UCA’s Greek life is already reaping benefits from the opening of the Greek Village, primarily through increased in recruitment numbers.
Dean of Students Gary Roberts said sorority recruitment has seen a 19 percent increase between fall 2015 and fall 2014 and a 30 percent increase between fall 2015 and fall 2013.
“We saw a huge bump in sorority recruitment,” Roberts said. “[Greek Village has] obviously had an impact.”
Roberts said the growing numbers are significant because enrollment in Greek life has a direct effect on the university’s overall graduation rates.
“Greek students graduate at a much higher rate than the university at large,” Roberts said, referring to a 70 percent graduation rate for Greek students over a six-year period, compared to the university’s average, which is about 44 percent.
“This is huge,” Roberts said. “If we can grow the Greek population, we think the graduation rate will gradually go up for the university.”
Roberts said Greek Village acts as a learning environment that promotes success.
“Greek life and Greek housing is just another piece of the university puzzle of student success,” Roberts said. “To me, this is another living learning environment, just like our residential colleges, just like our Honors College housing, these are all living learning environments to promote success.”
Roberts said the construction of Greek Village has also resulted in more alumni connections and contributions.
“The alumni are really getting connected, and we like that,” Roberts said. “The more alumni get connected to the organizations themselves and the university, [the more]it benefits the students.”
Assistant Director of Student Life Lindsey Shurley said they’ve been in the village for less than a month, so the effects are small in scale, but present.
The university anticipated the increase in recruitment numbers and alumni donations, she said, based on researching and visiting other campuses with Greek housing projects.
UCA faculty started planning for the Greek Village in 2004 with five trips to other campuses to tour and research Greek housing options.
“They gave us a lot of information about the pros and cons and what to look forward to,” Roberts said. “We went in with our eyes open.”
Roberts said the other campuses they visited usually did a good job at catering to the Panhellenic groups, but gave little attention to the small groups – traditionally African American NPHC groups. Roberts said the university was determined to make a commitment to provide facilities for NPHC sororities, which inspired the creation of NPHC sorority chapter rooms within Greek Village.
Roberts said UCA is probably one of the few universities in the country that has a complex designated for its traditionally African American groups.
“[The NPHC groups are] too small to build large houses, because that is a very costly venture,” Roberts said. “But we decided to make the commitment, even though it’s financially not totally feasible, but that they were going to be a part of this village.”
The first phase of Greek Village erected houses for Alpha Sigma Alpha, Delta Zeta, Sigma Kappa, Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Sigma Sigma sororities. Each two-story, 10,400-square-foot residence houses 32 women in 14 double rooms and four single rooms.
One hundred and sixty women moved into the five sorority houses Aug. 16, marking the completion of Phase I of Greek Village.
Close proximity for those 160 women has fostered an environment that allows members to connect and work through tension and issues, Shurley said.
“We’ve seen that happen already,” she said. “We’ve seen them talking to each other, maybe just a little bit more than they used to. Seeing them be able to resolve conflict together, seeing them be able to problem solve and do activities together and socials together and study together – that’s just what we’re looking for and what we’re seeing.”
Associate Dean of Student Life Wendy Holbrook said UCA’s Greek Village is attracting visitors from other universities.
“People are coming to see what we’re doing,” she said. “The impact is real, and I think it’s a wonderful spotlight on a national Greek level that people are asking about us and want to come see what we’re doing.”
Holbrook said the university will focus on keeping graduation rates and GPAs raised and that incorporating more organizations is up for discussion.
“You can only be so big,” Holbrook said. “We don’t want chapter sizes of 400 and 500; that’s not who we are as an institution. To make it still work for who UCA is, we just want to continue to grow. “
This year marks UCA Greek Life’s centennial year, and the university will start its UCA Greek 100 campaign in October.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 16, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
image via thecabin.net