Sarah Smith: Broaden your horizons

BY SARAH SMITH

Published January 4, 2011

For many Greek Life students returning to Ann Arbor, the beginning of the New Year is the perfect time to get more involved on campus. While September might be the right month for many Michigan students to seek out new clubs and organizations, Greek students often face time constraints in the fall semester — like recruitment and acclimating to life in a chapter house — that make it difficult to seek out new activities. Consequently, many students in the Greek community decide to get more involved on campus in the winter instead.

A problem exists, however, when we look at “campus involvement” as a synonym for “Greek involvement.” Many of us — myself included — find ourselves taking on new roles in our fraternities and sororities instead of seeking out other opportunities to get involved on campus. Now, Greek involvement is certainly not a bad thing — we’re all proud of our chapters and our community, and fraternity and sorority leadership can be very enriching. But by limiting our extracurricular involvement to the Greek community, we’re overlooking the larger community that we all belong to as students — the Michigan community.

And the Michigan community clearly has a lot to offer. With nearly 1,200 student organizations listed on Maize Pages, I’d wager that any student could find a group that interested him or her outside of Greek Life. Whether it’s club sports, service organizations, political or religious groups, or clubs tailored around specific interests like Quidditch or ballroom dancing, the Michigan community offers so much that it’s simply wasteful not to take advantage of the opportunities. At the risk of sounding like your orientation leader from freshman year, I want to encourage you to seek out these opportunities on campus. Browse through Maize Pages the next time you’re bored, or check out a couple of mass meetings this month. You’re bound to find something that you’ll enjoy.

In addition to enriching the college years of students in the Greek community, getting involved in non-Greek organizations will have several benefits post-graduation. For one thing, seeking out specific campus groups forces us to define what our interests are. While you may have always enjoyed getting down at campus bars or participating in the Variety competition, it may take involvement in a campus dance troupe to illuminate your passion for dance — same goes for athletics, philanthropy, creative hobbies and the like. Furthermore, non-Greek organizations enable us to meet new people outside of our chapters. We obviously spend a lot of time with our brothers or sisters, and we get to know them very well, but sometimes this comes at the expense of getting to know other students on campus. In addition to expanding our social circles on campus now, joining a campus-wide organization can also teach us how to interact professionally with new groups of people and provide us with a new network of people with similar interests, which could definitely come in handy in the future.

Beyond these personal benefits, however, involvement in non-Greek organizations can actually enhance our experiences in Greek Life. By showcasing our interests outside of Greek Life, we add another dimension to our membership in the chapter. In my house, for example, we have several girls involved in an a capella group on campus. Many of my sisters regularly attend their concerts, and the a capella members also put together our Sing ensemble for Greek Week and lead our members in song at various chapter events. Their a capella membership makes my chapter better, as my sisters have the opportunity to learn from their talents and become more cultured members of society. Moreover, when we as Greeks get involved on campus, we positively represent Greek Life as a whole. We often lament that as Greeks, we’re stereotyped or misunderstood by some non-Greeks on campus. But if the people that perpetuated those stereotypes played with us on a club basketball team or worked alongside us during a Circle K service project, they might form a different opinion about Greek Life.

Joining a non-Greek organization makes us more well-rounded as students and as people. It also provides many benefits for the future while making our time as Michigan Greeks even more rewarding. So if you’re looking to get more involved this semester, consider joining campus-wide organizations as well as the Greek community to make the most of the opportunities available at Michigan.

Sarah Smith can be reached at smisarah@umich.edu.