Nontraditional ‘Greek’ organizations connect students with common interests

Not all Mizzou Greek life involves living on Frat Row, attending social and philanthropy events and wearing emblazoned letters. Fifty professional, faith-or interest-based Greek organizations exist on campus but are often forgotten in the shadow of their Greek Town counterparts.

What most people consider “real” or traditional fraternities and sororities are members of a national governance organization. Mizzou has 53. However, 50 nontraditional organizations use Greek letters and are referred to as fraternities and sororities as well.

Nontraditional organizations serve a similar purpose to their Greek Life counterparts: make a college campus of 36,000-plus feel smaller, provide a network and create a support system. However, nontraditional organizations offer the same Greek Life experience without the same monetary or time commitment. Mizzou students can connect in a relaxed environment free from stereotypes while developing their interests and careers.

Mizzou’s largest pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) is on the less traditional end of the spectrum. PAD is co-ed and open to all majors.

“It’s for any students that are even entertaining the thought of law school or have some general interest in learning more about the law,” said Peyton Rosencrants, Phi Alpha Delta president.

PAD has no rush process and accepts any student who wants to participate: the only requirements are to register and attend an initiation ceremony. PAD members can participate in professional development activities such as speaker lectures at 5 p.m. every other Tuesday in the School of Law. PAD meetings are open to the public, so any interested student can attend, even if they are not a member. Law school faculty members give prelaw advice and LSAT preparatory advice. In the past, federal judges have visited to share their career stories. Members can discuss basics of the judicial system and professionalism. Although the national model prohibits traditional Greek organization activities, such as Big and Little siblings, rush, or becoming Panhellenic, PAD members can be a part of traditional Greek fraternities and sororities as well.

Networking is a top priority in PAD. Recently, PAD has been working to increase the social aspect of their organization.

“I think especially with our organization being centered around pre-law, it gives a lot of different people the opportunities to talk about similar experiences,” Rosencrants said. “This organization has allowed me to connect with other people and find out about different classes I can take [and] different speakers that are coming to campus.”

Phi Alpha Delta currently has 100 members. At the beginning of spring 2016, PAD inducted 12 new members.

Unlike PAD, all of the following organizations participate in traditional Greek activities such as Big and Little Siblings, special ceremonies, recruitment processes and social events.

From the rush process to full sisterhood, Sigma Alpha Iota (SAI) mirrors traditional Greek organizations. Although they accept women of all majors, SAI’s members are united by their sincere interest in music, and development of music education across the world.

“We hold a number of recruitment events in both the spring and fall semesters,” said Elizabeth Sawey, SAI Editor. “These events are casual and allow the potential members to get to know the active members.” At formal recruiting events, potential members meet all the current SAIs. If the women receive a bid, they go to orientation to learn about SAI. New members must take a national exam, pass and then they are initiated.

Sigma Alpha Iota participates in service activities with Mizzou’s music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha. However, SAI members’ common interest in music sets them apart from a traditional sorority. Most events are music related, from singing at nursing homes twice a month to leading a children’s choir at an after school program to holding an “instrument petting zoo” for young children to try different instruments and learn about music. SAI also supports members’ musical ability by holding a “musicale” once a month. Members perform for their sisters and attend each other’s recitals and concerts.

Although Sigma Alpha Iota can connect members with Mizzou’s music community, members of SAI are also allowed to participate in a Panhellenic Sorority.

“I am one of those women, and for me, SAI was an opportunity to connect with the music community on campus, which is not something I was connected to through my Panhellenic sorority,” Sawey said. “It was not an either or situation — both sororities have given me tremendous opportunities and memories that I will cherish forever.”

Another interest-based organization is Sigma Alpha, a professional women in agriculture sorority.

“Professionally, doors have been opened to so many networking opportunities,” said Sigma Alpha Recruitment Chair Tori Lock. “Socially, I have been able to connect with ladies with similar ideas as myself and make some of the best friends I could have ever imagined.”

Sigma Alpha participates in professional development and networking events, and hosts the annual Agriculture Symposium. The symposium features a speaker with ties to agriculture and provides leaders in agricultural businesses, students and faculty an opportunity to network with members. Sigma Alpha also builds an MU Homecoming float with Alpha Gamma Sigma, holds a sisterhood retreat and a formal. Several members said Sigma Alpha’s recruitment process is more relaxed and fun compared to a Panhellenic sorority.

“[Recruitment for] Sigma Alpha is on such a smaller scale that I felt a stronger connection with the girls that I had the opportunity to talk with during recruitment week,” said Lydia Whetstine, Sigma Alpha fundraising chair. “I would compare it to having a class with 20 people as compared to 500. For a small town girl it can make things a lot more comfortable.”

Although Mizzou’s chapter is professionally based, Sigma Alpha chapters across the country are not prohibited by their national organization from becoming Panhellenic; Mizzou’s chapter has no plans to become Panhellenic.

The faith-based fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), or Brothers Under Christ, is in the process of joining the Interfraternity Council at Mizzou, which is a unique opportunity for an organization with their values.

“We believe that our contribution to IFC and the Greek community [will] be a positive one,” Ketchum said. “[We] believe that BYX can thrive on a campus that has recently been broken. We … are welcoming and loving to all people and believe that the Greek community would really enjoy our presence as an established fraternity.”

BYX is composed of Christian men who seek brotherhood and unity in Christ. BYX works to balance social and spiritual growth of their members, while socializing with the rest of the Greek community and honoring God. Like a traditional fraternity, BYX is involved in Homecoming and Greek Week and participates in philanthropy events.

Ketchum said their fraternity’s high standards come from the members’ religious expectations. “We not only encourage but require our brothers to practice and strengthen their faith, and with BYX you have a group of guys that are there to help you along,” Ketchum said.

Information for nontraditional organizations can be found on Mizzou’s OrgSync website.

Elizabeth Wyss

About the Author Elizabeth Wyss

Hello, Corner Post Readers! My name is Elizabeth Wyss, and I am a freshman at the University of Missouri. I am from Russellville, Missouri. I entered my freshman year at Mizzou as a biochemistry major, with a grand plan of attending pharmacy school one day. However, I discovered that biochemistry was not for me, and my passion for defending and furthering the agriculture industry was stronger than my interest in science. So here I am, an undecided agriculture major, trying to decide between agricultural economics and science and agricultural journalism. Writing for Corner Post this semester is an exciting opportunity for me to explore what my future will be in the world’s most important industry!