It's all Greek to me
Academic and professional fraternities offer an alternative Greek experience
Having a social life in college doesn’t always lend itself well to academics or professional growth. After all, how much of your career can be based on an extensive knowledge of red Solo cups and all-night movie marathons? Yet in some facets of the University’s greek system, students mix work and play.
Professional fraternities — often overshadowed this time of year by hordes of girls dressed in “snappy casual” and boys haunted by the prospect of pledging — act both as a social unit and a source of academic and career-related camaraderie. Centered around a major or field of study, these groups often recruit both men and women on the basis of one thing — passion.
“We are all interested in the same things, which makes [the fraternity] a very intimate organization,” said third-year College student Sydney Strader, treasurer of chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma.
Strader, who has been a member of Alpha Chi Sigma since the fall of her second year, said she was pleasantly surprised that the recruitment process was based more on interest than grades. Though recruitment for professional fraternities is usually structured in typical Greek fashion, with both formal and informal rounds, events tend to be more laid-back since they are operating on a much smaller scale. Alpha Chi Sigma currently has about 20 members.
“It’s more a family than a friend group,” Strader said.
Members said the fraternity’s professional focus directs its philanthropic activities. Each spring, Alpha Chi Sigma holds “ChemFest,” a festival to spur interest in the sciences among local elementary school students.
Brothers and sisters of Trigon Engineering Society, which operates like a professional fraternity, find themselves assisting with career-building events put on by the School of Engineering.
“Our biggest strength is that we are a very close-knit group of people,” said Trigon President Doug Koenig, a fourth-year Engineering student. “We spend a lot of time together both in the social and service scene. This is probably the reason the E-school keeps coming to us for help — [because] we really enjoy helping them out.”
The benefits of joining a professional fraternity often extend beyond the University, said third-year Commerce student Nick Jones, the president of business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. Judged by two Wall Street executives as part of his pledging process, Jones said he found the organization’s alumni network impressive and useful.
“In the business world, a lot of doing well is who you know,” Jones said. Alpha Kappa Psi has made a point of inviting alumni to many of their large social events, such as Foxfield and their annual garden party for graduating members.
“We tend to be more inwardly focused,” Jones said. “We have speakers just for members instead of opening them up to the University as a whole, because [we’ve found] there’s no better way to learn anything than with one-on-one mentorship.”
Still, joining an academic or professional fraternity doesn’t mean all work and no play. The groups are mainly social, members said. And not all social events are casual ones. Big parties, date functions — professional fraternities have incorporated these into their calendars as well. During recruitment, Trigon hosts a Fire and Ice party, a Seven Deadly Sins Progressive and a wine and cheese night.
Strader said one of the biggest benefits of joining her group was that throughout her time at the University, there was always a constant: her fraternity house. Strader even spent last Spring Break at the house with other fraternity members, just fixing it up as an excuse to spend more time together.
“That’s my friend group now,” Strader said. “And the amazing thing is it’s people I never would’ve met otherwise.”