Instituting Values Based Panhellenic Recruitment at Virginia Commonwealth University
In the fall of 2012, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Virginia Commonwealth University instituted a values-based recruitment model for the College Panhellenic Council. The professional staff spent time identifying what the overall goals would be – identifying learning outcomes; what the curriculum would look like; and engaging potential new members, recruitment counselors and chapter members.
Through the spring and summer of 2012, the values-based recruitment model at VCU began to fall into place. The first change was in recruitment counselor training – while the recruitment counselors were selected in March 2012, the majority of their education occurs during the annual recruitment counselor retreat in August. In 2012, the retreat moved off-campus to a camp about an hour outside of the Richmond area. This was the first time recruitment counselors would spend two full days together learning about what it meant to not only be a recruitment counselor, but a sorority woman at VCU. The learning outcomes for recruitment counselors during the entire recruitment process (beginning with their retreat through recruitment):
- Serve as ambassadors for the entire fraternity and sorority community.
- Cultivate women’s leadership skills through the sorority recruitment process.
- Increase interpersonal communication skills through building relationships and interactions via conversations with fellow recruitment counselors and potential new members
- Recognize and accept emotions; express and control them appropriately.
- Tell their own story and know how that story affects those around them.
- Understand the diverse group of potential new members that the recruitment counselors will interact with as well as understanding the differences between chapters.
- Learn event planning and time management skills while providing a positive recruitment experience for all potential new members.
- Understand sororities are values-based organizations influenced by personal values.
- Help potential new members understand their own personal values and how those values intersect with the sorority experience.
The learning outcomes were designed using the Emotionally Intelligent Leadership model, the same model used for the yearly Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Retreat held each January to create consistency for women who attended both.
After the recruitment counselor retreat, the recruitment counselors understood how their own values intersected with their sorority experience as well as their own recruitment process. During the retreat, the recruitment counselors learned the activities they would be facilitating with their potential new members during the recruitment process.
After the successful recruitment counselor retreat, the staff decided to only implement values-based recruitment with the recruitment counselors and potential new members, with a goal of implementing it with the chapters in fall 2013.
The recruitment counselors first met their potential new members after potential new member (PNM) Orientation, which preceded the first rounds of formal recruitment. After small group introductions, PNMs participated in a “Trash your Values” exercise. At the end of the exercise the PNMs had identified which value is most important to them. The PNMs then wrote this on their nametag for two reasons: the first reason was so they remembered. The second was for chapters to see what the PNM valued. While the chapters were not specifically provided instruction or information regarding what the recruitment counselors and PNMs were working on, they did have this piece of information.
Continuing the values-based education for the PNMs, they completed pre- and post-round individual reflections. Questions ranged from “what are you most excited about?” to “what sorority did you feel aligned with your number one value?” These exercises allowed them to process what they learned from each chapter during recruitment and also helped the recruitment counselors guide the conversation when potential new members were struggling with decisions.
The same process was completed for fall 2013 formal recruitment, with a few minor updates. The College Panhellenic Council eliminated spring recruitment counselor training and created a three-day, two-night recruitment counselor retreat off-site where all training was completed. Besides minor updates to the training and PNM reflections, no major overhauls to curriculum or programming were made. In addition, the values-based recruitment model was not introduced to the chapters in fall 2013 so it continued only to be executed by recruitment counselors and PNMs.
Formal recruitment evaluations are submitted by PNMs each year. If the women were placed in a sorority, their overall recruitment process was positive. If they were not placed, they did not have a positive experience. Specific feedback is hard to assess about the values-based recruitment process because the goal is to make it seamless, a part of recruitment. Specific questions regarding values exercise and reflection are not asked.
The unintended results of values-based recruitment at VCU, as viewed by the professional staff and through informal feedback have been the most surprising. After two years of instituting this model, the caliber of recruitment counselors and number of women aspiring to be recruitment counselors has dramatically increased. Women are now excited to apply to be recruitment counselors, which has made it a sought-after position in the Panhellenic community. It is no longer “if you apply, you will automatically be selected because essentially there is no one else” to chapters encouraging extremely qualified women. Past recruitment counselors are also the best recruiters for future recruitment counselors because of their own experience on “the other side” of recruitment. For 2013, three recruitment counselors inquired about returning as Director of Recruitment Counselors – compared to seeking out women who could perform well in the position as in years’ past. For the Panhellenic chapters at VCU, retention and initiation rates are higher than in years past (attributed to women understanding exactly what they are joining).
Future goals of the values-based recruitment model at VCU include:
- Engage Panhellenic executive board members, past recruitment counselors and community in education and programming ideas
- Involve active chapter members in the education process (developing a 360° values-based recruitment process)
- Create assessment specific to the values-based recruitment process
The professional staff at VCU deemed the values-based recruitment process successful for the Panhellenic community at VCU. The two years of implementation has been positive for the community and with further implementation to the chapters, staff expect higher retention and initiation rates, as well as overall increased satisfaction with the sorority experience.