March 11, 2012

Sorority’s ‘House Mom’ Finds Greek Life Defies Stereotypes

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This is the fourth article in a series profiling the often-unrecognized personalities of Cornell and Ithaca.Amy Nichols grad never got a taste of Greek life in college. At Brigham Young University-Hawaii, there are palm trees and sandy beaches, but not sororities.

When Nichols became house director of Cornell’s Kappa Delta chapter in October, she expected what she said any non-sorority girl might expect: snooty cliques and hierarchies.

“There’s this paradigm that sororities are drinking clubs and everyone goes out all the time. Not at all,” Nichols said. “I want my future daughters to be in Kappa Delta.”According to Nichols, the Kappa Delta women’s sisterhood defies that stereotype, offering each member a support system that Nichols said she loves to be a part of.Nichols’ official duties as house director include keeping the sorority’s women safe, enforcing the house rules and ensuring that everything in the house works. Whether balancing finances or calling someone to fix a leak, Nichols described her job as “a lot of coordination.”“There’s usually always something wrong,” Nichols said. “It’s kind of a joke about how many days we can go without the washers breaking down.”Nichols’ role in the house, however, goes beyond handling logistics. To a house full of sorority sisters, she is a role model, friend and, according to Danielle DeBlasis ’14, a “mom away from home.”“I love being that mom figure. One girl was really sick, and I ran up and held her hair while she was puking,” Nichols said. “Everyone needs a friend during vulnerable times.”DeBlasis said that from doing yoga together in Nichols’ room to “smiling up a storm,” Nichols ensures that she is always there for anyone who needs her. Kristen Ewing ’14 added that within the first three days of Nichols’ arrival, Nichols knew every woman’s name and has not stopped knowing “everything about every girl in the house” since then.The attachment is mutual; Nichols is currently planning her wedding with the help of her “41 new friends.”“I love being a girl and being around girls,” Nichols said. “I’m engaged to the love of my life, and it’s just so fun to be able to tell the girls about all the plans and look up dresses.”As a gift, one of the women made a frame for Nichols that said, in Kappa Delta colors, olive green and pearl white, “Kappa Delta House Mom” — to which Nichols added “and Dad.” Nichols’ fiancé, Kent Uber, will move into the house after they wed in July.“None of us are at that stage in our lives where we’re getting married,” Ewing said, “so it’s kind of nice to live vicariously through her.”Prior to coming to Ithaca almost two years ago, Nichols worked for General Mills, starting as a “muffin girl” in the assembly line and rising to become the company’s international project manager and coordinator. She worked during most of her time in school, taking classes at night or working from five to nine a.m.Nichols said she has also traveled extensively: she spent one and a half years in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on a church mission trip and has studied, interned and worked in countries including Cambodia, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Italy and India.According to Annie Henderson ’14, who shares Nichols’ interest in agriculture and food security in developing countries, Nichols has been involved with a non-governmental organization called Food for Life Vrindavan. Nichols proposed a food security strategy that Food for Life accepted for implementation later this year. The plan includes a school nutrition program that will familiarize children with new vegetables and a program to train farmers on sustainable agricultural practices.“It’s something she’s extraordinarily passionate about and really pours herself into,” Henderson said. “She has that amount of perseverance to just continually [work] towards things that will better people.”Some of the women in Kappa Delta said that Nichols’ extensive travel and education have allowed her to help them find internships and explore their interests.“[Once] we ended up in the kitchen talking to Amy for three and a half hours, and she told us about her experiences and how she got to where she is now,” Ewing said. “It’s so great to have someone in the house to inspire and motivate us.”

Original Author: Nikki Lee