President Dr. Lisa Freeman has launched a task force aimed at revitalizing Greek Life at NIU.
The group, which includes student representatives from all four Greek councils on campus, alumni of the Greek community, NIU administrators and a DeKalb community representative, will spend much of this year examining the current state of Greek Life and working with consultants who specialize in building healthy Greek communities on campuses nationwide.
Alumnus Jeff Liesendahl is co-chairing the group along with alumna Melody Mitchell, assistant dean for Strategic Communications in the NIU College of Law. Their first meeting took place on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.
Liesendahl, who graduated with a degree in accounting in 1987, recalls Greek Life being one of the highlights of his time at NIU. He served as president of the Phi Sigma Kappa house on campus. With 125 members, it was the largest chapter of the fraternity in the country at that time. NIU currently is home to 42 Greek chapters with about 700 members, which represents a 53% reduction in student participation in Greek Life over the last seven years.
Reversing that trend can be an important part of the university’s efforts to reach its goals for enrollment and graduation rates, Freeman said.
“A healthy, vibrant Greek community can be a vital part of university life,” she said. “Strong fraternities and sororities are not only an important part of students’ social lives. They also provide academic support, leadership opportunities and community service opportunities, and create bonds with fellow students and our university. Those things are all part of the experience NIU wants to offer our students.”
Liesendahl, who currently sits on the National Board of Directors of Phi Sigma Kappa, has seen similar revitalization efforts at other schools meet with great success. Many of those endeavors have benefitted from the assistance of consultants specializing in growing and supporting Greek communities across the nation. The NIU Foundation, where Liesendahl has served for the past 12 years, is working with generous donors to help fund initial investment in these services.
Phired Up, which specializes in helping Greeks recruit new members, will assist NIU fraternities and sororities this fall. Another group, Dyad Strategies, will conduct surveys of the Greek community, benchmark NIU policies regarding Greek Life against best practices at other schools and make recommendations about how to start a safe growth initiative.
Serving as a solid foundation of the efforts to come are five community values recently established by students from all four Greek councils:
- Service: unselfish concern and advocacy for others through the donation of time or money;
- Scholarship: Prioritizing, planning and taking responsibility for high academic achievement as members and chapters;
- Siblinghood: The process of providing equitable resources, opportunities and creating an inclusive environment for coexisting harmony and appreciation of each other while holding each other accountable;
- Leadership: Resilience and passion for member work for their chapter, council student organization, or other activities on or off campus; and
- Cultural Awareness: Understanding and accepting each other’s cultural differences and identities.
Mitchell said that she anticipates that the task force will be prepared by May to offer recommendations for a multi-pronged strategy aimed at strengthening and growing existing chapters, reviving dormant chapters and attracting new ones to NIU.
Members of the Revitalizing Greek Life Task Force are:
- Students: Alex Bueno, (Interfraternity Council) Julia Martucci (Panhellenic Association); JJ Mitra (United Greek Council); Arya Vega (National Pan-Hellenic Council)
- Alumni: Michael Johns (National Pan-Hellenic Council); Jill Kruger (Panhellenic Council); Jeff Liesendahl (Interfraternity Council, co-chair); Melody Mitchell (co-chair); Jeff Valentine (Interfraternity Council); Deyci Ramirez, CHANCE counselor (United Greek Council)
- Administrators: Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Charlie Fey; Associate Athletic Director Anton Goff; Anne Hardy, director of NIU’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Office (and a Greek chapter advisor); Anthony Preston, assistant dean in the College of Business (former Greek chapter advisor)
- Community Member – Chad Glover, Opportunity DeKalb