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Member Highlight: Annie Frazier

This month’s highlight focuses on Annie Frazier, initiated in March 2022 with Omicron Alpha Delta at the University of Utah. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Human Development & Social Policy, with anticipated graduation in the summer of 2022. Her thesis is: “Best Practices for Preschoolers Utilizing Technology for Learning.”

She is currently the PBS KIDS Utah Education Program Manager, where she provides resources and support through PBS KIDS and PBS Learning Media content, supports educators, parents, and children, and advocates for innovative education and family policies. At a recent virtual initiation, Annie’s passion for supporting children and serving as a mentor to others was remarkable in its intensity and genuine expression. I called her to follow up and learn more about her work.

Annie Frazier

What do you do? Oversee all the PBS programming for children of Utah, strategize how to best allocate funds, and provide free accessible curriculum to children and families. How precisely does she do that?

Using national PBS resources, she teaches people from ages 2 to 18 about PBS utilizing whatever resources she has available from national PBS or other local resources. For example, the program “Nature Cat” has a grant that gave Annie access to a Nature Cat costume and 2,000 Nature Cat themed books to send out to young children. She must figure out how to make that into an event or program to get those resources in the hands of the children and families.

Annie also creates programs and activities for children in Utah. Available resources include a graphics and production team, a marketing team, photographers, and people who make commercial vignettes.

PBS KIDS Utah has an annual reading marathon. Participant kids from Pre-K to Grade 6 read 20 minutes a day for the month of November. PBS Kids has paired with community partners to offer “Adventure Passes.” Those kids who meet the challenge earn an Adventure Pass which earns them free admission to the natural history museum, art museum, zoo, planetarium, and more. “Last year we had close to 19,000 Utah children participate in the PBS KIDS 29th annual reading marathon in November.

In the spring we do a Writers and Illustrators Contest to encourage creativity and literacy. Children K-6th grade submit original stories with a minimum of five illustrations with this year’s theme being “Anyone can be a hero.” The contest encourages children to look for helpers around them and know that they too can be superheroes. Winning children get prize packs and the winning pieces are framed and go on a traveling art exhibit throughout Utah. “It’s really fun the different things that we do. We’ve created partnerships with refugee centers, ordered books in various languages, and are helping create reading nooks for parents and children to access together. I love my job.”

What’s your favorite part of your job? I used to wish I was super wealthy so I could help people boldly. But in this job, I can do that. I have these free resources, and any time I can make that call to help underserved children is incredible. Recently, I was able to contact some principals during teacher appreciation week and let them know that we had $1,000 for them to use for their teachers and students struggling with literacy. They were just so grateful. Sometimes they’re in their tears. We just distributed 15K books to various Title I schools so that children had books to read at home. In some instances, this book was the first book they owned.

My favorite part of my job is unconditionally helping the children of Utah with no strings attached. When I support parents, educators, and children throughout the state, it is an incredible feeling.

Tell me about why you went back for your master’s degree.  I originally wanted to go to school to get a degree in elementary education. But all they talked about was how to teach math. I didn’t want to be so consumed with how to teach a subject that I forget about the person. So, I went through every class in my school’s course catalog and highlighted everything that sounded interesting, and it fell under family and consumer sciences. I did my undergraduate degree in FCS and graduated in 2000. I found that this degree helped educate me to become a better mother and better human. The things I learned have impacted me in every aspect of my life and not just professionally. Over the years I worked in a lot of childcare centers and programs; managing different early childhood centers and preschools as a director, curriculum director, summer camp director, grant specialist, consultant, and trainer. But I wanted to go back to school for my master’s degree. Going back to school with three kids and COVID hitting has been really difficult. I’m not necessarily finishing strong, but I’m stronger for finishing, and I want my kids to see that. I’m pushing through because in educating my mind and brain I’m able to turn my passion into work that I love: nurturing and caring for children.

What have you learned from your work?

My work with children has taught me about service and selflessness. We’re often underpaid compared to other fields. But when a child has just gotten hurt or is sad and they wrap their arms around me and I’m able to read them a story and let them know that they’re important, it is worth it. Seeing them walk out the door an inch taller than when they arrived in the morning is amazing because my team helped to give them confidence. That, you can’t file on your taxes, but it lives in my heart. I don’t think that’s something that every degree does. We acknowledge how valuable each human is and help create a space of celebration where we can honor each person. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a high five, a hug, a book, or a smile.

Children can accept people in ways that adults have been socialized not to. For example, there were two kids playing. I’m not sure what they were discussing but one kid said “I don’t celebrate Easter, I celebrate Passover.” The other child said, “I don’t celebrate Passover, I celebrate Easter.” They paused, then one said. “Okay, let’s play,” and they did. It doesn’t matter what the topic is: children are more accepting and we have so much to learn from them. The more I teach children, the more I learn about myself.

How did you get the job?

I was running a childcare center and preschool at the University of Utah on campus that we call lab school. For four years I was the director of that preschool. But I wanted to look for something else. After work each night I looked for jobs where I could continue to have an impact on children, teachers, and families. I was able to find this job with PBS Utah and continue to work for the University of Utah. The PBS Utah Education Program Manager job popped up and I applied.

Chapter Highlight – Kappa Chi

When it comes to service, we can all take a minute to appreciate the efforts of KON Kappa Chi, at Immaculata University. The Chapter Adviser there is Sister Denise Mollica, and I reached out to her to learn more about her chapter’s service efforts this year.

Their chapter meetings tend to focus on planning and preparation for their service initiatives. This year, Kappa Chi has completed four interesting projects to serve their community. The service projects include Night in Italy and Hearty Healthy Dinner, Cookies for Camilla, Pillows for Cancer, and a Fashion Show. I wanted to learn more about the details.

Night in Italy and Heart Healthy Dinner are two different events but serving essentially the same meal. The Night in Italy was held in October, and Heart Healthy Dinner in February. The events educate the community in eating healthy by serving a nutritious dinner. Kappa Chi has been doing some variation of this meal for ten years. It’s one way to get students together, while including the larger community – students, faculty, staff, security, maintenance, etc. Over the years they’ve partnered with the FCS Club, the Fashion Group, the Student Dietetics Association, and the Nursing Club.

Student prepares garlic bread at the heart healthy dinner

The dinners have evolved a bit. For several years they charged $5 a person and donated the proceeds to a charity – The John Maxwell Home Economics Center in Haiti. But then it was noted that some students, possibly many students, may not have $5. Kappa Chi didn’t give up on their dinners; rather, they applied for and received funds from their school’s Student Development and Engagement Department.  Once the Center was completed, instead of asking for a $5 donation, they asked if the dinner guests would bring a canned good or pantry item which they donated to IU Cares – the food cupboard on campus for students who need assistance with food supplies.

How many diners show up? Sister Mollica says “Before COVID, we had approximately 100 people dining with us. In October 2021 – the first event after COVID, we were down to 30; by February 2022, we were back up to 60 and we are planning on 75 for the fall.” Kappa Chi holds the meal in their Food Science and Clothing Construction labs. KON students convert the clothing lab into a dining room, by decorating the cabinets with posters that talk about the importance of being heart healthy. They use red and white check tablecloths and play Italian music.  Guests are served from the Food Science Lab across the hall.

What did they serve? Diners have a choice of white or wheat spaghetti, turkey meatballs, garden salad, bread with oil and garlic, water, lemonade, or iced tea, and black bean brownies for dessert.

If you’re stuck on the black bean brownies, so was I. Sister Mollica says that they are easy to make, and the guests are not aware of what they are unless they are told.  To prepare the brownies: pour the contents of regular brownie mix (I use the triple chocolate mix with pieces of chocolate) in a mixing bowl.  Drain the liquid from a 15.5 oz. can of black beans and pour the beans into a blender.  Add a can of water to the beans and liquify the contents.  Add this mixture to the ingredients in the bowl and mix until blended.  Then bake according to the directions on the package.   Sister Mollica says, “I try to use the triple chocolate brownie mix because the chocolate disguises the black beans, and you really can’t taste them.”

Cookies for Camilla – Camilla Hall Nursing Home is a 200-bed convent nursing home and healthcare center. Sister Mollica bakes cookies at Camilla Hall every Saturday. During the year they’re often served at funerals and other events, but Christmas time is special.

During the holiday season, she sets up two days when KON members sign up to assist with cookie preparation. Some of the members bring a friend or a partner. Usually, she gets about six helpers a day. Sister Mollica prepares the dough ahead of time, and the students help with panning out the dough and baking the cookies. Some of those cookies are given to her student helpers -she puts three of each type of cookie in a plastic bag for students to take home. The rest are served to the residents at holiday events, bringing a smile and some Christmas spirit to them.

How many cookies are we talking about? Each batch of dough makes about 15 trays of 35, so around 525 cookies. They usually bake three kinds each day (that’s 1,575 cookies per day if you’re counting). They make coconut macaroons, ginger snaps, snickerdoodles, chocolate chips, thumbprints, and sugar cookies. Sister Mollica notes that she makes sure to select ones that are nut free in case of possible nut-allergies. She does make cookies with nuts, but only does so by herself so that she can personally ensure that there’s no contamination.

Pillows for Cancer – “One of our directors had a mastectomy some years ago. And after she went in for surgery, she was given a special pillow. The shape is just right to hug. You know how after you’ve had surgery you just hug it because it helps the pain go away.” Sister Mollica has her Kappa Omicron Nu students make pillows to give to patients facing cancer treatment and other major surgery.

Kappa Chi students with their sewn pillows.

In November Sister Mollica and the KON students make approximately 10-15 pillows.  Using donated fleece fabric, both leftovers from projects with fashion students and other fabric donations, they cut and sew pillows of different styles and stuff them with poly-fil. She started out with a heart shape and moved on to the mastectomy armpit pillow shape.  The university logo is sewn on to the pillows to remind the patients that someone is thinking of them. After the pillows are completed, the students bring them to the director who distributes the pillows to organizations such as the HERS Foundation: Hysterectomy Alternatives and Aftereffects, and breast cancer and heart patients at a local hospital.

They don’t exclusively give pillows only to these organizations though. The point of making the pillows is to give to those in need including a student’s mother who was having constructive surgery. “If anyone learns about someone who is having surgery, we make sure to get one to them.”

Fashion Show: At Immaculata University, Sister Mollica and her KON chapter support activities in both the fashion and nutrition programs.  One of the classes for fashion students is Marketing Principles for Fashion with a capstone project of an annual fashion show. Students must plan all the components of a fashion show: deciding the theme, making invitations, getting models, getting dresses, deciding the cost of admission, how to register for the event, and contacting high schools asking for volunteers to model or help. This year, they had two outside vendors – a local clothing designer, and a recently graduated student who made jewelry for sale.

Tickets were $25, for adults and $10 for students, although some students took advantage of the $5 flash sale that showed the students how discounts work. Nearly all the student fashions used re-purposed or upcycled fabric, making the garments completely sustainable.

For the big event Sister Mollica and the KON volunteers took care of the food. They purchased finger sandwiches and prepped fresh fruit and vegetables from the dining services. The students arranged the fruit and veggies onto trays and Sister Mollica added some trays of homemade cookies. Her students then assisted behind the scenes, arriving as early as 10:00 AM to get decorations and details in place. Guests arrived at 6:00, and the fashion show began at 6:45 PM.  The event went well, and financially they broke out even or possibly a little ahead.  That is where the charitable component comes in.

After the show, dresses that are donated by the shops and/or designers or were lightly used were offered to students in need. IU let counselors of local high schools know of the event and invited their students to try on the dresses and take one with them.

Extra dresses are sold for $10 to students, faculty, and staff with the proceeds going to the IU Cares cupboard. After that, the remaining dresses were donated to local high schools hold a gown exchange event.

Their service projects this year were all successful and they will continue with these projects next year. In addition, they’re considering reading stories related to nutrition to one or two local elementary schools and are looking to partner with the charitable organization Rise Against Hunger to help fill food packets for those less fortunate. Well done Kappa Chi at Immaculata University!

Member Highlight: Leah Krauskopf

This month’s member spotlight is focused on Leah Krauskopf from the University of Delaware. Leah has a major in Human Services with a concentration in Clinical Services and a minor in Dance and anticipates graduating in the year of 2022. At the 2021 Kappa Omicron Nu Conclave, Leah presented her research regarding the relationship between discrimination and cognition among older adults using the Health and Retirement Study. We followed up with Leah to inquire about her experience at the 2021 Kappa Omicron Nu Conclave and her reviews were of great delight

Leah Krauskopf

The topic of discrimination and cognition among older adults was enticed by Leah’s coursework in which she completed a class entitled “Adult Development and Aging,” from this came her interest in gerontology. Prior to both this class and her research she stated that she had not yet been able to narrow down the population or cohort that she would like to work with, but this gave her helpful insight to working in the field of gerontology. Her research initially started as her curiosity surrounding stress and the effects of aging, and then was later narrowed down to cognitive ability in relation to discrimination.

This research and presentation came from the collaboration of both Leah and Dr. Heather Farmer, as Leah had previously completed a summer apprenticeship with Dr. Farmer, which then continued on to lead to this specific research topic. From both her knowledge and skills gained from both her coursework and this apprenticeship Leah was able to encompass all aspects of both into her research, allowing all of her work to come full circle. Leah hopes to one day become a full-time counselor and accredits this research and presentation experience as an experience that has helped her work towards those goals.

Leah reflected on her experience at the 2021 Kappa Omicron Nu Conclave by admiring the experience as well as the audience. Although the presentations and audience were all conducted online via Zoom, the same levels of respect and engagement was achieved. Leah states that this experience, “was a privilege to hear her fellow presenters talk about their research and connect with people from all over the country.”

Despite not being able to hold the conference in person, the interactions and overall professionalism seemed to be valued just as highly as it would have been in person, according to Leah. She reported that this experience and research helped her both professionally with both her future career goals as well as with her coursework and personal interests.

In regard to future research, Leah hopes to expand further on the topic of discrimination and cognition and dive into conditions such as traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and family and community relationships. She also hopes to look into the effects of environment, resource accessibility, sleep, diet and everyday stress exposure on cognition. Mental health is something Leah is quite passionate about and is something she expressed a deep interest in, especially in regard to aging. 

If you wish to see the research presented by Leah Krauskopf on this fascinating topic the link will be provided. We at Kappa Omicron Nu are very proud of the accomplishments and work our members achieve and Leah is a prime example of that! Congratulations Leah on both your presentation and research and all future endeavors you set for yourself.



Leah’s Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY-g4ZQ6Ci4

Chapter Highlight: Nu Alpha Iota

Who is small but mighty? Nu Alpha Iota at Missouri Baptist University.

Missouri Baptist is a small private school in St. Louis, Missouri. This chapter has inducted 7 student initiates this past spring. Their unit is Health and Sport Sciences. The Chapter Adviser is Michael Nolan.

Though small, they’re a strong chapter. Their agenda includes serving their community at a local 5k race, serving to help clean a historical site cemetery, and serving at a community food bank. They also had two presenters at Conclave 2021 and hope to embark on new research this year to present at Conclave 2022. They also shared hopes to grow their involvement on campus and in their community.

Operationally, their chapter meets monthly starting in August (Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov) and has their December meeting be a group service project. Similarly in the Spring they meet monthly (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr) with April being a group service project – though they may add a meeting based on graduation dates for the year. Though they had a couple of meetings through Microsoft Teams back in the fall of 2020 due to COVID-19, they now meet in-person again and follow campus guidelines on masking. They do still use Microsoft Teams to communicate meeting times and locations, meeting minutes, and any other documents they’d like to share, like the membership roster and budget.

Nu Alpha Iota serving at a Hot Chocolate 5K

Where did they get this passion? Chapter Adviser Michael Nolan humbly notes that a large part of that drive is their school. He notes that “Our students have a service mindset to begin with. A commitment to community service and helping others in need is part of our institution’s mission. Which also serves Kappa Omicron Nu.” Missouri Baptist has a core purpose to teach, empower, and inspire students for service and lifelong learning.

Some KON chapters have a requirement to complete a certain number of hours to earn their cords, or be a chapter member, but not at Missouri Baptist. “There are no attendance or service requirements. But we believe in social change through service and leadership, and we make that clear. It’s also an advantage in that everyone comes through the front door knowing our mission – and that is service, research, and commitment to our education. Everyone knows that’s what we’re going to do.”

This seems like a lot to get done for a small team, I asked how they find the time to put together such a robust schedule. They were clear that when it comes to getting things done, Nu Alpha Iota is no nonsense. They prefer to focus on activities rather than social or planning calls and Michael adds “we have a small group which makes us able to act quickly and effectively.”

Students choose the events. Chapter leaders meets in September, discuss the previous year’s events, decide which of those events they’d like to carry forward, and use those to begin their schedule. At their next meeting in October, they add new suggested activities they want to add for their current year. They make sure to include at least one event each semester to do as a group. Student members are required to have at least 10 hours of service for their chapter per semester. Winter service hours count to their fall semester. The chapter lets members get hours as they choose at home.

Nu Alpha Iota member Trent Dickens presents research poster

Michael notes that the students usually take care of much of the scheduling themselves, “but I always have a couple of suggestions in my pocket in case things go dry. If they’re struggling I can say, ‘Here’s an opportunity would you like to do this?’ I want them to get into the decision-making mindset of a leader, not a follower.”

Do members like this approach? Michael noted that despite COVID challenges, their chapter is growing – with a higher than usual acceptance rates this past spring, inducting seven new initiates. Michael hypothesized this increase in acceptance was due to two things. First, Missouri Baptist has a strong research focus in their undergraduate exercise science program. KON’s Conclave event which allowed students to present their research in a safe accepting way, and the resurrection of the Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences is a nice draw. Second, Michael noted the restructuring of national dues has made membership clearer and more affordable. “There are other honor societies that these students qualify for, and these two pieces really helped give students value for their membership. KON’s ACHS certification also always helps.”

Student Spotlight: Benjamin Lee

This month’s member spotlight is focused on Benjamin Lee of the Missouri Baptist University. Ben has a major in Exercise Science and anticipates graduating in the Spring of 2022. At the 2021 Kappa Omicron Nu Conclave Ben presented his research entitled “The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training Versus Continuous Aerobic Training on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in College-Aged Adults,” and his research focused on just that. 

Ben’s goal with this research was to compare the effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and continuous aerobic on cardiorespiratory endurance via differing six-week training programs. The research was inconclusive with the expected results being that HIIT would yield an overall higher level of endurance compared to continuous aerobic training, however this allowed for Ben to experiment and gain experience.

This topic of research was enticed via Ben’s previous involvement with cross country and basketball in high school, in which the two sports differed in the types of training that occurred. This sparked interest in Ben and thus came his research topic to determine which type of training would produce better results.

We at Kappa Omicron Nu (KON) followed up with Ben after his presentation of his research at the 2021 Kappa Omicron Nu Conclave and Ben expressed his high level of gratitude for the experience. The opportunity was one that allowed him to share the work he had dedicated throughout the past semester as well as learn about other research conducted by members of KON. According to Ben, the questions and interactions from the audience both encouraged and allowed Ben to expand on his topic at a deeper level and in a more specific way.

Regarding future research Ben’s goal is to publish research in a peer reviewed research journal, as well as extend his research to different cardio training in relation to mental health. These goals are something that we envision Ben having all skills and assets to achieve in his future and throughout his professional and academic career.

Ben hopes to become a physical therapist and was recently accepted to one of his top picks for his physical therapy schooling. At that institution he hopes to work on research as a graduate assistant and continue the research he has practiced throughout his undergraduate education.

Our members continue to work towards their own personal goals as well as their academic goals. Congratulations to Ben on both your presentation and research and all future endeavors you set for yourself.


Benjamin’s Presentation (start at 11:40): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDFoCtXNcIE

Chapter Highlight: Omicron Theta

The best recruitment number in KON for the 2020-2021 academic year is held by Omicron Theta at Kansas State University. They had 200 members at the end of the chapter year including 89 initiates. Omicron Theta’s students are under the College of Health and Human Science. Which includes departments of Applied Human Sciences; Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health; Hospitality Management; Interior Design and Fashion Studies; Kinesiology; and Personal Financial Planning.

Besides being a part of a large college that encompasses many human science departments, what’s the secret to getting 89 initiates? I called to find out. It turns out that Omicron Theta is in a time of change. They have moved from long established adviser Mary Molt, PhD, and Erika Lindshield, MPH, to a new adviser since August 2021, Barbara G. Anderson, MArch.

I had the luck to speak to both Mary (asking her to speak at Conclave) and Barbara, to tell me a bit more about their recruitment processes and member retention practices. Here are their tips from Omicron Theta.

Recruitment tips:

  1. We send an invitation email to potential members with an invitation to join. In the past this email was very long. This year we streamlined it. We send a reminder message as well a couple of weeks later, reminding them that they received the invitation and inviting them to an informational meeting if they want more information before making a decision.
  • After sending the invitation emails to qualified students, we email each department head a list of students from their department who received invitation emails. We ask the department heads to please contact the students on the list and encourage them to join. Most department heads send an email to the students invited to join KON and say things like: ‘This is a great organization. This is what it can do for you…’
  • We hold an informational meeting for those interested in learning more about KON before they decide if they want to join. This includes online and in person students – two separate meetings one for the virtual students and one for in-person students. All of our meetings are in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • We let students pay dues in multiple ways. Students still pay their initiation fee and our chapter dues of $10, but we’re flexible in how we collect those dues. Students can bring cash or a check to the advisor’s office, mail a check to the advisor, or bring either to the informational meeting, or the initiation. We attempted to develop a digital means of paying dues, but it didn’t work for our chapter.
  • We invite family members to attend initiation and many do.  This fall our guests included parents, siblings, and grandparents.  It helps to schedule initiation on the Sunday afternoon after a Saturday home football game. We simultaneously have a room of face-to-face attendees and our online (Zoom) attendees. The Dean welcomes everyone to the initiation ceremony. After a brief presentation on the history and purpose of KON, the initiates take the pledge.  Initiates are individually introduced based on answers to questions about their major, year in school, goals, and the like. If they are physically in the room with our book, they sign it. Those on Zoom, type their names in the chat. Our book is used at each initiation to keep a record of Omicron Theta chapter members. We serve refreshments.
  • Initiation includes an inspiring speaker. This is usually a faculty member or maybe an amazing graduate who lives nearby. This year we had a young faculty member who had just earned a Ph.D. from Cornell. She spoke about growing up in Kansas, attending K-State as an undergraduate, and her experience in KON. She specifically described how KON helped her take advantage of opportunities and how belonging to the group gave her confidence and allowed her to meet people who guided her through her graduate education and early career. The students loved her, she was an engaging and charismatic speaker with whom they identified.

That in a nutshell is recruitment. In regards to member retention, the chapter plans both meetings or events that include getting to know each other and those that get to know the faculty in their college. They always make sure to include food at the meetings. Last, they plan one meeting each semester, usually around final exam week, for stress relief.

Talking with Barbara, she made two things crystal clear. First, that Omicron Theta was built by her predecessors and any congratulations should be offered to previous advisers Mary Molt and Erika Lindshield. Second, that Omicron Theta’s recruitment efforts are powered by its student member officers. The chapter has a subgroup of officers which drives the recruitment with each person taking responsibility for small, but important tasks. They work together as a team to make the collective goal come together. The adviser provides the guidance but credit for the hard work belongs to the students.

There was also some discussion of current thoughts on growing membership. At least once, and preferably twice, per year Omicron Theta’s leaders want to invite all students in their college to attend a social event or benefit in some way because KON includes them. It can be as simple as distributing healthy snacks to students in Hoffman Lounge (the primary college public gathering space) during finals week or inviting them to yoga on the lawn. The goal is to increase our presence among the students in our college. Our hope is when a student is invited to join KON, they will recall a positive interaction with KON members. Being a member of KON has many personal benefits, but we should also lift others up. 

Who Were the First Home Economists?

Jan Van Buren, Ph.D.

Were they credentialed teachers in the traditional K-12 systems?  Or can some other group lay claim to the honor?  Researching the life of Susan Angeline Collins and other missionaries in the 1880’s lends credence to the honor belonging to them. The result of the research is my recently published book Susan Angeline Collins: With a Hallelujah Heart.  Her contributions to the enhancement of life for individuals and families have been hidden for nearly a century.  As I discovered aspects of her early life I began to understand how she was able to survive 33 years in Western Africa, first for two in the Congo Delta area and then for 31 in the high plateau region of North Central Angola. 

Susan was born on July 3, 1851 in Illinois to parents who had recently been freed from their indenture.  Several years later the family moved to the Wisconsin Dells and Susan had to adjust to attending a different school.  More life changes occurred when her father Isaac enlisted in a Civil War infantry regiment in 1864 serving as an undercook for eleven months in the East. I wondered what new struggles and responsibilities fell upon Susan, her mother, two older sisters, and two younger brothers?

By November 1865 the family had crossed the Mississippi River and settled near an enclave of nearly 100 Blacks near Fayette, Iowa.  Within a short time Susan was doing housework for a local minister Reverend Paine and his wife and helping with their four children. That work was sporadically interrupted from 1873 through much of 1877 when she cared for her mother, two sisters, and one brother who died of tuberculosis.

The Paines recognized Susan’s academic potential and in 1876 she became the first Black student at Upper Iowa University where she completed the two-year Normal Training Teaching Program.  At that time all but three Iowa counties prohibited Blacks from teaching in country schools. Her experience illustrates historical discriminatory practices for Blacks with teaching credentials

In 1882 Susan moved to Huron, Dakota Territory after her father had married again and she no longer felt responsible for looking after him and her youngest brother born in Iowa in 1867.   Pursuing her entrepreneurial talents she opened a laundry business that inadvertently led her to a missionary career. Often the laundry brought to her by railroad men and miners was wrapped in newspapers.  One day several years later she spied an article that caught her attention.  It described a training school in Chicago for those who wanted to become missionaries.  Susan wanted to attend but had to delay. After her stepmother died in May 1884 Susan brought her father to Huron.  When he died six months later she no longer had family responsibilities. That freed her to pursue her dreams.  

In less than a year she had sold her business and was taking a train to attend the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions (CTS).  Her schooling included sociology, social and family relations, nursing and elementary medicine, and industrial work. Practical experience focused on aiding and teaching the immigrants in crowded tenement housing. Upon completion of the one-year course of study, the missionaries were expected to be active in social reform with a focus on changing the prison system, promoting temperance work, and helping the needy and disenfranchised.

Susan’s life changed dramatically after the Methodist Episcopal Bishop to Africa William Taylor came to CTS and recruited her to join his band of missionaries leaving for Africa in April 1887.  Upon her arrival in the Congo Delta region, the cultural differences shocked her, notably the near nakedness of the people and the uneven work load between the men and women.  She wrote telling a friend that the men had multiple wives and laid about all day while the women struggled to keep up with the workload.

Two years later Susan observed these same behaviors when she was assigned to mission stations in Angola, a west African country about twice the size of Texas.  She was deeply concerned when girls as young as 12 were forced into marriage with older men.  She taught the girls how to read and write Portuguese, English, and Kimbundu, the local language. In addition to the academic and life skills Susan taught she was responsible for their religious education. In June 1897 she wrote, “We have school usually four hours in the forenoon for four days a week. In the afternoon I teach them various things, such as sewing, cooking, and washing.” (“Report of Miss Susan Collins.” Report of the Congo Mission Conference, June 9-17, 1897. New York:  Easton & Mains).  Susan and the older girls stitched the yards of fabric making clothing for themselves and the younger children.  Mrs. Paine had obtained the fabric through donations from Fayette area residents.

Susan taught the older girls to sew and make clothes for themselves and these younger children. Author’s collection.

Susan and her missionary colleagues experienced many dangers including angry family members attempting to take the girls from the mission schools to be married.  Travel in over-loaded, easily-tipped canoes in crocodile-infested rivers caused concern as did the menacing presence of hippopotamus on trails during night treks.  Housing was poor.  One missionary wrote she and her girls had missed by minutes being caught in the collapse of the dining room ceiling caused by the weight of a 150-pound terminate mound between the ceiling and the roof. Dwellings often lacked windows and screens to keep out malaria, dengue and yellow fever-carrying mosquitoes. Susan nursed missionaries and their children suffering from those illnesses. She used the situations as learning opportunities for her older students. Sadly, not all of their  patients lived.

Poor nutrition, due to inadequate food supplies, often contributed to these deaths. Until 1898 Bishop Taylor’s missionaries had to survive on his self-sufficiency model.  That meant they had to obtain food from family and friends in the States, get it from the local people, or raise their own field crops and gardens.  To provide adequate food Susan taught the girls gardening, food preservation and preparation skills. Garden crops included beans, corn, okra, white and sweet potatoes called yams, peanuts called ground nuts, and potatoes. They harvested and processed cassava roots using them to replace potatoes and as flour in bread.  Some of you now likely use this flour because it is gluten-free. Boiled cassava leaves were used as a vegetable.

With the appointment of a new bishop, life became easier and the missionaries received a salary and money for running their mission stations.  In 1902 Susan was permanently assigned to the Quessua Mission Station under the auspices of the Pacific Branch of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) rather than the missionary board that consisted entirely of white men.  Those men tried to get Susan to retire because she was too old!  When I realized she was only 51, I was appalled at their attitude.  Male missionaries served beyond that age illustrating ageism and gender issues.

 The Quessua Mission was located in the Angolan high plateau region. When Susan again walked along the narrow trails to the mission, she would have seen the dried bones of native peoples who had perished decades earlier on their way to Portuguese slave ships anchored in the Luanda harbor. My mind raced wondering what her feelings might have been. Had she thought perhaps her ancestors had been brought to the States from Angola?

The death of two female missionaries at Quessua in 1903 left Susan alone caring for 30-40 girls without assistance except help from the older girls.  When she was joined by a nurse missionary, Martha Drummer from Atlanta, Georgia in May 1906, she was able to focus on other mission needs.  Susan demonstrated her leadership skills when planning and managing the three-year construction of the girls new home and classroom building completed in late 1909.  Throughout the process her patience was sorely tested because materials had to be carried on rough trails over 200 miles from the coast one man-load at a time. A man-load typically weighed between 65 and 75 pounds.

Susan, at right and wearing a black dress, was responsible for construction of girls home and classroom building at Quessua Mission prior to 1910. Author’s collection.

 Years before Mary Jane McLeod Bethune initiated her school for African-American girls in Florida, Susan had started a school for girls in a northern Angola.  During my research process I found letters she wrote to her two elementary school-age cousins emphasizing the value of education. One of them eventually earned a master’s degree and taught home economics, then called domestic science, at Roanoke College in Alabama and Langston University in Oklahoma.

With construction concerns behind her, Susan was able to return to Luanda in 1910 and purchase two sewing machines. This efficiency helped ease her concerns for keeping the girls clothed. She also taught the girls rug and basket weaving. The new cook stove she bought shortened food preparation time for the nearly 60 girls in her care.

Susan in late 1920’s, is displaying rugs and baskets created by her Quessua students. She is standing in the yard of her Fayette, Iowa home. Courtesy of Barry Zbornik.

Susan and Martha taught the girls child care and parenting skills and knew children who grew up in a home with an educated mother would have a better chance of success.  One frequent topic in letters to their sponsors was their desire for the girls to marry boys who had a mission education.  The girls’ weddings were always a highlight at the mission.

Susan’s missionary career ended in 1920 when she was nearing 70 due to retirement age requirements set by the WFMS.  Because there was a missionary shortage, she had worked two years beyond the society’s stated retirement age of 67.  Those women were forward thinking and initiated a retirement fund in 1912 for single and widowed female missionaries.  That was a great benefit to Susan who lived until 1940 when cancer caused her death. She, her mother, and three siblings who died of tuberculosis are buried with members of white pioneer families in a small rural cemetery near Fayette.

Susan’s life story illustrates lessons relevant for today including the long-term impact inclusion can have on society as a whole coupled with the important role community, educational opportunities, family, and religion have in daily life.  It offers encouragement and demonstrates what can happen when all people have the opportunity to thrive regardless of race, gender, creed, and age.  Susan’s upward trajectory started with the interest of a mentor.  She was able to pursue her desire to become a missionary through education at Upper Iowa University and the Chicago Training School.  During her lifetime she demonstrated courage, initiative, perseverance, grace, gumption, and grit helping an untold number of girls and women in Africa.  In retirement she was a lecturer sharing her knowledge of the Angolan people, beliefs, climate, culture, and language.  Colleagues visited Susan because they valued her friendship, knowledge, and wisdom.

Susan’s legacy continues at Upper Iowa University through the Susan Angeline Collins Memorial Scholarship awarded annually to a female African American student who demonstrates excellence in academic achievement and extracurricular activities.  Ten percent of the profits from my book will go to the scholarship fund.  Visit http://www.janisbenningtonvanburen.com for more information about the book. Books can be ordered from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and Westbow.com.

Member Memorial: Eileen Maddex

In 2009, upon the passing of Eileen Maddex, friends, family, and colleagues donated generously in her name to Kappa Omicron Nu. These gifts became the Eileen Maddex Fellowship that KON issued to support future KON students in her name. Please join us in taking a moment to reflect on the life of this remarkable member.

Eileen Maddex (1921-2009)

Eileen Irene Callaghan was born in Columbus Ohio, in 1921, the eldest of five children. She attended Catholic school and graduated from Ohio State University in 1944. She met Robert L. Maddex at a Newman Club Friday the 13th “Jinx” Dance while attending Ohio State and married him when he returned from WWII in January 1946. They moved to East Lansing Michigan in 1948 when Robert became a professor at Michigan State University. Eileen put her Home Economics degree to work early as a mother and homemaker and raised five sons: Doug, Greg, Jeff, Norm and Paul in Haslett, Michigan. In 1966 Eileen accepted the position of Executive Director of Omicron Nu, Inc. a National Home Economics Honor Society. Her professional career blossomed over the years due to her organizational, budget and management skills. Eileen regularly organized, planned, and coordinated national conferences involving hundreds of attendees from across the country. She belonged to many social, religious, and professional societies throughout her life. Eileen served on the executive board of directors of numerous organizations, including the Association of College Honor Societies.

In December 1977 when her husband Robert passed away Eileen’s religion, faith and wonderful network of friends sustained her through her loss. In 1981 she married Harold Miller, of Haslett and they spent eight wonderful years together before Harold’s death in 1989.  In the early 1990’s Eileen became Executive Director of the Ingham County Home Association where she headed a five-year project to design, construct and operate Marsh Pointe, a 108-unit apartment complex for elderly seniors of moderate income. This was the crowning achievement to her successful and varied professional career.

In April 2009, at 88, Eileen finally retired to spend more time with friends and family. Eileen passed away peacefully with family at her side on November 12, 2009. Upon her passing, friends and colleagues contributed generously to Kappa Omicron Nu in her name.

Eileen enjoyed traveling and she regularly visited her children and grandchildren across the United States, to Alaska, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Europe. Throughout her life, Eileen’s faith in God and the church was ever-present in all she did.

Chapter Highlight: Omicron Mu

What Kappa Omicron Nu chapter is the busiest? The gold medal this year goes to Omicron Mu at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. With 41 options, there’s something for everyone on their schedule. The adviser at Omicron Mu is Amanda Gonzalez-Rashkin M.Ed., GCDF, CCSP and she was given the role soon after she came to Cornell in 2018. I chatted with her a little about their exceptional schedule.

“We couldn’t have accomplished our 2020-2021 robust event schedule without the hard work of our incredible Executive Board students: lead by President: Elizabeth Farkouh – Spring ’21, Executive Vice President: Maura McLaughlin – Spring ’21, VP of Communications: Pearlanna Zapotocky – Spring ’21, VP of Service Management: Neri Yun – Spring ’21, and VP of Alumni Affairs: Taeyoung Park – soon to be KON President in Fall ’21. In normal times, our Executive Board members have the support of three committees: Community Service, Professional Development, and Social. These committees are made up of KON general body members, who help our Executive Board students plan and execute KON events. However, our 2020-2021 academic year had unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic, which led to our decision to keep event planning as simple as possible and just have myself and our five Executive Board students plan all of the events together during our bi-weekly Executive Board meetings. These students rose to the challenge and showed unparalleled levels of dedication, leadership, and perseverance by going above and beyond to deliver a meaningful experience for our KON members via a wide variety of mission-oriented virtual events.”

KON Omicron Mu, Spring 2019 Initiation

At the beginning of the semester, the Executive Board got together for a retreat and planning session. They began their planning by looking at their previous year’s programming to see what activities they wanted to do again. Then they add a few new ideas. That’s their foundation schedule. After that, they found more content and added other activities as they went along. There were a lot of pandemic activity ideas, and they used the KON national webinar series content that was offered.  Events run from 30 minutes to two hours and might attract 10-20 members each.

The dates on the schedule on the surface seem a bit illogical, starting late after the term begins and ending early, with no events in August, one in December, and three in September, but 7 in October and April and 11 events in March. Similarly, dates within months are not evenly spread out such as a weekly meeting. Some will be a week or more apart, but other events are a day or two apart or even the same day. Amanda makes the logic clear. “Our members are high achieving students who get really packed. It takes a while for the term to get started, and they’re focused on getting used to their professors, schedule, classes, and books. Once the school year is going, we start events, but we prioritize studying and try to avoid exam weeks. As well, we try to change up the night of the week that events are offered for our members, so for we’re not forever excluding someone who has a class or other commitment on Tuesday evenings. We also try to have some things for weekends – some of our students prefer to hit the books during the week.” On top of all that, the schedule is built around executive board member availability, or whoever is hosting a particular event. Added together, all these factors make for an erratic schedule, but one that’s better suited to their chapter.

How did they do so many events in a COVID-19 pandemic? All the events were virtual; with two exceptions. The spring trash clean-up and end-of-semester social were both in person but socially distanced. I wanted to know how they pulled off a baking night virtually. Amanda smiled. “We sent a recipe out via email ahead of time. During the event, we got together on Zoom and made the recipe together. It was kind of a contest to see who could make the cutest thing.” What recipe did they pick? Vanilla cupcakes. There was a bit of wiggle room if someone wanted to make a different flavor.

Their events are roughly grouped into three types. Social events where members can recharge and connect, make friends and build networks. Community service events where they build leadership skills by giving back to their community. And professional development events where members learn information that will help them with their professionalism and career choices.

I asked what events are the most popular. At first, Amanda noted that movie night and baking night are popular choices. But upon further thought, she noted that the members report getting a lot out of the professional development meetings and the community service. They truly like all the types of events.

KON Omicron Mu, Fall 2018 Pumpkin Picking

Amanda’s favorite activity is a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Workshop. As she is MBTI certified, she conducts a small workshop for members as one of their sessions. They restrict the number of attendees, both because there’s a cost of obtaining the tests and because it helps give her quality one-on-one time with attendees. She enjoys it not only because they’re interested but also because it helps them get to know themselves as people.

Who plans all these events? KON members take turns. Some events are easier to plan than others. For example, for the Career Exploration Center (CEC) Job & Internship Workshop all the event coordinator had to do was email the CEC to ask them if they would do a session for KON Omicron Mu members. Other events involve more planning. This is a great low-risk way for members to practice their leadership skills. They are empowered with the authority and responsibility to take an idea that the team agreed on, and personally do what it takes to turn it into an event that they hope others will like and be enriched by.

The most important part of the events to Amanda is intentionality and purpose. She wants to be sure that each event is a step toward their goals and expectations. Each event has valuable takeaways for members. When she came in as chapter adviser that area was a bit weak for Omicron Mu, but Amanda has been diligent in keeping this focus on purpose in everything they do. The results speak for themselves. Though Omicron Mu was good before, they keep getting better. And they have the event schedule to prove it.

Member Highlight: Kitty R. Coffey, PhD, CFCS

In my very first board meeting of Kappa Omicron Nu, I immediately took notice of Kitty Coffey. Kitty is a retired KON member. Once an interim chapter adviser, she is Professor Emerita for the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Carson-Newman University (Kappa Beta Xi chapter) in Jefferson City, TN. A slim, polished woman, Kitty is every inch a southern lady. Though she is petite, she can also command a room not with a loud voice or angry words, but with a friendly congenial candor that disarms and charms. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Kitty about her impressive history of service with Kappa Omicron Nu.

Q: How did you become involved in KON?

A: I have fond memories of being invited to join Omicron Nu (ON), one of the two predecessors of Kappa Omicron Nu, as a junior in 1963 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The initiation ceremony, with the top scholars in my college along with faculty members I held in particularly high regard, made a significant impression on me. I felt a new connection and a real pride in being a part of a scholarship in my chosen profession. After earning BS and MS degrees at UTK and being an instructor in higher education for a few years, I returned to UTK for my PhD – still a proud member of ON. Moving on to Carson-Newman, a liberal arts Christian college – now university – in rural East Tennessee, I was invited to join another scholastic honorary, Kappa Omicron Phi, in my chosen profession of home economics. To my delight, a few years later, my land-grant university’s ON scholastic honorary merged with my smaller liberal arts college KON scholastic honorary to create a new, larger, and more diverse Kappa Omicron Nu. So here I am involved in KON!

Q: What did you like about KON?

A: Over my time as a member of KON (and its predecessors ON and KOΦ), I’ve appreciated that whether affiliated with a big university or a small college, chapters were treated equally well. I loved so much that at KON conclaves and regional meetings, smaller chapter delegations were as active, well-received, and recognized as larger ones. As C-N department chair and KON member, I proudly pointed out to prospective majors, our Kappa Beta Xi “KON Wall of Honor” featuring our 26 Chapter of Excellence Awards won under the outstanding advisorship of Dr. Diana D. Dearing (1980-2014) and Dr. Amber Roth (2015-present). KON is for chapters of many sizes, locales, and originations.

Kitty R. Coffey with FCS alumni at Carson-Newman Homecoming 2018 viewing memorabilia commemorating the 50th anniversary of C-N’s Alpha Beta Xi Chapter

Q: Can you tell me about your research/career?

A: I was a UTK Food Science and Nutrition major who, after doing an independent study research project, decided I liked bench research. I presented my research from the masters’ thesis entitled, The Effects of Cooking on the Phospholipid Content of Lean Ground Beef at the Institute of Food Technology meeting in Minneapolis the next year and co-authored a UT Extension Bulletin with my major professor, Dr. Ada Marie Campbell. After teaching at the University of Alabama, I joined the Nutrition Department at the University of Tennessee Medical Units in Memphis as an assistant professor in the Child Development Center (CDC), a grant-supported University-Affiliated Facility (UAF). The focus changed to food and nutrition as a part of an interdisciplinary team approach to teaching healthcare professionals (physicians, nurses, psychologists, audiologists, speech therapists, nutritionists, and many others) in intellectual and developmental challenges in children. We evaluated and treated patients with inborn errors of metabolism, eating disorders, developmental feeding disorders, and more. It was at the CDC that I developed my research interest in childhood obesity and co-authored a book, Fun Foods for Fat People, while directing the CDC Childhood Obesity Clinic. As a member of the CDC Interdisciplinary Team Approach to Poverty community outreach research project, I co-authored our findings and recommendations to end the cycle of inner-city poverty.

     Returning to UTK to work on a doctorate in socio-cultural food science, I turned a new interest in obesity into my dissertation topic, Food Behaviors of Adolescents Relative to Adiposity, directed by Dr. Ann Bass. I had the privilege of reporting my doctoral research at the annual meetings of the American Dietetic Association (now Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the Society for Nutrition Education. Regrettably, I did not complete the editorial review process for publication of this research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association due to competing demands on time. My lesson learned, which I pass forward to new doctorates: Make publishing from your dissertation a career priority as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to maximize and advance your research.

C-N FCS faculty at the 2021 departmental fall retreat. L to R: Dr. Rae Dutro, Dr. Kitty Coffey, Dr. Amber Roth, Dr. Kimberly Johnson, Dr. Lisa Connor.

Q: How did KON help you?

A: KON helped me transition my scholarly efforts from bench and field research to perspectives in practice. This was a better fit for me as a professor, department chair, and later division coordinator and school dean in a small liberal arts college with emphasis on excellence in teaching. Through acquaintance with KON’s programs of work, I reframed my scholarship to leadership in quality faculty, programs, and facilities development in higher education. I was also privileged to report at several programs and in proceedings of the Council for Administrators of Family and Consumer Sciences (CAFCS) and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS). Additionally, I co-authored numerous self-study reports for initial and reaccreditation for AAFCS and chaired C-N’s institutional self-study and site visit. I then co-authored a book with Dr. Ellen Millsaps, a former Writing Across the Curriculum Regional Workshop leader for KON in the 90’s entitled A Handbook to Guide Educational Institutions Through the Accreditation Process. Happily, I had an article published in Kappa Omicron Nu’s Forum entitled, “The place of family and consumer sciences in a small, private college.” A decade later, I was privileged to have my KON conclave address, “The Case for KON Leadership,” published in Kappa Omicron Nu Dialogue. More recently, I was honored to have my biography included among the 130 Leaders in Family Consumer Sciences, published by KON in 2016.

Dr. Kitty Coffey, FCS Department Chair, and Dr. Diana Carroll, Alpha Beta Xi Chapter Advisor worked closely together at Carson Newman.

Q: What have you learned from KON?

A: I’ve learned the values of collaboration, leadership, and mentorship in the continuous quality improvement of scholarship. Particularly relevant to us, I think, is mentorship. For example, my department chair predecessor – Dr. Evelyn Simpson – who served as C-N’s first KOΦ chapter advisor, skillfully mentored her successor advisor, Dr. Diana D. Carroll. Diana served in that capacity until her retirement being twice named KON Outstanding Advisor and an elected Vice President on the Board of Directors. Following Diana’s retirement, I took a turn as the interim KON chapter advisor. With Diana’s consultation I mentored new faculty member, Dr. Amber Roth, to become C-N’s third KON chapter advisor in 50 years. Collaboration, Succession, and Continuity!

Dr. Coffey presents certificate of appreciation to host Ray Bible while colleague Dr. Diana Carroll looks on. Certificate of Appreciation was awarded to hosts of Dr. Carroll’s FCS Cooperative Management and Housing class studying “adaptive housing for aging in place.”

Q: What contributions can be made by members in retirement?

A: I’m almost into my second year of retirement. As department chair, I would directly encourage and mentor someone. Now, I can contribute by sharing my thoughts and insights with KON leadership as someone who has been with KON a long time and has seen the history of our programs and projects. This is one of the many perspectives needed as you move our organization forward. As we regenerate, I can offer some perspectives on what I have seen as valuable from the past that might help shape our future.

It’s so important for our alumni to be just as engaged as our students. We can encourage alumni members to sponsor today’s student scholars by mentoring them and helping them build their leadership skills and develop their own networks. It also wouldn’t hurt to always have an alumnus on the board. Recently retired might be ideal.

Dr. Coffey presents student Sarah Sharp with KON Scholars award, with Kathleen O’Rourke

Q: In your opinion, what do you think KON needs?

A: Already, KON has enhanced its media, email outreach, and the blog. We’re at a very exciting point in transitioning from the past to the present. We’ve realized that our old paradigms, no matter how proud we were of them, are past. With excitement and vision, we’ve adapted. Now, we’re looking into the future. We’re strengthening our new programs in the human sciences in hospitality, kinesiology, and exercise science. There’s new blood in leadership and in association management, too. We need to provide our students today something to do. I’m excited to see people wanting to get onto committees and to contribute. There’s a great legacy that’s been created. KON has a VERY proud past and a VERY promising future.

From L to R: Dr. Kitty R. Coffey, Chelsea Buchanan, Dr. Diana D. Carroll

Q: What are your hobbies/interests?

A: I collect cookbooks from every city I go to. They all have some history. When I was teaching, I didn’t have much time to practice, but now I use them. What’s Kitty’s favorite recipe right now? Exotic chicken salad from the Junior League Cookbook of Memphis. It uses diced rotisserie chicken, curry, grapes, and soy sauce and is a hit at potlucks. She thinks again and amends her answer: “Or banana pudding. I substitute the vanilla wafers with Famous Amos™ macadamia nut cookies. I just use the instant pudding box, but with the upgrades, you’d never know.