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 Omicron Theta Zeta Chapter in Fairfax, VA and did an interview with Nyeika Hollien the Basileus of the chapter.
The position of Basileus/president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Nyeika Hollien, who works as a Program Manager for the Department of the Navy, has been in the position of Basileus for 2 years.
We interviewed Hollien, who is a February 2016, Omicron Theta Zeta Graduate Chapter 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?
As with most members of the Divine 9, I have a heart for service and although leading wasn’t initially in my line of sight, I was motivated by the great work the chapter was doing and felt best positioned to keep moving us forward.
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?
1. Food insecurity – We host food drives and provide financial support for local food banks, as well as cook and supply meals for local shelters.
2. Health awareness – We co-host an annual health fair to bring awareness to and offer support for health issues that impact our community. We also fundraise for research, education, care and support for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and premature births.
3. Educational support – We support three adopted schools (two local and one in Zambia) by providing school and hygiene supplies as well as financial support. The Omicron Theta Zeta Scholarship Foundation provides educational support to African American young women through scholarships and our annual Be Bold Youth Summit, which offers college and life preparation sessions and engagement. Our foundation accepts tax-deductible donations at paypal.me/otzsf.
4. Youth Programs – We offer youth programs for young ladies ages 4-18 that focuses on culture awareness and social skills’ enhancement, educational enrichment, leadership development and community service.
5. Social Action – We partner with local and national organizations to host candidates forums and bring awareness to issues that impact our community.
What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?
I joined Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. because I was inspired by the great work that the members were doing in my community and I wanted to be a part of something larger than myself.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Our chapter’s culture is one of the things that makes us unique. Members are encouraged to walk in their purpose no matter where they are in their Zeta journey, and we are proud to have members serving on every level of the sorority.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We sponsor the Zeta Omicron Chapter at George Mason University. Our support essentially includes anything they may need to include leadership, mentorship and financial support. We support all of their events and invite them to attend ours. We also encourage and sponsor their conference attendance, so they maintain a broad view of the organization.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Because Sisterhood is one of our principles, it’s an integral part of everything we do. However, we are intentional about fostering sisterhood and host social events and offer communication platforms to help better connect members and strengthen our bond. We also encourage sisterly check-ins, celebrate accomplishments and offer support during difficult times.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
It’s important to have a heart for service, understand the leadership position you are seeking and have the available time to do it. It’s also important to surround yourself with people who will tell you the hard truth and have a thick skin because constructive criticism is not always nicely packaged. Leadership is hard work, but it’s also extremely rewarding.
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 is the reason I’m in leadership. My mentors have encouraged me and called me out when I needed it, and I’m better in so many ways because of them. I must also give credit to my ultimate mentor, Greta Lynn Williams, who brought me into the sorority and guided me on my path. She showed me the Zeta way through her dedication and service to the organization.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard is important to Black greekdom because it highlights our accomplishments and focuses on the positives that we are doing in the community. It offers us the opportunity to be celebrated and to celebrate each other, regardless of which organization we’re a part of.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
It’s sisterhood for me! Although I initially sought Zeta for service, sisterhood has been what I didn’t even know I needed. It’s helped me become a better version of myself.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is the ultimate level of acceptance, support, encouragement, correction, love and everything in between. Nothing is perfect, but to have a good sister is to be a good sister.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Nyeika Hollien for her work as the Basileus of the Omicron Theta Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1991.
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