As a young woman entering college, one of the main questions I was often asked was if I was planning on joining a sorority. However, I wasn’t quite sure what a sorority looked like on a college campus, especially at such a prestigious school like UNC Chapel Hill. Pondering what being in a sorority at UNC looks like interested me into the idea of choosing a particular sorority at UNC, the Pi Phi sorority, to observe and conduct research for this project. As I performed my research, I tried to understand the women who were a part of this sorority by finding out who they are, what they do, what they believe in, and what they stand for. Ultimately, the research I conducted sought to answer two main questions about the sorority scene at UNC: What aspects of membership are most beneficial for women who hold membership in a sorority and are these beneficial aspects worth the price they pay?
At UNC Chapel Hill, there are a total of twelve sororities on campus that female students can join. In a survey of about fifty females involved in sororities, all of them reported feeling included and felt a true sense of sisterhood amongst the members. This was an answer not only commonly reported at UNC, but also at other colleges. In one study, the researcher found that most of the women tended to say it was the connections they formed with the other members that made them want to rejoin the same sorority if they were given the opportunity to do it all over again (Zamarripa-Lovo, 2012, p. 58). However, in a study conducted and presented by the authors of the Oracle, they found that most of the women they studied joined the sorority that they did not because of a connection with a particular individual of the group, but because of the social hierarchy that organization holds on their campus (Cohen, McCreary, & Schutts, 2017, pp. 35-36). This was something I heavily considered when observing and interviewing the women involved in the Pi Phi sorority. While most of the women I interviewed said that the most beneficial part of the sorority was the sisterhood and connections with the other members, some did say they enjoyed the perks of being in a sorority on campus as they have more opportunities to go to social events.
Observational Data and Analysis
The first observation I conducted was one in which I spent about an hour and a half at the Pi Phi sorority house on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus observing the members. While I intended to just be a fly on the wall, the friendly members of Pi Phi welcomed me to sit at their table and allowed me to listen in and join their conversations. Their kind disposition made me feel welcomed and not like I was an outsider even though they had known one another for years and I had only known them for about five minutes.
The women sitting at the table talked about various topics. As one conversation would end, one of the women would start another one. Going into this observation, I was especially interested to see what the members would say about being in a sorority right now due to COVID-19. I did notice that they tended to talk about the events they are missing and how disappointed they were about having to miss all of these events that they had worked towards or had anxiously anticipated for months. I noticed throughout their conversation the women tended to support one another and some even brought up different periods in time where it was their sorority sisters that helped bring light into some of the darkest of times.
After a while, I turned my attention to another group of Pi Phi members who were sitting on the other side of the sun porch at a table. I witnessed these women helping one another study and better understand their coursework. While two were working on difficult concepts, they were still able to share a few laughs and crack a few jokes about what they were learning together. This was very refreshing to see as I witnessed first-hand the joy and happiness the members of Pi Phi share with one another. It was also nice to see that the women supported one another in their dreams and ambitions by helping each other with their academic studies. This support that they have for one another shows why the members are so willing to dedicate so much time and money to this organization.
The second observation I conducted was more conversational, as it was an interview with one of the members. This allowed me to be more involved in the observation. While talking to a member of Pi Phi, Julie, I could tell how passionate she was about this organization. Julie talked about the numerous aspects of her membership that were beneficial and important to her. The Pi Phi organization offers various academic and social opportunities that have led to some of the best moments of Julie’s college experience. Julie mentions that the sisterhood she has amongst the other members and memories she has made are worth a lifetime and she would not trade them for the world. While I do think the different aspects of membership definitely do have a positive effect on women in the Pi Phi sorority wanting to continue their membership, I truly believe it is the connections formed amongst the members that cause the women to want to continue their membership in the Pi Phi organization.
After observing the members of Pi Phi in action and interviewing some of the women, I learned that almost all of the women agreed that one of the best aspects of being a part of a Greek organization was forming connections with the other members. Most of them also state that one of the most beneficial aspects of the Pi Phi sorority in particular is the academic advice and support they get from within the organization. The results from my observations did support my initial assumptions that the women of Pi Phi do truly support one another and there is a true sisterhood amongst the members. I feel that my research could have potentially had some limitations because I only observed one sorority at one university. However, I feel that most members of sororities will agree with the members of Pi Phi. Overall, the members of Pi Phi testified that they have made lifelong friendships and memories from being in Pi Phi. That’s something you cannot put a price on.
Cohen, S., M.Ed., McCreary, G., Ph.D., & Schutts, J., Ph.D. (2017). The conceptualization of
sisterhood within the collegiate sorority: an exploration. Oracle: The Research
Journal of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, 12(1), 32-48. doi: June 2017
Zamarripa-Lovo, L. (2012). Sorority Life: Would You Do it All Over Again? University of Nebraska
– Lincoln. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1093&context=cehsedaddiss
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