Greek life at Heidelberg is a tradition as old as the university. Fraternity halls still echo with the chants of friendship. Wearing letters on campus still instills a sense of pride. The 10 Greek groups at Heidelberg understand the history and tradition of what they represent. While the culture has changed over the years from literary societies into a more traditional Greek life system, some things have remained the same.
Finding a Family
“It’s important that students are educated about all the groups,” said political science major and Alpha Phi Tau president Nolan Miller, ’18. “They should join the group that’s the best fit for them because ultimately that’s where they’ll be the happiest.”
Talk to any Greek member, current student or alum, and they’ll tell you their group was the perfect fit for them. While some students arrive on campus already planning on joining Greek life, it seems most approach the idea with hesitation at first.
A communication major from Chicago, Danielle Wortham, ’18, was dragged to recruitment events by her best friend. Soon the tables were turned and she was the one itching to join a group and eventually became a member of Delta Sigma Chi.
“It was refreshing to meet people from different places that were as unique as me. And everyone was so friendly,” she said.
When she was looking for a group to join, Margaret Bowers, ’17, felt like the Philethean Society understood her best. “They let me be who I wanted to be,” she said. “I created a home away from home.”
Every group provides emotional and academic support, but students try to find the group that fits their personalities and ambitions. When that match happens, everyone wins.
“The new member education process is special because you get to see the new members grow,” said Jack Onderisin, ’18, president of Sigma Tau Nu. “It’s rewarding to see them proud to wear their letters.”
Heidelberg’s Greek life system is composed of local groups. While there are some downsides to not having support from a national chapter, most current students like the benefits of being local.
“I like only existing here,” said former Excelsior president David Brauer, ’17. “It gives us a sense of independence. We get the privilege and responsibility to represent our group.”
As a sophomore, Hollie Dunn, ’19, has already held several leadership positions in the Euglossian Society. “In a local group you can rise faster. It’s easier to lead,” she said.
“It makes Greek life accessible to more people,” said Kappa Psi Omega member Sara Gebhardt, ’17. “It also makes Heidelberg’s system more of a unit.”
The Greek Life Council functions as the governing body for all the Greek groups. GLC helps police the politics that naturally arise and fosters a positive attitude. The GLC is comprised of 10 executive members and 10 general body members representing each group. All meetings are open to the entire Greek life community. Students are able to personalize their experience and find more ways to share their voice.
Miller likes that Greek groups work with businesses and charities in town to impact the community.
“You hear the stories and you want to be a part of a group,” he said. “We’re spending time together as friends, but it’s also a concerted effort to get an objective accomplished.”
Joining a Network
“I really got sucked into Greek life,” said Brauer. “I didn’t know anyone before I joined. I went in completely blind and it has paid off.”
It’s undeniable that Greek life is more than a social group. Students find confidence, structure, and family within their organization, which provides them with a solid foundation for their professional careers.
“Greek life lets you step out of your comfort zone,” Ondersin said. “I’ve become a better leader because of these opportunities.”
Time management, organizational skills and leadership are often cited as benefits of joining a Greek group. But one of the biggest benefits is networking.
“If you want to get your feet in some doors, join Greek life,” said Tyler Majoy, ’17. “I’ve meet alumni from all the groups.”
While the networks might not be as big as a national chapter, the relationships are just as strong.
“These groups are so close-knit that you know so many alums. They’re always coming back and are excited to meet you,” said Stephanie Sorrell, ’19, a member of Zeta Theta Psi.
Even though she joined as a junior, Gebhardt immediately discovered the networking advantages.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet new people,” she said. “Being a part of Greek life connected me to people across campus.”
Cedric Robinson, ’17, was the alumni relations chair of Rho Eta Delta and was in constant contact with the Rhos’ alumni base.
“Being a part of Greek life helps you figure out methods and ways to work and collaborate with other people professionally and socially,” he said.
Loyalty to Heidelberg and loyalty to Greek life runs deep, and students are finding that these connections they're making can impact them throughout their entire life.
With so many groups, personalities and objectives are bound to clash. And while cooperation is a Greek life principle, it’s not always easy.
“Competition is inherent in Greek life, but the council finds ways for the groups to express it in a positive way,” said Bowers. “Greek Olympics, Greek Sing and fundraising competitions give us an outlet.”
There are so many events going on that it can be hard to keep track. From formal philanthropy events and social events to spontaneous movie nights and bonfires, Greek groups are constantly interacting.
“There’s no time to bicker too much behind the scenes,” said Brauer. “There’s too much to do.”
As president of the Greek Life Council, Majoy is proud of all the groups.
“The council was created to promote Greek unity and give us a civil way to govern ourselves,” he said. “It’s a very open group. Anyone can run for anything and we handle our own issues.”
“My dad was an Ex and had so many fun and positive memories of 1980s Greek life,” said Majoy. “I was already inclined to look at Greek life when I got here.”
Not every student had a positive impression of Greek life when they arrived on campus.
“I had no plan on being involved,” Dunn said. “All I knew about was stereotypes from movies.”
Negative stereotypes are something that all the groups have to battle. But by supporting each other and working together, they are changing what it means to be Greek.
Zeta Theta Psi is the newest group on campus, joining the Greek community in 2013. Starting a new group, especially a local one, can be a challenge.
“We’ve had lots of support from the other groups,” Sorrell said. “It’s a learn-as-you-go process, but we’re all happy to be taking this on.”
At the end of the day, strong Greek groups are good for all of Greek life.
“We want people to be involved in Greek life no matter which group it is with,” said Robinson.
The Next Chapter
The feeling of family and friendship is essential to who Heidelberg is, and nothing embodies that more than Greek life.
“It’s uplifting and empowering to know there are people here who care for you like family,” Worthham said. “I have something that means so much to me here.”
Greek life at Heidelberg will continue to evolve with each new generation of students, but the bonds formed and the memories made will never change. By working together, Greek life has survived and thrived to help all students discover their potential.
“This is the time I am defining who I am,” Sorrell said. “It wouldn’t be Heidelberg without Greek life.”