A league of their own

The National Panhellenic Conference awarded Indiana State the College Panhellenic Excellence Award for the sixth year in a row this fall.

Indiana State University’s sorority women are bucking all of the trends and getting noticed on the national stage.

The National Panhellenic Conference, one of the largest advocacy and support organizations for women, announced in August that Indiana State was among 43 college Panhellenic associations being recognized with awards for excellence and achievement in their work to advance the sorority experience throughout 2017-18. It’s the community’s sixth consecutive College Panhellenic Excellence Award — an honor no other university in the nation can match.

“We had to score excellent in each of our seven categories in order to be recognized as Excellent, so it’s really neat, because we are the only campus in the country that has won the award all six years it’s been offered,” said Tracy Machtan, associate director for fraternity and sorority life and Panhellenic advisor. “We’re showing the rest of the country how unique and awesome ISU is, because they see our name on the press release every year, so we’re proud to represent ISU so well on a national stage.”

Members of Alpha Omicron Pi pose for a photograph outside Reeve Hall.

Indiana State’s Panhellenic is scored on academics; communication with NPC area advisor; judicial procedures; Panhellenic community impact and relations; Panhellenic programming; Panhellenic structure; and recruitment.

Nationally, Machtan said, the number of women registering for sorority recruitment is declining, while Indiana State has seen a bump in the numbers.

“I advise them, but the women do the work to come up with great ideas, engage with their sisters and hold them accountable, which isn’t always easy, but the opportunity to make one another better is what makes sororities so special,” Machtan said. “We are always looking at our community of about 650 undergraduate women and what they need, because this is a different generation of students that wants things that are relevant to them, and they don’t want to feel like they have to come to stuff.”

It’s why the women started PanTalks — small groups of five women per chapter who attend a talk on a topic of interest to them, such as healthy relationships, leadership or National Pan-Hellenic Council.

“We don’t program to win awards,” Machtan said. “We program to meet the needs of our community and winning awards is just a cool side effect.”

What the Panhellenic community offers women at Indiana State is community.

“We push women to be the best versions of themselves by helping them grow, make connections and ultimately have a great time at ISU,” said Indiana State’s Panhellenic President Sarah Parker, a senior health sciences major with a concentration in psychology from St. Louis. “At end of day, it’s about sharing a common goal to better ourselves and our community.”

Parker said she was once a shy freshman until the upperclassmen in her sorority encouraged her to believe in herself. The encouragement caused her to run for her chapter’s presidency last year — and win.

Women celebrate and welcome their new sisters during Bid Day.

“I didn’t know anyone when I came here, but because of my involvement in Greek life, I became more involved on campus and have become a better person and developed strong leadership and professional skills,” she said. “The Panhellenic community said they thought I did a great job with my sorority and again encouraged me to apply for Panhellenic exec, which I did my junior year and was elected by my fellow sorority women. It’s an experience that has helped me learn and grow a lot. To be able to represent the sorority community as a whole has been a humbling experience, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

When Machtan was notified of the recognition in August, her first call was to Bailey Goff, a senior on the pre-medicine track from Greencastle, Ind., who handled the paperwork for the award.

“It’s cool to see our hard work pay off and know that we remain focused on our community, not winning awards,” said Goff, who serves on the executive board as vice president for membership. “People come in with an assumption of what sorority life and Panhellenic life is like, either positive or negative, but we find that most people find a place where they belong,” said Goff, who has been on Panhellenic’s executive board since December. “We find that when women join sororities, they find a home and they want to stay. It’s why we encourage all women to at least give it a shot.”

One of the most remarkable aspects of Panhellenic, Goff said, is that women get to see women getting along and building each other up, it makes them want to be a part of it.

“We like setting up events where all of our chapters come together, so second semester last year, we got all of the chapters together,” she said. “I worked with other executive members to put together a video of all of the strong leaders in each of our chapters. We had Welcome Team leaders, women from State Dance Marathon and other organizations, and it allowed the women to see the kind of impact they are making on the campus and community.”

Involvement helps women never feel alone on campus.

“Every Panhellenic at every college is unique in their own way, but I don’t think we’re your stereotypical sororities,” said Kellie Schlangen, senior human development and family studies major from Morrisville, Ind., who serves as Panhellenic’s vice president for administration. “Before I went through recruitment, I knew nothing about Greek life and I didn’t think it as for me, but when I went through recruitment, I realized it’s really for everybody and not cliquey. On exec (board), we know all the work that goes into this, but the community doesn’t always realize how much work they do and how they have helped us be the only college campus to receive this award six years in a row.”

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