us want to work for an organization that has a clear mission that aligns with our own personal values. We want to be inspired to do our best work, and know we’re contributing to a cause greater than ourselves.

According to Gallup, these feelings directly affect employee engagement, retention, performance, and development. Their research shows that one-third of employees strongly agree that the mission and purpose of their organization makes them feel that their job is important. They also found that companies with an increased focus on mission and purpose have seen a 51% reduction in absenteeism, a 64% drop in safety incidents, and a 29% improvement in quality of work.

Take control of your engagement 

If you’re feeling a lack of motivation or interest in your work, you might be disengaged. Sometimes these feelings come and go, but sometimes, they can be indicators of something more serious, like employee burnout

Career expert Mary Ellen Slayter shared some tips with Monster.com for pulling yourself out of a disengagement slump:

 

See the bigger picture. Connect yourself and your job to the larger organization. Think about how the work you’re doing fits into the greater mission of the company and refocus yourself around what matters.

Take a break. Disengagement can be your body’s way of telling you it’s time for a break. Take a vacation or even one day off to recharge your batteries.

Change up your routine. This is a big one, especially coming out of the pandemic. Your disengagement could be rooted in boredom, so learn a new skill or raise your hand for a different type of project that gets your creative juices flowing. 

Consider mentoring. Get reinvigorated in your work by sharing your knowledge and skills with others. (Or, find a mentor for yourself to help inspire you.) Read our checklist for finding or becoming a great mentor.

Speak up. When something’s bothering you at work, address it head on rather than letting it stew. Not addressing problems and giving candid feedback to others when needed can lead to resentment, and eventually, disengagement.  

Look elsewhere. If you’ve tried all these tactics and still feel disengaged at work, it might be time to think about a change. If your needs aren’t being met where you’re at, you might find a better, more engaging employee experience somewhere else.

Get involved with Alpha Kappa Psi

Check out our volunteer opportunities or take advantage of our leadership development resources and tools to become a more effective, informed, and engaged business professional.