news & opinion

Stepping Up

APA Joins BSC Greek Life

The Tau Iota chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha joins the Birmingham-Southern Greek community this semester, as IFC voted to allow them to join our school’s council. Chartered April 12, 2000 at Samford, the chapter opened up to the city in 2004, and it welcomed its first BSC student in 2005. Now, as an official member of Birmingham-Southern’s Interfraternity Council, they are opening up their annual Unity Step Show to chapters from the hilltop.

John Banks, the chapter president, said "Our step show is for everybody. People assume it’s just for the sororities to do, but we love when the fraternities get involved."

The Unity Step Show, now on its 5th year, is the chapter’s philanthropic event, which helps raise money for the March of Dimes. In past years, the show has raised over $500, last year raising $750. The event attracts organizations from both campuses. This year, 5 organizations from Samford and 3 from Birmingham-Southern have signed up to perform.

"I hear a lot of people say they’re afraid to dance or can’t dance," Banks said. "[But] it’s kind of a different world. It really is a lot of fun. Historically, it’s making sure we, as Alphas, do what we’re supposed to do and be servants to all."

Rooted in Greek singing competitions from the 70s and traditional African dances like the Gumboot dance, step shows have transformed into complex and entertaining showcases of Greek organizations’ dancing skills.

The step show, which will take place April 20th at Seibert Gym on Samford’s campus, is not the only thing Alpha Phi Alpha has planned. “We’ve already started to look at an Alpha week in the fall,” Banks said. “A week of different events; social, philanthropy, and service.”

Alpha week typically includes events like Stroll Like an Alpha, a step show featuring moves specific to different Divine 9 fraternities, and events designed to bring awareness to the March of Dimes. The chapter is looking to expand its role on campus by providing a new opportunity for students to go Greek as it expands into a more permanent place here on the Hilltop.

The Tau Iota chapter welcomes all BSC students to come see the event at Samford’s Seibert Gym on April 20th at 7 pm and encourages anyone interested in the fraternity to contact John Banks, Chapter President, at jlbanks@bsc.edu.

All photos via John Banks

An Interview With Hallie Vanderhider

The Oil and Gas Executive Gives Stump Lecture

Hallie Vanderhider, managing director with SFC Energy Partners, a Denver-based private equity firm focused on the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry, received a BBA in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. Straight out of college she worked for Deloitte, a public accounting firm, auditing both private and public companies.

“I thought this was a great training ground because I have really learned to get a grasp on what financial statements mean and how to read them and what they can tell you about a company, but I [did not] want to do this forever," Vanderhider said. "This is not that fun now that I [understand] it. I [wanted] to do something more.” So, she decided to leave Deloitte and go work with one of her clients, which was a publicly traded oil and gas company.

“Right after I started, we were suspended by the SEC for late filing," Vanderhider said. "Then, unfortunately, we had the oil crash of 1986, and we weren’t going to survive. We did some interim financing to keep us alive until we could sell what we could of the company. Right when we were doing this, I had twins.”

Originally, Ms. Vanderhider had planned to stay home with the twins, but the company asked her to come back for a few months to help them sell. It ended up taking a year to sell due to complicated transactions, but Ms. Vanderhider said, "I was fortunate that after that I did stay home for four years with my boys, which were probably the best four years of my life. Then I learned I was going to be a single mom, so I thought I needed to get a job.”

A previous contact from Deloitte offered Vanderhider a job with a private equity firm. She decided to leave auditing to do financial planning because she wanted to become a CFO. This is how she got involved with oil and gas private equity and later moved to Blackstone Minerals, which used to be private. “We moved from 220 million in value to 4 billion over the 10 years that I was there,” Ms. Vanderhider explained.

 Vanderhider decided that she wanted to run a company and that private equity was the best way to do this. As she made her way up the ladder, Vanderhider gained a lot of insight into how a business works.  “[I got to] see so many different aspects of the life cycle of a business from cradle to grave," Vanderhider said. "It was a really interesting time in my career and a chance for me to do a lot of things that I really hadn’t been involved with before so that was a lot of fun. And then I got diagnosed with cancer."

After her diagnosis with cancer, Vanderhider decided to retire and seek treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. “I am happy to say that after surgery and radiation I am cancer free,” Vanderhider assured.

This time allowed for Vanderhider to embark on an interim during which she decided to start a boutique investment banking firm. "I thought it would be a good idea to try and do foreign direct investment between China and the U.S.,” Vanderhider said. The investment banking firm did not have any money and did not have any clients. "It took us a little over a year, but we finally did sell a company out of California to a state-owned enterprise in China.”

Vanderhider and her partner’s Chinese counterparts were not aware that the partner could speak fluent Mandarin, so Vanderhider and her partner were privy to several impolite comments made with regards to her scope of experience and gender. “Language wasn’t the only barrier; the significant cultural differences between men and women and what roles they play was quite a challenge," Vanderhider said. "I can’t tell you how many times they would ask me to get them coffee, and they would say ‘Where is the President?’ and I would say, ‘Well, that’s me.’”

Vanderhider has had many challenges in the male-dominated world of business but has handled obstacles with dignity. “A lot of women don’t make it to the top, [and] a lot of women deselect themselves," Vanderhider said. "Sometimes there is a bias that’s hard to overcome.” However, Vanderhider and her colleagues have found community within each other. “I’m part of the Executive Women’s Partnership of Houston, and we’ve bonded pretty significantly. There are about 200 of us, and you have to be the CEO of a company of a certain size to be included in the organization.”

Currently, Vanderhider has started changing her career to start serving on public company boards, and she would like to be on at least three, in addition to possibly exploring something other than oil and gas.

“[The] thing that’s most important to me throughout my career is always moving to something that’s a new challenge,” Vanderhider said. “Each time I’ve moved from one job to another… it’s been to learn something new or to play a different role or to see something through a different lens because I think the broader your background, the more value you add to any situation.”

Feature photo via Wynter Byrd

Residence Life Implements New Housing Selection System

Hopes to create a more fair and efficient system bring a new process into play

Last year the student body received an email from the Office of Residence Life, notifying them that the housing selection process had changed. Instead of a group’s highest lottery number determining when they would pick housing, it would then be the lowest. This occurred only a few days from selection, which caused backlash from students and made Residence Life realize that a change could not happen with such a short notice. However, students were assured that change would come the next year. That change is now here, but this time, Residence Life teamed up with SGA to improve the process.

“The Office of Residence Life is excited to move the Housing Selection process into the 21st  century by ending the tired and stressful process of conducting housing selection in one night in the Great Hall,” W. David Miller said. With a new housing portal acquired by Residence Life, students will be able to complete the process anywhere with an Internet connection. Only one member of the group will need to fill everything out, which will allow students with meetings or practices to stay on schedule.

Perhaps Miller’s largest change is how lottery numbers will be used. Instead of students selecting housing with the highest or lowest lottery number in their group, all group lottery numbers will now be averaged. Miller hopes that this will prevent large numbers of underclassmen from taking upperclassman housing while also giving groups with lower numbers a fair shot.

The new system was presented at an SGA Town Hall last semester, and it was met with favorable reviews. “During that forum, several students posed questions about the process, and Residence Life provided clarification and took that feedback into account to develop the new system,” Miller said. “The feedback from students at the forum was overwhelmingly positive.”

He hopes that this system will answer longstanding problems with housing selection while staying as fair as possible. “I know it won’t be perfect, and, for that, I apologize in advance,” Miller said. “All I ask is for students to give it a fair chance and recognize we have their best interest in mind and truly want to create a process that is equitable and less stressful than previous processes.”

The housing application will become available on March 1st. Room selection will occur April 3rd-14th.