As a youth in Tennessee, the path for a young woman who wanted to go to college, was go to college, join a sorority, graduate with a “ring by spring” – I wanted a doctoral level degree so the “ring by spring” idea wasn’t there- graduate, do your thing for a few years, get married and join Junior League. So that is where the idea for joining a sorority came from for me. My parents are immigrants and I think still don’t understand what sororities are after having two daughters join them! So the idea definitely did not come from my family!
I have a very specific memory of the TV show Sister, Sister with Tia and Tamara Mowry, where the father and the mother (if you’re not familiar with the show they are twins who were separated at birth (or adoption, not sure) and then the mother who adopted one twin moved into a house next to the father who had adopted the other twin, so they weren’t a couple) were campaigning for the twins to join two specific sororities. I only remember the colours associated, one was pink and green, which is Alpha Kappa Alpha, and red and white which I think is Delta Sigma Theta. These are historically Black sororities, which as a 10 year old I did not understand, but watching that episode was my first exposure to Greek life in college and I WANTED it.
But then we moved to Canada, and fraternities and sororities are NOT common up here. In fact, at the University of Guelph where I went to school Pi Beta Phi was the only sorority until I was in fourth year when Delta Pi, a local Jewish organization, came to campus. So it was not the experience I had imagined for myself, but I loved it. Even though I joined executive council and it became a lot of work it was such an outlet for me. And hand to God being the chapter’s Vice President Event Planning has fully prepared me to plan my own wedding some day. I gained an unbelievable amount of professional experience, exposure to people who weren’t in my program, and fun from being in a sorority.
When you’re in a sorority you hear all the time that “It’s not four years, it’s for life”. But when I graduated I felt a little adrift. There are a couple ways that you can continue to be involved after graduation, you can join an alumnae club. The closest one to me was over an hour away. Or you can join the alumnae advisory committee (AAC), which works with the chapter executive council to help them support their chapter and have someone to bounce ideas off and work with on your duties as an officer. So in my first year of graduate school I met up with one of my friends from my chapter for lunch and she had just joined AAC for the chapter at the University of Toronto. She then got me in touch with the right people and after a few phone calls I got to join AAC as the advisor to the Vice President of Communications. I got to learn so much in this role, website design, communication in a large organization, and I got to work with a wonderful young woman. Since then I have worked with the Vice President of Finance, the Vice President of Finance and Housing, the Chapter President, the Vice President of Operations, and the Vice President of Community Relations. I have learned so many hard skills, gotten to elevate the bond with one of my Littles, meet inspiring young women, travel to conferences, and form friendships with Pi Phi’s older and younger than I all across North America.
And when I say inspiring young women I truly mean it. I was writing scholarship references for a few of them this past week for the local Panhellenic scholarships and I cannot believe how accomplished they are already. I cried writing each one, and then laid on the floor and contemplated what I’ve done with my life so far.
So today is Badge Day, when sorority women all over the world wear their badge to show pride in their organization. I am so grateful to Pi Phi for the friends and opportunities it has given me. I know that a lot of change happens when you are in undergrad or college or uni or whatever you call it, but I truly believe that Pi Phi hugely shaped the woman that I became. I feel like I have a better understanding of different perspectives because of the experiences I witnessed my sisters have. I feel that I am a more empathetic AAC counterpart because of the relationships I had and saw as an executive council member. I can make small talk that is valuable and connecting because of sorority recruitment.
I am eternally grateful to Pi Beta Phi and that is why I continue to volunteer with the organization. I had such a great time in Pi Phi and I want to help the women who are collegians now have just as good an experience. I also want to work towards removing some of the issues that I saw in the organization when I was a collegian. I am also so inspired by the women that I work with. Sometimes I ask them about their school work or their research projects and I am blown away, astonished, by how intelligent, accomplished, powerful, and ambitious these women are. They are truly exceptional people. And apparently I can’t say that enough.
Sororities and fraternities get a lot of flack. They are not racially or ethnically diverse for the most part, their policies on gender orientation are either non-existent or confusing, they are expensive, and can be elitist. But I was a relatively poor, immigrant, first-generation student who found my home in my sorority and I want to continue to allow other students like me or not like me, whoever wants to be in a sorority and feels a connection with the organization to have that experience and that is why I continue to be involved in my sorority nearly five years after graduation.