by Jessica Gendron Williams, with Hilary Zimmerman
Phired Up Productions recently partnered with Alpha Gamma Delta International Sorority to do an extension project at Arizona State University. We (Phired Up) went on the ground to “do” recruitment and worked with two very talented consultants to recruit a new colony for Alpha Gamma Delta in January of this year.
On January 21st, we plopped down on campus with Rula and Hilary from AGD and started an extension project using Phired Up’s Dynamic Recruitment system by building a network of relationships with people all over campus. We worked with fraternity men, faculty, staff, administrators, and complete strangers (yes random people we walked up to on campus and made our friends) at Arizona State University in an attempt to find the highest quality non-Greek women on campus. By the end of a two-week period, myself (Jessica Gendron Williams), Rula and Hilary had cultivated a list of over 650 non-Greek women at ASU.
We built relationships through small group and one-on-one meetings with as many women as possible in the short time we had. By the second week in February, AGD was ready to launch into the more formalized portion of their recruitment. Alpha Gamma Delta brought in Headquarters staff and alumnae and collegiate volunteers for the effort. Phired Up joined the efforts to train the alumnae for the Open Houses and Information Interviews that were to take place during that week. Phired Up helped AGD develop a Values-Based Selection Criteria to use in conjunction with their current membership selection process to ensure that they were not only taking women for the colony, but were taking the highest quality non-Greek women on campus.
AGD interviewed close to 200 women for the colony for roughly 100 spots and extended bids to 87. Through continued recruitment efforts throughout the semester, the group now proudly includes close to 100 of the highest quality women at Arizona State University who are charged with redefining the sorority experience at ASU. As we look at the final group, not only did we end with the number of women we wanted, but with the caliber of women we were looking for. These women are the top leaders on their campus, the academically high performers. They are actively involved in organizations and activities on campus and in service and philanthropy. They are different. But what makes this group different?
I asked Rula and Hillary to put into words how this extension was different, what made it successful by more than a number on a page. Here is their response:
“It’s something that I’ve been trying to put my finger on since they started just a couple of months ago. From the beginning we knew that they weren’t like everyone else. As soon as we started meeting these women, we knew that they were going to be something good for the Greek community here.
Last night I was at the colony meeting. It was the first time they led the meeting entirely on their own. It was my chance to sit back and empower the officers and advisors to lead their experience. It was also my chance to observe the rest of the group. On the surface they look like any other group that I have worked with over the past year. They were all sitting in rows, talking animatedly about their day to each other before meeting. They all came with their new member magazines, a pen, and paper. They were all wearing badge attire. A fairly standard sight for a group meeting. They all silenced their phones and put them in the bags as the Colony President and New Member advisor pulled up the agenda onto projector screen. Meeting began the same way it beings with all chapters – Ritual is performed to remind us of the tie that binds to each other and our common purpose. Then we moved into the business of the day. I sat there watching as the group broke up into committees to discuss their current projects. I listened as they gave committee updates and heard the advisors asking great questions to get our women thinking even further. I watched as our women articulated goals for themselves for the rest of the semester and into next year. A pretty standard meeting by most accounts.
What makes them different however, is what happens outside of the chapter meetings. They are an empowered group of women who aren’t afraid to be congruent to their values. They are who they say they are. Imagine what the world with look like if every chapter lived up to our “ideal standard.” Sometimes in the planning of things, I feel like we get caught in setting the stage for what the ideal looks like, but when we get to the execution, it ends up looking like a lesser version of our ideal. It’s almost like we, as leaders in our organizations, are afraid to be idealistic. We set boring, low expectation goals with the hopes that at least our group will meet those.
Our colony at ASU is an example to me of what happens when you set high expectations and you challenge them to meet those expectations. I still can’t quite put my finger on everything that these women represent. They are a group of motivated, values-based women. They aren’t afraid to stand out in a crowd. They are excited to collaborate with other groups. They question the process. They aren’t mystified by the veil of secrecy that surrounds the Greek world at times. They ask questions and when things don’t make sense to them, they find a way to do it that does make sense to them. They have a view of Greek Life that looks more normal from the outside and I hope that they never loose that sense of normalcy. They are excited to be involved. The committee chairs are asking to plan events and collaborate with other Greek and non-Greek groups on campus. There are women asking if they can be on more than one committee because they would really like to contribute. They stand up for what they believe in. They allow their actions to be guided by their values. But really nothing I could ever write would do them justice. They are so much more than words on paper – they are every thing we hope for in fraternity and sorority.
Our colony is the woman who was so moved by ResponseAbility and the message of bystander behavior that it compelled her to contact the creator of the program, Mike Dilbeck, and the Orientation Office at ASU to start a conversation to see if it could be shown at all new students at orientation.
It’s the woman who was so moved by her negative experiences with alcohol and fraternities that she was empowered to lead a group discussion on dry social events.
It’s the group of women who want to bring a social justice leadership retreat to the Greek community because they don’t want their experiences to solely benefit Alpha Gamma Delta.
It’s another group of women who ask to have weekly “idea” lunches with their Leadership Consultants to discuss different projects and creative ideas.
It’s a group of women who are so empowered to recruit new members in a normal way that they continue to bring new women to and into the organization.
It’s the colony president who wants to get to know her advisors and Leadership Consultants as people because she values relationships.
It’s a lot of things. I think what’s extraordinary about this group is, at the end of the day, it’s about people and purpose. They have a clear, communicated, understanding of their values and what those look like in action. They have unity through those shared values and a vision and goals for what they want to do as a result of those values. They are who they say they are.
I’m excited to get to start more of these groups in this way – through relationships, curiosity in others, and authenticity. By setting extremely high standards and not compromising those standards to put a number on the board. If the rest of the Greek community looked like this group, I can only imagine the way the world would look. We got this result by recruiting with our values. We didn’t worry about singing songs or rambling on and on and on and on about Alpha Gamma Delta. In fact, when I first met most of these women, I don’t even think I talked about Alpha Gam until they were getting ready to leave – and it was only to invite them to an open house so that we could get to know them more. We recruited them by asking questions because we can have great things going for us but it doesn’t matter if we don’t have people who align with those things.
Phired Up helped us realize our potential. They gave us a strategy, a system that allowed us to be highly selective, to be driven by quality and quantity, and as a result we recruited the women who are the ideal. Our Arizona State University Alpha Gamma Delta Colony is a glimpse into what Greek Life can be when it’s done right, when we put people and relationships first and set high expectations with equivalent accountability.”
We at Phired Up are so proud of the work that Alpha Gamma Delta did. They put the blood, sweat, and tears into this group to make them successful. What really amazes about this whole project is not the numerical success they had. We are truly amazed by the caliber of women they were able to recruit by letting the quantity of relationships they made, drive the quality of women the selected.
Imagine if THIS was the way we recruited all the time. Imagine if we were able to be this successful without balloons, songs, and t-shirts – without silence periods, recruitment rules, or release figures – by just investing in people, building meaningful relationships, and asking the highest quality women on campus to join us in the mission to be relevant once again.