Monday, June 17, 2013

OFSA Summer Intern: Javier Gonzalez's Thoughts on Fraternity and Sorority Affairs

            Greetings! My name is Javier Gonzalez and I am a second year graduate student at the University of South Florida (USF). I currently work in my assistantship with the Center for Student Involvement which oversees student organizations and does some of the bigger programming events for the campus. I am currently pursing a masters in the College of Student Affairs program at the Tampa USF campus with the career goal to obtain a position closely related to multicultural affairs and possibly fraternity and sorority affairs. I have managed to gain a substantial amount of experience within both of these aspects through my fraternity, Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Incorporated as well as  much leadership experience along the way.

         Working with my fraternity at such a large public institution has been a great experience as well as a challenging one as well. With 42,000 students, it has been a difficult process to cater to all the needs of the students, as there are many. This amount of people does not allow enough opportunity to build meaningful relationships and dedicate the amount of time one would prefer to any type of family. Lehigh has about 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students and boasts over 680 faculty members. Among these faculty members, are the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs (OFSA) staff team who have welcomed me into their family and helped me assimilate into the office culture. 
            My experience since arriving has been nothing less than an enjoyable one with the OFSA staff personally seeing to whatever needs both a fellow intern and myself have required, assuring we were as comfortable as possible. At our first day, we were treated like part of the team and everyone would mention some fun facts about the dynamics and culture of the office. We were even integrated into their staff meetings, where the first one involved everyone revealing fun facts about themselves, to better acquaint everyone with each other, learning more about us and us about them. I would describe them as very down to earth and unafraid to express themselves as they really are without ever losing their sense of professionalism.

It is this great sense of truth and transparency that makes them unique, but also attributes to their great success as an office since they apply it not only between themselves, but also their students, chapters, colleagues, and community as a whole. The office works to continuously keep all parties informed of all their chapters’ progress as well as all office efforts towards supporting the chapters in all ways possible. They seek nothing less than the growth and betterment of the chapters and its members alike. This is most evident within their accreditation process, which is subjective only to take the chapters into better consideration towards working for an impactful development, and not just fulfilling another requirement.

The idea is to ensure that the chapters do things not because they have to, rather of their own accord and for their own personal growth. It would be my personal recommendation to many institutions, including my own, that they would do well to model after this process and utilize it to further push chapters towards self-governance and sustainability. Another great aspect experienced was the realization of the importance of alumni support for Greek Life at Lehigh and how much backing the university has from its alumni. They are a constant source of support, both physically and financially. Alumni are incorporated into school events, invited time again to attend all sorts of programming. There are alumni well into their experienced ages that still return for university events and traditions, like “The Rivalry” which has occurred between Lehigh and Lafayette every year since 1884.  This is an example of great school pride, even beyond graduation.

Beyond the OFSA, the remainder of the Student Affairs staff as a whole have also been great and even took the time to set up an Intern Day where they gave a tour of the universities’ facilities, provided constant opportunities to learn more about Lehigh and its departments, as well as meet as many of the Student Affairs staff as possible. We were even provided lunch alongside the opportunity to sit down and ask questions to the Student Affairs staff, and a little later the Assistant Vice Provost/Dean of Students, Sharron Basso and Vice Provost of Student Affairs, John Smeaton. These sessions were the most impactful since they provided great insight into Student Affairs at Lehigh, the culture, a bit of history, and advice for those of us pursuing a career in Student Affairs. Overall, the Intern Day was a great success and one would have never guessed that it was the first of its kind.

With the experience so far, two significant things that I have learned about myself as a professional is that I am now very open to new options as compared to my prior mindset, and the importance of procedure in all things you do. Originally in my mindset into a student affairs career, I still had the hope to possibly locate a job at USF or at least an institution very similar to USF in the state of Florida, since that is what I know best and have become accustomed to. I could not really see myself at a small private institution since I felt that I would become suffocated or possibly bored due to the sheer size of the institution and student population. But my time at Lehigh has helped me gain a better understanding and perspective towards small, private institutions and see the many benefits that they provide in tune with my own personality. Smaller institutions often will provide more opportunities towards establishing close relationships with both students and staff alike, since there isn’t an overabundance of both to spread you in all sorts of directions. So an ample amount of time can be dedicated to personal interactions and creating a bond.

 All of these experiences so far have inspired me to work hard towards my assigned projects with the office, as well as to make specific, attainable goals for the projects, where I feel that I am making timely progress. These experiences have also made me recognize my professional values and what they may or may not include, like working closely with other people and the type of relationship I wish to establish. I know now, thanks to the OFSA, how much I value teamwork and comradeship with my coworkers and have new ideas to bring that back to my assistantship and institution to better both, as well as USF as a whole.
-Javier Gonzalez