Making a Positive Impact in Fraternity and Sorority Life

Have you ever benefited from an outside perspective?

Outside perspectives offer something we might not be able to get from inside our own environments — perhaps a fresh take or new idea, or even connecting concepts we had not yet considered, enabling us to move forward. The value of an outside perspective is not lost on the fraternity and sorority world.

These groups often welcome non-affiliated volunteers to advise, support, and guide their local chapters. I know because I am one of those volunteers.

Although I was unaffiliated in my undergraduate years, I started working with a Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter in an unofficial capacity in 2009 when one of their members worked as my student employee. Through him, I was introduced to many members over the years, serving as a resource, mentor, and friend, until being asked to officially serve as Advisor and Faculty Fellow in 2013.

The relationship already existed, which meant that I wasn’t a total outsider, but I am an unaffiliated woman who was welcomed to serve a fraternity, and it has been one of the highlights of my career.

Fraternity & Sorority Life (FSL) needs champions.

Amid real and necessary conversations about hazing, sexual assault, and alcohol abuse that ask members to rise up to the values of their organizations, and amidst some calls to do away with Greek Life altogether, there are students in fraternities and sororities on our college campuses hoping for champions who will help them.

Can you inspire change? Can you create community? Can you develop leadership in others? You’re in. Membership not required.

Volunteers are needed. If you are looking to make an impact, understand student motivation, and want to influence positive change, FSL is a land of opportunity.

Especially for those who work in wellness (like myself), this area of campus life is a great place to become a person of influence and familiarity with students. It offers a relationship-based way to connect with this community in a way that gives you room for meaningful work that ends up feeling like a lot of fun.

My journey to becoming a SigEp Volunteer started because of an investment in one student.

Where does your journey begin? What if your schedule is busy or you don’t have time to be an Advisor? Good news: there is a continuum of opportunities available, ranging from more time intensive to less time intensive.

Here are just a few ways you can get involved and make a positive impact:

1. Advisor

Typically, a university requires each registered student organization (including Greek chapters) to have a Faculty or Staff Advisor: a university employee who serves as a resource to the group and as a liaison between the group and the university. This role may have contact with the organization’s headquarters as well.

An advisor’s involvement in a chapter can vary: Some approve event submission forms and attend meetings or events occasionally, while others attend meetings and events regularly, getting to know members and becoming a familiar face.

Although level of involvement is a personal choice, what we say to students rings true here: You get out of it what you put into it. This can be rewarding, interesting work where the potential for impact is huge. Change makers, definitely check out this opportunity as a top pick.

2. Faculty Fellow

This volunteer role is through a fraternity or sorority’s headquarters rather than the university, although the local chapter’s leadership makes the selection. And technically, the Fellow can be faculty or staff. Faculty Fellows promote academic success and learning outside the classroom, keeping the value of learning at the forefront for the chapter.

Contributions through this role could include creating an academic plan for the chapter, coordinating academic presentations from campus partners, tracking member GPAs, working with those on academic probation, and more. Faculty Fellows may also hold office hours for a chapter, or host their own educational events for the group. Sometimes this position works directly with a chapter leader to carry out duties.

If you’re an organized self-starter passionate about student success, or a Student Affairs professional looking for academic-related experience, this could be the place for you.

3. Mentor

Chapters often have Mentors for Executive Board or coordinator roles, meaning there could be a variety of opportunities to work 1-on-1 with a student: a VP of Programming could benefit from your event planning expertise, or a VP of Finance could learn from your experience managing budgets.

This role is a good fit for someone with a more limited schedule, but who can commit to regular meetings with their mentee. Focused on bi-weekly or weekly meetings with an individual student rather than attending weekly chapter and executive board meetings, this role is the foundation of how the larger group becomes successful: With dedicated mentors, student leaders benefit immensely from support, guidance, and encouragement, increasing their confidence to become successful in their roles.

If you’re a dependable person who prefers being behind the scenes, enjoys leadership development, and likes building meaningful relationships with students, look no further — this role might be an ideal fit.

4. Presenter/Facilitator

Chapters usually have an educational component to their member experience, whether that is new member education or ongoing development for all members. Yet chapter leaders often don’t know how to find engaging presenters or interesting workshops.

Become a familiar face to them and you could be top-of-mind as a presenter, giving you an easy way to contribute to this community a few times a year. Better yet, reach out to FSL students you already know, and let them know you are willing to present.

Another approach is to get involved in your RSO or FSL community’s “Lunch and Lead” series if they have one. This gives you exposure to a variety of FSL leaders who may be interested in having you or your department present to their group. If you are faculty hosting a panel event, consider working with an FSL chapter — they will likely welcome the opportunity to utilize an already organized event for member education, which brings you attendance and exposes more students to your work.

Time commitment as a presenter/facilitator is small and infrequent, especially if you already have programs developed. If you enjoy presenting and teaching, or are looking to share your material more, this is your place to shine.

5. “Meet the Greeks” for Faculty

FSL student leaders appreciate support in helping them demonstrate their contributions and achievements to the campus community. In part, this enables them to express their commitment to their organization’s values, but also it also gives them the chance to show how they break the stereotypes that exist about Greek Life.

Collaborating with FSL to host a “Meet the Greeks” event can create an opportunity for informal mingling outside the classroom that faculty and students are sure to enjoy.

If you’re good at making people feel at ease, like connecting others, or know how to get a turnout at your event, this could your perfect project.

6. Serve as a judge for an FSL competition

This one-time contribution of your time can save an event! Individual chapters or the FSL community often organize contests for philanthropy or other good causes. By the time the event is coordinated, they may be scrambling to find judges.

Let your FSL students know that (with enough notice) you’re interested in helping in this way should they ever need it. This only works if they feel they know you well enough to take you up on the offer, so continue to invest in these students.

If you’re looking for an easy opportunity to support the FSL community and want to have fun helping a good cause, don’t miss this chance.

7. Ask the FSL staff how you can help

So simple it’s easy to overlook, right? Check with your FSL staff about ways you can get involved. They are thrilled to have your support in whatever way your schedule allows and can talk you through opportunities that match your interests and availability.

8. Make yourself available to FSL students

Ask your students how you can help, but remember relationships are key. Get to know the FSL students in your world and sooner or later, they may think of you as a potential champion who can help.

Now that you have a variety of ways to make an impact on FSL students, don’t forget about the benefits that are waiting for you as a volunteer.

First, you get to work with students. At face value, this may seem like what everyone in Student Affairs gets to do. Anyone who has climbed the Student Affairs ladder though, even a little bit, knows that work can become more administrative with less student contact. More meetings, more emails, more committees, and suddenly you’re in your office all day keeping up with your to-do list, struggling to remember what all this is for in the first place. Volunteering with FSL can bring meaning, fun, and variety back to your work.

Secondly, volunteering is good for your health. According to research collected by The United Health Group, 76% of people who volunteered in the last year said it made them feel healthier, 78% said it lowers their stress levels, 94% say it improves their mood, and 96% say it enriches their sense of purpose of life.

Lastly, this work can invigorate your career by how it exponentially expands your network. You can potentially interact with chapter alumni and headquarters staff, attend regional or other conferences, and meet volunteers from across the country. As an Advisor, you can also get involved in professional organizations such as Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors. The professional development and opportunities to expand your skills are there if you take it. This is an invaluable and often overlooked plus of serving the FSL community.

Whether you are able to be a dedicated Advisor, or help out occasionally as a Presenter, your contributions in Fraternity & Sorority Life are welcomed, appreciated, and they matter.

By becoming a part of the solution rather than simply talking about the problem, you can be a champion for students. Don’t miss out on this rewarding opportunity that could enrich your career in the most unexpected way.

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Priya Thomas

About the author: Priya Thomas is a wellness and leadership development director and consultant, with 15 years of experience in Student Affairs. She is the former Director of Prevention & Wellness at Florida Gulf Coast University and actively volunteers with Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Her expertise includes wellness, mental health, student leadership and involvement, and fraternity and sorority life. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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