SMU Interfraternity Council Expansion

Written by Adam Joiner, Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life

In the summer of 2022, I remember having a conversation with Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs & Chief of Staff, Dr. Adam Cebulski and Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life, Ashley Fitzpatrick, about the idea of having an interfraternity council (IFC) organization expand to campus. When I came into my role as the Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life in the fall of 2021, we had recently lost Sigma Phi Epsilon. Since their departure, I had a lot of conversations with IFC student leaders on when another organization might join the SMU fraternity and sorority life community. Fast forward to the spring of 2022, we saw a rise in students interested in the Interfraternity Council. We had a total of 522 potential new members (PNMs) register for the IFC formal recruitment process, the largest in SMU’s history, and over 100 students who did not receive a bid at the end of the process. There was a clear need for additional options for students participating.

The first step was to revisit our internal expansion policy and make any necessary updates. Important information that we require organizations to submit are plans to create a sound alumni advisory board, disclosure of current and historical connections to the university/college, membership statistics, and organizational support. Once the policy was put together, we wanted to create a committee that would review all applications that would apply to be a part of the community. The chapters truly wanted the expansion experience to be a well vetted process and that all voices had a seat at the table. To be able to have this experience, the IFC leadership created an expansion committee which was comprised of all nine active chapters. Their task was to create a blueprint for campus visits, compile expansion proposals, and to evaluate each proposal on the criteria given in the expansion policy. The charge to the community was to find an organization that would be a mutually beneficial to add to the community

Over the early fall 2022 semester, proposals were received from inter/national organizations to expand to SMU after a call went out to broader fraternity community. We hoped to receive a few applications, but we did not expect the amount we did receive. There was a total of fifteen organizations to formally apply to SMU. Typically, in an expansion process, only three to four organizations apply to be on campus. The community was buzzing with the amount of interest there was in SMU. The expansion committee then reviewed each proposal and narrowed down the list from fifteen to four. The list of four comprised of Delta Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha Order, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Theta Chi. The expansion committee believed that these four organizations presented the strongest cases for success at SMU. Delta Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha Order, and Tau Kappa Epsilon would be re-chartered chapters, because they were previously established on campus. The next phase of the expansion process was to have on campus visits of each organization. The on-campus visit would include a meeting with fraternity and sorority life office staff and SMU administrators, presentation of the organization, meeting with the expansion committee, and meals with IFC leaders.

We hosted each organization in late November of 2022. The on-campus presentations gave each organization an opportunity to show the community why they would be a value add to campus. At the conclusion of all four organizations presenting, each expansion committee member met to have an in-depth discussion on each organization. Following discussion, each member agreed to which organization they would like to see come to campus, and a consensus is compiled into a final report. The recommendation of which organization to bring onto campus then goes to the Vice-President of Student Affairs, Dr. K.C. Mmeje for final approval. We hope that this new organization will be able to set up shop in the spring 2023 semester with plans to participate in the formal recruitment process by spring 2024. I feel after the robust expansion process, that we truly found an organization that will be mutually beneficial to add to the SMU fraternity and sorority life community.

#CSAM22 – Student Activities with Dr. Norris

Dr. Dawn F. Norris, Executive Director for Student Involvement, reflects on her career in student affairs.

Dr. Dawn F. Norris is the Executive Director for Student Involvement with responsibility for student organizations and involvement, fraternity and sorority life, and the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. She advises the SMU Student Senate and is an Adjunct Clinical Lecturer in the Simmons School of Education. Dawn received her undergraduate degree in business administration cum laude from Centenary College of Louisiana, her master’s degree in college student personnel from the University of Dayton, and her doctorate in higher education policy and leadership from SMU. Previous positions include work with residence life, multicultural student affairs, community engagement and leadership, development and external affairs event planning, conference planning, human resources functions, and budgeting within business and finance. Dr. Norris received the “M” Award – the highest honor bestowed on a Mustang, and the President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership.

What made you pursue the work you currently do, and was that always the plan?

Absolutely not – no one dresses up as a student affairs professional for Halloween – I didn’t even know that was a job! My undergrad degree was in business, and I started my career in higher education finance. My alma mater asked me to come back as a part-time hall director three years out, and as a newly married, semi-broke young professional, I jumped at the chance to live on campus for free. That work led me to determine while I was right about higher ed, I was wrong about finance. I quit my two jobs, went back to school full-time to get my master’s degree, and a career was born. I later spent a year in development, further reinforcing that working with college students is my calling.

That work led me to determine while I was right about higher ed, I was wrong about finance. I quit my two jobs, went back to school full-time to get my master’s degree, and a career was born.

In what ways does your role look similar or different to its historical roots? In other words, how has your role on college campuses evolved over time?

Student organizations and activities have always been part of the college student experience. Over time, support for and advisement of these activities has professionalized and grown more complex. Campus leaders expect more oversight than they once did, and while advisors were once exclusively faculty, those roles are now predominately managed by professional staff, often in student activities.

What are the most important competencies someone needs to develop to be successful in your role?

Student activities and organization folks need to seek out opportunities during their graduate preparation to learn about the operations side of our work: budget, risk management, facilities operation, etc. Many of us choose this work because of our relationships with students. While often the most fulfilling part of our roles, we best serve our students when we develop expertise in the university systems that support their (and our) efforts.

Do you have any final thoughts for someone considering your role in the future?

I love my job in student affairs and have experienced such personal fulfillment in my career. Now that I have a college student of my own, I’m comforted knowing there is a whole team of student affairs professionals on her campus working to support her and create a robust extracurricular experience where she’ll make friends and memories.

Club Crawl – A Virtual Involvement Fair Series

The mission of Student Center and Activities (SCA) is to create experiences and spaces that encourage students to discover their interests and find a sense of belonging. One of the key ways that this happens is through involvement in a student organization and SMU has over 200 student organizations to choose from on campus. 

Traditionally, the SCA team has hosted a large event called “A Night at the Club” to facilitate this involvement. Over 100 student organizations would set up informational tables in the Indoor Performance Center, and over 1,000 new Mustangs attended, stopping by the tables of the organizations they wanted to learn more about. Given the large crowd in an indoor space, it was necessary to provide a virtual alternative for students to learn about involvement opportunities.

That virtual alternative was Club Crawl, which was developed as ten stand-along virtual involvement fairs, each about 30-45 minutes long. Taking place from 5-6pm over two weeks, each session was specific to a certain category of student organizations, like fraternities and sororities, community service, academic interest, or multicultural organizations, just to name just a few examples! A total of 87 student organizations were represented at Club Crawl.

In each session, about fifteen or so student organization representatives gave brief introductions of their organization, including information about how to join, the benefits of membership, and typical activities of the club. After the introductions, student attendees asked questions via the Zoom webinar Q&A feature, including questions like, “how do I join? Can remote-only students participate? And, how will your club offer activities and opportunities that are COVID-safe?” 

Club Crawl provided an opportunity for students to interact in real-time – an aspect that was important to students surveyed about possible A Night at the Club replacement strategies. Students value the opportunity to converse with each other, even when that conversation cannot take place in person. Over 650 students attended one or more Club Crawl sessions; the highest-attended sessions included those for Greek life and service and philanthropy.

Roots of a Movement: Hair to be Heard

I have been involved in various organizations since being at SMU but Fro easily won my heart. I recall feeling lucky to be on a campus that had a group that catered to such a niche but important cause for people like me.

Fro is a natural hair organization that serves as a safe space for Black men and women to discuss the stigma, versatility, and prowess of Black hair. The org also serves as a catalyst to disrupt the reigning beauty standard.

As soon as the opportunity to join the executive team arose, I took it. I wanted to be as involved as possible in the org that relates so heavily to experiences that myself and so many Black people identify.  

For many, hair is just hair, but for us it is an integral part of our culture. Our hair is peculiar, with unique textures and growth patterns. Historically, Black features have been degraded and the onslaught has continued into the present through workplace hair discrimination policies, school dress codes that disproportionately target natural hair styles, and general respectability politics. The Natural Hair Movement, and subsequently, orgs like Fro, encourage Black men and women to love their natural hair as opposed to taking drastic measures to disguise their natural textures. Fro also creates a platform for us to share our experiences with our hair from unlearning stigma to trading tips with one another.   

My first position in Fro was serving as Community Service Chair. I was tasked with finding a way to intersect the purpose and values of our organization with service. Through this, I created Crown Class. Crown Class is essentially a crash course on natural hair. During this “class” our executive team would partner with local community organizations or churches to teach young girls how to love and care for their natural hair. I was motivated to create this program because I felt that Black girls have a unique relationship with their hair that is not a universal experience. From a young age, the world casually teaches us that if our hair is a certain texture, it is unacceptable to go out in public with it in its natural state. It teaches us that kinky hair is ugly, unkempt, unprofessional. It tells us that for our texture, the rules of presentability are different, and that we have very little wiggle room. It tells us that our curls need to be chemically relaxed, straightened, or tucked under a wig. Crown Class works to foster self-love and confidence within young girls who are silently learning to dislike the genuinely beautiful things about themselves. Even if it is in the form of a three-hour workshop on a Saturday, I wanted Fro to go out of our way to reverse these lessons and encourage those girls to appreciate their natural selves first.  

Curlchella 2019 Executive Board

From initially serving as Community Service Chair to leading the organization as President, Fro has had a tremendous impact on me. Through curating service projects and organizing Curlchella, a black culture festival that seeks to bridge the gap between SMU and local Dallas residents, Fro has served as a beacon of support, community, and understanding for me. 

Fro has created a space for us to engage in important cultural dialogue, to break down the barriers of hair discrimination, and to contribute to the prosperity of the younger generation in embracing their natural selves. Fro has given me more than I could ask for and was critical in molding my undergraduate experience. The org transformed my leadership skills, gave me community, and taught me how to give back and unify. 

Anaka Adams (’21) is a rising senior from Dallas, Texas. She is majoring in Political Science and French and is affiliated with Virginia-Snider Commons.

Advocacy, Friendship, and Growth

My time serving as President of the Multicultural Greek Council at Southern Methodist University is a time that I will never forget. The year was not without hardships, but it was also filled with growth, friendship, and constant support. 

Over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year, I ran meetings, hosted events, and attended leadership retreats and summitsall while balancing my involvement in other student organizations, a part-time job, and being a full-time undergraduate student. It was because of this ambitious schedule that I quickly learned to time manage like I never had before. I did my best to run effective and structured meetings in which I was mindful of not only my limited time, but that of my fellow students and advisor who all had busy schedules of their own. I learned to be honest about my capabilities and no longer feel hesitation when I needed to reach out for assistance. I took time to ensure things were done with care and quality the first time to avoid having to repeat and rework a task that had already been completed. Lastly, I was reminded of the fact that we are limited to 24 hours in a day.

Therefore, I made sure that everything I invested time into was meaningful, purposeful, and impactful. 

It was amongst all this constant movement that I was reminded of why I ran for President of the Multicultural Greek Council to begin with. I believe that each organization works to create a supportive and inclusive space for all SMU students, not just for its members, and this is what initially motivated me to run for President. With that notion in mind, I ran with the promise to become a voice in our SMU community and to advocate for all of its organizations. 

As President I was invited to sit on multiple student advisory boards, including the board of the Campus Cultural Intelligence Initiative, CIQ@SMU. It was here where I sat in a room full of campus leaders and University VIPs and was given the opportunity to not only listen to important conversations, but was encouraged to participate in them as well. It was in these meetings that I learned to speak up on behalf of the Multicultural Greek Council and voice our opinions because no one can ever truly begin to understand our perspectives and experiences if we do not take the time to try and explain them first.  

The conversations I was a part of, the friendships I gained, and the network I formed will follow me long after my oneyear term as President.

I proudly led, advocated for, and spoke on behalf of the Council, its organizations, and their members for an entire year to ensure their voice did not go unheard. 

Now prepared with the confidence gained from this experienceam excited to enter my final year as an undergraduate student at SMU.  

Victoria Garcia (’21) is a rising senior originally from Dallas. She is majoring in Computer Science and is affiliated with Ware Commons.