UNC Pembroke’s new director of Greek Life held up a report and smiled. It showed the combined grade point average (GPA) for fraternity and sorority members is higher than for all students.
It was good news for Whitney Lynn Swesey, who joined the university in late 2011. She comes to a university with 19 fraternities and sororities from Kent State University, where she advised 22 chapters as interim assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement.
“For students, membership in a fraternity or sorority has many benefits, and they last a lifetime,” Swesey said. “The benefits come with responsibilities -- academic, social and civic. If you’re Greek, you are held to a higher standard.”
Swesey reports to Cynthia Oxendine, senior director of the James B. Chavis University Center and Programs. “We are so excited to have her as part of the Student Affairs team, and I anticipate that she will have an immediate impact on our Greek community, including positive relationship building, chapter growth and expansion,” Oxendine said. “I am very impressed with Whitney’s extensive background and experience with Greek life. She will definitely build upon our program and take it to the next level.”
Swesey’s college experience was enriched by her association with sororities and fraternities at Kent State. A Delta Zeta, she served as the chapter’s informal recruitment coordinator. For the Panhellenic Council, she served as vice president of recruitment, and for the Inter-Greek Programming Board, she was the vice president of programming.
“I was a sorority recruitment counselor for the Panhellenic Council, and for the Inter-Greek board, I was responsible for all programs from Greek Week to fundraising and community service,” Swesey said. “It was a lot of work, but it was great to see our Greek community be successful.”
The new director seeks to revitalize UNCP’s Greek Council for success. Kent State has more than 1,200 Greeks, and they are highly visible on campus.
“I want UNCP’s Greeks to be known for their positive contributions,” she said. “This group contributes a great deal to the campus and community, and they should be visible.”
One of Swesey’s first initiatives is to take down the aging Greek nameplates from university residence halls. They will be replaced with new signs and installed in the University Center Lobby.
“The new signs will be uniform and attractive and very visible,” she said. “Next, we will begin programming.”
A Fraternal Leadership Series in the spring semester will feature campus professionals, including Rebecca Obergefell, assistant director for UNCP’s Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, who will discuss “values-based recruitment.”
“Values-based recruitment is fraternity and sorority recruitment based on the values – integrity, engagement and leadership – embedded in the missions of the chapters,” Swesey said.
As a major programming initiative this spring, the Greek Council will sponsor Greek Week with a community service day, Greek games, a “god and goddess” pageant and participation in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“The Greek Council will take the lead during this week,” Swesey said. “It’s very exciting to see an all-Greek board taking charge.”
Involved leadership and greater visibility on campus will translate into improved recruitment and retention, Swesey hopes. The preliminary indications from fall recruitment are good, she said.
“Because there are more resident students at UNCP today than 10 years ago, there is great potential for growth,” Swesey said. “There is a lot of work to do, and there are many more recruitment events to come. Public relations and marketing are a big part of my budget and my job.”
As Swesey notes, the hard work comes with benefits. “The Greek experience is about learning outside the classroom,” she said. “Greeks learn conflict resolution, planning and programming and financial management. They also receive a general social education.
“Greeks learn to build institutional success through participation and leadership,” she continued. “These are the skills they take into the workplace and the skills that stand out to potential employers.”
A Latrobe, Pa., native, Swesey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kent State and a Master of Arts in higher education from the University of Akron, where she was a graduate assistant for Greek life and leadership programs.
Swesey completed several internships in Greek life. She is a member of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors and the American College of Personnel Association.
Swesey has made more than a dozen presentations to professional groups and had two papers published in the magazine of the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values and the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors.
The new Greek Life director is pleased to be at UNCP. “I’ve really enjoyed it here, and I love the weather,” she said. “I wanted a change of environment and a new set of students in a new community.”
For more information about Greek Life, please call 910.775.4048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.