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Ottawa Expects Greek Life in 2018

By Keiran President
On November 17, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

Coming from a small island in the Caribbean, all I knew about Greek life was what I saw on television. “Stomp the Yard,” wild house parties and hazing are all not officially what Greek life represents.

After sitting down with Jill Stoumbaugh, the Area Residence Hall Coordinator, Greek Life Coordinator and “Insurance Lady” at Ottawa University, I learned a lot more about Greek Life and its anticipated beginning at Ottawa University.

“I think it’s all about the campus culture and the guidelines that are placed by the university, to make sure that the Greek life Community is congruent with the student body and the university’s mission. If those two are congruent then Greek life is just thriving,” Stoumbaugh says.

Stoumbaugh was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) sorority for three of her four years at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

During her first year in AOII, Stoumbaugh was the Philanthropy chair, where her chapter was able to raise more than $6,000 for the Arthritis Foundation -- the top 5 percent of all international chapters for AOII.

She also reformatted the Sisters for Soldiers campaign to promote community donations and involvement. This was then adopted by chapters across the nation. The Sisters for Soldiers event involved Stoumbaugh and her sisters assembling care packages for active military overseas.

During her final two years, Stoumbaugh was the Executive Recruitment Chair, where she helped direct all recruitment operations for Panhellenic at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. During that year, Stoumbaugh aided in the change of recruitment operations from a “frills” approach to a values-based structure to ensure that they selected the best candidates for the Greek community.

Stoumbaugh coached her chapter how to effectively recruit women to AOII. Since then, AOII has become the most academically and philanthropically sound sorority at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

This impressive resume made Stoumbaugh the best candidate for Greek life Coordinator at Ottawa University.

The Greek system was unofficially present on campus back in the 1970s and 1980s, where it was based on what the students at the time believed a social group should look like rather than what it actually should be: “a leadership and networking opportunity,” according to Stoumbaugh.

Since then, Greek life has not been present on campus until three years ago where a group of students looked to be a recognized sorority and fraternity but did not have any sort of structure or guidelines.

Seniors John “Jay” Pacha and Brooklynne Towles approached Stoumbaugh asking for help in terms of structure and recognition.

“A group of us started a social club with hopes of becoming nationally and academically recognized as a sorority and fraternity, but did not have the guidance or much knowledge of the official process, until we got Jill. Since she was hired, she has helped us and guided us along the path to attract and gain interest from sororities and fraternaties,” Pacha says.

They got the ball rolling through having structured interest groups by putting on philanthropy events and setting checks and balances with University administration. This allowed a good foundation to present to Ottawa University’s administration.

The administration liked the idea of Greek life on campus, however they would want it to be done the right way: an inter-national affiliation. Since then, the groups have grown as interest groups, with almost 50 in each group, both male and female, as they wait for the process to fully pan out.

Over the past three years, Stoumbaugh has sent out proposals to the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), which is the umbrella organization for all National and International sororities.

Each member of the NPC will receive a bulletin which will notify them that Ottawa University is looking to expand and have an NPC affiliated group on campus. Should a group be interested, they will contact Stoumbaugh directly, however she cannot reach out to them directly as part of the official contact process.

This is different with the Inter-Fraternity Council. Stoumbaugh can reach out to fraternities directly by either picking up the phone and calling or sending an email.

Ottawa gained interest from Phi Delta Theta (Phi Delt) in January of 2017. A visit was held with a representative from Phi Delta Theta to determine if campus would be a good fit. The representative then reported to headquarters that Ottawa was an incredible fit for the organization.

Ottawa then received a letter of intent for expansion in April of 2017 stating that Phi Delta Theta would be joining the university for the 2018-2019 school year. The Director of Expansion visited campus on Oct. 9 to get a better picture of campus life in order to see how the consultants (a full-time representative who gains student interest and coaches interested men about the organization) can have the chapter ideally established by Fall of 2018.

Having a Greek chapter installed is a financial investment for any organization as it costs between $50,000 - $100,000 to start a chapter on campus. The organizations invest in their members through leadership experiences and real-life networking opportunities to, in turn, create more successful graduates who then are successful donors to the organization.

“It’s really exciting that Phi Delt sees the potential here, and that they are willing to make that investment in our students,” Stoumbaugh says. “The guys who would like to be part of this fraternity will have a unique opportunity of being founding fathers of a chapter, which is very rare!”

There will be a full-time consultant on campus this fall preparing men who are interested in becoming official chapter members of Phi Delta Theta in the Fall of 2018.

Interested individuals are getting ready for the spring by getting checks and balances in place, achieving goals and other things set by Phi Delt headquarters.

This wasn’t an easy process for Stoumbaugh, as she faced many obstacles before finally catching the interest of Phi Delta Theta.

After pitching the idea of Greek life to Administration, they were extremely hesitant because of the past unstructured self-proclaimed sororities and fraternities who had no real conception as to what Greek life really is and the benefits to be gained from joining a nationally affiliated group.

Stoumbaugh went back to the drawing board to structure the program. The interest groups raised $8,500 for the American Cancer Society and Willow Domestic Violence Center; this was a better representation of what Greek life stood for.

The idea was then pitched to the administration again, on the basis that the students knew what Greek life was about. This then led the administration members to change their perception on the matter.

The next step was to meet with the Board of Trustees, who were not fully on board, which led Stoumbaugh to initiate a Students Affairs Council who met to discuss potential drawbacks compared to the strengths.

The council researched how to change the negative perception, and then helped prepare Stoumbaugh to pitch again, where it was then fully accepted. In January, Ottawa University made the announcement that it was seeking sorority and fraternity chapters.

Stoumbaugh says, “It’s still difficult for students to understand that it was actually happening, due to the fact that they have been trying to for many years to get Greek life on campus. They are questioning, ‘Is it really happening?’ Students don’t want to be let down again. But I believe that once they see representation on campus, they will be really excited.”

Pacha says, “I am really ecstatic about Greek life finally coming to campus and know it will flourish under the supervision of Jill.”

Being a member of Greek community opens another avenue for students to have a form of networking opportunities.

“The biggest reason we find Greek life to be enticing for our campus and out students is because of that networking opportunity. Real life leadership examples of, running a meeting, creative marketing, there are so many different front leadership opportunities within each organization. Just a sort of different set of leadership experience our students gain before they graduate,” Stoumbaugh says.

Phi Delta Theta will make its official appearance at Ottawa University in Spring 2018. Should you be interested in becoming a member and partaking in such a rare opportunity of becoming a founding father, contact John Pacha, Graham Dixon or Jill Stoumbaugh for additional information.

Stoumbaugh encourages everyone to get involved in whatever the campus has to offer, whether that be Greek life or another group/organization on campus.

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