Sigma Epsilon Kappa at Ashford University – An Interview with Danielle Jackson
Sigma Epsilon Kappa, Ashford University’s sole Greek online student organization, gained official recognition in December of 2013. According to its website, the social society’s primary goal is “giving hope to women seeking non-traditional education” through the promotion of philanthropy, education, leadership, and more. Under the staff advisement of Anna Uribe, distance education librarian, SEK’s elected officers oversee a current membership comprised of 31 active Ashford students and 70 alumni.
We recently interviewed SEK’s president, Danielle Jackson, an Ashford student who is working toward a BA in Health and Human Services. Jackson elaborated on a range of topics, including her personal responsibilities, diversity within the organization, and the value of experiencing Greek life through digital platforms. Here are a few highlights from the interview:
Ashford: What is your role within the organization, and what are some of your current duties? What is the most exciting part about being involved in the organization’s leadership?
Jackson: Duties [as president] include overseeing monthly meetings, preparing agendas, and working with the executive board to ensure that the organization is meeting our goals and upholding our vision. The most exciting part for me is watching members grow together and seeing the organization flourish.
Ashford: What online technologies do you use to meet and engage with members? What kinds of activities, events, and/or discussions take place during meetings?
Jackson: The majority of activity takes place in our Facebook group [with] several separate groups linked to the main group for member engagement, including Mental Health and Wellness Support Group, Birthday and Anniversary Committee, Job Share Board, Disaster Response Team, Book Club, a Reunion Committee, and several others. This year, we had a 5-Year Founders' Reunion in New Orleans, and we are currently in the process of planning the next reunion. Our monthly meetings occur on the Ashford University Zoom account [a cloud-based video conferencing platform], where we go over upcoming events, updates to the membership groups, and any other special “themes” to raise awareness for that month’s respective cause (i.e. adoption awareness month).
Ashford: What are some of the benefits and/or challenges of operating a Greek student organization within a virtual space?
Jackson: One of the benefits is that we can reach many more people operating in a virtual space. Another benefit is allowing Ashford students to meet a wide variety of individuals across the states (and around the world) with the same vision of women empowerment. Social media allows us to become viral (in a sense) to carry on the organization for years to come. One of the challenges is ensuring that we all feel connected in the same way we would if we were operating in an in-person environment. That is why we strive to have active member engagement groups as well as daily positive posts. I believe that these things help us to feel connected with one another.
Ashford: The FAQ page explains that you are not a sorority and that you do not discriminate on the basis of gender. Do you have any male or non-binary members, and if so, how have their perspectives contributed to SEK’s overall vision of empowering women?
Jackson: We currently have both men and women in the organization that bring their own diverse experiences to the group. Having the diversity that we do has been great for the growth and development of SEK. It is amazing to see the very different backgrounds and perspectives come together to discuss controversial [topics] in a supportive and respectful manner. Knowledge is an important part of empowerment and having the diversity that we do allows our members to gain knowledge from many different walks of life.
Ashford: How might joining the club contribute to a student's overall experience at Ashford University?
Jackson: Joining SEK can help individuals build a strong network of support from others who have gone through and are currently going through similar experiences encountered by online students. Being in the online environment can sometimes take away the social interactions and relationship-building that takes place in a traditional college setting. By joining SEK, members can get that interaction and build relationships that they may not have the opportunity for otherwise.
Ashford: Any specific examples of resources, events, or content that members have found particularly exciting or that have contributed to the growth of SEK?
Jackson: We have daily motivational posts and membership engagement groups like fitness, book club, and the mental health group. We are currently working to enhance our philanthropic activities [by] becoming involved with Operation Any Solider, Any Marine, Any Sailor, Any Airman, Any Coast Guard. We also [publish] a newsletter to our Facebook group every two months [featuring] a variety of member-submitted articles to entertain and inform other members (i.e. fitness, recipes, book and movie reviews, short stories, arts and crafts, etc.). The newsletter has grown substantially and even includes a “Summon a Sigma” advice column that members are very excited about.
Ready to join the family?
In her final thoughts during this interview, Jackson emphasized that SEK members “strive to be more than just a student organization.” She elaborated, “We are a family. When one of us is hurting, we all share their pain and tears. We rally around those needing support and help them through the difficult times. Similarly, we celebrate the successes of our siblings and genuinely want to see each and every member succeed at everything they do.”
If you are interested in joining the SEK family, review the membership requisites and application information online. Applications are accepted every February and August.
Written by Ashford University staff