Friday, November 3, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
As the dust settles, patterns emerge. This past week, we celebrated our Homecoming that brought thousands of alumni to campus through various venues. Many came to watch the football game, to participate in their academies, to receive well-deserved awards for their contributions of time, effort and resources. Our legends were on campus, as well as members of our various boards and Hall of Fame members and many “Greek” alumni brothers and sisters to celebrate their successes and to give thanks to their “tribes.”
After a couple of quieter days since they left campus, I noticed emerging patterns that repeat themselves year after year, decade after decade and now well into our second century. A pattern of recognition by our alumni who, after graduation and years of real-world experience, have had the opportunity to pause, reflect and appreciate how their university and, particularly, their own campus “tribes” helped them succeed. As a participant in their activities, I have noticed that on occasions when our alumni come together and savor the results of their labor, they emphatically express their gratitude, not only for what they have achieved but also for the people who helped them welcome their challenges, overcome the odds and face their fears of being away from home for the first time all those years ago.
One group in particular exemplified and celebrated this pattern of help, achieve, help, achieve and then help and achieve again. A group of our students who have formed a connection with the sole purpose of welcoming to campus the newcomers, supporting them in every possible way, celebrating their achievement and then expecting them to pay it forward in return. Get this: the group has repeated the pattern, and this past Saturday they celebrated 120 years! Yes, I am talking about the brothers of Sigma Nu, which as S&T’s first fraternity was established in 1903. But they are not unique in their quest for helping others. In fact, more than 25% of our undergraduate students belong to 24 fraternities, sororities and “colonies,” where all academic success measures, including GPA, retention and graduation rates, are higher than the general student population. Their sense of community and network building is also strong.
The secret sauce for the commonly attributed benefits is the familial environment created by fraternities and sororities, which promotes individual accountability to the chapter while providing support and mentorship to new members.
In fact, at S&T, involvement in fraternities and sororities has a direct connection to student success. Fraternity and sorority life also instills in its members a sense of the importance of philanthropy and community service. Most fraternities and sororities are affiliated with national charitable organizations and hold fundraisers to support them, as well as supporting numerous local community organizations. During Greek Week in September, for example, S&T’s Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Greek Independent Council came together and hosted a community carnival for the local Court Appointed Special Advocates organization and the children they represent. Fraternities and sororities have also joined with The Community Partnership to host a “Linking Hearts” adoption fair in Rolla for potential adoptive parents to interact with children from around Missouri. Each year, multiple fraternities and our University Police make the holidays brighter by sponsoring local families, and our student-run fundraisers support initiatives and philanthropy such as breast cancer education and awareness, the Make-A-Wish-Foundation and Feeding America.
Finally, our university-Greek Life collaboration has been significantly enhanced by our newly formed Greeks Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, where we ensure predictive and collaborative approaches to leadership, administration and management of our overlapping functions.
I am grateful to our fraternities and sororities for enhancing lives on campus and beyond, for developing responsible rain-maker graduates who routinely exceed their potential, and for sustaining our emerging patterns that are elusive to define but are felt deeply by all of us.
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