While originally primarily a student organization, in the 1970s the chapter expanded in coordination with the national organization to include involvement by both faculty and community leaders. Always moving forward, in 1984 when the Rho chapter was celebrating its 25th anniversary, it was also mentoring other new chapters including those at Eastern Michigan University and Northern Michigan University. By 1999 it had established an International Support Endowment Fund to assist Rho members from third world countries with paying STTI dues. Today, the Rho Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International remains active in achieving the organization's fundamental mission and creating a community of nursing scholars at the University of Michigan.
A total of 45 students and faculty were inducted as Charter Members of Rho Chapter during its inaugural year. During the next ten years, many students were inducted, and the average graduating class in the early 1960s was between 200 and 300 students. During these years, Rho Chapter was primarily a student organization with a few faculty members inducted each year.
In the 1970s, Rho Chapter moved to a more inclusive organization with involvement by both faculty and community leaders. The development of Rho Chapter would not have been possible without the phenomenal development of the organization at the national level. By the late 1970s, Sigma Theta Tau, with Nell Watts as the Executive Officer and Sister Rosemary Donley as President, set the pace and sparked an enthusiasm and zest for nursing scholarship and leadership which permeated the entire Sigma Theta Tau organization.
During the 1980s, Rho Chapter provided the opportunity for nursing students, educators, researchers, practitioners, and administrators from all healthcare settings to work together for the betterment of the profession and the fulfillment of the purposes of Sigma Theta Tau. During this time, Rho chapter member Susan Boehm was elected National First Vice-President, Linda Daniel elected National Secretary, Ruth Barnard elected Chair of the National Research Committee, and Nadine Nelson elected Nominations Chair of the National Governing Board of Sigma Theta Tau. Rho Chapter was the first chapter to host a reception for candidates for National Office at the Biennial Convention.
In 1984 Rho Chapter celebrated the 25th Anniversary with a gala dinner and presentation by the National President of Sigma Theta Tau. Rho Chapter was the Mentor Chapter for the first International Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau in Ontario. Rho Chapter has served as a mentor chapter for several other new chapters, including Eastern Michigan University and Northern Michigan University. In 2009 Rho Chapter celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a dinner celebration attended by several charter members and past chapter presidents. The 50th anniversary was also celebrated at the Dean’s Research Day. Dr. Angela McBride, who was the featured speaker at Rho Chapter’s 25 anniversary celebration, returned to honor Rho Chapter’s 50th anniversary at the Dean’s Research Day event.
Part of Rho Chapter's contributions have been to sponsor program meetings on relevant topics to the nursing community, providing continuing education credits to professional nurses for relic ensure. Meetings are often cosponsored with other organizations, including the U-M School of Nursing, other Sigma Theta Tau Chapters, the Michigan Nurses Association, and the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center at the U-M School of Nursing. Rho Chapter has co-sponsored an annual evidence-based practice day with local health systems (U of M, St. Joseph Mercy, VA) and Eta Rho Chapter, featuring leaders in evidence-based practice such as Dr. Bernadette Melnyk and Dr. Marita Titler.
Rho Chapter has inducted over 4,500 members since 1959. Rho Chapter has a long history of supporting nursing research through a small grants program that provides financial assistance to both faculty and students. Rho Chapter also presents Awards for Excellence to members who have achieved excellence in the various roles of nursing.
In December 1999, the Rho Chapter Board initiated an International Support Endowment Fund with an initial contribution from Dr. Shaké Ketefian. Because of the economic differences among countries, it was recognized that it could be difficult for members from some countries to maintain active membership due to the renewal costs. The Endowment Fund will be used to assist Rho Chapter members from third world countries pay Sigma Theta Tau International dues. Interest earned by the Endowment Fund will be available for this purpose to Chapter members. Guidelines from Sigma Theta Tau International will be used to determine assistance to be given. Silent auctions and other fund raising activities are being used to raise money for the International Support Endowment Fund.