A Summer Update from the National President

02 Aug

Omicron Delta Kappa’s 50th Biennial National Convention and Leadership Conference, recently held in Nashville, Tennessee, and it was a great success!  We had 90 institutions represented and more than 240 in attendance. The convention participants had the opportunity to hear inspiring remarks from our keynote speakers; attend workshops focused on circle best practices, alumni engagement, career strategies, and leadership development; and participate in a service project that assembled nearly 300 care packages for members of the armed forces. The videos of the keynote addresses are available through our online leadership hub. I encourage you to take the time to watch one or more of these excellent presentations by Janis Hirsch, Jamie Washington, Tom Bowen, Nancy Hunter Denney, and Eric Motley.

During the plenary sessions of the convention, new officers for the Omicron Delta Kappa Society were elected. I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve a second term as National President. Linda Hooks, an initiate of the Louisiana State University Circle and an advisor to the circle at Washington and Lee University, was elected National Vice President. The National Student Vice President is Andrew Brown who is an initiate of the Grand Valley State University Circle and a current graduate student at Purdue University. Cynthia “Cie” Chapel Cochran (University of Miami) was appointed as Chair of the National Advisory Council. Michael N. Christakis (Alfred University), Darwin Jones (University at Albany), W. Jeffery Edwards (Washington and Lee University), and John Herbst (University of Kentucky) are continuing on the board in their respective roles of Immediate Past National President, National Treasurer, National Counsel, and National Parliamentarian. Willie Banks (University of Georgia), Mike James (Harding University), and William Razz Waff (University of Mississippi) are all new members-at-large for the Society Board of Directors. Jonah Robison (Clemson University) and Hameidah Alsafwani (University of Nebraska, Omaha) were appointed as the student members-at-large on the board.

Also during the 2018 conference, we announced several new resources for circles and member institutions including a diversity and inclusion toolkit to help circles develop programming and recruit members from a broader population of collegiate leaders. We also introduced Campus Conversations, a signature program designed to assist circles in creating a safe and productive space for sharing ideas, perspectives, and plans for action on polarizing topics. This initiative is intended to build relationships among leaders across the breadth of a community and encourage collaboration to address larger societal problems.


One of the best parts of the convention is presenting the annual awards.  It was my great honor to present Sara Frank, an initiate of the Emory University Circle, with the Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year Award.  Sara’s award includes a $4,000 scholarship which she will be using to enroll in law school at the University of Virginia this fall.

This convention was the last “biennial” gathering for our circles. Beginning in 2020, Omicron Delta Kappa will start offering an annual convention. The National Leadership Conference Design Teams, chaired by Dave Barnes (James Madison University) and Laura Seplaki (Rider University), are in the midst of respectively developing recommendations for programming and locations for future conventions. We are very much aware of how participation in a convention supports and enhances circle operations. I know this annual convention model will facilitate the continuation of momentum for attendees and provide significant training and educational opportunities for new collegiate officers and advisors.

The spring semester included the installation of four new or revitalized circles. Omicron Delta Kappa was re-chartered at Arizona State University and East Tennessee State University. New circles were added at the Xavier University of Louisiana and Eastern Kentucky University. Presently, Omicron Delta Kappa has 304 active circles.

While FY 2017 was the best membership year on record for Omicron Delta Kappa, membership was down in FY 2018. The total number of initiated members last year was 8,577, but that number was only 8,114 this year. We have determined that this drop-off was primarily attributable to circles taking in two to three fewer members in almost all circles across the country. There were also two large circles which had personnel transitions and did not hold initiation ceremonies in FY 2018.  The importance of member recruitment was stressed at the national convention, particularly as related to encouraging circles to make sure that all phases of collegiate leadership (scholarship, athletics, service, communications, and arts) are represented in a circle’s composition. Throughout the upcoming academic year, circles will also be encouraged to better embrace the intentionally inter-generational nature of O∆K by initiating more faculty, staff, alumni, and civic leaders.  We will also be implementing a circle officer stabilization program including enhanced training, improved communication including formal circle health reports, advisor agreement, and a circle-specific advisor transition program.

Through the work of the Volunteer Engagement Task Force, led by Cie Cochran, there is now a more comprehensive program through which individuals may serve O∆K. Information about how members may support circles through service as an advocate or educational program specialist, as well as information about various volunteer opportunities at the national level, may be found at odk.org/get-involved/odkserves/. If you have an interest in becoming further connected with Omicron Delta Kappa, I encourage you to review this page and complete the volunteer application form.

FY 2018 was another very successful fundraising year for the Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation. I want to congratulate Foundation President Sally Albrecht and the other members of the Foundation Board of Trustees for their success in securing $415,407 in new outright gifts and pledges this year as well as an additional $522,500 in documented planned gifts. In addition to the essential and necessary unrestricted support provided by our donors, I am thankful for these gifts which will fund leadership development grants for circles, scholarships, and the preservation and maintenance of the national headquarters facility.

Let me encourage you to follow Omicron Delta Kappa via one or more of our social media platforms. You may find regular news and updates about O∆K, including updates from individual circles, via Facebook (facebook.com/OmicronDeltaKappa/), Twitter (twitter.com/ODK1914), Instagram (instagram.com/odk_hq/), and LinkedIn (linkedin.com/groups/144429). Links to each of these platforms are also readily available on the homepage at odk.org.

Our Society continues to provide scholarships, online career workshops, programming grants to circles, and post-baccalaureate service and educational opportunities for members as well as ethical leadership development through initiatives such as our Stone Ethical Leadership Challenge. The need for honor and authentic leadership is greater than ever. Please know that I truly appreciate your continuing devotion and service to Omicron Delta Kappa by our members. Thank you for your leadership and support!

Yours in O∆K,

Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President

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