September 19, 2011

Collegiate Perspective Blogger: Community Engagement at Small Schools

Phis in the Cornfield- Community Engagement at Small Town Schools

As Alpha Phis, we have a responsibility to engage in our campus and local community.  There is no doubt, being a large chapter at a small school in a rural town poses a lot of challenges, the biggest of which is a false sense of community and involvement that can develop simply because of our proximity to those around us.  So, how can we overcome these issues and promote community engagement from within our chapters?  I interviewed Megan Murphy, Panhellenic Director of Philanthropy and Service and Gamma Chapter Community Service Chair to talk about her successes in promoting Greek engagement with our town and county. 

Alpha Phi (Gamma-DePauw) and Beta Theta Pi (DePauw) spending a day of 
service on Putnam County’s “People Pathways” trail system. 

Kelsey: What community engagement issues do chapters at small schools face?
Megan: Chapters fall into going to one or two of the same organizations to do service.  We form wonderful partnerships but tend to forget about the other places in our community that need help just as much.  Another big issue facing ALL schools is that Greek culture becomes more about exchanging “philanthropy” checks without much active participation.  Philanthropies are incredibly important, and we are loyal to them, but we need to be loyal to our community too. 

K: What are some of the things you have done to solve these problems as Community Service Chair? 
M: The first project was the Beta Theta Pi – Alpha Phi Service Project.  I was tired of the Greek emphasis on raising money. I wanted our chapter to get our hands dirty, to get into the community, and to see a difference.  Partnering with another chapter is a great way to foster Greek unity, and it allowed us to get to know each other on a more meaningful level.  I also implemented service hour requirements.  It’s important to set expectations for women to be engaged, active Phis.  Service is one of our values, and we need to embody it.  Plus, a huge part of service is sisterly bonding! 

K: What have you done as Panhellenic Director of Philanthropy and Service?
M: The main event, Special Olympics of Indiana, brings the Greek community together in a way that doesn’t involve chapter competition.  We also do “Greek Street Trick or Treat,” where Greek houses open their doors to kids in the community and professors’ kids to do safe, fun Halloween activities. This also helps develop positive relationships with our faculty.  This year, I am organizing the first Panhellenic Service Day, which will mix women from all chapters up into groups and go out in the community to do hands on service. 

Hopefully this interview provides you with some ideas to encourage service and community participation in your chapters!  Aoe. 

Kelsey Moore is a collegiate member of the Gamma Chapter (DePauw).

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