February 24, 2009

Students Pursue Fraternities to Advance Career Goals

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Professional fraternities like Alpha Kappa Psi and Alpha Chi Sigma, provide an opportunity for Cornell students to combine their motivations for socializing and advancing their future careers into one pursuit. Alpha Chi Sigma, the chemistry fraternity, had 18 new pledges this semester where the typical pledge class includes seven to 10 students.
Students who want to join Alpha Chi Sigma are expected to have a social life in addition to a strong knowledge of chemistry.
“We don’t just want someone who wants to study all the time,” said Emily Majusiak ’09, the organization’s vice-master alchemist.
Rushing Alphi Chi Sigma involves more playing in the snow than cracking the books. The week of rush activities began with a teambuilding event involving building structures with index cards and paper clips. This year, everyone who came to the event ended up pledging.
“We considered it a huge success,” Majusiak said. This activity was followed by playing in the snow at night and an official induction on Friday for all new members.
One of the most challenging parts of recruitment for Alpha Chi Sigma is spreading the word. The fraternity had a signup table at Clubfest and a chemistry demonstration as part of Discovery Days. Some of the members talked to all the freshman and sophomore chemistry lectures trying to be creative in the way they presented their fraternity.
“We found that if you dress up like a mad scientist you can tell who’s interested and who’s not pretty easily,” Majusiak said.
Both organizations also relied on flyers and information sessions, as well as word of mouth. Majusiak estimated that about half the members of the fraternity first came with a friend who was already a member.
Laura Temel ’09, former president of Alpha Kappa Psi, the oldest of the three co-ed business fraternities on campus, said that prospective members look to join the fraternity in order to further their interest in “some sort of professional career.”
The selection process for these fraternities bears many similarities to the hiring process for a job. The fraternities look for “individuals who possess strong leadership skills, teamwork skills and strong interpersonal skills as well,” said Temel who is also a Sun columnist.
The AKPsi recruitment process is fairly selective. There are three rounds and recruits are eliminated after each one. The first round tests teamwork, the second social skills and the third involves a thorough examination of the prospective member’s professional interests.
However, Temel stressed that the process is “more of a give and take than it is with sorority recruitment,” explaining that many of the students who rush these fraternities already share the professional interests and goals of the fraternity.
The business fraternities on campus all have different focuses ranging from finance and sustainable development to sales and marketing. These interests determine the organization’s focus: what kinds of events and speakers it brings in and what kind of philanthropy it gets involved with.
Although the changing economic environment did not have an impact on recruitment numbers, it did change the questions prospective members asked during rush.
“Being honest about how an organization like AKPsi changes in the realities of the market was necessary, but it didn’t affect recruitment,” Temel said. “The numbers go up every semester,” she said.