“Research” Ugh. [And How It Relates to Recruitment]

by Colleen Coffey

Fraternity/sorority recruitment and research are not often mentioned in the same breath. To be honest, I’m not sure why that is. When completing my Master’s degree, my thesis was related to recruitment which is what originally connected me to Phired Up a long time ago. But then (and now) there weren’t many other solid research papers available on anything close to topics like these:

  • Why do students join fraternities/sororities, and why not?
  • What are the determining factors in a member joining a Greek organization?
  • How do we determine what members are the best “fit” for each individual organization?
  • How can councils and campuses best choose organizations for expansion/extension that are likely to be successful based on the campuses unique attributes and history?
  • Is there an optimum chapter size that exsists for fraternities and sororities that produces the highest quality experience?
  • Can we determine the best system for sorority recruitment based on campus size, number of chapters, etc.?

I’ve got a lot more too… As I work to launch Phired Up’s new Research and Assessment Board, these are the types of questions I’d like to work with other researchers in the field to answer.

Now, since I know not everyone who reads this blog is a researcher, let me provide some basic background on the way people like me think… This might also inspire you to think differently about research, recruitment, and the role of research in organizational growth.

research1“Research” Ugh, even the word sounds boring and scary. I first learned that I would have to do real research as a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University. I was already spending sleepless nights as an associate resident director and fraternity/sorority paraprofessional before I even set foot in the classroom. Dr. James Wallace, Associate Professor in the Counseling and Student Development Department, led my first class. He informed us that we would 1) Become “lifelong learners” and 2) Be required to do a thesis. I thought to myself “I am done learning after grad school and I’ll be darned if I complete that thesis, surely there is a way out of it.”

I soon learned that there was no negotiating the thesis and, through that process, lifelong learning became inevitable. I soon came to deeply value curiosity and found that research was the answer to my mandatory pursuit of lifelong learning. The moment we stop learning, stop being curious, or start thinking we know everything is the moment we stop living our best lives. Research is the primary way we learn and grow. Research is routed in everything we do-we just don’t always know it.

Can you remember the moment that you decided to join your fraternity or sorority? What was the process you used to select the organization that you now call home? I bet it would be fair to say you did a little research:

You first defined the problem or objective- Should you join a fraternity or sorority?
1. You observed- you watched what groups were doing on campus and observed their roster of membership
2. You sought to learn from others- maybe you asked questions to an affiliated friend, relative, or parent
3. You practiced-you probably thought about things to talk about with members, what to wear, when you met them, and what questions to ask of them.
4. You selected the group(s) you wanted to join that also wanted you and stated the process of getting to know what it would be like to be a member
5. You collected data- maybe members answered questions for you, maybe you learned more about what it was like to live in the house, maybe your significant other offered their opinion to you.
6. You made your selection based on what you learned and, I hope, are now living happily ever after in fraternal bliss.

That’s research! Here are the steps and they are so simple:

1. Define the problem- get curious about something you want to explore
2. Review the Literature- find out what other researchers are doing on the topic
3. Select Methods- What is the best way you will get answers to quench your curiosity?
4. Select Participants- Who will you study and why did you choose that group over any other?
5. Collect Data and Analyze It- How will you analyze results? Do you need to ask more questions?
6. Apply Results- What changes do you need to make based on your new data?

Here is another way to look at it: You are a Chapter President and can not seem to get seniors to come to things anymore (Define Problem). You find out from other Presidents on campus that this is a wide spread problem (Review Literature) you decide to conduct a focus group with seniors about what is really going on and want to ask them why they are not engaged and how to engage them more (Select Methods.) You invite all of them to attend the focus group (Select Participants.) You have the focus group and learn that a major common theme is that seniors just do not feel wanted or needed anymore (Collect Data and Analyze It). You then choose to create a senior engagement committee that is responsible for celebrating and utilizing seniors (Apply Results.)

As I wrote a thesis and subsequent dissertation I learned that research was the primary way I could make an impact on situations, organizations, and my own pursuit of life long learning. Life long learning is about having the courage to be curious. Curiosity is a cornerstone of Social Excellence.  Are you smart enough and courageous enough to ask important questions? I guarantee that doing so will solve problems and influence people.

I am honored to be a part of Phired Up’s research initiatives and look forward to exploring important questions with each of you. I believe that research is THE way that we will validate the fraternal movement. I encourage each of you to take on this challenge: Email colleen@phiredup.com your answer to this question: In terms of fraternities and sororities- what are you curious about? In return, I will help you find a path to study that question and together we will get Phired Up about it, I promise. :-)

Yours in curiosity,
Colleen Coffey