Behind each milestone and achievement of Alpha Chi over the last two decades—the professional conferences, the increased chapter support role of the national office, the transition to online member registration, and the move to Capitol Avenue in Little Rock—Lara Noah has played a central role in Alpha Chi’s successes. So it was not surprising when her application for executive director this past June was welcomed by the National Council.
For 25 years Noah has lived and breathed Alpha Chi. Her work with the honor society began in January 1994, just after graduation from Harding University. “It was only supposed to be a temporary job computerizing the paper membership records for the first time,” says Noah. But soon, she became part-time office support. In 1995 she attended her first convention to help with registration and other details at the hotel. It wasn’t long after that the Noah would become Alpha Chi’s first full-time employee.
From a family of educators
Lara grew up in a family that prized education. Her mother was an elementary school teacher, and her father used his master’s degree as a public high school administrator. She attended Harding University, majored in vocal music, and was encouraged to join Alpha Chi by a Harding professor and future Alpha Chi executive director, Dennis Organ, who would become Lara’s mentor for almost twenty years.
Noah’s extroverted personality has endeared her to the many Alpha Chi sponsors over the years. This culminated during the 2018 convention in Portland. The entire organization—led by the faculty sponsors—honored Noah for nearly 25 years of service with a robust standing ovation. It’s this sense of family and community that has kept Noah ensconced at Alpha Chi all these years. “My first national convention in 1995 was like putting faces on a hundred distant pen pals,” she says. “For me, every convention is like a Homecoming.”
Positioning AX for the future
Today Alpha Chi membership has crested over the half-million mark—a far cry from the 200,000 students when Noah started with Alpha Chi. Importantly, that growth has come without lowering the top ten percent qualifier for membership. For Alpha Chi to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of higher education, though, it has to plan for the future and find new ways to engage with today’s scholars.
Two years ago Alpha Chi launched an initiative to position the society’s mission to thrive in this new world of higher education, and Noah has been deeply involved in this journey. Working with the Council’s strategic planning committee and outside consultants, Alpha Chi put to paper the founding principles of its true identity—the substance of the promise Alpha Chi makes to its students, sponsors, and collegiate institutions. The organization created a new branding platform, rolled out a new website, and started creating videos and writing stories that allow Alpha Chi to speak with one voice to both its members, potential members, and advisers.
New Director. New priorities.
After 25 years at Alpha Chi, you can bet Noah has some ideas where she wants to lead the organization as her new tenure begins. “Alpha Chi’s history is full of great men and women who not only believed in honoring and encouraging the journey of academic achievement,” she says, “but they also realized the importance of shining a lamp ahead for the next generation.”
“I definitely have things I’d like to see happen,” Noah says. One idea hearkens back to her own time as an Alpha Chi member. When she received her invitation almost 30 years ago, she didn’t really know much about the honor society. And on many campuses today that still holds true. She wants to change that.
“I want every invitee—before they ever receive an invitation—to have heard something about what Alpha Chi membership means,” she says. “I know that’s already the case on some of our campuses, but I want our reputation for academic excellence and integrity to precede that invitation on every campus.”
While outreach will be needed to fulfill this goal, Noah sees another area for change coming from within. “In the next few years, I’d like to focus Alpha Chi on one of our founding principles: making scholarship effective for good,” she says. It’s a theme that greatly resonates with today’s students. This focus on scholarship for good also dispels any misperceptions that Alpha Chi is just something to put on a student’s resume. Or worse, that Alpha Chi is a society built upon exclusionism. “It is my philosophy that an Alpha Chi member can be academically elite without being an elitist.”
100 year anniversary
Noah takes over the reins at an inflection point for the honor society. In three years, we will be celebrating Alpha Chi’s 100-year anniversary. It will be a time for celebration but also a time to forge ahead with new ideas. After a quarter century’s commitment to the organization, Noah is poised to lead the way. “I feel like I was raised by Alpha Chi,” she says, “and now I have a new platform from which to give back.”