Core Competencies

Introduction to the Competency Manual

AFA’s Core Competency manual offers a detailed overview of all the competencies, a series of recommendations for implementation, supplemental resources, and next steps. Please review the manual prior to taking the self-assessment.

AFA Core Competency Manual

Principles of the Competency Model

AFA’s Competency Model is based on a set of principles that define its structure and function. These principles are:

  • Aspirational: The work of fraternity/sorority professionals is changing. The future will call for knowledge, skills, attitudes, and ways of thinking that are not currently widespread. The Competency Model defines what should become a basic standard in the fraternity/sorority profession in order to prepare for the work that needs to be done. As a result, many professionals will fall on the low end of the competence curve.
  • Elevating the Profession: The goal of the Competency Model is to strengthen the knowledge, skills, and abilities among all members of AFA. Success is determined not by individual high ratings, but by the amount of growth among all professionals. AFA uses the Competency Model to assess, prioritize, develop, and deliver professional development experiences to its members in order to support this goal.
  • Developmental: The Competency Model provides a process, not a destination. There is no such thing as perfect competence; professionals are expected to engage in continuous development regardless of the length or breadth of their experience. The Competency Model is a tool to guide professionals in accumulating learning experiences and integrating lessons into practice.
  • Individualized: Each professional follows a different path in professional development, and each professional develops expertise in a unique set of competences. Those priorities should be defined in partnership with supervisors and co-workers based on the needs of the current position, future career aspirations, and current events.
  • Expandable: It is impossible to draw boundaries around a finite set of abilities that contribute to success. The competencies included in this model are determined by research and consensus to be essential and helpful. The model is expandable to incorporate additional abilities in the future that may also contribute to success. The model can also be adapted to eliminate competencies that may become irrelevant.
  • Universal: Competencies are relevant to all professionals who work with fraternal organizations, including those who work at campuses, at headquarters, with associations and trade groups, vendors, and partners.


AFA’s Competency Model identifies two domains of competency, Foundational Knowledge and Professional Skills, across 11 competency areas, for a total of 48 competencies. Each competency area includes between three and seven competencies that operationally define good practice in the fraternity/sorority profession.

Foundational knowledge includes information, concepts, and ways of thinking that are unique to fraternity/sorority life and essential to serving as a fraternity/sorority professional.

  • Governance: Collegiate fraternal organizations are subject to various sources of authority, each with their own expectations. Fraternity/sorority professionals must accurately identify, interpret, navigate, and support compliance with these expectations.
  • Fraternity/Sorority Systems: Collegiate fraternal organizations have many unique operating practices, and they operate across a variety of functional areas. Professionals must be familiar with, provide accurate advice about, and be able to navigate all relevant functional areas and operating practices.
  • Student Safety: Collegiate fraternal organizations present both challenges and opportunities to enhance student safety on campus. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be familiar with the nature of these issues, the campus partners who work to prevent them, and research-supported strategies for addressing them.
  • Student Learning: College students make significant gains in learning and development in college, and fraternity/sorority membership influences their outcomes. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be able to explain and apply theory, research, and good practice in student learning and development to their advising, training, and educational efforts.
  • Program Administration: Fraternity/sorority professionals are responsible for contributing to the core functions of an organizational unit. They must be capable of identifying, managing, planning, and executing the basic duties of a departmental program.
Professional skills include abilities that help fraternity/sorority professionals excel in their positions.

  • Navigating Complexity: Supporting collegiate fraternal organizations involves multiple functional areas and complex issues that have multiple causes and contributors with no perfect or obvious solutions. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be able to acknowledge, navigate, make quality decisions, and lead through these complex issues.
  • Operating Strategically: There is no shortage of work to be done in supporting collegiate fraternal organizations, and not all work is equal in importance or urgency. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be able to coordinate multiple competing priorities, consider long-term implications of their work, use limited resources intentionally, and organize work in a way that produces the best results.
  • Driving Results: Universities and fraternal organizations are being called to demonstrate measurable progress in the many issues they face. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be able to deliver on institutional/organizational outcomes and demonstrate effective use of institutional/organizational resources.
  • Working across Differences: College fraternal organizations serve a diverse population of students and are supported by various stakeholders with contrasting viewpoints. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be able to engage productively with those who have differing experiences and views to create environments where people are valued, respected, treated with dignity, and given the opportunity to participate fully in the community.
  • Collaborating with Stakeholders: Fraternities and sororities are supported by a network of stakeholders who each have their own authority, perspective, priorities, and interest in the community. Professionals who work with these organizations must take personal responsibility for working collaboratively with each stakeholder group in order to capitalize on shared interests and navigate conflicting priorities.
  • Driving Vision and Purpose: Facilitating continuous improvement in fraternity/sorority life requires interpersonal skills to align stakeholders around shared aspirations for the future. Fraternity/sorority professionals must be able to dream, create, articulate, design, and champion a vision and milestones for fraternal organizations that support their mission and values.


Planning Your Professional Development

The Core Competencies are a valuable tool that can assist you in creating a professional development plan. Use the following steps to guide yourself through the self-assessment and professional development planning process.

Additional resources and guidance can be found in the Core Competency manual.

Identify the competencies that are essential, important, or peripheral to your current professional position. You can also complete this with reference to a position you desire in the future.

  • Essential competencies are necessary to the job as defined by the job duties and daily activities.
  • Important competencies are helpful and valuable to completing daily activities, but would not be
    minimum requirements.
  • Peripheral competencies might be valuable, but they are not regularly or directly used in daily activities
    to fulfill the responsibilities of the job.

Once you have identified the core competencies that are essential, important, or peripheral to the position, take time to complete a the Core Competencies Self-Assessment. You can complete the self-assessment for all competencies, or for only those which are essential or important to a position.

Core Competencies Self-Assessment

Invite a supervisor, peer, or colleague to review and discuss your results. Work together to reconcile which competencies are essential, important, and peripheral to the role, and then ask for feedback about areas where your ratings of competence differ.

Using the feedback from your supervisor, peer, or colleague, identify no more than three areas where you would like to develop. Find the description of this competency in the Core Competency manual, and review the Professional Development Opportunities section. You should also review the general examples on page 6. Use these examples and opportunities to identify instruction, interactions, and experiences you can pursue in the next 6 months. Develop a plan and review it with your supervisor or mentor.