The National Panhellenic Conference, which calls itself “the voice for sorority advancement,” features a membership of more than 670 Panhellenic Councils in the United States and Canada. Only the very best receive College Panhellenic Achievement Awards; even fewer receive College Panhellenic Excellence Awards.
William & Mary is among the select few – 20, in fact – to earn an Excellence Award.
The 2017 award is the university’s fourth for excellence. W&M has also received an Achievement Award from the NPC in 2013.
“We are lucky to be a frequent winner,” said Anne Strickland, W&M’s coordinator of fraternity & sorority life. “We have a really great group of students, who care so much. I think that’s what stands out compared to other schools. Our students care about the educational programming, and they care about their community.
“We’ve been asked at various conferences to come speak about the awards process because we have been able to excel at it. We’re asked to help other campuses do a better job of applying for the awards.”
There are seven “criteria of value to all college campuses” that are scored in determining Excellence and Achievement awards. Excellence winners have met all seven; Achievement winners have met a minimum of five.
Among the seven are recruitment, Panhellenic programming, academics and Panhellenic community impact and relations.
In all, William & Mary Panhellenic sororities sport an impressive body of work. Here are a few examples.
W&M Fraternity & Sorority Life has a strong partnership with the Arc of Greater Williamsburg, which has served adults with developmental disabilities since 1976.
“We do an event with them every month in partnership with the other councils and then put on some large scale events for them on campus as well,” Strickland said. “We have a great partnership with them, including a big Arc carnival where we take over large part of campus for that.”
Strickland said the campus Panhellenic council offers scholarship programming, where representatives of W&M’s Cohen Career Center come in and talk to members about how to market their fraternal experience on their resume.
“People don’t think about the fact that, as president of a chapter, you just managed an organization of 130 women,” Strickland said. “A lot of (leadership) positions offer a lot of hands-on programming and management opportunities. Lots of times, these are non-profits with budgets, things people don’t often think about.”
The council also has representation on a sexual misconduct prevention steering committee with representatives from the other three councils and staff members helping to implement suggestions and recommendations made to the community to address these issues.
“Our students really care about advancing the work of the university around the subject, and advancing that work in their own chapters,” Strickland said. “That’s something you don’t see on every campus. It’s really a unique and wonderful community to work with.”
In the spring of 2017, William & Mary counted 3,560 undergraduate women on campus. The number in Panhellenic sororities: 1,131, or 31.7 percent.
“We really have seen fraternity and sorority life grow at the College,” Strickland said. “The experience has gotten a lot of attention across the country. Students are coming who have heard about fraternities and sororities, but also want to find a support group in the community right when they get to campus.
“A lot of our organizations offer that for people, especially as incoming freshmen. It really appeals to this generation, and we’re ecstatic that it does and we’re seeing this much growth at W&M and across the country.”
As other universities have done since the early 2000s, W&M employs a very structured procedure in helping students find the right Panhellenic sorority for them.
During the first two weekends of the school year, incoming students meet with every Panhellenic chapter on campus in what is called a “mutual selection process.”
Ultimately, the process concludes with “Bid Day,” where women are matched with a Panhellenic chapter.
“It’s designed to help them see the other Panhellenic chapters and to come to a mutual understanding of where they fit in best. It’s helped us to place a lot more women and we’ve been very pleased, especially over the last 15 years,” Strickland said.
The all-sorority grade-point average for spring 2017 was 3.486. The GPA for all female students was 3.479, putting W&M’s sorority women above the all-female average.
Not surprisingly, the NPC was impressed.“We’re very, very proud about how they excel academically,” Strickland said. “That is something the NPC has always noted about us, how much we excel in the classroom.”