By Brenlee Coates
Sometimes the post-secondary experience resembles a binge-drinking blur of lost opportunities.
Often this is what is portrayed of fraternity and sorority life in the movies and in the media: one long toga party that never ends.
But the reality of the experience at the University of Manitoba is much different.
“When people hear about the Greek system, they just think we’re dumb sorority girls,” says Greek Council president, Carolina Vasilica. “It bugs me so much that that’s the stigma.”
Vasilica is a member of the Greek sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, one of three active sorority chapters at the U of M. Her sorority has a minimum GPA for membership (as do the other sororities), it requires members to be full-time students, and it does not affiliate alcohol with any of its official events or programming.
She has gained invaluable experience in her membership in the sorority as the purchasing coordinator, doing public relations – and now, as Greek Council president, overseeing all of the active Greek chapters on campus.
“It really works like a business,” explains Vasilica. “It also gives you this group of women that empower one another and support you.”
The commitment in her sorority is considerable; the not-for-profit group manages its own member fees and is responsible for planning recruitment events, philanthropic events, and fundraising drives for causes. “Every Greek group runs themselves,” says Vasilica. Her sorority meets once a week throughout the school year to touch base with all of its departments. “It’s resume-building,” she adds.
The Panhellenic Council governs the sororities on campus and the Interfraternity Council governs the three fraternities. Both councils belong to larger national organizations, and they set some of the guidelines and prerequisites (like the no-alcohol affiliation rule for sororities) and help each chapter match up with compatible recruits.
Plus, they established the five pillars of focus for the Greek system: leadership, scholarship, community service, friendship, and social activities.
Some of the academic benefits to being involved in the Greek system are the facts that the average GPA performance is higher than the university’s at large, and students are more than 25 per cent more likely to stay in school than other students.
Students engage more with campus life therefore find it more rewarding.
“My first four years, I literally went to class and left,” says Vasilica.
“It’s a community within a community. I can’t walk through campus now without seeing at least three or four people I know, and they’re all Greeks.”
The networking opportunities don’t stop there – nor does the membership terminate after you leave school.
Greeks go from being “active” sorority or fraternity members to alumni status, where they are invited to engage in International Reunion Day each year and in other, less official involvement.
Vasilica contacted an alumni member of her sorority who’s working in the field she’s pursuing for career advice, and was welcomed with open arms.
When the Manitoba Greek system’s alumni includes Gary Doer, Lloyd Axworthy, Carol Shields, and the late Izzy Asper, it’s easy to see that many of the city’s movers and shakers are Greek alumni – and it couldn’t hurt to have any of these successful people in your corner or in reach.
Membership does come at a cost, but Vasilica reminds those interested to look at what they are getting for the money instead of what it costs.
Students are exposed to different scholarship opportunities, business experience, mentorship opportunities, event planning, community involvement, fundraising experience and more.
Sororities and fraternities conduct their formal recruitment activities in the fall at the start of the school year. The Greek system is the second-largest student group on campus and the various sororities and fraternities regularly mix, exposing members to wider networks and forging more friendships.
“It’s so great for the networking,” says Vasilica. “I’m going to be a Gam for the rest of my life.”