The Society Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees held their winter meetings in Richmond last month on the campus of the University of Richmond. The leadership of the Epsilon Circle, including O∆K Past National President Dr. Steve Bisese and his colleague Julia Kelly, were wonderful hosts. Also, we had the pleasure of having a panel presentation from three collegiate members of the circle who shared with us their other campus leadership roles, plans for graduate school, and circle activities including the wonderfully successful Last Lecture Series.
While we were together, the boards also heard reports from two volunteer bodies that made several significant recommendations which will lead to fundamental changes in the operations of the Society.
First, the boards heard the report of the Presidential Commission on Convention. I want to express my appreciation to Steve Bisese and Michelle Burke, chair of the National Advisory Council, along with the other members of the commission for their thorough research in preparing their recommendations. The committee found that the convention is one of the seminal moments in the O∆K experience. Additionally, the commission recommended that the convention remains in the summer months to keep costs affordable by taking advantage of campus housing opportunities. The body also encouraged the Society to explore strategies for providing a virtual convention experience and opportunities for delegates to vote electronically for elections and other Society business.
Most significantly, the commission recommended that Omicron Delta Kappa move to holding an annual convention. The Society Board of Directors approved this recommendation; beginning in 2020, we intend to hold an annual convention. We know that there is a significant positive impact on those circles who participate in the convention. They leave the experience with lots of momentum that seems to dissipate across a two-year period. We hope that this annual convention experience will provide training for each set of new officers and enhance the work of all of our circles on their respective campuses.
Second, the boards heard recommendations regarding our ritual ceremony. In the months since my last correspondence to you, so much has happened across our country. The members of the Omicron Delta Kappa Society Board of Directors and I were saddened by the events that took place in Charlottesville last August. Shortly after the demonstrations on August 12, 2017, Executive Director Tara Singer and I issued the following statement on behalf of the Society:
Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society, recognizes and encourages superior leadership and exemplary character. Members are expected to adhere to the highest standards of scholarship, service, integrity, character, and fellowship. The hatred, bigotry, racism, and violence witnessed in Charlottesville and other communities is antithetical to our values. The O∆K Idea affirms and promotes openness and inclusiveness among all people.
With the O∆K Idea in mind and our organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, I commissioned an ad hoc committee of the Society Board of Directors to study the history of our initiation ceremony and to determine whether modifications were appropriate. Based on the recommendation of the committee and with this commitment in mind, the board voted to adjust the language in the ritual about the history of the organization so that it would be more consistent with what was first written by our founders and members in the 1930s.
Planning for the “last” biennial convention is well underway. We will gather in Nashville from May 31 – June 3 on the campus of Belmont University to participate in workshops focused on circle programming, member engagement, leadership, and career development. Our featured speakers include Janis Hirsch, Corey Seemiller, Jamie Washington, Tom Bowen, and Nancy Hunter Denney. Each of these speakers represents one or more of the five phases of collegiate leadership celebrated by Omicron Delta Kappa. Janis, a celebrated writer and producer for shows such as Frasier, Will & Grace, and Bette, is our opening keynote speaker and an initiate of the Rollins College Circle.
During the fall semester, Omicron Delta Kappa established new circles at five institutions including Dalton State College, Washington State University Tri-Cities, Southern Connecticut State University, the University of Jamestown, and Lees-McRae College. I had the pleasure of serving as the installing officer at WSU Tri-Cities and also returning to The Citadel to lead their fall initiation ceremony. Both Washington State University Tri-Cities and Dalton State College are officially identified as Hispanic Serving Institutions. Plans are underway to install five additional circles during the spring semester.
The winter issue of The Circle is out. In case one didn’t see the announcement in the magazine, I am pleased to share that two collegiate members were selected as Rhodes Scholars for the 2018-19 academic year. Noah Barbieri from Millsaps College and Calvin Runnels from Georgia Tech will join Paqui Toscano from Washington and Lee University in Oxford next year as they continue their studies. The new head of the Rhodes Trust is Dr. Elizabeth Kiss who is an initiate of the Davidson College Circle and outgoing president of Agnes Scott College.
The scholarship program provided by the Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation continues to increase the number of available scholarships and amounts of the awards. For the 2019-20 academic year, we will be able to provide at least 32 scholarships for our deserving collegiate members (four more scholarships than in 2018-19), and the value of several of the awards will increase. Applications for scholarships and the Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year program are also now open.
Career development programs are one of the other benefits that our Society provides to members. In addition to our online career resources, we have started to offer webinars for our members, both those individuals who are currently enrolled as well as those who are well-established in their careers. In the recent fall semester, we partnered with Danny Rubin to offer a session on writing a great cover letter and with Darrell Gurney on mid-life career transitions. Darrell is an initiate of our University of Texas at Austin Circle.
Our Society remains committed to facilitating the development of our collegiate members who are collaborative, civil, and responsible in their service to their communities. If you ever have any questions or concerns about the work of Omicron Delta Kappa, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I may be emailed at [email protected]
Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President