We Need To Talk About Brackets

by Brittany White

Ladies and gentlemen, March Madness is upon us. As the reigning Phired Up Fantasy Football Champion, when the opportunity for another work-related sports competition league presented itself I wanted to jump on the chance to defend my title when our company put together an internal bracket challenge.

True life: I’ve never filled out a March Madness bracket before. I’m super competitive, and I always saw people get up in flames when their bracket was ruined so I didn’t even want to put myself through the pain. (That is the perfectionist in me – we can unpack that another time.) I just enjoyed watching all the games and watching the underdogs screw up everyone’s bracket. I’m here for the Cinderella story. However, this year I decided I should expand my expertise beyond football and filled out my very first bracket.

If I’m being totally honest, it was hard. I’m an intense over-thinker. I over-analyze every choice I have to make. I take everything into account almost to the point of exhaustion. I look at their records, wins, losses, average points per game, average opponent points per game, and how they did in their tournament play. I have to hash it out with my dad because I trust his opinion. You know there will be upsets,  so you have to calculate and prepare for them based upon current injuries, sleepers in the division, and grit. When I think about grit, I think about which team has the bigger chip on their shoulder or has more to prove. Then emotional bias comes in. There will always be teams or coaches that you have a bias against, who cares what seed they are, you secretly hope they lose the first game and get knocked out completely. I’m also the woman looking for the Cinderella story, so that just takes my emotional bias to a whole new level.

Finally after all of that consideration and endless research, I submitted my bracket. Honestly, I probably could have filled out 50 of them. But this is my first year, I didn’t need to go crazy, I just needed to commit. Loyola-Chicago is my sleeper team in the South division. Probably the craziest thing I did was choose New Mexico State and College of Charleston to both win and make it to the next round. Ultimately, my final four comes out to Virginia, North Carolina, Villanova, and Duke and Villanova coming out of the dance on top.

My NCAA bracket got me to thinking about sorority recruitment. Honestly, I can find just about any scenario in life to think about recruitment. We have a resource to help PNMs better understand themselves and what they are looking for in a chapter. It’s called iValU, and we ask PNMs to fill out a bracket with their values. I hadn’t filled it out in a while, so I decided to refresh my memory and try again. Basically a PNM starts off with an extensive list of values, and chooses 32 to face-off against each other. The first task itself is hard – some values are super important to me, some values less important to me, and others are important for people in my life to possess but maybe not directly related to me.

Once you have selected your 32 values, the software sorts them into a bracket! Sports and recruitment coming in hot! From there, you choose your values based on the pairing and continue to narrow them down the same way you would an NCAA bracket. Obviously, you don’t have to do research on the teams to understand their body of work, player injuries, or which team you hate more. This is about reflecting on yourself and what’s important to you.

For me, it might has well have been my NCAA bracket. It was actually harder than my NCAA bracket. Why? Probably because it’s totally personal and self-identification. It requires thought and analysis that only I can truly provide the answers to.

For example, in my first round, I had to choose between authenticity and kindness. Woof. That’s tough. I absolutely value kindness. I don’t want to be around mean people. I would also much rather be around people who are unapologetically authentically themselves. Although kindness  means people won’t be mean to you, I would rather be surrounded by people who are authentic who encourage and cultivate my authenticity too.

Winner: Authenticity

In the second round, I had had to choose between integrity and loyalty. Oh man. If you talk to any of my closest friends and asked them what I valued most in a friend, it would be loyalty. I need to know that you will always have my back – no matter what – because I will always have yours. If I doubt someone’s loyalty, I doubt if we are even friends. On the flip side, integrity is about doing what is right over what is easy. Integrity is about putting our values into practice rather than just using them as a buzzword. As I continued to go back and forth, the more intertwined these two values seemed to be. Similar to the conundrum between authenticity and kindness, the ultimate question that I asked myself was “If I’m choosing a group of women that I want to be around everyday, what is the most important quality that those women possess?” You can’t teach people to be your ride or dies.

Winner: Loyalty

If we are ever going to find the right people to join fraternity and sorority, then we should provide support for PNMs to better understand themselves and what they are looking for in a fraternity or sorority. We need encourage intentional self-reflection and self-understanding before these PNMs just join a fraternity or sorority based around superficial or frivolous criteria. This Values Bracket and iValU provides some tangible criteria around what PNMs are looking for, and encourages them to ensure that the chapter they join meets that criteria.

While we have no control over our NCAA March Madness now that the games have begun, we do have control over preparing PNMs for recruitment and chapter selection. The selection process is never easy, but the glory is worth it.

If you are interested in learning more about iValU, check out or email me at or Jason Allen, Curriculum & Learning Director at