actual sorority move

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Sorority membership placed a stamp on my collegiate experience that no other opportunity could have replaced. I grew as a woman and leader through my friendships and dedicated work for the continued success of the Gamma Eta chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity at Roanoke College. I’ll even be real with you and admit that not all of my experiences with Phi Mu were positive. As a “Phi” or pledge of Phi Mu, I experienced psychological hazing that caused me to relive the emotional distress I experienced as a freshman at an institution from which I had transferred the previous semester. I seriously questioned whether or not to continue joining the organization–maybe sorority life just wasn’t for me?? However, Phi Mu’s love had already been emblazoned on my heart and, for better or worse, I pushed on.

Little did I know, my experience with hazing would be a pivotal moment in my personal story; a “defining moment” in my life. As new chapter leadership worked to eliminate these negative “traditions” from our chapter, I became a strong voice against hazing in our chapter. I continued to reflect upon those experiences and became an advocate for hazing prevention initiatives with my platform in the Miss Virginia/Miss America Organizations. I attended the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention and became interested in Student Affairs professions, which lead me to my current role as a graduate student studying Higher Education Administration. I have been able to contribute my knowledge of hazing prevention as the Graduate Assistant in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. I am passionate about this issue and encouraged by my story, because it’s just one small example of how all our experiences, negative or positive, shape who we become and are opportunities for growth.

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Last spring, with graduation looming only a few short weeks away, I reflected upon my times as a Phi Mu collegian in the post phi mu is love. My friendships with Phi Mu sisters have continued to grow and flourish despite the distance. I am so thankful for my sisters who have been loyal and true through thick and thin over the months of post-college life! As a member of the professional staff for Fraternity and Sorority Life at UVA, I have gained a new perspective on Greek Life. This new retrospective lens on my fraternity experience has allowed me to continue to reflect upon what it means to be a member of Phi Mu Fraternity.

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A hot-button topic in Greek Life is values-based fraternity living. “What?” you ask, “Fraternities and values?” I know, I know. The media’s portrayal of fraternities and sororities does not tend to place our organizations in a positive light.

“We raise so much money for charity!

We do community service!

We’re leaders and scholars!”

…these are our retorts to criticisms we face as members of a Greek community nationwide. But are we really living up to the high standards we pledge to uphold when we ‘live it up’ in Frat house basements every weekend? Are we promoting scholarship when we have a party on a Wednesday night? Do we invite true sisterhood into our organization when we base membership choices over superficial elements like looks and fashion?

I don’t think so!!!

We are giving society the ammunition they need to battle against us! So, what can we do?

Revisiting the Phi Mu creed has been a valuable way for me to spend some time lately. Reflecting upon what it actually means to be a sister of Phi Mu has allowed my understanding of my Fraternity to grow. I look forward to lifelong membership in this organization. Love, honor, and truth really are wonderful values to live life by, and our founders set up a fantastic standard for living in our creed.

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Reflecting upon values and gaining a greater understanding of the relevance of fraternity in our lives today leads me to share a new force in the Greek community, Actual Sorority Move. While there are many organizations that exist to promote the positive side of Fraternity and Sorority, this new trend resonates with me particularly well. It aims to directly combat websites like Total Frat Move, or TFM, that perpetuate negative stereotypes of Greek Life. The following video features Actual Sorority Move (ASM) creator, Jessie Garber, as she explains why she created Actual Sorority Move and what the movement is all about:

Follow ASM on Twitter and Facebook.

I think Jessie’s creation is FANTASTIC. It’s about time sorority women start having thoughtful reflection and meaningful conversations about why we joined a Panhellenic organization. It’s time we start standing up to the stereotypes society has for us, stop perpetuating them, and start proving we are so much more than that! I will be the first to admit that I was not/am not a model sorority woman at all times. I can and do commit to bettering myself every day. Our chapter does a lot of great things, but I am confident that my sisters–collegians, alumnae, all of us–can be so much more!

I challenge us all, Greek or not, to think about what we say we value and evaluate how that aligns with our actual words and actions. Even small efforts towards living a life that is congruent with our beliefs are steps in the right direction.

I hope this gave you a little food for thought, and please leave comments–I’d love to read your reactions!

xo, CEF

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8

phi mu is love

Last night my pledge class and I had the bittersweet opportunity as seniors to share with the rest of our sisterhood some of the most important memories from our college years. While I listened to others share their most precious moments, I must admit that my eyes glistened as I was reminded of the deep bonds of friendship that have been built in such a short period of time. Why then, did the touching and personal stories fail to leave me weeping like others when I read my own aloud?

I am in denial. Complete and utter denial.

The fact that Graduation is only a mere two months away and the impending date looms closer each day is one that I mentally push aside, unable to admit the implications to myself. It’s a lot easier to spend these last moments as a student at Roanoke College pretending that everything isn’t about to change and ignoring the fact that friends who have become such a big part of my life will no longer be across the hall or down the street come September. I don’t think it’s too much to say that there will be an intense physical pain associated with the realization that pieces of my heart, whisked away by my friends and confidantes, will be carried away after May to various ends of the Earth. I don’t even want to think about what summer will be like without the joyful promise of reuniting with my pink ladies in Sunny Salem in a few short months. I can’t imagine what it will be like to start classes at a foreign campus, making acquaintances who will hopefully become friends but can never fill the void created by the absence of making memories with Phi Mu sisters every day.

The Class of 2012 on Fall Bids Day, 2009. I had no idea what was ahead of me and how special these women are!

My only solace is that I know in many of my sisters I have found best friends for life. I have never felt so strongly that friendships will last and that there are so many memories to be made in the future. I’m comforted by the fact that a few of my best friends who graduated last year still remain close to me despite our physical distance from one another and we can go right back to where we left off when they return to visit. I’m encouraged that friendships will last when I hear of women who graduated several years ago getting together on a regular basis and communicating often, although the miles between them probably remain hard to bear.

I truly feel sorry for those who have not experienced the type of bond that being a part of a sorority creates and the heartache caused by the ephemeral nature of the time living together. I’ve been asked several times if Greek Life is relevant or necessary in our world today. Being a member of Phi Mu has made me a better and more well-rounded person. It’s forced me to get to know people who are very different from myself, who probably wouldn’t be more than acquaintances otherwise, that are now people I am proud to call friends. It’s caused be to be less judgemental. Instead of dismissing someone because they hang out with different people than I do or engage in activities I may not, for example, I have learned to look past those outer elements to the person’s character. And there are quite a few “characters” who have become dear to me, might I add! Phi Mu has given me new leadership challenges and social opportunities. If that isn’t relevant, I’m not sure what is! To the Greek Life “haters” out there, I simply will never, ever agree with you.

With some of my closest friends, February 2012.

My mom has shared with me in the past that she still misses her college friends and sometimes even has dreams that she’s back in Lewisburg, PA having a good time. While I certainly hope that college is not the best four years of my life (a dim prospect for the future), I am certain that it will be the most reminisced about and evoke the most nostalgia. It’s definitely been the best years of my life so far and even the little memories–becoming close with my pledge class, spending way too much time/money at Mac & Bob’s, brunch at the Back Table in Commons, and lounging around at Hotel Market–will always be cherished.

On that note, I’ll get back to experiencing the fun and feeling the tug on my heartstrings grow stronger as May 5th gets closer each day. Phi Mu, you are love.