Alumni Column – Multi-faceted Greek Life at Colgate

Sara J. Compter

Over the last several weeks, many students at Colgate have participated in a process undergone by generations of men and women at colleges and universities across the country. While known to our grandparents by a different name, Greek “Recruitment” opens a window of opportunity for eligible students at Colgate. Fraternities and sororities offer something unique on a college campus. They offer a longstanding connection to a more expansive organization. In pledging their collegiate years to a Greek chapter, members agree to uphold standards and values adhered to throughout the country. In doing so, they forge relationships not only with their current brothers and sisters at Colgate and nationwide, but also with thousands of men and women, old and young alike, who have been pledging fraternal organizations for centuries.

Many institutions in Colgate’s peer group have eliminated their Greek-letter organizations — some to improve their rankings in U.S. News & World Report, some for fear of liability, and still others to concentrate on a different breed of social club. The Colgate administration, alumni and students, on the other hand, have embraced the long-standing tradition and distinct value of Greek life. Unlike schools that have replaced Greek-letter organizations with eating clubs or residential communities, Colgate has found a balance where our fraternities and sororities exist alongside a veritable smorgasbord of rotating theme houses. Whether your interest is Asian, environmental or sophomoric, Colgate offers the opportunity to build a bricks-and-mortar community to fulfill your needs.

But the type of group that once inhabited every Broad Street house offers something special for the current student and future alum. Beyond the parties, intramural teams and ’80s cover bands, Greek life presents an environment primed for teaching important life skills about networking, leadership, and contributing philanthropically.

Networking:Colgate’s small student body contributes to the development of cross-class relationships as early as your first day on campus. And while sophomore recruitment allows students to define their Colgate persona very early on, women’s formal rotation schedules and men’s open house introductions mirror the cocktail parties and networking events popular in the professional world. Mutual selection defines the recruitment process; Greek chapters and potential new members spend time throughout the week getting to know one another as intimately as is possible with small talk over drinks, snacks and short activities.

Similarly, professional situations will require you to spend time learning about your co-workers, prospective customers and service providers in both formal and informal environments. The networking skills you develop while engaging in Greek recruitment, both as potential new members and chapter members, will serve you well in the working world.

Leadership: The successful governance of fraternities and sororities requires participation by members at the officer level. These most explicit leaders have an important role in defining the chapter personality; from membership to public relations to philanthropy, officers make a commitment within the chapter to promote the standards and values mandated by the national organization. However, as many of you already know, officers are not the only leaders in your chapters. There are many members who contribute in smaller, less tangible ways; those who consistently show up on Saturday mornings to clean up Broad Street, those upperclassmen who take special time to help the new members adjust to chapter life, and those who always remind the group about important policies and their implications, truly encourage chapter growth and maturity.

College is like a lifetime of growth compressed into a very short four years. You have come to expect immediate gratification for a job well done and the subsequent rapid promotion that occurs within a compact period of time. Learning to mitigate these expectations in the professional world can seem daunting, at best. But, the skills developed from leadership opportunities within fraternity and sorority life, when well-harnessed, can contribute to your ability to make an impact at a professional level. Even an entry-level associate can generate excitement around an idea if his or her contribution arrives in a well-researched, articulate and pointed manner. In our Greek-letter organizations, we often have to restrain our enthusiasm in order to ensure that our fellow chapter members hear what we have to say. Finding the balance between contributing and dominating a group discussion can determine whether your idea hits the CEO’s desk or the shop room floor.

Philanthropy: Contributing time and money to the community is an important tenet of fraternity and sorority life. Greek life at Colgate encourages students to get involved in the community in and around Hamilton, as well as to participate in nationally recognized philanthropies. Post-graduation, one of the easiest ways to get involved with other young adults is to find local chapters of major foundations and advocacy groups. You may even want to join your fraternity or sorority’s local alumni chapter and take advantage of their already established routines. Often times, alumni groups have pre-scheduled events throughout the year. The Greek legacy is defined by values that help to shape young citizens who want to make a difference in their communities — take that experience beyond these four years into the next forty.

Networking, leadership and philanthropy are all terrific reasons to get involved with Greek life at Colgate. But, if these life skills don’t convince you that your experiences will be valuable after graduation, at least you’ll have instant rapport with Southerners you meet in the “real world.”