Collegiate Services: Supporting Our College Chapters and Members

Category: Fraternity

Mindy Marshall

Gamma, Butler

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Katharine Murphy, director of collegiate services, about her department’s roles and responsibilities for Kappa Alpha Theta.

Mindy Marshall: The collegiate services department supports our college chapters and undergraduate members in many ways. Tell me a little about how your department supports our college chapters and collegians.

Katharine Murphy: Our focus is the strategy of support for our college chapters. We support any chapter operational items beyond philanthropy and housing. A lot of our goals are taken from Theta’s Plan of Aspirations. A few of our goals include optimizing the member experience, advocating for our members, and representing the voices of the college members to Grand Council.

Operationally, we offer a wide range of support. Here are some examples of our focus areas:

  • Elections
  • Accountability
  • Finance
  • Recruitment and panhellenic
  • Member development
  • Compliance
  • Risk management
  • Academic development
  • Ritual
  • New member education

MM: That’s A LOT! There are six staff members in your department, including the new chapter support specialist. How do you manage it all?

KM: The great thing about our department is that we’re all so passionate about the college experience. We are motivated and love our jobs. It doesn’t always feel like work.

We’re also supported by a lot of volunteers. Megan Brady, Theta’s assistant director of alumnae engagement, helps with volunteer recruitment. Advisors assist collegiate services with supportive functions. We work with many volunteers to continue the good work of Theta. Our fantastic team of advisors and workforce volunteers do so much, including building relationships between the students and the international organization.

MM: If someone is interested in supporting a college chapter, how do they get started?

KM: We have volunteer opportunities for all Thetas based on their level of availability. There is a way to give back to college chapters no matter what and we want it to work for the volunteer as much as we want to make it work for our students.

If you’re interested in being a chapter advisor, please visit the Theta website and fill out a volunteer interest indicator!

MM: So, back to the work you do. I know one of your roles is to support new college chapters, or re-established chapters. Right now, that would be our chapter at Harvard. What kind of support do we provide in these cases?

KM: We base staff locally. In the case of Harvard, we’re re-establishing and reabsorbing a local group.

Typically, we base staff onsite for two years and they assist in every way with the chapter’s “firsts,” such as the first chapter meeting, the first recruitment (including recruiting students to participate), the first philanthropy event, and the first round of officer elections. Our support staff provides the framework while allowing the chapter members to create their own experiences. Currently, New Chapter Support Specialist Christine Keylian is in Cambridge supporting our chapter at Harvard.

Theta is committed to having a direct staff person supporting new chapters through this formative period, as many fraternal groups continue to see challenges during this time. Assistant Director of Collegiate Services Kourtnee Vickrey works with new chapters for their first seven years.

MM: What are some other key functions of the collegiate services department?

KM: The external relationships we maintain to support chapters are so important. This includes our partnerships with host institutions at the Panhellenic level. Chief Panhellenic Officer Brittany Booth is a member of the collegiate services team, while most other organizations utilize a volunteer. Brittany’s advocacy is reflective of the needs of college chapters since she’s so intimately involved.

MM: How do these relationships vary campus-to-campus or situation-to-situation?

KM: It depends on the campus. We send regular email updates about programs to host institutions to keep them informed of the work we’re doing. We send surveys to make sure we’re in alignment with plans and goals. I have monthly calls with some campuses’ fraternity/sorority advisors (FSAs). It’s great to already have these relationships in place. This provides an existing comfort and trust level to work through any problems that may arise or issues we need to work through together.

Katharine Murphy, Gamma Zeta/Connecticut, has been on Theta’s staff for more than 12 years, first serving as an educational leadership consultant (ELC) then assistant director of collegiate services before transitioning into her current role as director of collegiate services.