Turning a Four-Year Experience into a Lifelong One

What do you remember most about your collegiate fraternity experience? What were the best times, the most meaningful? Was it the football tailgate? Homecoming? Maybe Spring Break or that intramural championship? Or were the best times, the most memorable and formative times, the ones you spent in your chapter house talking, connecting, sharing, and caring for and with your brothers or sisters? We think we know the answer. And trust us, we won’t tell your intramural chair or chorister that the softball and All-Sing championships have taken a backseat. We all had crucible, caring, and comedic moments - from the time you helped your brother mend a broken heart, the late night dream sessions with your sisters about what’s next, or the appointment TV nights you spent jammed 20-wide onto a sectional made for ten. Those were the times that grew us, that cemented our family of choice, that taught us what fraternity – at its very core - is supposed to look and feel like.

Now think about today’s college student. They’re growing up differently than most of us. We know from books like iGen by Dr. Jean Twenge, PhD that many of the students coming to our campuses and moving into our chapter houses today are:

  • Replacing social activities with social media, choosing screen time over face time

  • Growing up less able, less capable of managing traditional life tasks and responsibilities

  • Wanting different things from their lives and careers

  • Obsessing over safety

  • Experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness

Knowing the moments that were most powerful to you, think about the “wheres” and “whos” associated with each of them. Considering what we now know about today’s student – the young men and women who are our potential members - how relevant do you believe fraternity is today? We’d argue the experience we offer has never been more relevant, more longed for, more needed than it is at this very moment in time. And perhaps unlike any other student organization on our campuses, fraternities and sororities are inherently wired to meet the extraordinary needs of today’s students. Finding your “tribe”, living in community and connectivity, this idea of village living is critical to one’s wellness and development in and outside of the classroom. Providing an environment for those elemental pieces of our developmental puzzle to be connected, nourished, and grown is essential for fraternity to be done right. And while our organizations may be uniquely constructed to provide an optimal place for this to occur, it’s important we continuously evaluate the environment where this growth is most likely to be experienced – the chapter house. For we believe, this is where “the good stuff” happens.

At CSL, we have the pleasure of working with housing staffs, campus professionals, and volunteers all over the country. Taking a cue from Maya Angelou and Tony Hsieh, a question we often ask those we serve and support is, “How do you want your members to feel?” Inevitably, we always hear responses like comfortable, connected, secure, safe, trusted, community, at home, like family.

So, a few follow up questions we’d offer up for your consideration include…

  • What are you doing inside your facility to meet the unique needs of today’s student?

  • Did you know your National House Corporation likely has a plan to meet those needs and works diligently with partners like CSL to execute on it?

  • Do you see your residents as “live-ins” or paying customers?

  • What if one of the organization’s primary objectives was to provide a world class “customer experience?”

  • How would a shift in how we view, serve, support, and care for those living-in fundamentally change the way we do business?

  • How are we strategically positioning and designing our homes to meet the mental health needs of our members and creating spaces that enable them to thrive?

  • What are we doing – with intentionality - to create the feelings we want our members to experience?

  • What opportunities already exists and what opportunities can the organization create to produce those feelings? (i.e. move-in, move-out, finals week, quiet spaces, dining room device policy, etc.)

  • How would providing an extraordinary customer experience impact the member experience both near and long term? What kind of impact would that have on student and alumnae engagement?

If one of our ultimate goals is to turn a four-year experience into a lifelong one, these are all questions to be considered. So with all those ideas now swirling about, we want to encourage you to carefully evaluate the customer experience unfolding inside the four walls of the home you support. Think about the brands to which you are fiercely loyal. Think seriously about how they make you feel. Think carefully about what they do to generate those feelings and how they move you from customer to fan to advocate. Then, after you’ve outlined the behaviors and fundamentals those brands demonstrate every day, consider how Fraternity can do the same. If you need support, know there are resources here to support you. Your National Housing Corporation, and partners like our team here at CSL, are all eager to help you provide a life changing experience within your facility. Please be reminded students have never needed the experience we offer inside our homes more than they do right now. Let’s make sure we’re selling and serving what they’re buying and needing. There are lives to be changed. Let’s go.