Greeks Find Friendships, Leadership and Service Opportunities
Apr. 12, 2013
Members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon get ready to have fun during last year's Greek Chill.
For many people, the idea of a college fraternity or sorority might summon up raucous scenes from Animal House, toga parties and all.
That’s a popular misconception, say students who are drawn instead to the leadership opportunities, networking and camaraderie these organizations offer.
In fact, it may come as a surprise that UT Dallas – known for its rigorous academic programs rather than partying – is home to 19 fraternity and sorority organizations, many of which are chapters of national organizations.
“People are surprised there are Greeks at UT Dallas. Students don’t come here thinking this exists,” said Julie Murphy, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
The Greek scene on campus will be celebrated next week during Greek Week, which includes a Greek Fair from 12-3 p.m. on the campus mall on Tuesday and a Unity Step Show at the Clark Center at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Events are open to students and staff.
For the University, which began as a graduate research institution in 1969 and only started admitting underclassmen in 1990, having Greeks on campus provides a sense of traditional collegiate life found at older and more established institutions.
During Welcome Week, Greek students welcome back the community by serving ice cream, sharing information about their groups and dancing the night away.
Greeks have been part of UT Dallas for more than 20 years. In spring 1992, Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and Kappa Sigma fraternity were installed as the first fully recognized national and international groups on campus.
Since then, 19 Greek organizations have established themselves on campus, creating four governing councils and membership totals of about 550 students.
Though Greeks at UT Dallas have no chapter-owned housing facilities, members are connected by their brotherhood or sisterhood ties, whether they live in residence halls, apartments or homes.
“Being part of Greek life connects students to the University,” Murphy said. “It gives you a built-in set of friends.”
Kimberley Haught found that to be the case. When she transferred to UT Dallas in fall 2011, she didn’t know anyone on campus. But after hearing about Greek life at orientation, she decided to find out more.
Haught joined Alpha Gamma Delta and eventually became recruitment coordinator for the College Panhellenic Council, which governs three sororities. She now encourages students to consider joining a fraternity or sorority as a way to feel connected.
“I’ve met some of my really great friends already,” said Haught, a junior in business administration. “They’re my go-to people for studying in the library and grabbing a bite to eat.”
Brotherhood and sisterhood is one of the “four pillars” Greek organizations uphold, along with scholarship, leadership and service.
Scholastic achievement tops the list. Peer tutoring and chapter study hours help new members adjust to the more intense studying college requires. Upperclassmen can advise new students on which classes and instructors are the best within each field of study.
Such mentoring and guidance seems to make a difference. According to the U.S. Department of Education, members of fraternities and sororities graduate at a rate in excess of 70 percent, compared to a national average of about a 50 percent college graduation rate.
Students in sororities and fraternities also have opportunities to learn leadership skills. At UT Dallas, where many chapters are still relative new and small, such opportunities are plentiful. Most chapters typically have anywhere from 14-45 members; only two have 60 or more.
A group decorates a Kappa Alpha Theta float the night before last year's homecoming parade. From left: Katie Truesdale, Cassie Thompson, Anna Knutson, Chinweolu Greer, Melissa Glasgow and Tatum Przilas. Greer is the Fraternity and Sorority Life administrative assistant.
“UT Dallas is an exciting place to see Greek life happen because you can get involved,” Murphy said. “It helps you go outside your comfort zones.”
Each member is responsible for an event or a duty. Members learn lifelong skills: how to manage a budget, run effective meetings, speak in public and motivate others.
The 550 students participating in Greek life at UT Dallas represent an increase of 21 percent from fall 2011. Though Greeks represent a fraction of the nearly 20,000 students enrolled here, their presence is visible at many events on campus.
Greeks are highly represented in student government, orientation and many serve as volunteers for events such as Freshman Move-In Day. Each fraternity/sorority also encourages sportsmanship and team spirit by participating in competitive sports through intramurals and Greek tournaments.
“It increases school pride,” said Daniel Hernandez, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. “You get involved with orientation, summer camps and start to realize, ‘I’m a part of something bigger.’”
The Greek influence extends off campus as well. Last year, sororities and fraternities at UT Dallas invested 9,890 hours of community service and raised $14,379 in philanthropy funds.
Involvement in a fraternity/sorority continues after students graduate, whether it’s help with job networking from alumni or just personal catching up, Hernandez said.
“We still meet up at holidays,” Hernandez said. “It’s the experience. You know you went through the same college experience.”
Media Contact: Robin Russell, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].