Greek Week is a program that occurs on many campuses across the country, which often includes competitive games, mock rock dances, and maybe a food drive or blood drive. If you ask me, Greek Week programming typically consists of a week’s worth of fake unity and activities that do nothing to develop students or further the fraternal movement. Through conversations with colleagues throughout the years, I have gathered it is a week that becomes the bane of their existence, often brings about drama, and is a waste of office and council dollars and time.
Instead of scrapping the concept of “Greek Week” altogether, what if we reimagined it? Greek Week doesn’t have to be meaningless dodgeball games, banner contests, and mock rock dance competitions; it can be strategically mapped to university priorities and departmental learning outcomes, and encourage students to work together, educating and engaging them in active citizenship within their local community.
Central Michigan University (CMU) has had many iterations of “Greek Week” since the inception of fraternal organizations on the campus, but Greek Week as we know it today began in 2001. Greek Week at CMU evolved into students learning more about social justice issues that face their local community, engaging in service, and raising funds for non-profit agencies that help address those issues in the community surrounding CMU.
Purposely mapping Greek Week programming can teach fraternity and sorority students how to be actively engaged citizens. If you are wondering how you can help your students use Greek Week as a vehicle to increase learning and engagement in active citizenship, the following steps are recommended:
Determine the university strategic priority and/or learning outcome to map your program.
One of the strategic priorities of CMU is, “community partnerships- develop and strengthen learning experiences through collaboration with local, national, and global partners to enhance cultural awareness, the natural environment, health and wellness, and local economies,” and CMU’s Greek Week has been mapped to fulfill this strategic priority. Mapping the program to a strategic priority of the university, as well as departmental learning outcomes, and then assessing those learning outcomes can elevate the program to have purpose and meaning for the student and the university. In addition to mapping to strategic priorities of the university, determine a theory or model that will inform your program activities and learning outcomes. For example, if service, fundraising, and supporting a local non-profit is central to your program, consider utilizing active citizenship or service-learning model
Determine the focus of the week’s activities, and program with purpose.
Once a strategic priority or learning outcome is mapped with the program, plan activities that fulfill that outcome. If the outcome is similar to CMU’s outcome of building community partnerships to strengthen learning experiences of students, then plan activities related to that outcome, such as educational keynote speakers, service projects, fundraisers, and friendly competitions. Points of reflection tied to direct service and social issue education should also be built throughout the week. Educational activities can and should be fun! Just because a program is strategically mapped to learning outcomes and employs an educational model, doesn’t mean learning can’t be done while also competing on teams to “win” Greek Week; it can include purposeful fun. CMU fraternity and sorority students choose a non-profit agency in their local community to compete to raise funds for throughout the week, and gain points for their team if they have the most people participating in service related to the social issue the non-profit agency addresses and having the most people at the educational keynote. Additionally, their mock rock performances must educate the audience in some way about the non-profit and the social justice issue through teach-back moments in their performances, which could include voiceover acting, props, and or song choice. Fun can be purposeful!
Partner with your campus and local experts to plan components of your program.
If service-learning and community engagement is the route you want to take with your program, partner with local experts to make connections and establish educational opportunities. Your campus’s volunteer center will already have contacts for agencies who need volunteers and your local United Way organization can bridge the communication between students and non-profits. CMU’s fraternity and sorority students collectively choose a non-profit agency for whom to raise funds during Greek Week, which creates buy-in for the cause and fuels their desire to compete with their peers. They establish relationships with CMU’s Volunteer Center and United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties to create service-learning opportunities for competing teams and to make connections with the selected agency to get them involved in the week’s activities, which have included serving as the educational speaker and presenting the check for the final amount of funds raised at the end of the mock rock performances. They can also provide educational materials about the social issues their agency addresses which students can engage with prior to the program and throughout the week. These partnerships help students make connections that expand their worldviews.
Assess the learning.
Measuring the learning outcomes to which your program was mapped is key. Make assessment of your program easy for students; maybe even make completing the assessment a part of the competition where teams can get points for most assessments fully (and thoughtfully) completed.
Tell your program’s story.
Once you have assessed your Greek Week program, compile the key findings, as well as the amount of service hours completed and dollars raised, and report it out. Send the report to key community stakeholders, to show them the impact the program had on the participating students, the university, and the community. Additionally, share this information with the students who participated in the program and celebrate their learning and accomplishments. Remind them of how much they learned during the week and the impact they made on the community, so they can utilize that information for reflection, in interviews, and to take what they learned into future communities.
About the author
Molly Schuneman serves as the Associate Director of Student Involvement and Organizations at Central Michigan University, overseeing fraternity and sorority life programs and registered student organization resources and activities. She is a member and active volunteer for Alpha Chi Omega, and has been a member of AFA since 2016.