Lessons in Greek

Jill Koval ’16 is president of her sorority — and that takes a lot of skill.

When I first came to Denison I knew one thing for sure: I was not going to be Greek. It was not so much a denial as it was a statement of fact. I didn’t have the social skills to be a Greek, or so I thought, and I definitely didn’t think my work as a studio art and English major would steer me in that direction. When I pictured sorority life, I thought of cute photos of girls smiling and making hand signs. Not for me, I said.

Four years later, things are completely different. I’ve now entered my senior year as president of Denison’s chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma. Maybe I’ve eaten my words, but it’s been a wholly nourishing experience. And when I reflect back on a regional retreat in Detroit, where I spoke with sisters from all across the Midwest about business and planning, I realize how far I’ve grown from that first-year student.

“In an average week as a president, I can conduct business meetings, submit paperwork, write an agenda, and liaise between the national infrastructure and my chapter sisters.”

In an average week as a president, I can conduct business meetings, submit paperwork, write an agenda and liaise between the national infrastructure and my chapter sisters. I also synthesize information from HQ and report it, moderate conflict, delegate tasks, provide accountability, send emails and research information. I sound like I work for a corporation, and in many ways, I do.

And, all unknowing, I’ve been prepared for this. Here at Denison, I’ve juggled classes and involvement in extracurricular organizations and learned how to manage my time and meet deadlines. I’ve worked in group settings on papers and projects and learned delegation and moderation. I’ve written papers and given presentations and learned communication, both oral and written.

My skills as an English major helped to prepare me for some of my responsibilities, but it was truly our academic culture that gave me the confidence to pursue something this daunting. Hard work translates into any position in life, business and personal, and I’ve learned that pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in a liberal arts environment will make you a prime candidate for the professional world, no matter where you go.

So, I didn’t necessarily learn to moderate a conversation or conduct a business meeting in the classroom, but I didn’t have to. Learning to overcome challenges and to be an engaged thinker prepared me better than I could have foreseen for a position that demands so many aspects of myself to be active and operate efficiently.

But Greek life is much more than just fostering marketable professional skills. My work as an executive officer gives me a humbling sense of agency on campus and reveals how much collaboration between bright minds can truly do.

The fraternity and sorority structure is a great place to learn to be a leader. It has provided me with business experience and the opportunity to contribute to campus culture and philanthropies. I actually enjoy the stresses that come along with serving my sisters as president. I’m delighted to give back to the group that has helped me so much along my Denison career and into my next one, giving me both skills and abilities that will serve me later, and providing a support system of women cheering me on.

October 22, 2015