By Beth Walsh, Alpha Theta ’09, Region Consultant
A challenge some of our Chapters face is when their college or university puts an emphasis on joining organizations at the beginning of the year. And when better to become involved on campus than as a first-year student? What if you were able to say, “Welcome! Here is the information for our informational sessions next week.”?
The Beta Alpha Chapter at University of Michigan has been able to do just that with their first-year students. In the past three years, the Brothers of Beta Alpha have created an Affiliate Program to encourage first-year students to keep in contact with Phi Sigma Pi throughout the term.
During the recruitment process, Brothers are honest with all potential members about the requirements to join. For first-year students who do not yet meet the prerequisites, they are offered to join the Affiliate Program. All prospective members complete the recruitment process, and are voted on by the Chapter for a bid to join – first-years are simply voted to get a bid for the Affiliate Program instead. Should they accept, they are welcomed in with a Bid Night Celebration along with the new Initiates for the term.
Throughout the term, Affiliates meet as a group with their Advisers to learn more about Phi Sigma Pi. These Affiliate Advisers include at least one member previously a part of the Affiliate Program. Affiliates are welcomed at meetings each week, as well as any events they would like to attend. They are encouraged to ask questions and learn about the Chapter and its members.
At the end of the term, all participants who complete the program are guaranteed a bid to the Initiate Program in the Spring. You may be asking yourself what benefit there is to having Affiliates in your own Chapter. Here are some of the interesting things Beta Alpha has found with their Affiliate Program:
- A stronger sense of community is felt by those who have gone through the program.
- This program provides an opportunity for first-year students to see what Phi Sigma Pi is about without the added requirements of the Initiate Program.
- The Chapter is able to stay connected with first-year students, while other organizations only hope to see again during the next recruitment season.
- The Advisers and Brothers act as mentors and resources for the Affiliates, not just for the Fraternity but also the university.
- Overall, Beta Alpha has seen their Affiliates have a higher rate of retention as Brothers, and in turn seen them stay more active with Phi Sigma Pi and take leadership positions.
The ability to recruit first-year students is something that has eluded many Chapters. Creating an affiliate or mentoring program for your Chapter, much like Beta Alpha, could be key for boosting membership in your next class! With 17 Initiates in their fall class, Beta Alpha also has 5 Affiliates this academic term to boost their spring numbers – their highest enrollment in the program yet!