Maximizing Your Fraternity/Sorority Experience
Joining the fraternity/sorority community has been my greatest decision. I have found lifelong brothers across the nation, and I have been privileged to serve them in an effort to enhance their fraternity experience. Beyond my own chapter, I carry a passion for all fraternity/sorority life (FSL). We’re in trying times, and a true culture change must be brought forth by a united fraternity/sorority life community. The actions of the few can taint the image of the many and can make it difficult to promote pride in your chapter. Don’t give up. You’ve made the right decision by joining your organization, so let me give you some advice on what to do with membership from here.
If You See a Problem, Say Something & Then Do Something
During my freshman year, my fraternity chapter was dysfunctional. The way in which education was delivered to my new member class of 61 was something I tolerated, but I hated to see. I spoke to the members I could trust about the inequality of treatment, and the pointless nature of this particular form of education. When I thought these brothers would push back, they surprised me and told me they wanted to see change too. We quickly realized, however, that change wouldn’t just happen; we would have to make it happen. Our plan worked! We ran for and were elected to the executive board for the next calendar year.
Speaking up gives you the benefit of earning more respect from members and external stakeholders. If we preach “hold your brothers/sisters accountable,” we should also have the fortitude to let them know when they’re in the wrong. After you say something, do not be satisfied until the issue is resolved. When you drive an idea to action it will empower you to take more ownership of your experience in the chapter and allow you to positively affect the experiences of your brothers/sisters.
Know What You’re Looking For Before Taking a Position
A huge part of the FSL experience is the leadership opportunities available to members. Individual chapters generally have an executive board of multiple members in addition to sub-committees or work groups. Additionally, there are community wide opportunities with a number of the leadership positions found within the different governing councils.
A lot of us want to get involved but are unsure how or where to go within our chapters to locate these opportunities. To find the most mutually beneficial position, you must determine your goals. Think about your strengths, passions, and how those match the fraternity/sorority. If you do not find a position that aligns with what you have to offer, then create one. Most chapters are flexible and willing to add leadership roles as long as they provide a service to the chapter.
Opportunities for leadership was a major factor in my decision to join a fraternity. The best part is there are often no or limited restrictions when it comes to leadership: get involved and get involved early. Most organizations have minimum requirements to serve in executive positions, but there are committee chair positions that will give you the tools and knowledge to run for an executive position the following year.
Networking is part of the FSL experience. Being a member of a fraternity/sorority allows you to meet others who can assist you in the future. When I lead recruitment workshops with my chapter, I teach them to talk about the benefits of joining, which include our key assets of alumni connections and professional development opportunities. Each chapter can promote these benefits, as there are notable and admirable alumni of all affiliations. I found networking to be useful in searching for internships, jobs after college, postgraduate plans, and most importantly — mentorship. Undergraduate use of mentors is extremely undervalued. College is a time when we are presented with numerous opportunities and challenges, and being able to confer with people we respect can provide us with needed wisdom. I see the opportunity for networking as an unbelievable benefit to the FSL community.
I’m thankful to have attended the Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Ruck Leadership Institute this past summer. Ruck opened my eyes to the importance of mentorship and how FSL can offer a streamlined connection. When selecting a mentor, it’s important to identify someone with whom you have mutual respect, are eager to listen to, and willing to have open discussions. Ideally, a mentor can be anyone, even a current member of your chapter. But I will advocate for utilizing the external benefits of alumni relations to select your mentor.
See Projects Through
Knowing you can impact others is crucial to your FSL experience. You don’t go through the daunting task of recruitment where you have to make yourself memorable, only to later be forgotten, do you? The best way to impact others is to extend the available benefits of fraternity/sorority membership. Some prime examples I’ve seen in my own chapter are: mock interviews with regional alumni and headquarters staff, resume workshops with university partners, and brotherhood/sisterhood events. Planning these projects is useless without implementation. Do not let a term limit or committee tenure end your involvement or stop you from seeing a project through. You might end up regretting not being part of the progress.
Starting and finishing projects allows you to cement a legacy within your chapter, start a new tradition, and define your experience. Instead of saying you were just a member of XYZ, you can say at XYZ you did (insert spectacular thing here). Don’t just take it from me. Prolific lyrical genius, Common, put into words, “Every day, women and men become legends.” If you’re in a fraternity/sorority, why not be a legend? Too often, we can get lost in the collective and forget to individualize our fraternity/sorority journey. Create a legacy and dedicate yourself to seeing things through during your time in your organization. B