This week in the blog I wanted to try something a little different. Instead of talking from our perspective at the Central Office, I reached out to one of the most overlooked resources that almost all of our undergraduates have access to – their Fraternity and Sorority Advisers. Below you’ll find great insight and advice from:
Brent Grunig, Coordinator of Fraternity & Sorority Life, University of Tampa
Gabbie Rimmaudo, Graduate Intern, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, University of South Florida
Justin Shukas, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, University of Oregon
Allen White, Assistant Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life, George Mason University
It was interesting to hear similar advice from professionals on both the east and west coasts, and that every single one of you needs to utilize their offices more! Without further ado, here are their responses to a few questions that I posed in regards to undergraduate advising.
Question #1: What inspired your desire to work with Undergraduates, specifically in Greek Life?
JS: I was inspired to pursue a degree in student affairs during my undergraduate studies at Indiana University where I had to opportunity to serve as a chapter and IFC executive board member. I fell in love with risk management education, which I know sounds weird to most people! I had the opportunity to be challenged by several staff members including Leslie Fasone, my Greek advisor, Steve Veldkamp, Assistant Dean and Director of Student Life and Learning, and Dr. Pete Goldsmith, Dean of Students, while working on several initiatives to support a culture of care at IU Bloomington. I got so much out of my leadership experience and wanted to continue making college and fraternity/sorority communities safe and thriving places to live and learn.
AW: I think what inspired me was the impact my Greek advisors had on myself and the my chapter as a whole. The care and concern they showed had such a great influence on me and personal growth that I wanted to be able to provide that same support to students. I think the decision to focus on Greek life simply came from my personal connection to my fraternity and what it means to me but also the belief in the benefits that come with membership of a fraternal group. The things I’ve been able to see Greek members, chapters, communities, and national organizations accomplish is astounding and so it’s hard not to want to be apart of that.
Question #2: What methods do you use when working with a group on your Campus?
JS: I am a very analytical person so the first thing I do when I work with a group is ask them to tell me what they believe are their strengths and weaknesses. I want the students to share their story. What makes them unique, what is important, and why do they do the things that they do? Every group is different so something that might work really well for chapter A won’t necessarily work for chapter B, it is important to understand this, and to ensure that your students do too. Chapters and groups need to find their niche and find ways to get others that buy in to that to join and further their mission. It all comes back to mission, values, and purpose.
AW: I don’t believe I have the same approach with all my groups. My advising is tailored to the needs of the group and the members I work with within it. I think my philosophy is the same in that my goal as an advisor is to help my groups realize their full potential and achieve their goals all while helping to keep a focus on institution and community goals. I have recently started to focus my advising to extend beyond what usually is the chapter president to now include executive boards and advisory boards. These meetings are more so structured to be like a consultant visit which gives me more of an in-depth look at chapter operations as opposed to the usual updates I just get through the president.
Question #3: If you had to give just one piece of advice to a Chapter President, what would it be?
BG: Don’t go at it alone. Use the resources on campus – FSL advisor, student org advisor, alumni, faculty, etc. Talk with other presidents because you are all facing many of the same issues and can help each other through it. Essentially, don’t do it on your own!
JS: I have never been a chapter president but my younger brother was president of my chapter (Delta Upsilon) at Indiana when I was a senior. I think chapter president is one of the most difficult roles ever. You are tasked with some unique challenges due to the fact that you must hold your closest friends accountable, make tough decision, manage crisis and large events, and hold all of the pieces of the chapter together. The bigger a chapter is the more difficult this can be. It is important for chapter presidents to lead with passion. If they do, they will build a following and generate buy in. I show all of my presidents and council leadership Simon Sinek’s video Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last to demonstrate this.
AW: Choose your hard. Its going to be hard work to be a great chapter and its going to be hard to manage a struggling chapter. Make your choice.
GR: One piece of advice I would give to a chapter president is to really make sure you are “Modeling the Way” and to be an authentic and honest leader. When I say this I mean they should behaving in a way that they want their members of their organization to behave. If they are not acting in a way that they would not want another member to behave, they are then making this behavior okay for others to act upon. In addition, when working with the campus community it is so important for presidents to be honest with where they are at. Campus professionals are here to help, not hinder!
Question #4: What is the best way for undergraduates to utilize your office?
JS: Often I sit in my office and wonder where is ________? I wish more presidents and general members would just stop by and have candid conversations. Unlike what some student think, Greek Life Offices are not the principal’s office. We love to work with students, that’s why we do what we do. We have so much knowledge and helpful hints from our own experiences or from colleagues and I wish more student leaders would take advantage of those resources. Plus, if something bad does happen, it’s much better having a relationship prior to getting that phone call or email in the middle of the night.
GR: Undergraduates should be utilizing all pieces of campus, not just one office. There are many resources on campus and people willing to do presentations and provide professional development opportunities for students. This can be from a resume writing workshop through the Career Center to a Wellness seminar provided by your designated Wellness Office. By knowing this and utilizing this, this helps students develop their calendars and helps alleviate some pieces that groups try to do all on their own. In addition, by utilizing different offices on campus, students are able to create great networking opportunities and relationships with campus professionals.