What used to be org fairs, recruitment events, and social get-togethers soon became isolation, zoom calls and online learning for students attending university during the COVID-19 pandemic. With students struggling to make easy in-person connections, many choose to not get involved with their university at all beyond their classrooms.
Now entering what people hope could be a ‘new normal’, some students feel like they have missed their opportunity to get involved or are not sure where to start. For certain students though, greek life fraternities and sororities are the connection they need to get more involved both with the campus and the community.
“Part of being in college is academics- that’s the number one thing, but I also think being involved in campus is really important,” Kimberly Thornton, Senior Director at the Center for Campus life, said. “In a student organization, we have over 500 organizations and a wide variety at that, and I think it’s important because you get to make memories. You get the experiences of college outside of the classroom.”
Thornton was a member of a sorority during her undergraduate years and has been working with greek life and other student organizations for almost 20 years, she said. Now, she oversees fraternity and sorority life at Tech.
Greek life organizations offer many benefits that look great on a resume such as leadership experience and philanthropic opportunities, but Thornton said one of the biggest aspects she got out of her experience is lifelong friendships.
“The members you meet in any organization to include fraternities and sororities are definitely something you never forget,” Thornton said. “I had the benefit of the sisterhood aspect. My very best friends who were in my sorority still are to this day, my best friends.”
Senior marketing major from Dallas, Fasil Fitta said he became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi in his third year of college in search for the brotherhood aspect of fraternal organizations. Kappa Alpha Psi was founded in 1911 at Indiana University as the first incorporated Black fraternity in the United States.
Fitta said the organization was founded in a time where Black people were heavily oppressed and today it thrives alongside many of the other multicultural greek organizations across the nation.
“I only have one sibling and we have a big age gap. So I definitely wanted to experience a more, you know, family environment slash brotherhood environment around me, as well as just being in a leadership position and being able to be somebody for younger people that I didn’t have,” Fitta said. “I didn’t have male guidance at least in my age group, you know. So I wanted to be the person that I didn’t have for myself.”
Kappa Alpha Psi, like many greek organizations, works with the campus and community in a variety of capacities, he said. This Fraternity works with the Boys and Girls club, hosts food and clothing drives and operates highway clean-ups.
Karsyn Smyth, a freshman health management major from Hamilton is a member of the Pi Phi sorority. She said her sister had been a part of Greek life and she wanted to follow in those footsteps, like many she found that being involved on campus gave her a sense of direction and community.
“It was a lot easier to start off school having been in a sorority. Of course, it was super hard. The whole recruitment process was really lengthy and tiring,” Smyth said. “But starting school, one thing that we do is on the first day of class, you have a specific shirt you wear and so you walk throughout all the halls on campus, and you see those shirts and it gives you a sense of not being alone on this huge campus.”
The best way for anyone to join greek life, or any organization is to go in with an open mind, Thornton said. When looking for the right fit, she said students should do some research about what the organization values and what the student values and try to find something that fits your personality.
Smyth said one of the largest reasons she chose Pi Phi is because the sorority offers opportunities for building her faith such as hosting bible studies.
“They were the only sorority on campus that had ever mentioned anything about Bible studies, anything about religion, anything about that, and so I felt like that’s where God was calling me during the process,” Smyth said.
Smyth said she also appreciates the organization’s focus on academics and philanthropy opportunities such as donating books to lower income schools.
Getting involved with any organization does require a certain level of time management and responsibility, said Fitta. Fitta has taken on several leadership roles within his organization from assistant to vice president to president where he works alongside the National Panhellenic Council to manage the fraternities members, events, and keeping the organization in good standing.
“We have to cater to 330 million people and it’s kind of hard to get every single person’s opinion, what they want,” Fitta said. “Sometimes it’s a matter of compromise and coming to a middle ground.”
Thornton said the experiences she gained during her time in a sorority transferred into valuable life skills that she could carry with her into adulthood and recommends that students take advantage of the opportunities available within their university that can add to their resume.
The center for campus life is available for students to find student orgs which fit their interest whether that be joining greek life, a religious group, a sports team, or even creating your own organization.
“We want you to come get involved whether you’re a transfer student, you’re a second year student, Junior Senior graduate, we want you to get involved whenever you’re ready to, we’re happy to help you find what’s right for you,” Thornton said.