Steve Merriott, a senior American Sign Language interpreting major from St. Charles, Missouri, had no intention of joining a fraternity when he came to William Woods University. Now he is president of Phi Gamma Delta.
“After seeing the inclusive, and positive role Greek life had on students, I ended up joining and making one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “My fraternity has giving me many valuable opportunities in leadership during college and I cannot wait to see what’s in store after college.”
Experiences like Merriott’s led William Woods University to be ranked 15th nationally among the 50 Best Colleges for Greek Life, according to Best College Reviews (bestcollegereviews.org). A high ranking indicates that fraternity/sorority life plays a significant, positive role in campus life and that a high percentage of the student body participates. Only one other Missouri school made the top 50.
The ranking was based on the following criteria:
- Percentage of students enrolled in Greek life.
- Number of Greek organizations on campus.
- Greek organizations must be chapters of national organizations, such as the Panhellenic Conference and Interfraternity Council.
- Number of criminal offenses occurring on campus during 2011-2013.
- Average Greek Rank rating.
Greek life at William Woods began in 1965 when chapters of three national sororities were chartered: Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Phi and Chi Omega. In 1977, a fourth chapter, Delta Gamma, was added. In 2001, two fraternities were established: Phi Gamma Delta and Pi Kappa Alpha. The newest fraternity chapter, Sigma Tau Gamma, received its charter last spring.
More than 40 percent of the undergraduate study body is in sororities or fraternities, which provide opportunities for academic achievement, campus involvement, community service and lifelong friendships.
The all-Greek GPA is traditionally higher than the all-campus GPA. Greeks have consistently attained an average GPA above 3.0 for the last 10 years.
“My sisters always push me to work hard for the grade I’m looking for,” said Alyssa Scheele, an Alpha Chi Omega from Beatrice, Nebraska. “I have spent many late nights in the library with my sisters studying and working on projects, but it’s all worth it.”
Known for their philanthropic projects, fraternities and sororities at William Woods concentrate their efforts on Victims of Domestic Violence, Women’s Heart Health, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Service for Sight, Special Olympics, Scleroderma Foundation and Central Missouri Honor Flight.
Campus involvement and leadership opportunities are among the membership benefits Greeks often cite.
“Greek life has allowed me to push myself beyond my comfort zone in ways I never thought possible,” Delta Gamma President Marcail Miller of Johnson, Vermont, said. “I have taken up leadership opportunities I never imagined myself being in and I owe it all to the love and support I received from the wonderful organization known as Delta Gamma. Without DG, I would not be half the person I am today.”
“Being involved in something greater than yourself inspires change in people. Once you are held to a higher responsibility, you take pride in yourself and your organization,” Chi Omega president Haley McGrath of Fulton, Missouri, said. “I have seen my sisters, as well as myself, grow in many different ways—increased involvement on campus, starting clubs and becoming organization leaders, as well as an overall change in scholarship habits. Greek life has done so many amazing things, not only for members, but those positively impacted by the good these organizations do.”
Membership in a fraternity or sorority chapter can mean a lot of different things.
“Being Greek at William Woods not only allows new students to meet a variety of new people, but it also gives them the opportunity to grow into successful and driven students,” Alpha Phi President Reiana Barton of Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, said. “Greek life gives every person who is part of it an individual experience, but one thing that is the same from student to student is that there is nothing else that compares to being in Greek life. It is a decision that I believe positively shapes a student’s college experience and I feel lucky to call myself the president of one of these amazing organizations.”
“Through my years attending William Woods, Greek life has opened many doors not only for great opportunities in college but after college as well,” said Anthony Dewey of Warrenton, Missouri, Pi Kappa Alpha president. “It has allowed me to meet some of my best friends and has created memories that will last a lifetime!”
“Being a part of sorority life has had a huge impact on my life both on and off campus,” Alpha Chi Omega President Molly Naxera of Louisiana, Missouri, said. “It has pushed me to be a better version of myself, provided countless opportunities, and most importantly, introduced me to so many lifelong friendships. I am so thankful for the experience and can say without a doubt it has been the best decision of my life.”
The reason William Woods was ranked so high is apparent not only to members of these seven chapters, but to advisers and administrators.
Dr. Venita Mitchell, vice president and dean of student life, believes one of the reasons fraternity/sorority life at WWU is great is because of an institutional commitment.
“Everyone is so committed, from the president on down,” said Mitchell. “For example, we combine recruitment with orientation and we also provide housing for our fraternity and sorority members.”
Katherine Wortmann, Alpha Chi Omega’s chapter adviser, concurs with Mitchell.
“The supportive administration is a key in the success of Greek life at William Woods,” said Wortmann. “Without their endorsement and their understanding of all the positive aspects Greek life has to offer, the sorority and fraternity atmosphere at WWU would be very different.”
While the administration plays a key role in supporting fraternity/sorority life, the school as a whole is largely responsible for the experience students receive.
“Our Greek community is pretty small compared to other campuses,” said Samantha Harris, a May graduate from Fredericktown, Missouri, and former Alpha Phi president. “I think that makes our Greek community closer and more welcoming.”
Lacey Sweeten Randall, director of student involvement, agrees the close relationships formed by the tightknit fraternity/sorority community positively impact the university and its students.
“The small-school atmosphere gives everyone the opportunity for leadership positions they normally would not be able to go for in the bigger schools,” said Randall.
The options for leadership positions are almost endless, but two are especially bound to Greek life—Panhellenic president and Interfraternity Council president. These officers are responsible for uniting and governing all Greeks, regardless of their letters.
“I think our focus on service, scholarship and community as a whole provides a great environment for our members to grow and it makes an impact on their everyday lives,” said Joanie Ryan, a May graduate from Longmont, Colorado, and former Panhellenic president. “Other people can see that and I think that’s how we ended up ranked where we did.”
“Greek Life at William Woods is an overall positive experience for anyone looking to serve the world around them and create close friendships with people not only in the William Woods community but also throughout the country,” said Panhellenic President Marilee Rodgers of College Station, Texas.
“William Woods University and its small campus atmosphere fosters great relationships within Greek life and has allowed me to immediately connect with other people to develop life-long friendships and relationships,” IFC president Bryan Mach of Marshall, Missouri, said. “The fraternity and sorority interaction allows you to meet a diverse group of people with different personalities. This interaction and bond is truly remarkable and is something that you can’t put a price on.”
“What makes Greek life so great is that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you want to do or have done, Greeks will accept you with open arms,” said Timmy Buehne, former IFC president from St. Louis. “They take who you are and help make you into the best version of what you want to be.”
Greek life clearly plays a significant and positive role in Buehne’s life, as well as the lives of most sorority and fraternity members at William Woods. Because of this, the high ranking by Best College Reviews was no surprise to many.
“Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me at all that the Greek community at William Woods was ranked so highly in comparison to other schools,” said Wortmann. “The stereotype that most people think of when it comes to sororities and fraternities just doesn’t match up with what truly happens on our campus.”
Phillip Kulpinski of Tinley Park, Illinois, Sigma Tau Gamma chapter president, summed up the experience of many Greeks at William Woods:
“All fraternities and sororities at William Woods University provide students the essential support and unity that gives members opportunities to thrive socially, academically and individually, along with creating an environment that successfully develops communication, organizational and leadership skills that continually benefit our campus and community every day.”