Chi Omega was excited to have Chi Omega Sister Cindy Chiang Halvorsen give the Ann Lee Konneker Keynote Address during the first business meeting at Convention 2012. Cindy and her now-husband, Ernie Halvorsen, beat all the odds in the most recent season of the Emmy Award-winning CBS show, The Amazing Race. After competing with nine other couples on four continents, in 10 countries, and in 20 cities, the Chicago pair was first to cross the finish line at Atlanta's historic Swan House. The mad-cap taping was a three-plus-week adventure. The show aired for 12 weeks on CBS, with the winners crowned in the final episode on December 11, 2011. Cindy and Ernie walked away with $1 million, a group of new friends, and an even stronger bond. "The experience was invaluable," says Cindy. "Just getting to see all these places . . . There are so few people in the world who get to experience what we did."
Watch Cindy give the Ann Lee Konneker Keynote Address from Convention 2012:
Additionally, the Eleusis staff spoke to Cindy about her adventures last spring:
Eleusis: Why did you try out for The Amazing Race?
Cindy: I've watched the show for many years because I love to travel and I love extreme activities. When Ernie and I started dating, we watched the show together and often played along with the contestants, choosing which of us would tackle the roadblock, or what side of the detour we might quickly conquer. After a few seasons, I convinced Ernie we would make a great team and had nothing to lose by applying. We submitted our three-minute video and hoped for the best.
Eleusis: How did you prepare for the show?
Cindy: Preparing for the race is serious business so I planned a training regimen that included physical activities, such as rock climbing, kayaking, running with backpacks, and strength training. We also worked on communication and tested our skill with a manual-transmission vehicle. Knowing people are much friendlier when visitors try to communicate in the local language, we studied French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Italian; I grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese. Because The Amazing Race is geared toward educating viewers on other cultures and inspiring them to travel, we studied maps and travel guidebooks and learned about local customs, landmarks, and famous locations.
Eleusis: You visited many places during The Amazing Race. What was your favorite?
Cindy: I really enjoyed visiting Taiwan, where my parents grew up. I'd never been there and it was a fantastic chance to see part of my heritage. I also loved rappelling into the cave "Goa Jablong" in Indonesia.
Eleusis: What was the scariest thing you had to do?
Cindy: Walk a tightrope across two very tall buildings in Panama City! I have a fear of heights, but I kept my focus on Ernie, who was on the other building, and slowly made my way across the rope to retrieve our next clue.
Eleusis: What was the first thing you did after returning home?
Cindy: We shared the good news with both my family and Ernie's family over a big rib dinner. Ernie says they were probably the best ribs he's ever had! After that, we ate every type of food that we'd been missing on the race. We went to eat at three or four different places every day.
Eleusis: What are your plans for the $1 million winnings?
Cindy: We decided to start our own organization, which will have two purposes: to create nutrition and fitness programs that address childhood obesity in the United States and to provide access to education in developing countries. Unlike many previous contestant pairs, Cindy and Ernie remained consistently levelheaded and cool and did not have any spectacular fallouts or heated arguments. Instead, preparing for, running in, and winning the race has only strengthened their bond, which they will cement with a wedding set for March 10. Host, Phil Keoghan, and their fellow racers are invited and most plan to attend.
Cindy is initiate of Pi Alpha/U of Cincinnati, a supporter of the Chi Omega Foundation, and a graduate of the Nancy Walton Laurie Leadership Institute of Chi Omega. She is a marketing manager for a multinational corporation. Ernie is a project manager.