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Rolling with the changes

Carthage fraternities and sororities evolve to meet contemporary needs


Hollywood has gotten plenty of laughs at the expense of fraternities and sororities.

There were the full-time partiers in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” the overaged frat buddies in “Old School,” and the shallow villainesses in “Sydney White.”

No wonder students like Dante Graham ’20 often come to Carthage with a dark view of Greek life.

“Coming into college, I had no intent to join a fraternity,” says the neuroscience major from Rio, Wisconsin. “I thought frats were full of guys that didn’t care much for classes and didn’t have respect for people. At least that is how I had seen them portrayed in movies.”

There might’ve been times and places where the reality warranted that reputation. But not now, Dante soon discovered, and definitely not here.

Drawn to the organization’s colorful, tight-knit membership, he joined Delta Omega Nu as a freshman. Three years later, Dante serves as its treasurer.

“Overall, through my experience with the DONs, I have learned that Greek life at Carthage is much more positive and beneficial than the common stigmas about fraternities would lead you to believe,” he says.

• • •

If Bluto and Flounder wouldn’t cut it here, neither would their antagonist. Thankfully, Elizabeth Snider is no Dean Wormer.

Carthage’s new assistant dean of students and director of student involvement worked closely with Greek organizations during seven years at her alma mater, Lake Forest College in suburban Chicago, and she proudly maintains affiliate membership in international women’s fraternity Alpha Phi.

Since joining the Carthage staff in June, Ms. Snider has laid out a list of priorities to keep fraternities and sororities safe, healthy, and thriving. Points of emphasis include liability insurance (required by the Board of Trustees), hazing prevention training, parity in recruitment, financial transparency, and leadership succession planning.

“The commitment to robust Greek life at Carthage has been very clear to me, so we’re just making sure the experience we offer addresses the modern day challenges and opportunities for fraternities and sororities,” Ms. Snider says. “Chapter leaders’ willingness to examine current practices while maintaining meaningful traditions has been a great starting point.” 

These policy updates come in response to changing student expectations. With the benefit of the long view, Ms. Snider has observed the evolution of Greek life’s role in the college experience.

More residential options

Greek trends and active chapters at CarthageAs the recruitment process introduced her to the various sororities at Carthage, Autumn Williams ’22 looked for one that could replicate the family feel of her high school theatre program.

“I managed to find that with the DOEs,” says the graphic design and marketing major from Union, Missouri.

Looking ahead to her junior year, she’s eager to return to the first-floor wing in Pat Tarble Residence Hall where Delta Theta Epsilon (nicknamed the “DOEs”) has a block of rooms reserved for members.

“I love living on the sorority floor,” Autumn says. “I’m surrounded by my sisters.”

Others feel a tug toward newer campus housing facilities like The Tower Residence Hall and the Oaks Residential Village, which offer suite-style layouts with semi-private bathrooms.

“Years ago, it was common for a chapter to fully occupy its designated floor, but, as an institution, we’ve adjusted to students’ changing preferences,” says Ms. Snider. “It’s important to support the chapters that maintain those residential spaces and also provide a welcoming atmosphere for unaffiliated students who live on those floors.”

Sometimes other commitments dictate where a Greek member lives. Dante works as a resident assistant at Madrigrano Family Residence Hall, where he’s had residents from two other fraternities. 

“One of my jobs as an RA is to help connect my residents to build a community, but fraternity floors pretty much do that for me,” he says. “Members from the fraternity on each floor already know each other and are personable people, so they have no issue talking to other residents and making them feel welcome.”

Since they aren’t next-door neighbors, he’s got to work a little harder to stay connected to his own brothers. The DONs hang out informally after weekly chapter meetings or meet for lunch at The Caf.


Accommodating diverse interests

In years past, Greek affiliation typically dominated students’ attention outside of class. Finding the shelves bulging with extracurricular options, today’s students are building more diverse identities at Carthage.

The menu of registered student organizations on campus now tops 130. This fall, the athletics lineup will expand to 27 NCAA Division III sports.

When he’s not making the rounds at Madrigrano, Dante might be supervising student researchers in the Neuroscience Laboratory. Or else sprinting around the track, looking to squeeze some extra speed out of the legs that contributed to a third-place finish in the 400-meter relay at the outdoor conference meet last May.

“Years ago, fraternity or sorority membership really served as the cornerstone of a student’s social and co-curricular experience,” says Ms. Snider. “Today’s students view Greek membership as a great supplement to the college experience. In fact, it provides a strong support network for their other activities.”

As vice president of Phi Kappa Sigma, Jackson Larson ’21 estimates his executive board duties take between 10 and 15 hours each week. He’s been fighting the tendency to overload his schedule since high school.

Of course, as students divvy up their waking hours, classes and homework still take precedence. Each Greek organization sets a strict minimum GPA for students to maintain active membership, and regular study sessions are common.

“We understand everyone’s a student first,” says Jackson, a marketing major from Monticello, Minnesota.

Even with supportive brothers in the same boat, he has a simple tip: Be disciplined. “You can’t be worried about ‘What will people think of me if I miss one meeting?’”

Collaboration over competition

Fourteen organizations are still categorized as “social fraternities and sororities,” and, certainly, the social aspect of Greek life is still a major draw.

Introverted when she first arrived, Autumn credits Delta Theta Epsilon for the push to “break out of my shell” and even plan chapter outings during a term as sisterhood chair. She’s also station manager for campus radio outlet WAVE, president of first-generation student group 1G, and membership director for the Carthage Activities Board.

The sorority’s emphasis on conservation aligned with Autumn’s own values, sealing the deal. The DOEs have held a series of Eco-Week activities the past couple of springs.

Carthage’s online calendar is filled with service projects organized by the fraternal chapters. And they’re increasingly joining forces to maximize the impact.

Heels for HopeHeels for HopeA prime example of that collaboration came in December at the third annual Heels for Hope Charity Drag Show. Women’s (Kappa Phi Eta), men’s (Phi Kappa Sigma), and co-ed (Tau Sigma Chi) organizations joined to put on the fundraiser for Courage MKE, a nonprofit that provides housing and services for displaced LGBTQ youths.

“We all initially wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” says Adalee Chapa ’21, social chair for Kappa Phi Eta. “That is why many people join Greek life to begin with.”

The social work major from Aurora, Illinois, also serves on the Panhellenic Council. Overseeing sorority activities at Carthage, that governing body is composed of two representatives from each chapter.

In the men’s counterpart, the Intrafraternity Council, Jackson holds one of Phi Kappa Sigma’s two seats. As chair of the Greek Week Committee, he’s aiming to incorporate a service project into each day of the weeklong celebration.

Whether he’s wearing his Skulls hat or his IFC hat, Jackson doesn’t think twice about teaming up with Tekes, Turtles, or whoever has a good idea. On such a small campus, he figures it’s impossible to avoid those interactions.

When he attended the fraternity’s national leadership institute, members from other campuses told a different story.

“It’s not the baseline everywhere,” Jackson learned. “At most universities, Greek life doesn’t get along.”

• • •

With active chapters ranging from 6 to 67 years old, Greek life at Carthage collectively boasts thousands of graduates. In 2018, President John Swallow convened a small Greek Alumni Advisory Council to benefit from their perspective.

“The group has helped us to ensure good communication with chapter leadership and advisors,” he says, “as well as to consider ways to involve Greek alumni in the success of their chapters.”

Both for professional networking and personal growth, the chance to connect with like-minded people across the miles — and the years — remains another strong selling point for Carthage’s fraternities and sororities.

“Whether you graduate in 1962 or 2025,” Jackson says, “you’re all part of the same brotherhood.”

Learn more about Greek life at Carthage.

  • Quick Facts

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2020), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • In recent years, the number of students majoring in the natural sciences at Carthage has seen a sharp increase particularly in:

      • Biology (up 77 percent)
      • Computer Science (up 88 percent)
      • Neuroscience (up 67 percent)
      • Physics (up 58%)
    • Distinguished full-time faculty teach in nine fields of study in the Division of Natural Sciences: biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental science, entrepreneurial studies, geography and earth science, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics and astronomy.

    • Carthage has the nation’s oldest undergraduate technical entrepreneurship program. Founded in 1994, the ScienceWorks program has propelled hundreds of Carthage graduates beyond traditional postgraduate options and into entrepreneurial and innovative areas.

    • The Division of Natural Sciences at Carthage currently has more than 720 science majors — a number that has doubled in the last five years. The division serves every student on campus.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 3 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …