Steadfast & Strong: Sara Kopunova

This past year, anything that went wrong or was difficult could be chalked up to the pandemic (thanks, COVID-19). For VP III/Membership Chair Sara Kopunova (Upsilon Chapter, University of California Berkeley), fall 2020 Recruitment was at the top of that list. “There are parts of recruitment—the bonding aspects, the fact that you get to meet a lot of women—that everybody gets extremely excited about,” Sara said. “For the virtual part, the bonding was definitely way more difficult because it’s so hard to build a community and close friendships over Zoom.” Upsilon had prepared for this though; the chapter knew in early summer 2020 that Recruitment would be virtual, and Sara had a plan for success. And like a true engineer, she had a few backup plans, too.

Not only did COVID-19 require that Recruitment be virtual, but members also had to come back to campus and live in the house with restrictions. Tensions could be high at times; while some women felt COVID-19 was being taken too seriously, other women were not taking it seriously enough. Coming together as a chapter first was essential. “The hardest part was building the community. We wouldn’t be a chapter that potential new members would like to join if it looked like we weren’t a good community and that we weren’t close,” Sara said. “We focused on making friendships among ourselves and rebuilding those relationships to make sure the potential new members saw the true community.”

A big factor in Upsilon’s success? Chapter buy-in. With a virtual Recruitment came an even bigger need for opportunities to show what being a Zeta at Berkeley was about. Creating and sharing videos and images that were representative of Upsilon was a gigantic undertaking, and Sara delegated those responsibilities to women in the chapter. “I kept reminding myself to delegate and ask other people to do things both to create chapter buy-in and protect my own mental well-being,” Sara said. Ultimately, the members’ combined efforts led them to match Quota and pledge additional new members.

A positive aspect of the virtual experience that Sara kept in mind was that all the sororities on campus were in the same situation. “Just taking a deep breath and realizing that there are a lot of things about this virtual Recruitment that are beyond my ability to deal with was helpful,” Sara said. “At the end of the day, it’s not my responsibility that the Wi-Fi isn’t working or that somebody wasn’t able to connect to Zoom.”

Another silver (or steel gray) lining came from Panhellenic Council’s decision to implement an audio-only round. The intent was to ensure all Panhellenic chapters were basing their decisions on conversations. This initiative furthered ZTA’s open motto, “Seek the Noblest,” by eliminating superficial bias. “We focused on conversations and how we felt about each potential new member as a friend. It was one of the best rounds because everyone could relax and have authentic conversations,” Sara said. “We’re proud to say we recruited our most diverse class ever.”

Through everything, Sara attributed her achievements as VP III/Membership Chair to her chapter. “Such an essential part of the process is the people around you,” she said. “The fact that I had so much help from my advisors, the Executive Committee, and the chapter was the sole reason behind our success. It’s always super important to have a good team, and I was fortunate enough to have that.”

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