Finding Belonging, Empowerment and Love

Finding Belonging, Empowerment and Love

When Josie and McKenna Mates first went through recruitment at the University of Arkansas, they never could have expected all they’d gain through Alpha Chi Omega – a sisterhood; leadership opportunities that built skills and confidence; and, ultimately, their spouse! 

Mckenna and Josie served as back-to-back chapter presidents for Delta Rho  With more than 1,000 women going through the university’s recruitment process each fall, McKenna recalls being overwhelmed and unsure of where she might fit in. But the Delta Rho chapter changed that. I know it sounds cheesy, but the minute I sat down in Alpha Chi Omega during Sisterhood Round, I knew it’s where I belonged,” she says. From our philanthropy to our programming to our Ritual, Alpha Chi Omega is the real deal when it comes to empowering women. 

Josie felt that empowerment as well during recruitment, explaining, “Alpha Chi Omega was the first place I felt like I could truly be myself. 

What followed was a collegiate experience filled with opportunities for both women to grow and lead. One of the most impactful was becoming chapter president – McKenna in 2018 and Josie following in 2019. They each led the Delta Rho chapter through major milestones, with McKenna helping open the new chapter facility and Josie being recognized by the College Panhellenic with the Outstanding Chapter President Award. 

Being chapter president taught me more life lessons than I think can accurately be expressed in words,” McKenna says. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect in every sense of the word because I knew I needed to be a role model for so many other women. My presidency taught me that making mistakes and growing from them is an integral part of being a role model. 

When McKenna met with Josie before handing over the gavel, she shared this lesson and others. Josie says“[McKenna] taught me so much of what it means to lead with love. My presidency showed me the importance of diversity in every sense of the word. A team of people that all look like you, think like you and believe the same things that you do will never be the best team. I was proud to have a team of leaders that came from many different backgrounds. Our different life experiences strengthened our leadership and our sisterhood. 

Mckenna and Josie’s engagement at Busch Stadium; photo by Emily Nestelroad  McKenna and Josie were leaders and best friends throughout their collegiate experience, and as McKenna prepared to graduate, Josie asked her on a date to see their favorite baseball teams play at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Two and a half years later, they returned to the stadium for their engagement at home plate. The couple eloped and later celebrated at a reception with loved ones. Their officiant was Josie’s Delta Rho little sister and chapter president successor, Lexi Robertson Cameron, and the photographer for their engagement and wedding photos was chapter sister Emily Nestelroad. Josie says, “It seems cliché, but our wedding day was the best day ever. I’ll never forget the feeling of being surrounded by our friends, family and sorority sisters all in one room. 

Mckenna and Josie’s reception with their loved ones; photo by Emily Nestelroad  

Alpha Chi Omega brought these two together and continues to play a part in their lives today as alumnae. As a prosecuting attorney, McKenna works on many domestic violence-related cases and uses the training and tools she learned from Alpha Chi Omega. And Josie credits Alpha Chi Omega with her confidence to be herself. She says, “When I entered college, I was unsure of myself and worried that people wouldn’t love me for me. Alpha Chi taught me that who I was was worth celebrating. Mckenna wore her lyre badge and chapter president ring at her wedding reception; photo by Emily Nestelroad