Answering the Call
Ohio Theta Maria Gonzales Jackson serves as AAC Inclusion for Maryland Gamma and AAC Finance/Housing for Ohio Theta. Maria joined Pi Phi while a student at Bowling Green State University. She felt a sense of ease and belonging among the sisters of Ohio Theta during recruitment and was drawn to the chapter’s emphasis on academics, philanthropy and service, which aligned with her personal values. Unfortunately, financial difficulty led Maria to resign her membership while still a collegian. Years later, following a series of personal challenges including her daughter’s diagnosis with brain cancer and the loss of her parents, she reconnected with sisters from her chapter and felt a pull to reengage with our sisterhood. Inspired by Pi Phi’s efforts within the diversity, equity and inclusion space, she requested to reinstate her membership and quickly immersed herself in volunteer service as an Advisor. Below, Maria shares more about her experience, what she gains from mentoring collegiate sisters and why others should consider volunteering with Pi Phi.
After reaching a milestone birthday and experiencing my eldest daughter’s cancer journey, I started to reevaluate how I was spending my time. There’s more to life than the daily cycle of waking up, working and managing a household—I wanted to do something more. I saw Pi Phi’s call for remote Advisors on social media and knew it was something I could do to engage and give back. I’m excited to serve in two very different roles, as I’m able to use my personal and professional skills with both chapters, and the ability to connect virtually helps me manage the work.
Why do you give back to Pi Phi as a volunteer?
What aspects of volunteering are most meaningful to you?
Advising is a learning experience on both ends. I’m helping to shape and develop young women through Pi Phi and practicing my own leadership skills at the same time. As I’ve developed relationships with collegians, I’ve also learned about bridging the gaps between their generation of sisters and mine. For example, as AAC Inclusion, I appreciate the activism of our younger members—and I’ve been able to share my own knowledge about using policy and networking to create change as a balance to using social media.
What leadership philosophy guides your work as an Advisor?
I come from a servant leadership background, which is also Pi Phi’s approach to leadership. It’s part of who I am—it was modeled for me by my parents, and it’s what I hope to model for our collegians. By taking the focus off yourself and looking to fulfill the needs of others, you’re able to become a true leader and create an environment where everyone has a purpose and can contribute.
In Pi Phi, I learned that it takes a community to accomplish anything—it’s far greater than one person in a leadership role, and that means acknowledging and building on the strengths of the sisters around you. I also hope to impart that having an officer title doesn’t require you to do every aspect of your job by yourself. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re not strong or not good at your job! The best leaders know who to ask and what to ask for, which is a true life skill.
How has this experience impacted you—and what impact do you hope to make?
It’s encouraging to work with young women and see their potential, individually and collectively. I hope I’m sharing little nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned over the years—things like how to communicate and build rapport, the importance of respecting one another’s time and being present in a conversation. They’re small but meaningful takeaways that go a long way, personally and professionally.
Overall, Pi Phi has given me the space to lean into the power of female friendship. At this stage in my life, I recognize the importance of having a strong network support from other women, whether professionally, personally or spiritually. Staying engaged as an alumna helps me put thought and intention into how I want to fill my time and how I can best serve others.
What would you share with other sisters who are considering a volunteer role with Pi Phi?
At this moment in time, any opportunity to share what we have with others is important to embrace. Each of us has something to give and something to learn, and each of us has a place in our sisterhood. Pi Phi is a tapestry, and our individual threads are woven together to create something beautiful.
Every role and opportunity Pi Phi offers is meaningful. You might start as an AAC member and grow into a Regional Officer position; you might serve as an alumnae club leader, or you might simply support a fellow sister. I believe there’s a time, place and season for everything—and if you’re contemplating a volunteer role, you already feel called to serve. It’s just a matter of answering the call.
If you’re interested in volunteering, Pi Phi offers opportunities to mentor chapter officers, lead alumnae clubs, serve on Foundation committees and much more. Join this network and support members across our sisterhood.
Published October 3, 2023