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New chapter unfolds

Long gone are the days when fraternity brothers would joke about having All-You-Can-Eat mixers with Alpha Phi.

The re-colonized University Alpha Phi branch officially moved from being a colony to a chapter again Sunday, joining the sorority's other 146 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Three years ago, Alpha Phi's unflattering reputation began to take its toll on their recruitment efforts as the University chapter experienced a steep decline in the number of women accepting rush bids. With revenue and membership numbers dropping, Alpha Phi was faced with a tough decision. They could continue as is, close their chapter, or turn over their house to a new group of University students for revitalization.

In the spring of 1998, the chapter's roughly 50 members voted by an overwhelming majority, but with some disagreement, to step aside and allow others to re-start, or re-colonize, the sorority on Grounds.

This was a "very admirable thing to do," said Megan Bouche, program coordinator for consultants and recruiting at Alpha Phi's headquarters in Evanston, Ill. "They allowed outside help to create a stronger Alpha Phi on Grounds."

Now the new women of Alpha Phi are experiencing booming recruitment numbers and a more esteemed reputation throughout the University's Greek system.

Bouche said the chance to re-colonize Alpha Phi has proven to be a "once in a lifetime opportunity for the women" involved.

"Every single woman in this sorority helped to build the house we all see today," said third-year College student Lindsay Forehand, who was president of Alpha Phi when they began their re-colonization effort. "Our success lies in the strength and dedication that each and every one of our members has displayed since they joined Alpha Phi."

The old Alpha Phi "was the only sorority that's offered to pay for mixers with us," former Phi Psi President Dan Payne said. "They were definitely going to cover the cost of entertainment, which for a sorority is unheard of."

In fact, fourth-year College student Scott Greene, last year's social chairman at Phi Delta Theta, said during his four years at the University, Alpha Phi women have become "really cool and fun."

In September 1998, following the sorority's decision to re-colonize, representatives from the Alpha Phi international headquarters, including Bouche, came to Charlottesville to begin searching for University women to help re-colonize the University's chapter. Through newspaper advertisements and a series of information sessions, a core group of 13 women was found, including Forehand, who would become the colony's president.

The women of Alpha Phi who voted to turn the chapter over then entered alumni status as "collegiate alumni members," Bouche said. While they no longer participated in the University's Alpha Phi chapter, "they will always be Alpha Phis."

In the fall of 1998, Alpha Phi did not participate in the formal rush process. Instead, they spread the word of their re-colonization efforts and began preparing for spring sorority rush.

In January 1999, the sorority took part in the first round of rush, but did not continue throughout the process. Then, in mid-February, Alpha Phi had a week of exclusive rush - meaning they were the only sorority extending bids at the time. During this "rush blitz," Alpha Phi upped its membership count to just under 40 women.

Bouche said the Inter-Sorority Council's flexibility with their rush schedule and willingness to help Alpha Phi played a large role in their revitalization. And as membership numbers began to increase, Alpha Phi began to shed its old reputation.

After informal sorority rush in the fall of 1999 and an extremely fruitful rush this spring, Alpha Phi has grown to include 88 women - an almost seven-fold increase from when they began re-colonizing in the fall of 1998.

Not only has the number of women in Alpha Phi increased, but their reputation among fraternity brothers has done a complete 180.

"Their first years are hot," Payne said.

"I'm glad to see they're working towards improvement. I am definitely wanting to mix with them," Greene said.

Along with their new image, the sorority moved into a new house, purchasing and fixing-up a Victorian home on Grady Avenue.

Third-year College student Ashley Ford, who joined Alpha Phi last year, said she is excited to be living in the new house next year and said revitalizing Alpha Phi proved to be more work than she originally had anticipated.

"It was really hard to get our foot in the door," Ford said, explaining that many in the Greek system were unfamiliar with Alpha Phi's revitalization effort and that many in her sorority felt they had something to prove.

"We're trying to show people that we have just as much to contribute as anyone else," she said. "We've done well enough where people are really starting to recognize us as a fun, great Alpha Phi."

Asst. Dean of Students Aaron Laushway agreed and said the Office of the Dean of Students worked closely with Alpha Phi to help in the re-colonization effort, and credited the Inter-Sorority Council with much of Alpha Phi's success.

Fourth-year College student Margaret Dumas, who was ISC president last year, said the women in Alpha Phi were a motivational influence on the ISC.

"They've inspired all of us and shown us that hard work can really pay off," Dumas said. "They definitely added a needed dimension to ISC last year."

Current ISC President Allison White said one ISC member had the job of exclusively aiding Alpha Phi in their re-colonization effort.

White credited the strong leadership of both Alpha Phi's University leaders and those at the national headquarters for the sorority's revitalization on Grounds.

"We're really, really pleased that they were able to come back so quickly," she said.

"They've certainly done an admirable job in re-colonizing," Laushway said. "They should be congratulated and best wishes should be extended for future growth."

Payne credited much of Alpha Phi's revitalization to Forehand's leadership.

"Under my watch as president [of Phi Psi], we had 10 felony charges and lost our FOA. Under her watch, Alpha Phi increased their numbers by 500 percent and got their charter back," he said. "I would say she did a good job."

So good that Phi Psi had a pledge mixer with Alpha Phi this year - and they didn't even pay.

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