I Never Wanted to Join a Sorority. Never.

by Tina VanSteenbergen

Tina I never wanted to be in a sorority. Never.

That wasn’t a big problem for me, especially because there was no opportunity to be a part of a sorority while I was an undergrad. It wasn’t anything I really put any thought into.

Not until I made the decision to go to graduate school, at least. I had chosen to attend Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, where I didn’t know a soul. I was complaining to one of my mentors about finding a living situation when he suggested to me, “Tina, why don’t you look into being a House Mom for a sorority on campus?”

“…You mean like House Bunny? HA!”

Literally, I LOLed. Like I said, I NEVER wanted to be in a sorority, let alone live in a sorority house. To be surrounded by 30 sorority girls all the time? No thank you.

But I still needed a place to live, so being a snob about sorority life didn’t feel so much like an option, especially not as my grad school state date approached. So I made some phone calls, applied for some jobs, and was eventually selected to be the Resident Supervisor (aka, House Mom) for the Alpha Gamma Delta chapter at Illinois State.

I’ve never been more grateful for anything in my life.

The year I spent serving those women changed my life. I expected to hate it. HATE it. I expected it would affirm all of my preconceived judgments about sorority girls. I expected to leave still knowing that I NEVER wanted to be in a sorority.


That year taught me what sorority was really about, about the difference between “sorority girls” and real sorority women. It inspired me to do more research, do more learning, which is what lead me to work at Alpha Gamma Delta International Headquarters after graduation.

Nine months into my employment, I came to work to find a fax on my desk; it was the recommendation for Alumnae Initiation, completed by the women of the chapter at Illinois State about me and why I should be a member of Alpha Gamma Delta; why I already was a member without having yet been initiated.

Even now as I type this, I don’t have the words to describe what that felt like. But if you’ve ever been invited to join a group of women you admire and love, if you’ve ever been extended a bid to the organization of your dreams, you know exactly how I felt.

Three months later, I was standing outside a ballroom, dressed in all white, painfully aware of the fact that I was about to make a lifelong commitment in front of hundreds of people. Was I really about to do this? What if this was a mistake? What if I’m standing there at International Convention in front of 700+ Alpha Gams, and I don’t like what I hear? What if I disagree with the words of the Ritual? Is there an opt-out option at the end of the Ritual? (there’s not.)

Turns out I didn’t need one anyway. My initiation is still one of the most powerful moments in my entire life. It solidified the bond I’d built with Alpha Gams, sorority women and fraternity men, confirmed my passion for sorority and reaffirmed my life’s purpose.

“Great story Tina, but what does this have to do with recruitment?”

Valid question. Answer? EVERYTHING.

I wasn’t just a maybe-joiner; I was a never-joiner. Remember: I was NEVER going to join a sorority.

Until each and every sorority woman I met defied the stereotype I’d built in my head. Until they taught me what it means to be a sorority woman. Until they invited me to get to know them before they asked me to join. Until they showed me their purpose. Until they asked me to.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my initiation, and while I am grateful for uncountable moments and experiences I’ve had as an Alpha Gam over the last year, I am grateful for one thing above all else: being recruited.

We have the power to change lives, to connect people to their purpose. The gift of membership has changed my life, and we have the power and the privilege to give that gift to men and women this year. Recruitment can be hard work; it can be stressful, time-consuming and exhausting. But from the perspective of a new member, man is it worth it.

Find those stellar maybe- or never-joiners. Defy that stereotype. Teach them what it’s about. Get to know them. Ask them to join you.

Change their lives.