SHOW OWT: Let Your Character Define Your Letters, Not Your Letters Define Your Character

When I first looked into Greek life, I didn’t know anything about Zeta. Anyone in my family who had joined a sorority pledged their allegiance to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Being split between my family legacy and my Delta mentors, I thought I only had two choices. Yes, TWO. I’ve always been a little hard headed and one to go against the grain, therefore, AKA was not the ONLY way…for me.

During my years at the University of North Texas, and a short stint at University of Houston-Downtown, the NPHC Greeks were very prevalent. However, Zetas and Sigmas stood out among the rest. Did they have swarms of members dominating the yard? Nah. Did they have the most popular events on campus? Not quite. They were great though. Did they wear blue and white everywhere they went? Nope, not necessarily. Well, what made them stand out? I’m glad you asked. (Even if you didn’t…go with it.)

One word: Character.

Character Definition 1: The strength or originality in a person’s good nature; the distinctive nature of something or someone

My freshman year, I had some crazy stuff happen with me and one of my roommates. Craaayyyy-zy. Fortunately, Sigmas were there to help me. Did I know they were Sigmas? Nope. Sophomore year, I transferred to another school. It was hard for me to make friends. Who was a loner? Me. BUUUT not for long. Sigmas helped me find my way around campus the first few weeks. Zetas constantly checked in on me to make sure I was ok. They offered great advice and companionship. Did I know they were Greek affiliated? Nope. I returned to UNT the year after and started working at one of the school cafeterias. What could have been a traditionally “embarrassing” occupation turned into a job I loved due to a few key people. I started to form great relationships with some of my repeat customers and coworkers. Guess what organizations they just HAPPENED to belong to? AAHHH you should know by now. But if you don’t: They were Zetas and Sigmas. (P.S. I was the best lunch lady you had ever seen! Seriously.)

The point is, before I saw any letters, Zetas and Sigmas showed me kindness, benevolence and hospitality on several occasions. It wasn’t until AFTER I established these relationships that I realized they were in a sorority or fraternity. Every interaction was like the last. It was their character that encouraged me to do further research, go to campus events and eventually express interest in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

As a member of your organization, it is NOT the letters that make you who you are. If that’s the case for you, that’s sad. Let’s do some soul searching. You don’t have to lead with your line jacket. People remember Greeks because of WHO they were and what they had to offer (whether it was good or bad.) Don’t just be a super Greek. Be a Greek with substance. Remember, letters make you popular; character makes you a legend.

Character Definition 2: A part played by an actor

What makes your favorite actor/actress memorable? At some point, when you were watching their work, the “character” became “real” to you. People relate to the real. That 100% trill ish. It’s that connection that creates the glue for engagement. Because of that one character, you are instantly drawn into the whole story. The same goes for Greek life. Yes, you are your own person. But you are also a part of a movement that is bigger than you. When your character coincides with the mission and purpose of your organization, it propels your chapter to another level. Your members become “real”. Memorable. People invest in things that are relatable. Make sure your “character” plays a positive role in your chapter. When you have a strong cast of characters, the whole team wins.

Character Definition 3: A printed or written letter or symbol

One thing Zeta taught me, even before I pledged, was to let my character speak for my letters, not the reverse. The character of the chapter is just as multifaceted as the word itself. When you invest in members who demonstrate great character, it sets your chapter apart. You become an anomaly and the archetype. This will bring in qualified prospects. This will bring inquiring collegiate, community and business sponsors. This will create a buzz among the student body.

Establishing a positive collective chapter character DEFINES your letters. What characteristics will your chapter be defined by? Do you want to be popular, or do you want to be legendary?

Leadership Tips: Rehearsal Time – Character Building Retreats

There are going to be certain people that will test your members’ character. Before probates and/or the beginning of the school year, schedule a small “Character Building Retreat”. Make sure everyone knows how to react to the “character testers” when they’re faced with various situations. Role play and play out common scenarios that occur in Greek life. Ask your members what should be the proper response.

Discuss the reactions with your members and establish positive, productive ways to handle each situation accordingly. This way, your chapter knows your expectations ahead of time. No excuses if things pop off badly after that. Well, nothing bad should pop off anyway, but you know…

Situations That Will Make You “Wish Someone Would”:

  • Discretion Violations
    • Prospects expressing interest at parties, events that aren’t interest meetings, during class, via social media (public page), message relayed through someone else, etc.
  • Greek Beef
    • Instigating Greeks at parties, on the yard, social media beef, internal discrepancies among members

Prospect Tips:  Be the Lead Character

Let’s be real. Everyone and their mama is going to try out for the organization you’re seeking to become a part of. What makes you special? GPA. Ehhh maybe. Community Service? If they’re real hours, possibly. An awesome letter of recommendation? Could be a shoe in.

But ultimately, your character will get you noticed. You should be able to see yourself in your respective organization of interest and vice versa. Let your character shine through in your everyday lifestyle. When we see who you really are apart from our presence, we take notice. Be your best authentic self at all times.  Members pick up on individuals who flex their positive traits in various places. We see them as potential assets to our team. Don’t be afraid to show us what you got!


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