Omicron Delta Kappa, or ODK for short, is a national honors, service, and leadership organization with more than 300 active collegiate chapters around the United States. Western’s ODK chapter is currently led by Kiri Carmody, a senior Pre-Medicine/Cellular and Molecular Biology major with plans to attend pharmacy school in August. ODK is advised by Western’s Dean of Students Gary Pierson.
Carmody originally joined ODK at the end of her sophomore year, before ascending into the role of Vice President during the 2020-21 academic year and assuming the leadership reins in the fall of 2021. ODK is perhaps best known on campus for planning and hosting the once-a-semester Day of Service, their flagship event. The spring service day is quickly approaching, and will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 21.
ODK partners with the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley (CFGV) to receive information on the local organizations that ODK partners with for its service days. Often, the service being provided to nonprofits and local government entities are basic tasks like cleaning, sorting, organizing, and moving items that are important, but often neglected in the hectic day-to-day operations of a busy nonprofit.
This year’s partners include the Gunnison Valley Animal Welfare League, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, the Gunnison Arts Center, the Mountain Roots Food Project, Tough Enough to Wear Pink, the Gunnison Pioneer Museum, the Trailhead Children’s Museum in Crested Butte, the Crested Butte Center for the Arts, and a general campus and town cleanup.
All of these opportunities currently have openings at the time of this writing, which students can lay claim to on the Gunnison Valley Volunteers website, maintained by GVCF and Western. Additionally, walk-ins are permitted day-of at the University Center at 10 a.m. on Feb 21. Volunteers will receive a boxed lunch on the service day. ODK members will serve as site leaders, coordinating the service activity with the organizational partners. During that time, Carmody will be hanging back at Western to ensure the day runs smoothly.
Carmody hopes that the Day of Service acts as a gateway for students to learn more about local nonprofits and become more involved with additional volunteer opportunities. She also hopes to expand the profile of ODK and its other service offerings, which includes a food drive on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 5:30 p.m. during the men’s and women’s basketball games in the Paul Wright Gym.
Carmody’s favorite aspect of the biannual Day of Service is watching students and community members come together to serve their community’s shared organizations. “My favorite [experience] was going to [serve] Cochetopa Horsemanship. They do different equine therapies for people with special needs, and just teaching the basic care of horses. We were able to help build some stalls, insert fencing, and paint a mural on one of their tents which was super cool,” says Carmody.
Another service experience that stands out for her was assisting the Equitable Solar Solutions (ESS) program at Coldharbour Institute in the fall of 2020. Carmody and her volunteers assisted ESS and Western Prof. Rich Strömberg in testing used solar panels for their future useability in local solar projects, with the aid of solar scanners.
In addition to the semesterly service days, Western’s ODK hosts regular bread giveaways along with three pop-up food pantries per semester (stay tuned for fliers and emails from Dean Pierson). “The big thing is that we want students to know that they’re welcome at the [Gunnison] food pantry; everything that we put out for the pop-up pantry except for the perishable items, (the milk, eggs, and cheeses)…all of it comes from the food pantry,” says Carmody.
ODK also hosts regular leadership development training for its members. Those trainings have included hosting Western’s career service professional Craig Beebe, as well as Brad Baca, Western’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, for talks centered around career-building and leadership principles.
To enter ODK’s ranks, students must maintain a GPA within the top 35 percent of their respective institutions, and hold a leadership role in one of ODK’s five key pillars: athletics, campus and community service, social and religious organizations, student government or media, and creative and performing arts. Students must be at least sophomores to formally join ODK.
One unique aspect of ODK, notes Carmody, is that once you join you’re a member for life. “It’s just a great way to network; they provide lots of opportunities, online and in-person for different conferences and just [teaching] different leadership skills,” she says. Currently, ODK has more than 330,000 lifetime members in its ranks.
If you are interested in becoming involved with ODK, you can reach out to Dean Pierson and stay tuned for formal applications to come in April.