Better with Greek letters
Greek organizations offer service, leadership opportunities
Taylor Fuerst, a senior marketing and management major from Washington, Ill., decided to check out fraternity and sorority life at The University of Iowa so she could meet people and get acquainted with campus. Mark Rigby, a senior political science major from Marion, Iowa, did so to see what the University had to offer after transferring from another school.
Greek life at Iowa
Fraternity and sorority life at Iowa is based upon leadership, scholarship, service, and friendship, and nearly of quarter of the chapters have a multicultural emphasis.
Not only do these student organizations play a role in campus events such as Homecoming, they also sponsor a variety of philanthropic events for both national and local charities. In 2010, they were instrumental in helping UI Dance Marathon raise more than $1 million to support pediatric oncology programs at UI Children's Hospital.
Fuerst and Rigby are just two of the 2,200 UI students involved with fraternities and sororities. All fraternities and sororities at Iowa are recognized student organizations through the Office of Student Life (OSL). Traditional Greek letter fraternities and sororities are social in nature and open to all students, with the only stipulations being that males must join fraternities and females join sororities.
The fall 2010 semester saw a record number of students participating in recruitment. According to Melissa Shaub, assistant director for fraternity and sorority life programs in OSL, the increased interest is due to a number of factors, including a larger class of first-year students and a more relaxed recruitment process. This year, recruitment started the first week of classes instead of the week before, so students didn't need to move in early as they've had to in years past.
One thing that has remained constant, however, is the rich tradition Greek organizations enjoy on the UI campus. Kelly Jo Karnes, OSL associate director, says fraternity and sorority life has been a part of the University for almost as long as the school has been in existence. The first chapter was founded in 1866, just 19 years after the school was established.
All of the organizations are based upon four pillars: leadership, scholarship, service, and friendship. Both Shaub and Karnes say that those four pillars are taken very seriously.
"We're definitely aware of the stereotypes that are out there, especially because of movies and TV shows about Greek organizations," Shaub says. "At Iowa, these organizations were founded to be values-based organizations, and we continue to have conversations and provide programming to help students think a little more deeply about what those values are and how their actions match up to those values. I'm not sure that these types of conversations were happening 25 years ago."
Karnes emphasizes that every campus has different rules for its organizations and that safety is paramount at Iowa.
"The biggest misconceptions are about drinking, parties, and social events. Our chapters do not have large social events in their structures," Karnes says. "Lots of parents think social events are just free-for-alls and there are no rules in place, but we have risk-management policies that everyone has to follow."
Both Fuerst and Rigby say that getting involved with fraternity and sorority life was one of the best decisions they have made during their college careers.
"People don't understand the true number of benefits one gets from joining one of these organizations," Fuerst says. "I have made some great friends, and it has helped me utilize and shape my personal, professional, and leadership skills tremendously through numerous activities and positions. The networking opportunities have helped me prepare for life after college."
Fuerst has served as assistant vice president and vice president for recruitment for the Panhellenic Council for the last two years, and played an integral role in the restructuring of formal recruitment. Rigby says his fraternity experience opened doors for him as well.
"I have met amazing people, been given the chance to explore some great leadership opportunities, and enhanced my passion for scholarship and community service," adds Rigby, who currently is serving as Interfraternity Council president and spent last summer in Dublin, studying and researching civil conflict in Northern Ireland.
For more information about fraternity and sorority life at Iowa, visit www.uiowagreeks.com.