Every spring, Sigma Kappa Theta Psi Chapter at Penn State holds a weekend where parents can visit their daughters and meet other parents of Sigma Kappa sisters. This event is a great way to get to know other parents and meet the members of the sorority.
For this year's parents weekend we partnered with Phi Sigma Kappa who hosted a meet and greet at their house. On Sunday, Sigma Kappas and their families gathered at Wyndam Garden State College for brunch and to celebrate the seniors. Executive Vice President, Elise Warren gave a speech that touched everyone in the room about what it means to really be a "sorority girl" which can be found below.
What it really means to be in a sorority by Elise Warren
My name is Elise Warren and I am a junior in Sigma Kappa. Just a little bit about myself - I’m majoring in biobehavioral health – and if you don’t know what that means, it’s okay, quite frankly I don’t either. And I’m minoring in psychology. Through my years in Sigma Kappa. I have served as social chair, parents weekend chair, and now Executive Vice President. I’m here to talk with you about what it really means to be in a sorority.
When I signed up for recruitment in the Fall of 2016, I can honestly say that I had no idea what was about to happen. The only preconceptions I had of Greek Life were from the media; everything media portrayed sororities to be. So what exactly does the media portray us to be? Well, I typed the simple phrase “sorority girl” into google, and I’d like to share some of the responses I received.
Urban Dictionary, the #1 result – described us as “high-maintenance, cliquey, and for whom drama is a kind of oxygen”
Her Campus – the 16 types of sorority girls, ranging from preppy, to legacy, to party animal,
COSMO wrote about the 19 things that sorority girls love (because apparently all of us only love 19 things)
Chronicles of Higher Ed published an article titled, “My Short Unhappy Life as a Sorority Girl”
And of course, you can’t search the phrase “sorority girl” without pictures upon pictures upon videos of Elle Woods.
The list goes on and on.
It baffled me, to be honest. There was only one good article which was written from a sorority girl herself. So for all the parents and families out there, for the people who have never been exposed to Greek Life, I’m here to tell you what it’s really like to be a sorority girl – not just what the media portrays us to be.
To me, being a sorority girl means five things: Networking, Programming, Supporting, Growing, and Leading
Networking. I cannot express to you the networking opportunities that naturally arise when you join a sorority. Not only do I have strong connections with the 200 women in my chapter, but I have strong connections with Sigma Kappa's across the country. When a woman joins Sigma Kappa, she becomes a part of a network of 122 collegiate chapters, and nearly 172,000 women nation-wide. We reach out to alumni all over the world, sometimes small things, like clothes or a couch to crash on when we’re traveling, and sometimes those larger than life favors like internships and job interviews. No matter what the favor, Sigma Kappa’s are always willing to help.
Programming. One thing I didn’t expect to happen when I joined a sorority was to be required to go to programming events; more and more and more events than you ever imagined. It’s like every two days there’s a new notification about a programming event you must go to. Its bitter sweet; bitter because its stressful sometimes having to manage your time and go to so many events, but sweet because a lot of times, the programs are more entertaining than classes we attend. I’ve attended programming's ranging from how to keep yourself healthy to surviving sexual assault; from generation Z to how to upgrade your resume; how to take care of yourself, how to fuel your body, how to talk to employers, how to be a good leader, how to help when your friend is suicidal, CPR training, boxing, self-defense. The list goes on. So while all the stereotypes of sorority girls makes us seem like a group of women who disregards academics, I guarantee you it’s quite the opposite. In fact, our chapter had over 60 of our members on the Dean’s List this past semester, and every single one of those girls was attending extra programming events to further her education.
Supporting. I learned how to support one another no matter what the problem or who the person. Whether its feeling unsafe on campus because of a predator, a survivor of an ongoing battle with mental health, or a sister who’s struggling to reach entrance to major requirements and just needs an easy Gen Ed that she can get an A in; I learned not only how support one another, talk to people, and communicate my concern, but how to listen, and I learned that sometimes that’s all people really need. I won’t sit here and tell you that everything in a sorority is all rainbows and butterflies. We have our fair share of heated debates. Put 200 passionate and strong-minded women in one organization and I guarantee you there will be disagreements, but I
also guarantee you that once the decisions are made and the dust settles, every single one of us will be here to support each other.
Growing. Everyday, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone in one way or another to help me grow. Whether it's something like giving a speech to over 400 of our chapter member’s parents and families, running for leadership positions, telling the chapter to quiet down during meetings, or meeting with new people; professionals from National Headquarters, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, or Penn State Compliance Coordinators, things I’d never imagine myself doing. I grew a little more and more everyday. We are consistently pushing each other to do more, to do better, and be better, and we grow exponentially because of it.
Lastly, Leading. Yes, I was social chair, parents weekend chair, and now vice president, but if anything, I’ve learned what everyday leadership means. It’s seeing someone on campus who’s visibly upset and asking if they’re okay, whether you know them or not. It’s speaking up when you see something suspicious on campus; racism, hate, discrimination. It’s being the first in the classroom to say “I disagree”, “tell me more”, “I don’t understand”, or “I have a question.” It’s taking the right road, even though most of the time, the right road isn’t always the easy road. It's these little things, the everyday leadership, that combine to make us amazing leaders once its time for us to move into the world of adulthood. It's the reason 85% of all the executives from Fortune 500 companies were members of Greek Organizations, the first women astronaut and the first women senator were both members of a sorority, and the reason there are so many future leaders developing in our chapter right now.
The media doesn’t see those five aspects of being a sorority girl. They don’t see the hours of programming. They don’t see the mandatory study hours or the undying passion for philanthropy, community service, and leadership. They don’t see the alumni network, and all the professional advisers and staff from across the country that work behind the scenes to make this all happen. They don’t see the executive board and the chairman pouring over their events for hours upon hours just to make sorority the best it can be.
All they see are the stereotypes – but that’s not what I see.
When I sit in our chapter meetings and look around the room, I see future doctors who will
treat the deadliest of conditions. I see the person who will find the cure to cancer. I see women who will teach the deaf how to speak, and the blind how to read. I see future politicians. I see
artists who will have their work displayed in galleries all over the country. I see future educators who will teach the next generation of Americans to be compassionate and caring in all that they do. I see the women who will put criminals behind bars and keep them there. I see engineers who will design the innovation and technology to change the world. I see IT and Security & Risk Analysis majors who will stop the country from terrorist attacks. I see the next face of the Today Show and NBC nightly News. And to all you business, accounting, and entrepreneurs – I see you. I see confident, strong, empowered women who will one day strut into a conference room full of middle aged men in business suits and will command their attention and respect because it was earned, but more than that - she deserves it and she knows it.
I never knew that a group of women could impact me so much. And I truly think it boils down to our four values – friendship, loyalty, service, but lastly and most uniquely – personal growth. I can certainly tell you that I am not the same person now that I was three years ago when I sat on Sigma Kappa’s couch during the open house round of recruitment, and I think a lot of women in this room feel the same way.
For all the newly initiated members, I guarantee that if you dedicate yourself to Sigma Kappa like I have, you will see yourself blossom into a person you never thought you’d be. You will find the women, if you haven’t already, who will be by your side for life.
To the seniors – thank you. Thank you for all the work you put into this sorority to make it the amazing organization that we all are a part of today. Thank you for being amazing role models – and showing that hard work, passion, and collaboration goes along way.
So all in all – what is a sorority girl? I can tell you right now, and I can tell COSMO and Her Campus and Urban Dictionary, that I could never describe it within 16 stereotypes or 19 personalities. I look at our chapter and I see hundreds of different and beautiful personalities, identities, and aspirations- inside and out. I know you will all go into the world and take these values and experiences with you, and create a life of passion and love.
To all the families out there – welcome to the Sigma Kapp family. We are so happy to have you accompanying your daughter throughout this experience, and thank you for all you have done to get her to this point today.
I can truly say, because of all of my sisters, all of the families who support us and the professionals that help us, and all of the women who have stood in these shoes before us, that I have never been more proud to wear the label “sorority girl.”