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The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life supports Greek-letter organization leaders on their developmental journey.

By Adrienne S. Harris, Contributing Writer, Campus Life

To Marlon Gibson, assistant dean for Campus Life and director of Sorority and Fraternity Life, the vision that guides his office—to develop leaders who positively transform the Emory University community and the world—is more than a wish on a website. It’s the reason he comes to work every day.

“Our students are on a developmental journey, and we are here to support them on that journey,” said Gibson, who has led the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life (OSFL) since December 2014. “I have not done my job if students leave here and feel they are not stronger leaders.”

Almost a third of Emory’s undergraduates are affiliated with a Greek-letter organization. Currently, there are 35 sorority and fraternity chapters on campus, organized under four governing councils: Emory Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council, and National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Sororities and fraternities elect chapter presidents who are responsible for budgeting, programming, housing, conduct, and members’ academic progress, as well as reporting to their national headquarters and the university. Students also elect a council president to coordinate activities across chapters.

A full-time OSFL staff member is assigned as an advisor to each council to educate, monitor, and coach the student leaders. Gibson calls this approach to student development "advising with a purpose."

Alex Dobosh
Alex Dobosh
. Photo by Ruth Reyes.

“We’re intentionally advising each student and each chapter in a meaningful way that balances challenge and support,” he said. “We challenge students to want the best for their chapter, their community, and Emory. But we also support them to make sure they have what they need to succeed.”

Alex Dobosh, a junior in Goizueta Business School, president of Sigma Chi, and president of the Interfraternity Council, appreciates having an OSFL advisor to call on. “The best thing about OSFL is that they’re always there for me,” he said “They are my support, my rock. I never have to make a decision on my own.”

But neither are students told what to do. They are given information and tools to make choices, including how to deal with tough issues. At the January 2019 leadership retreat for council and sorority and fraternity chapter presidents, one of two such retreats held every year, the OSFL staff made sure the agenda included sessions on hazing, diversity, equity and inclusion, mental health, sexual assault, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Lauren Friedenrich
Lauren Friedenrich. Photo by Ruth Reyes.

“These are the issues that sororities and fraternities are facing on a national level,” said Nicole Jackson, associate director of Sorority and Fraternity Life. “We did not drive the conversation. We facilitated the conversation so that students would have ownership and could be proactive in helping to prevent these problems at Emory.”

OSFL, the councils, and sorority and fraternity chapters routinely sponsor events to raise awareness about the importance of healthy lifestyles and behaviors, including bystander intervention training on what to do if students see a problem.

“It’s not about the colors or the letters,” said Jackson. “It’s about how we build on the enthusiasm students have for their organizations to develop ethical leaders.”

One of the aspects of sorority and fraternity life that students are most proud of is their strong academic performance. For the 2017-2018 academic year, the average GPA for sorority and fraternity members was 3.5—the same as for non-Greek organization affiliated students.

“Sorority and fraternity members are connected with our organizations, but we are also integrated into the larger Emory community,” said Lauren Freidenrich, a junior sociology and pre-medical major who is a member of Alpha Delta Pi and president of the Emory Panhellenic Council. “Everyone here has academic goals, and everyone is working toward those goals.”

Kayla Gaskin
Kayla Gaskin. Photo by Ruth Reyes.

Another point of pride for sororities and fraternities is their commitment to community service and philanthropy. Last year, Emory's Greek-letter organizations collectively contributed 25,000 volunteer hours and donated $80,000 to charitable causes.

This year, OSFL and the sorority and fraternity leaders are working on a shared goal to strengthen collaboration among the Greek-letter organizations.

“Across all councils, we are committed to serving our communities—that is the thing that ties us together,” said Kayla Gaskin, a junior art history major, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. “But we are looking to increase visibility and understanding to create a more unified Greek experience.”

During the January retreat, the council and chapter presidents participated in team-building exercises and brainstormed ways they can better support each other.

Brian WrenBrian Wren. Photo by Ruth Reyes.

Brian Wen, a junior biology major who is a member of Xi Kappa Fraternity Inc. and president of the Multicultural Greek Council, believes candid conversations among organization leaders help increase engagement, especially with chapters that are newer to Emory’s sorority and fraternity community.

“So many of the organizations in our council don’t have a long history here, but it’s important for us to have a representation on campus,” he said. “We are culturally interested, but we also want to work together. We are open to diversity.”

Gibson explained that helping sorority and fraternity leaders join forces to create a stronger Greek life community at Emory is also part of the vision that drives OSFL’s work.

“We’re all in this together. What affects one chapter affects all of us,” Gibson said. “The biggest opportunities to see the true potential of the sorority and fraternity community are still ahead of us. So, every day we ask: How are we staying cutting edge? How are we making sure we are a community that is making a difference?”

Learn more

Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life: http://osfl.emory.edu/