Opportunities, new organizations contribute to increase in Greek life
As on-campus student living has reached its highest peak so far at UH, so has Greek life.
This past year fraternity and sorority membership has grown by 18 percent. According to director of the Center for Fraternity & Sorority Life Jason Bergeron, that’s the most significant increase in several years.
“We weren’t necessarily surprised to see that,” Bergeron said of the increase. “We’ve been investing a lot with new organizations coming to campus (and) we’ve been investing a lot in working with students to really improve the quality of the experience.”
Bergeron said a combination of increased campus living and a focus on improving the Greek life experience have led to the rise in participation of these organizations.
“We’re always thinking strategically about adding students and groups to our community,” Bergeron said. “That newness can be exciting for people and kind of re-infuses a sense of interest in not only the new groups coming to campus, but also the groups already on campus.”
According to Bergeron, UH is home to several fraternities that have existed nationally from the early to mid 1800s and some that have existed solely on campus from the mid 1900s. New organizations and chapters are still being “added pretty regularly” today.
“We are incredibly proud of the diversity of our fraternity and sorority community not only in type of organization but also in how long they’ve been here,” Bergeron said.
From the 1800’s to present day, Bergeron said the core values of the organizations on campus have remained the same. What has changed is the way these organizations deliver and cater an experience to students.
“I tell students all the time that the world is shifting beneath our feet, so if we aren’t shifting with it, then we are missing out,” Bergeron said. “As the students that come to campus change, as their priorities change, as their personal and professional goals change, (these organizations) have the ability to shift how they deliver those things to change with them.”
These organizations not only provide students with opportunities to give back philanthropically, but they also allow students to contribute to UH by influencing campus events. Alpha Chi Omega, whose philanthropy is dedicated to victims of domestic violence, gives back by volunteering members to run for Ms. Fiesta to raise money for scholarships for prospective students at UH’s annual Frontier Fiesta.
“All of Greek life comes together to work on Homecoming, Frontier Fiesta and attend sporting events,” marketing and finance junior and Alpha Chi Omega member Tara VanDerpoel said. “As loud and as obnoxious as we may be at those sporting events, we have the best time with each other and we want to spread that fun to the whole student body.”
VanDerpoel said she didn’t plan on joining a sorority when she started at UH, but after a push from a friend to go through recruitment she said she realized she wanted to take part and give back.
“I chose Alpha Chi Omega in the end because every woman I saw and spoke with were women I eventually wanted to grow into – women who could hold themselves with such grace and class and women who helped every member around them grow stronger,” VanDerpoel said.
Finance senior Sebastian Agudelo joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity in 2011. He thinks Greek life at UH has grown because of the large influence the organizations and members have on campus.
“Most of the student leaders on campus as well as professors, faculty and athletes are members of a Greek organization,” Agudelo said. “Because of all the influence that Greek life has had in UH, students want to become a part of this growing movement. A part of something that is greater than them.”
If current trends continue, Greek membership is expected to rise even more in the coming semesters. For members like VanDerpoel and Agudelo, the decision to join a Greek organization was one of the best they’ve ever made.
“Joining a fraternity changed my life and there is nothing that I can ever do to repay what I received,” Agudelo said. “Greek life will provide one with the skills necessary to be successful in their future careers, an unforgettable college experience and provide one with a vast network of brothers and sisters that will last a lifetime.”