The informant is a Junior at USC. She joined the USC Helenes during the Fall Semester of 2010 and was elected as Vice President for the 2012 calendar year term in office. As Vice President, she is responsible for new member recruitment.
As part of the USC Helenes myself, I was in attendance at Welcome Night. I’ll briefly describe the event. Welcome Night is one of the most celebrated traditional events held by the USC Helenes. It is our initiation ceremony for the incoming class of Rosebuds each semester and it is a night that most Helenes will never forget. Technically Welcome Night is a mandatory event, so every active member of the organization is present. General Members and the E-board arrived at the Mudd Hall of Philosophy Courtyard early so that they’d be ready once the Rosebuds arrive. The Rosebuds meet up with our Membership Chair at a different location. To get to the “mystery location” they stand alphabetically, single file, blind-folded and hold onto one another’s shoulders as they are guided across campus to the location. Once they arrived, still blind-folded, the E-board positioned the Rosebuds along the steps outside of Mudd Hall so that they faced the courtyard. Silently waiting, all of the General Members of Helenes hold lit candles. The Rosebuds open their eyes and the entire organization cheered for them. Then, the Vice President gave a quick welcoming speech and the Membership Chair read the name of each girl, presenting them in alphabetical order. Each Rosebud walked forward when her name was called, receiving a rose and a creed from the President and Vice President. After all of the girls were presented, the Membership Chair gave a short speech about this Rosebud class, why they are so special, and why they were selected as Helenes above all others this semester. Finally, the President and Vice President will lead the Rosebuds as well as all of the members in reciting the organization’s creed, after which the Rosebuds are considered officially initiated as Helenes.
After the event, I interviewed my informant, the Vice President, asking her some questions about why the event is performed and what it means to the organization:
Me: How does it feel to welcome this new group of Rosebuds after having been one yourself? Is the initiation more meaningful this time around? In what ways is the night different by being on the other end?
Informant: Well, I think Welcome Night is totally more meaningful in subsequent years—more so with every semester. This is saying something because if you ask any Rosebud, Welcome Night immediately holds great significance and importance to them. But as a returning member watching a new group of Rosebuds crossing over there is more experience, wisdom, and personal reflection that one can make. All I can think about is the amazing journey they’re about to start. I look at the Rosebuds and that they’re going to be making so many life-changing connections now. I know their journey within the Helenes is just beginning. This is why the night is so different, and in my opinion even more meaningful, from the other end…I’m so excited for the future of the organization and the girls who hold it up.
Me: Why do you think the Helenes continue to have this ceremony? What does it mean?
Informant: For one, it’s our formal initiation of members. Logistically, it’s kind of something we need to have. But maybe more importantly, tradition is an incredibly important component of Helenes. This is our most traditional event—it’s how we’ve initiated members for years and years. It is a common experience that all Helenes share with one another and it’s the way in which we continue to honor one another and our organization.
Me: What’s the ceremony mean to you personally?
Informant: The Welcome Night ceremony is mostly about just that—being welcoming and welcomed. It’s mostly for our Rosebuds, an opportunity for us to shower them with love and show them how much this organization will mean to them.
Me: I’m just going to assume that you like this event, but why do you like it?
Informant: Haha, of course I like the tradition! I like it because I get to see ALL of my favorite people in one place…and because it allows me to reflect on this wonderful organization and opportunity that I’ve been given in life and reminds me to be grateful for these phenomenal women I’m surrounded by.
I agree with almost everything that the informant had to say. The ceremony is definitely a formal initiation, but it’s also a great way to remember my own time as a Rosebud and cherish all the memories from that time in my life. It really is an incredibly important time in Helenes membership, and it formulates what the rest of your experience in the organization will be. Also, something that my informant didn’t really mention is the fact that because everyone goes through their own Welcome Night ceremony, the event acts a mutual experience every girl in the organization can reminisce about and bond over. By traditionally enacting the ceremony, the organization is perpetuating those memories that will be shared by each member.