While some may have experienced challenges to provide opportunities for students to engage when COVID-19 hit, the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life (OSFL) saw increased participation in recruitment, resulting in increased new member classes for the 45 Greek-lettered organizations on campus. This, on top of new leadership, made director of OSFL John Keith consider how the office is best preparing these students to serve their fraternal organizations and the greater UT community.
“Over the last year, I think we saw a lot of students who were looking for connections during COVID-19,” said Keith. “Sororities and fraternities are a great way to find those connections and make new friends. We saw record numbers of students participating in recruitment last year and we are expecting that number to grow again this year.”
Facts and Figures
Interfraternity Council saw a, 33% increase in membership interest from 2020.
Panhellenic Council saw a 16% increase in membership interested from 2020.
National Pan-Hellenic Council saw an 8.27% increase in membership from spring 2020 to spring 2021.
Multicultural Greek Council saw a 28.57% increase in membership from spring 2020 to spring 2021.
With an increased number of students joining organizations over the last year, the OSFL staff has strongly considered how they are preparing those students to one day lead their fellow brothers and sisters. The team is also thinking about how the students in these organizations are impacting the campus community and the greater Knoxville community.
“So much of the programming we’ve done in the past has been focused on upperclassmen leadership, and we really wanted to expand that out to engage all students no matter where they’re at in their sorority and fraternity life journey.”
To build the leaders the chapters will need, OSFL has created new partnerships and strengthened current partnerships with other departments, such as a health and safety program with the Center for Health Educations & Wellness, and leadership summits and volunteer opportunities with the Jones Center for Leadership and Service. Students will also continue programs such as the Brave and Bold Dialogue series, Meeting in the Middle, and the Cross Council Exchange.
“We’re going to really focus on those second and third-year students and build them up to be the next leaders in their community,” said Keith. “We’ve been missing those in-between students, the students who are not new members but not in leadership yet. We want to offer programming to them that will set them and their organizations up for success when they’re ready to take on those leadership roles. We want to help them become leaders.”
Senior Rachael White, human resources management major and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. member, explained that the programming hosted by OSFL has provided her with opportunities to network with her peers in other councils. “I’ve always thought ‘your network is your net worth’ and I think the programs I go to have allowed me to grow my network.”
“Sorority and fraternity life became a huge opportunity for students last year to interact with other students and build a community,” said Keith. “We’re going to see that trend continue this year so I’m glad to be offering more to students who join a Greek-lettered organization.”
With more students choosing to participate in sorority and fraternity life, the office staff has been revisioning how to best prepare students for leadership roles, not only in their organization but beyond their time at UT.