Committee sets goal to expand Greek Life at Ohio Wesleyan
A new team of students and administrators is charting a path to dramatically increase Greek life participation at OWU.
Vice President of Student Success and Engagement Dwayne Todd is chairing the Fraternity and Sorority Life Strategic Planning Committee, and he says their goal is to reach 40 percent affiliation in the next four years.
“There was a day here when 70, 80, or even 90 percent of OWU students were Greek,” Todd says. “Right now, we’re at 28 percent. Our decline in interest is really similar to what other campuses have seen nationwide.”
Todd says participation in Greek life leads to higher retention rates and increased campus involvement among students and alumni, and he understands personally how powerful a fraternity or sorority experience can be for a student.
“When I think back on college, it’s my fraternity brothers (Pi Kappa Phi) that I remember the most,” he says. “I want every student to have that rich experience if they’re seeking it.”
Students serving on the committee also treasure their Greek experience.
“I went to an all-girls high school, so I wanted to have that feeling of sisterhood again,” says Hope Poolos ’20 (Delta Gamma). “I wanted to be with a group of women who I knew would support me through everything.”
For Peyton Larkin ’22 (Phi Gamma Delta), joining a fraternity means more than just connecting with his peers. “I’m a fourth generation FIJI,” he says. “My grandfather was a FIJI here. Being a FIJI has absolutely brought me closer to my family.”
In the spring of 2019, an outside group conducted a review of Greek life at OWU, producing a detailed report on what is working well and what can be improved. The strategic planning committee was formed to evaluate the suggestions and develop plans to increase Greek participation.
The group will disband at the end of this academic year, with the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council then implementing the plans.
Larkin says a big challenge in the Greek system is overcoming a lack of unity. “I want to bridge the gap between different chapters and try to create an environment where we can all come together and enjoy being fraternity men as opposed to just members of each individual chapter.”
The committee also is tackling the stigma of Greek life. “Greek life is different here, because we do put school first,” says Poolos. The average GPA of students in Greek life is higher than the overall average GPA at OWU.
Larkin says, “Part of the reason I joined a fraternity, and part of the reason a lot of people join a fraternity, is to hold themselves to a higher standard.” His FIJI chapter has earned national awards for its academic excellence.
The committee also hopes to expand the inclusion of National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters, historically black organizations. Currently, two OWU students are members of these groups, and in November they visited a local chapter to learn how to promote and run a chapter at OWU.
Before joining the strategic planning committee, Poolos says she had doubted the administration’s support for Greek life. “Now I realize how much they care about Greek life.”
Todd says, “We are 100 percent behind having a very solid fraternity and sorority life program at Ohio Wesleyan. We want it to grow, and we’re putting resources, time, and attention into making that happen.”