by Matt Farrell
Kellen Long began this school year knowing basically nothing about fraternities at Florida State, as one of hundreds of potential new members entering formal recruitment. Fast forward a few months and Kellen knows as much as anyone–visiting each of FSU’s 16 chapters as a PNM, becoming a brother of Pi Kappa Alpha, and visiting all 16 fraternities again in the spring through the IFC’s new rush mentor program. I was along for the ride as Phired Up began a partnership to observe and develop IFC recruitment at Florida State.
Below is the transcript from a conversation I had with Kellen to recap the wild year. Kellen’s story represents the harsh reality and promising potential for men seeking to join fraternities nationwide. And his sophomore year hasn’t even started.
Matt: Let’s start with this fall. Why did you sign up to join?
Kellen: I’m from Tallahassee, so I was connected to several alumni in the area. One guy told me, direct quote, I had to use fraternity as a mechanism for success in life. Figured I’d give it a shot.
M: Compelling, but pretty vague. Sounds like most fraternity pitches. So you signed up, then what?
K: A couple guys I knew told me I had to go to something called “House Previews.” Before that, all of us PNMs sat in a big lecture hall. It was a really long time, not very personable or memorable. It was a really long presentation. Then they said, see you at House Previews.
M: You know we were part of that presentation, right? Me and my Phired Up teammate?
K: (laughs) I remember seeing you up there, a couple kids went up on stage which was cool. A bunch of words about fraternities. I don’t remember much, no offense.
M: Damn. That cuts deep (forced laugh). So then recruitment started?
K: We had these giant PNM GroupMes; I never met my “Bro Gams” who were running it. Hard to blame them–they mostly had to make sure this big group all left each chapter on time. At the end they said “see ya later.” It was a very lonely process. We were split up from the few people we knew. If you’re a nervous kid it makes sense to stop showing up after you meet a few chapters.
M: I’m glad you got a home out of it. Only 56% of the PNMs did, and that’s lower at plenty of schools. Why did you sign up to help in the spring if fall recruitment was that rough?
K: During my new member process the brothers encouraged me to sign up for IFC. One of the staff told me they were redoing the rush mentor process. I said “You mean Bro Gam?” I just thought they were getting rid of a silly name. But my big, Seth, told me we would do it together. We all showed up to training as these new rush mentors and we didn’t know what it meant. But I looked around, and there were a lot of brand new guys like me who wanted a change. It felt like we already knew each other.
M: So we had that two day training. What do you remember?
K: Before we did anything, we heard each others’ stories. And we were told that’s what the PNMs are gonna remember. We learned how we could use it as a sales tool to get everybody on board with fraternities. And we got to help each other. Then a week later it was the real thing, sitting under the trees at Legacy Walk in a little circle, getting real with my PNMs. I knew if they were shy I could make them my best friend. We knew it was our job to answer their questions even if they didn’t ask.
M: I love that. That was before they even started recruitment, right? How did your role change once Previews began?
K: Yeah. And basically keeping them bought in the whole way. The night before, I sent a big text to all of my guys, encouraging them. One of them knew I was a Pike and replied “Pike or nothing, man.” I told him you would thrive in other groups too. He texted me after recruitment saying he didn’t get a bid, he was crushed. “I’m done”. I told him that’s not how fraternity works. A week later, he sent me a Snapchat of his bid from another fraternity with the caption “GLEEEEFUL”. I see this kid all the time now, his name’s Carlos. He eats at the same cafeteria as me. He’s got his shoulders back, he’s with his boys now instead of by himself. It’s really, really cool to watch.
M: Awesome. Keep going.
K: I loved meeting the rush mentors from other fraternities. I see these guys all the time now and am close with a lot of them. A bonus I couldn’t have even expected.
M: You saw more fraternity pitches than most students will ever see. Any difference there from fall to spring?
K: Not really, some groups brought more brothers. The ones that kept their pitches concise and maxed out time to meet the guys were the ones PNMs kept talking about afterwards.
M: There’s a good argument that this rush mentor process can’t be pulled off in the fall, since there will likely be 600+ PNMs going through House Previews. W-
K: (jumps in) We can get 60. I’ll be recruiting my guys, the others will too. If we keep the tightly knit PNM groups I think we’ll be fine.
M: When you’re recruiting, how do you describe the job description of a rush mentor?
K: The big brother before you join and get your big brother. Make every PNM belong before they find a place to belong.
M: You’re making a lot of people happy right now. But don’t some guys think recruitment is supposed to be hard, so the best PNMs can stand out? How else can you explain the low percentages of men joining nationally through formal recruitment?
K: (pauses) That’s ridiculous. I don’t think that’s a commonly held mentality. All fraternities want to be selective, but that’s different. It’s actually a lot easier when you’re meeting PNMs who are comfortable and hold better conversations. (pauses again) Let’s see how this goes down in the fall.
M: Do you think rush mentors deserve credit if more men join the IFC this fall?
K: Oh yeah. And if the percentages go down, it’s our fault. We did this to change things up, so it would only go down if things stay the same and PNMs feel disconnected.
M: Last question. What would you say to other schools considering revamping their current orientation for something like this?
K: Look at FSU. All of of rush mentors came together after and said “Man, we wish we had this when we went through recruitment.” I’d say we transformed it.
Want to know more about the Phired Up IFC PNM Orientation model? Contact Matt Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.