Spartan Leaders United: Meet Three SJSU Alumnae Who Served as Regional Directors for Their Sororities

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Campus Life, Featured, Spartan Spotlight

From left: Carol R. Dixon, Michelle Aldridge, and Natalie Brannon. Photos courtesy of subjects.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that San José Spartans — past, present or future — are leaders in their communities and beyond. But even so, the fact that three Spartans — Carol R. Dixon, ‘81 Business Management; Michelle Aldridge, ‘93 Business Management, ‘95 MBA; and Natalie Brannon, ‘86 Communication Studies — have all been named Regional Director of their respective sororities is quite an achievement.

These aren’t just any sororities, either. They are three of the “Divine Nine,” or the National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC), a group of nine historically Black sororities and fraternities that were established in the early 20th century as a way for Black college students to connect with each other and build support networks.

All three women are also members of the SJSU Black Alumni Network (in fact, Dixon is the co-chair) and all three have the grit, poise and positivity necessary to lead. They joined their respective sororities as SJSU undergraduates and grew into leaders over time. We spoke with them to learn more about their history and experiences. 

The Regional Directors

Carol R. Dixon

Sorority: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Founded in 1908

Member since: 1980

Regional Directorship: 2016-2020, Far Western Region

Current employment: Chief People Officer at Overland-Tandberg, a data storage company


Michelle Aldridge

Sorority: Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Founded in 1922

Member since: 1990

Regional Directorship: 2019-present, Western Region

Current employment: Director, HR Business Partner, Druva


Natalie Brannon

Sorority: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc, Founded in 1920

Member since: 1985

Regional Directorship: 2014-2018, Pacific Region

Current employment: Business development manager, Barnes and Noble


How did you end up joining your sorority?

Natalie Brannon (NB): My sister is a member of Zeta Phi Beta and my brother is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, which is Zeta’s brother organization. That’s very special to me, that the three of us are able to share it together.

We come from parents that were active in the civil rights movement. We were raised to always give back. When we were kids, my parents boycotted Woolworth’s on Wilshire Boulevard, and we were there in strollers.

So when I went to San José State, I always knew I wanted to be a Zeta. They’re about service, scholarship, sisterhood and finer womanhood, and the service is what was really important to me.

What do you remember about your time at SJSU?

Carol R. Dixon (CD): It was really like a family. I lived in Joe West Hall. I still remember my room number, 1002. I remember the first person I met when I moved into the dorms on the steps. We’re still good friends to this day. Just so many memories of building relationships. Those people are now my family. They may not be my blood family, but they are my family and my friends. And we go back over 40 years of sincere friendship.

How do you think SJSU prepared you for a leadership role?

NB: I was an RA, and that helped with leadership in terms of having to lead your peers. I learned we can work together. Also being in student government was always helpful. I also worked for the Education Opportunity Program (EOP). I put on a big program that brought elementary schools to the campus. 

I was able to really stretch my leadership wings at the university and that helped me prepare for my regional directorship. Part of leadership is not putting your views on others; it’s managing what’s happening. I wanted to make sure that our members have the ability to exercise their voices and opinions. That was my job. 

Michelle Aldridge (MA): The experiences from SJSU prepared me for being a director for my sorority as well as for my career. I was taught to have a can-do attitude and how to problem solve, and the network I established by attending the school is a village that has supported me in all facets of life, personally and professionally.

And how do you feel knowing you’re one of three regional directors who are also SJSU alumni?

CD: We’ve all bonded over the fact that we are San José State grads who have served in three different sororities as regional directors. That’s something we hold near and dear to our hearts. We support each other even though we are in different sororities.

I’m going to frame it this way: San José State grows leaders.

MA: With Carol, when I was running for the position, I called her to pick her brain regarding her experiences. She was outgoing and I was in the interim role and hoping to be elected. SJSU alumni just have a very special connection with SJSU (regardless of Greek affiliation). We are connected and feel comfortable to go to each other at any time. If we haven’t seen each other in a while, when we do, it’s as if no time has passed. When Natalie was in the role (prior to me), there was truly a sense of pride for her to be in the role as a SJSU alum!

What is/was your job as regional director?

CD: As RD you serve on the Board of Directors and are responsible for putting on conferences for your region (one of 10, the Western region, comprising nine states). You’re responsible for putting on education programs with the sorority for your region. You’re responsible for ensuring that all of your chapters adhere to the bylaws and manual standard procedures for Alpha Kappa Alpha. You’re responsible for all new members who come in under the membership intake process.

For four years, I was gone every weekend, going off to different AKA chapters throughout the region, speaking publicly, raising money, or attending events representing Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.: whatever was necessary for each particular case.

NB: My job was to represent the region, to get all the states together and talk about and lead them in growth. I also facilitated the president’s mission and moved the sisterhood to do those kinds of things on top of day-to-day work, because the work of the organization is in the local chapters.

I was lucky enough to travel to all the states in the Pacific Region to deal with discipline and help create new ideas. It was amazing to see the creativity and the kind of work that was being done to uplift our communities. All this work helped move the organization forward and helped do some good.

MA: As regional director, I’m responsible for overseeing all operations that occur within the western region of the sorority. I lead the Executive Board, which includes elected and appointed officers in various roles that support the functioning of the membership. The role is also seated on the International Executive Board, so a vast part of my time is spent at that level, as a conduit between the global organization and the region.

What was your most memorable moment as regional director?

CD: As undergrads in the sorority, you have members of the graduate chapter that are considered your grad advisors. Beverly James, who was also a graduate of San José State, was my graduate advisor.

She actually lives around the corner from me to this day. She was present when I was elected as the regional director. And at my very first regional conference, she introduced me as a regional director. That was absolutely my most memorable moment as an AKA member. 

NB: In 2016, the Pacific region won the award for the highest growth of membership. I’m very proud of that because we’re small in comparison with the other regions, but we’d increased our membership by 10% in two years. When they called our name and said that we had the highest percentage increase, we just lost it. We were screaming. I was so proud of the membership. That let me know that we were striving to meet more like-minded women and that women were out and about doing the business of Zeta.  I absolutely love my sorority.

MA: There are so many! Being able to connect with members across the organization is such a blessing. As a leader, I instituted the first virtual region conference across the organization. When COVID-19 impacted us, we were all in the middle of planning conferences, which are typically in person. I wanted the business to go on, so I converted the conference to completely virtual. I believe I was the first of all the Divine Nine to make that decision. It was a huge win for the membership, and we are now conducting hybrid conferences.  

I was also responsible for coordinating and leading efforts to establish a chapter in Tokyo, Japan. Roughly 200 members traveled to Japan to participate in a chartering ceremony. We were able to enjoy the culture and fellowship and growth for the organization occurred.

We also recently celebrated our centennial anniversary. We did a countdown at midnight and it was an emotional moment, being there among all the members who were there to celebrate. I am blessed to have been part of that moment.

What do your sorority and the NPHC mean to you?

CD: All of the sororities were created to provide a safe space for African-American women, to help them with their college life and also to help them understand the importance of community service and giving back.

We all focus on community service and encouraging the sisterhood and the bond of African-American women. Our tagline is: We help each other. Whatever it is, we’re there to assist you. 

NB: We’re doing a lot of the same kinds of work. We’re working in communities trying to advance our community. And I believe my sisters and brothers in the other sororities and the fraternities are doing amazing work as well.

MA: I’ve been a part of Sigma Gamma Rho (and NPHC) for more years than I haven’t!  It is family. It is a network. I could not imagine life without it. Never did I imagine at 17 years old starting college that I would be at this point. It’s amazing to reflect on the journey. All I can say is I am blessed for the experiences I have had. Things happen for a reason and you don’t know why at the time. I cherish the moments and memories. And I also appreciate that I’m married to a fellow SJSU aum/NPHC member.

Connect with SJSU’s Black Alumni Network.