Summer is here! Congratulations on making it through another school year. I hope that you have had a successful year and are now enjoying your summer vacation. Reflecting on this past year, I thought about how much the sorority experience matters, including my lifelong membership journey that began more than 30 years ago. That experience has changed my life in so many ways, and my sorority and NPC service have brought me in contact with women I treasure and filled my life with joy. I also contemplate how my experiences made me into the businesswoman, mother and grandmother I am today.
Many of you have similar stories of how your sorority experience has significantly impacted your life. Whether your experience was 30 or 40 years ago or as recently as last year, the effect has been powerful and one that I want to explore alongside some recent research findings.
NPC and member organization leaders and volunteers recently attended a Zoom presentation by Dr. J. Patrick Biddix regarding his latest Panhellenic sorority research on belonging and well-being. I noted a few key takeaways from the research that I believe support how impactful the sorority experience is for young women today.
- Sorority women generally feel a stronger sense of belonging and satisfaction at school v. non-sorority women.
- A vast majority, 75-80% of sorority women, agree that their organizations support and respect individuals and unique differences among their members and welcome and appreciate culturally different views of their members.
- A vast majority, 75-80% of sorority women, agree they feel comfortable having open discussions about race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, religion and mental health and well-being.
- Our members show strong positive emotion, engagement, robust relationships, life meaning and accomplishment due to their sorority membership.
We all know that increased well-being leads to positive emotions and satisfaction with life, and that can increase member retention and overall student success. Positive general comments reflect that women value their experience and feel support and respect from their sisters. They also value their leadership skills and ability to grow and develop into influential leaders.
While the sorority experience is highly valued, there is room for improvement. Specifically, some women indicate struggles with diversity, equity and inclusion. This is an area that continues to evolve where we as NPC and our member organizations must continue education and awareness to promote a culture shift in our members, including collegiate members, alumnae and advisors. For our experience to remain valuable and relevant for years to come, all of us must work together to create a more welcoming and inclusive Panhellenic community.
Overall this research provides important insights as we strive to extend our message about the power of sorority and the positive impacts of membership. So, as you relax on these long summer days, reflect on your experience as a sorority woman and what you value the most. Is it the lifelong leadership skills you acquired or the invaluable friendships you still have from those good old college days? Whatever it may be, hold on to those thoughts and share them with others to promote an unforgettable and valuable experience so that others may flourish as a result of the sorority experience.
Cheri M. De Jong
2021-23 NPC chairman