Recruiting Through the Storm

Recruiting Through the Storm

by Matt Farrell

IMG_5748Ansley Martin is the Panhellenic President at UNC Wilmington and sister of Alpha Gamma Delta. She helped the community navigate through TWO hurricanes during the past two recruitments. I had a chance to catch up and hear about Ansley’s experiences and the future of Panhellenic recruitment from an undergraduate perspective. 

Check it out in Ansley’s words (transcribed from our call)!

How I Joined Panhellenic

Before my first recruitment even began, I knew I wanted to be a part of Panhellenic. Honestly, I would have happily accepted a bid from any sorority. Maybe that makes me different from the normal PNM but hey, it’s the truth. Even during my own recruitment experience, I would counsel other potential new members. No joke. I’d be like, “Hey, it’s ok that chapter didn’t go so well, this next one is gonna be all you!”. My recruitment counselors later told me that they could tell from the start that I would have Panhellenic Exec or recruitment counselor experience in the future.

The main reason I joined my sorority was that personal connection, like Phired Up says “people join people,” and Kendyl was that person for me. Honestly, there were great personal connections and role models in all of the chapters, so I was just excited to start being a Panhellenic woman.

The UNCW community

We have our fair share of challenges in our UNCW community, but more than anything, we’re resilient. That’s what I’m most proud of in this community. Right after Bid Day in 2018, Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington, causing so much damage to the city and campus that we were out of school for an entire month. When we heard that Hurricane Dorian was headed our way mid-recruitment 2019, there was a lot of uncertainty about just how long we would be evacuated. Being a beach town, we sadly are pretty used to these hurricanes. Unfortunately, since we hold recruitment on Labor Day weekend, we really have to be flexible and resilient since it is prime Hurricane season. The uncertainty definitely makes things tougher, so that resiliency is everything for us.

Taking on the Panhellenic President Challenge

When I stepped into the Presidency, I knew I was pretty much starting from scratch. Before I was president, I served on Panhellenic Exec in 2018 as Vice President Programs. Nothing was really wrong with how we ran things, but we were definitely in need of some serious upgrades. We didn’t program much, everyone stuck to their own job, and overall just didn’t have a presence outside of hosting recruitment. Outside of that, it was really every chapter for themselves. My exec team and I spent a lot of time this year not only restructuring our leadership roles, but also what it means to work as a team, to serve our entire community, and elevate the experience of all of our Panhellenic sisters.

Phired Up’s visit in August was the first time in 4 years that anyone came to our community to talk specifically about recruitment. What our women really needed is to deeply discuss why recruitment matters, and why Panhellenic matters.

Our Day with Phired Up 

Our Phired Up day was split into three different parts: a whole-community keynote, a Recruitment Counselor training, and individual programs with three of our chapters.

There was different content prepared for the three different chapters, which I loved. In all three chapters, women cried. No matter what chapter they belonged to, Phired Up so quickly created an environment where sisters felt so comfortable sharing their feelings. It was just incredible and something I’ll remember forever. Never have I understood so clearly how bad women were hurting from the stereotypes in our community, and also my ability to do something about it. I felt empowered and brought that back to our recruitment counselors for more training on protecting the integrity of all of our Panhellenic sisters. Phired Up really helped us bond as an entire Panhellenic team- I still have women talking about how great that day was!

A More Authentic Recruitment

A quick story that I think sums up the difference this year- Our VP of Recruitment, Megan, was set to address all of the potential new members in the auditorium to kick everything off. She had this whole speech she had been working on, but she gets up there, and she couldn’t find her papers. When she realized it, she just acknowledged her nerves and kept going off-script in front of all of these people. It was so authentic. She came up to me after and was so embarrassed, but I told her that it was such an authentic way to make the first impression of sorority for the PNMs. I think it helped the PNMs to see the Vice President of Recruitment make a mistake, because it showed the women that the “perfect” image we portray isn’t really the case, and that she showed herself as a human instead of a highly-rehearsed Panhellenic officer. It definitely set the tone for the rest of recruitment!

Why Recruitment Is Our Top Priority

Recruitment is a top priority because if we can’t get recruitment right, we aren’t able to get anything right. We can’t have a loving and empowering sisterhood if we don’t recruit members who value that. We can’t have risk management and safety conversations if we don’t recruit members who are ready for those standards. Panhellenic also switched to CampusDirector this year, which was great because we were able to see everything we needed in such an organized and easy to use format. We loved adding iValU on as well- we used it on everyone’s name tags as conversation-starters. We actually had all of Panhel Exec and the Recruitment Counselors put their Championship value on their nametag, just like the PNMs. That simple addition really made a difference in the kinds of conversations we had with our PNMs. I tried really hard to push values-based conversations for chapter recruitment directors as well- it didn’t really happen this year, but we’ll get there eventually.

What’s Next For Sorority Recruitment

Honestly, I’ve been spending so much time thinking about this. We’ve gotten SO many questions from potential members about the worth of Panhellenic membership. A big one is:“Why should I join Panhel when I could join a lot of these clubs?”

Many Panhellenic women are shook by that question and stumble to come to terms with the real worth of Panhellenic membership. Honestly, we need a cheese grater for Recruitment. If Recruitment is the cheese block, we need to grate it down to what we are really trying to do here. What are we doing in recruitment, really? How do we talk to potential new members not just to talk, but to connect as potential sisters? How do we decide, as a community and as a chapter, what it means to be a Panhellenic woman?

A lot of people like to brand Panhellenic as what they would like it to be, without really doing anything to actually get there. Too often, people sugar-coat membership when deep down, they know that’s not the real deal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to advocate for Sorority, but I am very aware a lot needs to change. In order for Panhellenic recruitment to remain relevant, we have to find a way to both accurately represent what we do, while also internally acknowledging the problems we face and make intentional steps to get better. I think potential members would honestly appreciate the more authentic representation, and frankly, they deserve that.

What’s Next For Us and Phired Up 

It was a great start, but there’s so much more we can do. For our next steps, we need to turn back to the chapter women and make sure they’re getting this individual support. Sometimes, I felt we did such a great job with PNMs outside the doors, but it didn’t always match the experience they got inside. We could talk to the PNMs about valuable conversations, Panhellenic unity, and authenticity until their ears fall off, but if that’s not what is happening behind the doors, Panhellenic and the RCs lose credibility. In order to truly elevate the PNM experience, we must operate as a whole team of Panhellenic sisters. The whole recruitment experience and beyond is about learning to love people, and I am very excited about the future of UNCW Panhellenic and Phired Up.