Francine Cummings was named national “Pi of the Year” by Alpha Pi Omega sorority during its recent national convention in Tuscon, Ariz.
“Just being nominated by my sisters was a big deal to me,” said Cummings, who is a rising senior at UNC Pembroke. “This is the highest honor of the sorority, which has more than 500 members.”
Alpha Pi Omega, Inc., is a national American Indian sorority with 13 chapters representing 70 tribes. It was founded at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1994, and UNCP launched the second chapter in 1996.
“The awards committee received several strong applications this year,” Grand Awards Committee chair Danielle McLean said. “Francine’s stood out from the pack, though. As someone who is dependable, proactive and honest - and Francine is - she truly exemplifies what it means to be a Pi woman.”
In a July 16 interview, Cummings, who is double majoring in biology and American Indian Studies, proudly displayed the embroidered shawl she was awarded. Cummings is the first UNCP undergraduate to win the national award. She is an outstanding student with a strong portfolio of campus and community engagement. She gives a great deal of credit to the local Alpha Pi Omega chapter.
“I ‘crossed’ my freshman year,” she said. “There is a sense of family; these are my sisters, and in Arizona, I realized it is a national family.
“I’m shy basically, but I have found my voice,” Cummings said. “Alpha Pi Omega brought me out of my shell.”
Cummings, who lives in Pembroke and commutes to school, said joining a sorority helped her become more engaged with the university and community.
“I wouldn’t have been nearly as active on campus if I had not joined the sorority,” Cummings said. “The sorority has gotten me more involved on campus, but home grounds me.”
With her chapter, Cummings has engaged with community service projects ranging from Adopt-A-Highway to a coat drive for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
“One of our guiding principles is community service and dealing with contemporary community issues,” she said. “Our sorority tries to do one big project every semester and four smaller service projects. My chapter is very active.”
An outstanding student, Cummings hopes to attend to Campbell University’s new School of Osteopathic Medicine. She appreciates that osteopathic medicine is holistic in its approach health and treatment.
“I like it because it combines traditional and modern medicine,” Cummings said. “I was able to intern with some people who used traditional healing. They look into the causes not just treatment of health problems.”
Cummings’ undergraduate studies also reflect a balance of science and humanities. She describes herself as a history buff.
“I love the American Indian Studies program here,” she said. “I started out taking one history class for my general education requirement. I liked it and took and other, until I decided to make it my second major.”
Cummings will serve as vice president of UNCP’s Alpha Pi Omega chapter in 2013-14. She is also a member of AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society), the Native American Student Organizations (NASO) and participated in UNCP’s Health Careers Access Program (HCAP).
“For me, it’s about school, church and family,” she said. Cummings’ rich blend of these ingredients was recognized with a national honor.
“The awards committee received several strong applications this year,” Grand Awards Committee chair Danielle McLean said. “Francine’s stood out from the pack, though. As someone who is dependable, proactive and honest - and Francine is - she truly exemplifies what it means to be a PI woman.”